When Halo 3 launched in 2007, it was one of the most hyped events in gaming history. Tens of thousands of fans lined up at midnight events around the country; "Finish the Fight" and "cat helmet" became memes, and Bill Gates was on hand to deliver the first copy. It was the apex for the series that helped launch the Xbox as a legitimate force in the console business.
We didn't know it at the time, but that was about as good as it was going to get for Halo. That same year, Infinity Ward launched Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which would rival and eventually eclipse Halo 3 as one of the most important shooters ever made. Meanwhile, Bungie's relationship with Microsoft went sour, and the split had an adverse effect on Halo. There have been high points since, but none as high as that night when Bill Gates was greeting eager Halo fans.
Can Halo Infinite return the series to glory? That's the overriding question for Xbox; for developer 343 Industries, and for fans of the series at large. Whether it's able to garner a positive reception when it's unveiled at Xbox's Summer Game Showcase later this week will go a long way toward showing whether the series is once again capable of carrying a console to success.
At this point, we actually know very little about Halo Infinite. With the exception of a brief teaser at E3 2019, and a quick glimpse of a Warthog racing across an open field, 343 Industries and Xbox have remained largely silent about their showcase shooter. Most of the official info we've received to this point has come via Nerf guns and other toys.
It's only been within the past month that Xbox has really started to spin up the Halo Infinite hype machine. In a July 10 post on Halo Waypoint, 343 Industries revealed that this week's presentation would be the "first look at Halo Infinite's campaign" without mentioning the multiplayer. At the end of June, 343 Industries hinted that the campaign would have ties to Halo Wars 2.
These teases have done little to shed light on the most crucial question of all: what form Halo Infinite will ultimately take? Will it be some sort of open-world shooter? Will it be an online service game like Destiny? Will it feature a battle royale component like Warzone and Apex Legends? Or will it just be more Halo? This crucial decision will go a long way toward deciding whether Halo Infinite is accepted as forward-thinking,, or derided as more of the same.
Behind the scenes, matters have been uncertain. 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross chalked up Halo Infinite's long development time to a desire to "really do the investment in the engine and the tools and pipeline" while studiously avoiding crunch, but whispers around the games industry have hinted at a difficult development process for Halo Infinite. It hasn't been helped by COVID-19, which has forced 343 Industries to go fully remote, as it has with every other studio.
Whatever happens, a lot is riding on this week's reveal. If Halo Infinite is able to stir up enough excitement, it has the chance to be this fall's true killer app, eclipsing anything that PS5 is able to offer at launch. If it falls flat, it will raise further questions about whether Halo is still relevant some 20 years after its original release.
For what it's worth, Halo still stirs up a lot of emotions within people. On gaming subreddits, I'll often see fans fondly reminiscing about their time with Halo 2, or the excitement of meeting an old friend from Xbox Live. The sight of a bunch of old Xbox machines networked together for intense Halo matches still elicits a powerful wave of nostalgia within a certain crowd of gaming enthusiasts. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, once maligned, is now beloved by fans.
One way or another, Halo will always be a major part of gaming history, even as its power to sell consoles has waned. When 343 Industries finally takes the wraps off Halo Infinite on July 23, all eyes will again be on Master Chief, hopeful for a new renaissance for the series that helped define the 2000s. And as Halo Infinite goes, so too must the Xbox Series X.
Major Game Releases: July 20 to July 24
Here are the major releases for the week of June 20 to July 24. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Panzer Paladin [July 21 for PC, Nintendo Switch]: A Blaster Master spiritual successor has entered the ring! This week, the long-awaited Panzer Paladin hits Steam and Switch, action-platforming swordplay in tow. It's the latest from the team behind Flinthook, so there's some exciting pedigree at hand. We'll have a review of it soon!
- Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break [July 21 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch]: Rock of Ages 3, the triumphant return to the tower defense series, is also out this week. For the first time in the series, it will let players create and share their own levels. Or, you can just race boulders. The choice is yours.
- Necrobarista [July 22 for PC, on Apple Arcade now]: I miss coffee shops. Hopefully, Necrobarista will be able to quench that thirst when it hits PC later this week. It's a cinematic visual novel with a clear anime inspiration-and it looks beautiful. We've had our eye on Necrobarista for years, and soon, you'll be able to read our thoughts on the adventure.
- Crysis Remastered [July 23 for Nintendo Switch]: Everyone's favorite benchmark game is hitting the console we've all been waiting for: Switch! The true remastered edition on other modern platforms has been delayed to sometime later this year, but the Switch version is still out this week, as originally planned.
- Carrion [July 23 for PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch]: At festivals (gosh, remember those?), whenever there was a demo kiosk for Carrion, I'd make a beeline over to it. There's something magnetic about the gross physics of Carrion, wherein you play as a giant blob-ish monster as it kills dozens of people. Look forward to our review later this week.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- We'll learn about what games are coming to Xbox Series X this week. On July 23, Microsoft is hosting its big Xbox Games Showcase where we'll learn more about Halo Infinite, plus whatever else Microsoft has planned. Considering in the past few years it's acquired the likes of Double Fine, Obsidian, Compulsion Games, Ninja Theory, InXile Entertainment, Playground Games, and Undead Labs, there's a lot that we'll potentially be seeing. And that's just considering first-party!
- Madden NFL 21 is making Washington a "generic" team in the face of its name abandonment. For decades, Washington's NFL team had a racist name. In 2020, the team has seemed to realize it at last, and announced a name change and abandonment of its mascot. Electronic Arts confirmed to us that this will impact this year's Madden NFL 21 as well.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is getting remastered for Switch! In perhaps the most unexpected news of the past few weeks, during a pre-recorded Nintendo Direct mini, Atlus revealed that cult classic PS2 RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is headed to Switch. It will be released under the name Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne HD Remaster, and is indeed the Chronicles edition, which previously was only released in Japan. Sorry, that means it features no Dante from Devil May Cry. Oh yeah, and Shin Megami Tensei 5 got a new teaser too. That's still happening as well.
- Cadence of Hyrule is getting DLC. The Crypt of the NecroDancer spin-off is getting a lot of new DLC. One DLC pack brings new characters to the rhythm-action game; another introduces new remixes of songs. The third is a new story altogether, and it stars Skull Kid.
- Everyone's playing Ghost of Tsushima right now. Sony Interactive Entertainment's swan song for the PS4 generation released on Friday, and many of us on the USgamer staff have been playing it. If you've already rolled credits, be sure to check out Mike's expansive list on the samurai movies to check out. They were surely the ones on Sucker Punch's reference documents in developing the game, after all.
Axe of the Blood God for July 20, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
GameXplain's Andre Segers joins the podcast to review Paper Mario: The Origami King with Kat and Nadia. Why is the latest game in the venerable series proving so contentious among Nintendo fans? Is there a way to revive the series's fortunes? And what would a Super Mario Persona 5 game look like? We answer all of these questions, plus delve further into the recent glut of RPG adaptations, talk Ghost of Tsushima, and more.