I was invited to a Halo Infinite media briefing with 343, here’s what I learned… (campaign insight, new composer, and more!)

“Set a fire in your heart, Spartan! Fight hard. Die well.”

Two years following its announcement, we have just seen our first glimpse at campaign gameplay of Halo Infinite!

I was lucky enough to be invited to a media briefing with 343 Industries’ own Chris Lee (Studio Head) and Paul Crocker (Associate Creative Director), who provided insight into new characters and features, along with the announcement of Halo Infinite’s second composer and more.

Here’s everything I learned…2020-07-23 (52)The following information comes from commentary over the demo that was shown, with Chris Lee and Paul Crocker talking over the gameplay, detailing some of the thought process behind the things we saw.


THE PILOT

2020-07-23 (15)The Pilot was first introduced to us in the E3 2019 ‘Discover Hope’ trailer, which also serves as the opening of Halo Infinite.

Following a cataclysmic battle at Installation 07, the Pilot has been adrift in his Pelican with nothing but the holographic recording of a mother and the voice of a young child to tether him to a sense of hope.

That is, until he discovers the Master Chief in the debris field.

The situation that the Chief and the Pilot face in this demo is drastically different to how we last saw them. On this, Paul Crocker shed some light on what 343 wants to do with this character and what role he plays in the story.

Paul Crocker: “We wanted to create a character that is kind of a juxtaposition to Chief. Chief is the universe’s greatest soldier, Chief protects humanity at every point. The Pilot is our most human character we have ever created in the franchise, he is basically the most normal guy we could put in this crazy situation.

It’s like, imagine if you were going on the adventure with Chief – how you would feel as you were watching.”

We’ve seen just the briefest glimpse of the Chief and the Pilot together, and yet their dynamic is as instantly natural as the moment he was paired with Cortana in Halo 1.

I can’t wait to see more of these two!


THE SPIRITUAL REBOOT

2020-07-23 (134)The term ‘spiritual reboot’ has come up a lot over the last couple of years regarding the approach that 343 is taking to every aspect of what’s been shown of Halo Infinite thus far.

This became clear from the moment the Master Chief stepped set foot onto one of the largest playspaces we’ve ever seen in the series, evoking the memories and feelings of setting foot on the ring in Halo: Combat Evolved for the first time.

Paul Crocker: “One of the expressions we’ve used a lot is ‘spiritual reboot.’ This moment is a perfect example of what that means to us.

Everyone remembers when they first played Combat Evolved, when they first crashed onto the mysterious Halo ring from the Bumblebee escape pod, and how they felt as they looked around that world. And that, to us, is the feeling and emotion we wanted players to experience again.

We want it to feel different and new and fresh, but we really want to bring back that sense of wonder and mystery and hope.”

Chris Lee: “‘Familiar but different’ is something we talk a lot about here on the team.”

If you’re new to the Halo universe and have never heard of things like ‘The Banished,’ don’t worry – this spiritual reboot approach is designed to be inviting to players both new and old.

It was noted that long-time fans will find rewarding details and mysteries to unravel around the stories of the past, with the goal of making this an all-round ‘definitive’ Halo experience unbound from many of the technical limitations of the past.2020-07-23 (71)On the sheer immensity of the scope shown here, Lee said:

Chris Lee: “It’s the most open, expansive environment we’ve ever created in  a Halo game. It’s several times larger than our last two campaigns put together.

It gives players a lot of choice and freedom as the play through the world, running into these objectives, setting points on your map to navigate – exploring as you go.”

With the Xbox Series X running Halo Infinite at 60 FPS and 4K resolution, Lee noted that “fidelity” has been the operative word for 343.

Indeed, Infinite offers more than ten times the processing power per-pixel than what was possible with Halo 5.

There is no doubt that this will be the most fully and stunningly-realised Halo ring we’ve ever seen.


THE (OTHER) COMPOSER

2020-07-22 (7)Over the years, Halo has been known for its incredible duos when it comes to composers.

Bungie’s Halo games were scored by Michael Salvatori and Martin O’Donnell, followed by Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi in Halo 4.

Last year, it was announced that Curtis Schweitzer (whose work includes Starbound and Earthlight) would be composing for Halo Infinite, and in this commentary it was revealed that he is joined by somebody new…

Chris Lee: “Music is incredibly important to Halo. Curtis Schweitzer is the composer that we talked about last year at E3, and this year we’re going to announce our second composer that’s joining Curtis: Gareth Coker.

Both Gareth and Curtis have been doing an incredible job, and throughout the demo you’ve been able to experience some of the music that Gareth has worked on.”

For those who may not know, Gareth Coker is perhaps best known for having composed the much-lauded soundtracks for the Ori games (Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps), which have featured some of the most stand-out compositions of this generation.

As Lee noted, the music we heard in this demo was worked on by Coker and I don’t know about you but this just might be my favourite rendition of the Halo theme ever?

The ‘familiar, yet different’ approach is strongly felt here as the Chief looks out over the incredible vista of the fractured Halo ring.2020-07-23 (99)Additionally, Lee went on to talk a bit about how 343 has been able to leverage the new technical opportunities afforded by the Xbox Series X.

Chris Lee: “We also upgraded our audio engine to create a new acoustic system and leverage a lot of the extra processing and streaming power with the Xbox Series X – to be able to really surround the player in a much more realistic audio experience.”

With iconic vocal talent like Gyoza the pug bringing their best performances to the table, the fidelity of the audio soundscape is undoubtedly going to be something to behold!


THE BANISHED

2020-07-23 (122)A surprise video dropped on the official Halo Twitter back in June which revealed that we would be fighting the Banished in Halo Infinite.

(Read more about why the Banished are the perfect antagonist for Halo Infinite.)

The Banished are a faction composed of the Covenant client species (the familiar cast of Elites, Grunts, and so on), but led by Brutes.

Chris Lee: “This is a fan-favourite enemy class that’s been on hiatus for a bit.

We introduced them in Halo Wars 2, and now we have this really menacing threat, led by Brutes, that’s much more threatening than what we’ve seen before in the Covenant.”

The Banished were introduced in Halo Wars 2 through the debut of the much beloved villain, car salesman, and airplane menace Atriox. Last we saw him, he was on the Ark, the ancient factory of the Halo rings located outside the galaxy, facing the UNSC Spirit of Fire crew and the nightmarish Flood.

In Halo Infinite, the Banished on the Halo ring will be led by somebody new…

Paul Crocker: “Meet War Chief Escharum, the commander of the forces of the Banished that are occupying the ring – that own the ring – and are excited in a purely warmongering way to now have to go up against Chief, who has returned to take the ring back.

This is [Escharum’s] declaration of how Chief is now his target. Chief has become something that is a personal challenge, vendetta, goal, of Escharum.”

2020-07-23 (144)The demo concluded with Escharum’s speech to the Master Chief, which frames him as a totally unique antagonist in the series.

“The UNSC lost this war months ago. Your people are broken. Scattered. Hunted. Defeated! By me.

I wish I could tell you it was difficult… but it wasn’t. We are one step ahead, always. The ring is already under our control. Soon, the Auditorium as well. The Harbinger and the Banished share the same goal – we fight together to honour the will of Atriox.

But, without challenge, I grew weary. Lost. Alone.

But, here you now stand.

This is my last fight, a true test of legends. Our story will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart, Spartan! Bear your fangs! Fight hard. Die well.”

What differentiates Escharum here is that he talks the Chief up, asking him to “set a fire” in his heart as they throw everything they have at each other.

We just don’t see enough of this kind of antagonist! Even in Halo, we are very used to powerful and esoteric forces talking down to us – from the softly spoken machinations of the Prophet of Truth, to the vengeful Forerunner commander, the Didact.

This is the kind of unique energy that the Brutes bring – that the Banished brings.

When you meet your enemy, give them a motivational speech!


FULL CIRCLE

2020-07-23 (129)2018 was about resetting the audience’s expectations – showcasing the new engine, the new visual approach, the new possibilities.

2019 was about character – the return of the Chief, introducing the Pilot, showing us the state of things.

2020 is about pulling all the aspects of this vision together, showing how we – as the player – get to engage with it.

Hope, heroism, wonder – the belief in humanity being worth being fighting for. This is the story that 343 wants to tell with the next movement of the Master Chief’s odyssey, and there’s going to be plenty more to talk about over the coming months.

Set a fire in your heart, Spartans!

I think we’re just getting started.


GALLERY

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11 thoughts on “I was invited to a Halo Infinite media briefing with 343, here’s what I learned… (campaign insight, new composer, and more!)

  1. So did the created just vanish? I’m really worried that trying to change gears from Halo 5 they’re ultimately make things even more of a mess. 😦

    1. Here’s the way I’d put it.

      At the end of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, we see the beginning of the Clone Wars, with Yoda declaring “Begun, the Clone War has.”

      Cut to the opening of Revenge of the Sith and suddenly we’ve jumped to the final days of the Clone Wars, three years later. We’ll see the middle detailed three years later in the television show.

      That’s the approach I’m seeing 343 take with Halo Infinite. We’ll see the fallout of the Created situation, but we’ve moved to its end-point.

      1. That’s what I was thinking too and great example by the way, if anything they may release another game (though highly unlikely), or do an episodic/season campaign like Spartan Ops, but learning from the mistakes that plagued Spartan Ops from getting a second season and being thrown into a comic series. I really want a conclusive story to the Created, it was a huge setting breaker with the Guardians and poor writing/development for Fireteam Osiris (and I swear if they killed off Locke I’m gonna lose it!), so a logical end and staying with the Banished being the main villain force and hopefully some gameplay against a certain Banished Mgalekgolo pair (when we get to the ark of course)!

  2. Was there ANYTHING about the Spirit of Fire? Of Red Team? I REALLY want those guys to finally get some back-up and for the entire Halo community to know that there are 7 living Spartan 2’s!

  3. Did they mention anything regarding the visuals? The alleged ray tracing update for post launch and when that is to be expected? Very insightful article and great read, though.

    1. Nothing specific, at least in my session. There were multiple sessions, so everybody got a slice of unique information – there’s stuff in here that you won’t find in other pieces, and there’s stuff other outlets will have which nobody else does. Keep a weather eye out for more on that elsewhere 🙂

  4. Really appreciate the insight. Did you get the sense that this takes place in the FAR future? My interpretation of the trailer was that Atriox is dead (which I hope not). The way the war chief said “honor Atriox” seemed past tense. So maybe this is 100 years in the future? Or….

    1. Cheers Rob!

      This takes place May 28th 2560, which translates to just under two years after Halo 5 (October 2558) – so it’s one of the biggest leaps forward we’ve seen in the story (second only to Halo 4’s four-and-a-half years) but not quite far-future.

      No insight given into the fate of certain characters, but the stated intention from 343 was to put everybody – new fans and old – in the same place, asking the same questions. Is this character dead? What’s been going on? What have we missed? What’s happened here? All these things are consciously part of Infinite’s approach to storytelling, and Crocker and Lee promised that we’ll be getting answers to them.

  5. I’m really liking what we’re seeing and hearing so far, but I do have one concern. While I don’t want to be overdramatic, I have to admit that I think this one thing will heavily affect my experience, just because of how prominent it is, and I was curious about your opinion on the matter.

    The Banished art-style. To me, It feels messy and disjointed, but not in a “rag-tag group that’s come together” kind of way. It feels like an artificial mixture of old and new. It feels like exactly what they admitted it was: cherry-picked, fan-favorite designs from across the series. All of the structures are definitely Banished, but less than a third of the weapons and armor we’ve seen have been of Banished design and color – including most of the Brutes we saw.

    I think that, especially given this will be a LOT of players’ introductions to the Banished, it’s super important to establish a unified, distinct visual language right-away – and it doesn’t feel, to me, that they’re doing that. From watching the demo over and over again, it still feels a little disorienting when the player suddenly picks up a distinctly Covenant gun – only to then shoot one of the few distinctly Banished-clad enemies in the demo.

    Sure, one could argue it’s similar to Halo 3’s Brute stuff (which was exclusively the Spiker, Mauler, Brute Shot, Gravity Hammer, Chopper and Prowler) in that it’s just added pieces to an existing arsenal, but this isn’t Halo 3: this isn’t the Covenant with some extra pieces added. This is an entirely new faction with a new identity, that’s clearly gone out of their way in some regards to distinguish themselves – but not others.

    Really curious about your thoughts on this subject.

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