While Halo Infinite’s delay has raised many a concern surrounding the Xbox Series X launch at the end of the year, there’s no doubting that the game alone is one of the key pillars of the next Xbox console. It stands to hopefully be an innovative and explosive entry in the famed Halo series, one that takes it to new heights and unlocks exciting new prospects for Master Chief and the broader Halo universe.
One thing that has been a hot topic of discussion – beside the unfortunate delay – is that of the game’s perceived open world. Gameplay footage painted a picture of a free-roaming map design, as reflected in the game’s mini-map when brought up in a recent gameplay trailer (which you can in this article).
Halo has always been somewhat of a free-roaming first-person shooter with linear level elements: it’s closer to Call of Duty than it is to Borderlands in that sense, and it certainly has lost some of that expansive free-roaming philosophy that was perhaps most evident in Halo: Combat Evolved and at its least profient in Halo 5: Guardians. Having returned to the Halo series with The Master Chief Collection, it’s quite fascinating to see how level design and structure has changed over the years.
Halo: Combat Evolved for example had less hand-holding linear design to its maps, meaning you often found yourself back-tracking and roaming around aimlessly. Halo 4 seemed to be the first game that really emphasised a more linear approach, embracing the modern approach first-person campaigns with heavily guided objectives and narrative progression through levels.
The impression is that Halo Infinite will be somewhat a combination of Combat Evolved and Halo 4 and 5.
A recent report in Destructoid elaborated on the open-world design of Halo Infinite, pointing to a campaign that isn’t quite “open world” in the traditional sense – that is, where you can go at your own pace, under take objectives, and be “in” a passive, naturally organic world – but rather it is “open” for return and exploration.
This came by way of associate creative director, Paul Crocker, who detailed an experience you “move through new areas as part of the game’s main story, and previously visited areas can be re-entered after you initially progress past them.”
“The simple answer is that it takes place in a huge world that is open and expansive,” Crocker detailed. “We have a storyline that pulls you through it, which is effectively unlocking certain areas. But, as you progress through it, you have the ability to backtrack and explore to your heart’s content. There is a lot to find out in the world.”
Jerry Hook, head of design, added some additional context, detailing how the world’s design ties into equipment and weapon upgrading.
“Chief, as he explores the ring, he’s gonna find more equipment,” Hook said. “He’s always gonna find ways to upgrade that equipment. And, it’s not all about power, but it’s about options for the player.
“We want to ensure that players are able to make the choices to be successful in the way that they want to play the game.”
That appears fairly similar to the design approach in Halo: Combat Evolved, although then it was probably a product of simple design philosophy and limitations, whereas it appears to be somewhat more of a conscious design decision this time.
Additionally, it appears the focus is on shaping that element of exploration in the “open” world as being separate from the core campaign structure and narrative, and rather an additional piece of the broader experience, with which you can obtain additional resources for your journey.
Halo Infinite, originally set for release alongside the Xbox Series X at launch in late 2020, has been delayed into 2021.