343 Industries’ upcoming Halo Infinite is finally releasing after a long and arduous gap on December 8th, 2021. Naturally, fans are beyond excited to experience the next chapter in Master Chief’s adventures, and with good reason. Halo has been a premier franchise for Microsoft, with the original Halo: Combat Evolved single-handedly putting Xbox as a viable alternative to Sony’s PS2 and Nintendo Gamecube.
Halo launches have been historically celebrated, with legions of fans waiting in long queues at midnight to get their hands on a brand new copy of the game. Halo Infinite also has a long hype train that has been chugging along at full speed for some time now. Regardless of how the game turns out, there’s little to no doubt that its release will be accompanied by thousands of fans and critics discussing the game across a multitude of forums and social media posts.
There’s a lot riding on Halo Infinite, and part of it can be attributed to its rumored budget of $500 million. A point worth mentioning is that this rumor hasn’t been confirmed or backed by any credible sources, so it’s entirely possible that these numbers turn out to be incorrect. That being said, given Microsoft’s incredibly deep pockets – it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if 343 Industries received a blank cheque for the game.
For context, Star Citizen’s approximate budget is more than USD 350 million, with development still being actively done at the time of writing. Grand Theft Auto 5 reportedly took USD 265 million to develop and market, while Halo 2 itself reportedly took USD 120 million to develop. If the numbers and rumors are indeed correct, Halo Infinite will easily be the most expensive video game ever made – making it one of the biggest games of all time from a financial standpoint.
Furthermore in terms of releases, Halo Infinite has had the longest gap ever in the history of the franchise. This wait is further accompanied with the fact that Halo Infinite was preceded by Halo 5. The game will also be wrapping up the 343 Reclaimer Saga, and fans are naturally looking forward to seeing plot developments in action for a long time. So, it doesn’t take a lot to figure out that a lot is riding on Halo Infinite.
However, what makes the game’s development a rather interesting point to notice are the key departures from the company in this duration. Original creative director Tim Longo and executive producer Mary Olson left the company in 2019, which was followed by the departure of creative director Chris Lee from the project. These key departures coupled with relative silence on the game for a long time quickly gave rise to concerns surrounding Infinite’s development, which grew to a further extent following the game’s first showings.
Halo Infinite’s gameplay reveal was supposed to be the crown jewel of Xbox’s showings at last year’s Xbox Games Showcase. As fans of the game might already know, the showcase went horribly bad with underwhelming textures on the brutes and pop-in on the environments. This also spawned a viral meme in the form of Craig the Brute, and 343 Industries found themselves in a rock and a hard place with the game.
Halo Infinite was planned as a launch title for Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft had positioned the Series X to be the most powerful console with its 12 TFLOPs of computational horsepower – a whole 2 TFLOPs more than the competition. Halo Infinite was supposed to showcase what those TFLOPs could achieve in game graphics, and a lackluster showing did Microsoft and 343 Industries little to no favors.
343 Industries had to make the painful but ultimately right decision to delay the game to 2021, which of course, meant that the Xbox Series consoles launched without a first-party exclusive. Microsoft received a lot of flak for this dry launch, more so considering that the PS5 had Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls Remake both ready for fans at the console’s launch.
Halo Infinite will be a radical departure from the franchise’s traditional format, as the game’s multiplayer component will be free-to-play on all Xbox platforms as well as PC. Halo Infinite is veering more towards a live-service model with its multiplayer offerings – and the launch of Halo Infinite will just be the start of a long journey. 343 has big plans for the future of Halo Infinite, and will feature live-storytelling and gameplay additions through the use of seasonal updates.
Halo Infinite will feature seasons, with each of them lasting for a duration of 3 months. The first one is known to be titled Heroes of Reach, and a few gameplay snippets and a cinematic Gamescom trailer has confirmed seasonal content at launch. Players will possibly have access to a bunch of cosmetics and season-exclusive game modes that will, of course, be themed around Halo Reach. Through the use of this live-service format and continuous story updates post-launch, 343 Industries claims to put the player Spartan at the center of Halo’s narrative.
Of course, what makes the free-to-play multiplayer big is the fact that this is a big-budget Halo title, and putting it in the hands of gamers for free at launch is a first for the series. 343 Industries and Microsoft have already confirmed the existence of a paid battle pass as well as microtransactions, which should have no noticeable effect on gameplay. It doesn’t take a genius to guess where inspirations for such a model lie, but it gives way to more pricing and platform options than ever for playing Halo Infinite.
Fans who just want to play the game’s multiplayer offerings can do without an entry fee, which is a great option for those who are new to the series Those who wish to try the game in its entirety have a cheaper alternative in the form of Xbox Game Pass, which will allow subscribers to play the game at launch at a relatively miniscule fee. Fans who wish to purchase the game instead of having a subscription also, of course, have the option of investing $60 for the standard edition. There’s a great deal of flexibility that Microsoft is offering with purchase options for Halo Infinite, which should help in encapsulating a much bigger audience for the game.
Of course, Halo has been a driving force in Xbox’s success, and each entry in the franchise has been exclusive to Microsoft’s machines. With Infinite, however, 343 Industries is taking a more inclusive approach in order to lure many fans into the world of Spartans and the Covenant. In addition to being the first cross-generation Halo game, Halo Infinite will be the first traditional Halo to have been released simultaneously on PC alongside consoles.
Halo Infinite is certainly a different beast when compared to previous entries in the franchise. The game’s rocky development cycle coupled with a new format for the game’s multiplayer makes the game a very important entry for the franchise’s legacy, all of which creates a heavy burden on 343 Industries’ shoulders. Halo Infinite is also the conclusion of the 343 Reclaimer Saga, which further exacerbates the hype and expectations for the game. Early impressions on multiplayer seem mostly positive for now, and if things pan out smoothly for this final stretch, Halo Infinite could even be the biggest the year has to offer.
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