In the days since Halo Infinite’s reveal, I’ve seen many people take to the internet with the belief that this tech demo was evidence that the game would be ditching the linear mission structure and going full on open world and maybe even let you bring your friends along in a shared world sense. I’m here to tell you that that most likely is far from the truth.
Halo, throughout the almost two decades that it’s been around, has had a linear campaign following the events of mainly the Master Chief, with spin-offs following an ODST known as The Rookie a.k.a. JD, and Noble Six a Spartan-III. And of course there’s Halo Wars and the isometric spin-off games, but those are entirely different from the main series, which Halo Infinite is a part of since it’s Halo 6. In 6 of the 7 current FPS titles, you are granted a degree of freedom to explore in these linear environments, whether they be small corridors that spin-off of the main path, or wide open areas with many nooks and crannies you can dig through to find easter eggs and hidden weapons. This was expanded in Halo 5 where you could find alternate paths through the level that might give you an advantage over your enemies.
Of course, once upon at time, Bungie wanted to be even more ambitious. While Halo was never meant to be an open world game, the large open spaces were always meant to be much, much larger and filled with wildlife, a concept they would come back to during the development of Halo 2, Halo 3, and later Halo: Reach, but never fully realize. ODST had the largest explorable space out of any Halo game, though I wouldn’t entirely call it an open world. It’s a level that’s open, but is far smaller than most open worlds. Meanwhile, Reach had large areas with some wildlife, but nothing amazing.
The trailer for Halo Infinite gives us a glimpse of multiple locales that are seemingly pretty large, and we see large herds of wildlife from deer to rhinos, and honestly the vibe I get from this trailer is that Halo Infinite is seeking, not to enter a new genre, but rather fulfill the promise of the original game, but on a much larger scale and at a much higher quality. The old Blam Engine was never really capable of this, but the new Slipspace Engine clearly is, and you can have large open spaces without being an open world. A great example is a segment of Uncharted 4's story mode where you drive a jeep across a large open landscape that you are free to explore at your leisure, with the end goal obviously being the other side. But it’s a huge area in a linear game, and it works because it gives the player at least some freedom to wander off the main path and learn more. Realistic wildlife is just icing on the cake, giving the world more life. And that is what I believe Halo Infinite is honestly doing.
Part of the reason I believe this to be the case, isn’t just based on the series past, but because Halo Infinite appears to be a game that seeks to appease the classic fanbase, the ones who began to fall off the wagon after Halo: Reach. When Halo 4 released it featured an art style that was unlike the previous Bungie titles, had a heavier focus on narrative with ties to the expanded universe, and tried to branch out with the multiplayer. This all caused backlash from the old guard of the Halo community leading to some changes in Halo 5, but not enough to satisfy every old fan. Halo Infinite, then, seems to be 343's attempt to get everyone back on board. The game is reintroducing split-screen co-op, it’s bringing back LAN support, the art style looks far more classic than the previous two games, while still blending in some 343-era designs such as the warthog, with a renewed focus on creating large environments for the player to explore. All of it points to going back to Halo’s roots in order to recapture the magic of Halo: Combat Evolved.