Halo Infinite's Open World Encourages Exploration, But Only at the Pace of the Story

Halo Infinite's Open World Encourages Exploration, But Only at the Pace of the Story

Once you've opened up new areas, backtracking is up to you.

Halo Infinite promises to feature an open environment that's "several times larger" than both previous games combined, but today's new campaign demo left questions about just how much freedom the Master Chief has to explore the ring from Infinite's start. In a roundtable interview session we attended today with some of Infinite's top designers, 343 Industries confirms that players will gain access to new areas as they work their way through the story.

At least from the beginning of the game, it seems like players won't be able to traverse all of Infinite's world. 343's Associate Creative Director Paul Crocker is careful in how he answers a question about it—without confirming whether or not it's a single, contiguous open world, Crocker says the story will essentially open up new parts along the way.

"The simple answer is it takes place in a huge world, which is open and expansive," Crocker says. "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's a lot to find out in the world."

Tagging onto a question about cooperative and splitscreen play, Infinite's Head of Design Jerry Hook adds that players will be able to explore said world in four-player co-op. "You're going to able to explore the ring absolutely with your fireteam," says Hook. "Keep them together, have a blast, make it your ring, and defeat the Banished." 343 hasn't confirmed how many players will be supported in splitscreen, but given that Halo has historically kept campaign co-op to two players per console, four-player is likely for online play.

As Studio Head Chris Lee has confirmed to IGN, Halo Infinite will also have a day/night cycle. When asked if Infinite's world will also have changing weather, Hook plays it coy.

"This is one of the critical aspects of fully realizing a ring experience for players," Hook says. "An expanded world means you have to have a world that feels like you would expect, and I think what you noticed in the demo, in particular, you did notice that the sun was basically starting to rise. And that sort of hope that you get from looking out on vistas and seeing the beauty of that, you'll see a lot of that within the game for sure, along with mysteries and the wonder of the ring as you explore."

The original 2018 reveal trailer for Infinite, a showcase for the 343's Slipspace engine, showed rain in a cave, billowing clouds, and even the start of a sandstorm. Maybe weather like that will feature in Infinite upon release, maybe it won't. Some folks have reacted to today's new footage by calling it a visual downgrade from that original tease, but we've still only seen a short chunk of gameplay and a tiny sliver of Infinite's world.

Perhaps the Chief will get upgrades that allow him to access more of the ring, Samus Aran-style. | 343 Industries/Microsoft

At the moment, it's hard to say whether exploration in Infinite will feel more in line with Skyrim, Metroid, or even Breath of the Wild, but it seems like it'll be pretty different from past Halo titles once players are far along in the story. If 343 really wants to keep players from accessing certain places too early, it'll have to be smart; way back with the first game, players blew up Warthogs with grenades to get just about anywhere. Now that the Chief has a grappling hook, the traversal possibilities seem even more open-ended.

Halo Infinite is set to launch alongside the Xbox Series X later this year, and is also coming to PC and Xbox One. 343 promises that a first look at multiplayer is coming soon, but it also seems like there may not be public opportunities to go hands-on with Infinite before release.

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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