Halo Infinite’s original open world looked very different, as developer 343 Industries made significant cutbacks and changes during development.
While Halo Infinite was the first entry in the classic sci-fi FPS series to introduce an open environment, its non-linear design underwent several iterations. The world that appears in the final release is a pared-down version of what 343 had originally planned.
“The team went through a lot of iterations on scope and biome variety before I joined,” said 343’s head of creative Joseph Staten, speaking to the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (opens in new tab). “Even after I joined the team, we had to make choices about where to scale back.”
A whole new world
Staten said the team didn't have time to create as varied a world as they had originally envisioned while meeting the level of graphical fidelity, detail, and world depth that players have come to expect. Although he thinks they made huge strides from Halo Infinite’s maligned 2020 E3 demo, targeted cuts were necessary.
“We didn’t end up cutting that much ultimately from the open world, but I know from the original designs there was a pretty significant scaling back of what the team had hoped at one point that they could deliver on.
“We knew that we needed to truly deliver a quality experience [and] scope our ambitions to make sure that the stuff that we did ship met expectations.”
But those expectations were themselves tricky to navigate. Although pitched as an open-world experience for the Xbox Series X, Halo Infinite doesn’t include some of the staple features that players might associate with the style. When designing the game, the team was careful not to include mechanics that would sit at thematic odds with the series and its characters.
“We are an open-world game in as much as our game is a lot more open than it used to be,” Staten says. “Halo’s always been a relatively open game in terms of its geometry, for a shooter, but we weren't layering on a whole bunch of systems.
“We talked a lot about crafting, for example, and my infamous line to the team was something like 'Master Chief doesn't need to kill animals to make leather shirts for himself. He's a massive armored super soldier. If he wants something, he goes and kills it, grabs its gun, and then keeps on going.'”
The difference this time around is that you can do that while grapple-hooking across a craggy landscape. You can also do it with a buddy, now that Halo Infinite co-op is here for Xbox Insiders. All that cutting back may well be why Halo Infinite is one of the best Xbox Series X games and a reason to get Game Pass.