343 Industries and Microsoft, at its E3 press conference, opened up hostilities with a reveal trailer for the next installment in the Halo series. Presented as Halo Infinite, the new Halo game will mark the first time a mainline Halo experience is launched in both the XBOX platform and Windows PCs, and thus marks a new era, with even greater market penetration, for the critic and user-acclaimed series.
The reveal trailer is more of a technical showcase rather than a full-blown reveal trailer for the game; the idea was to showcase the new Slipspace Engine. This new engine marks the second one to have ever been used in the mainline Halo series (not counting the Saber engine used in the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary by Saber Interactive, or the engines used for Halo Wars). The Halo series has been using virtually the same game engine since the series’ inception with Halo: Combat Evolved back in 2001 (heavily modified each year, of course). The new Slipspace Engine is a chance to build new tools which will apparently lead to an open-world setting – that’s what some publications are expecting. Honestly, I would expect something more akin to hub locations in a galaxy-spanning conflict, in an approach similar to Destiny and Destiny 2, with quasi-open world settings at each one. Side-quests are likely to be introduced, likely in a way similar to what Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare delivered (but hoepfully beatter and more meaningful in their introduction). For now, this is all speculation, though, so take it with a bucketload of salt.
It’s no secret (at least I don’t try to make it so) that I’m a fan of the Halo series, which is one of the more deep, complex gaming sci-fi worlds out there, with copious amounts of extended fiction ever carving a deeper lore well. The new Halo Infinite game will pick up after Halo 5: Guardians left off (speculation places Halo Infinite’s events as taking place two years after Halo 5: Guardians), and should leave behind the enormous cast of characters that game introduced in favor a Master Chief-centric approach – which has both good and bad points.
All in all, it seems the game will be launched by the end of 2019, at best – 343 industries is still in the process of aggressively hiring, and most work from the studio in the past few years ever since Halo 5: Guardians’ launch has been on the Slipspace Engine and laying the foundations for Halo Infinite’s systems, locations, and story thread. With the new engine comes a revised art direction, still under 343’s amazing Nicolas Bouvier (Sparth) direction, but with a change from the realistic sci-fi approach to materials and graphics (as in Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians) in favor of more streamlined, Halo: Combat Evolved-like assets. It remains to be seen whether this is what the series needs, but fans of the originals will likely be pleased.
Here’s hoping for a much more expansive walk through the Halo universe can be achieved with the new engine, instead of the usual three years of waiting in-between 8 hours-long adrenaline, sci-fi injections. One thing that would do the Halo universe justice is increased staying power of its experiences – though it will likely be hard to srike the perfect balance of a more permanent experience while maintaining the series’ story-first approach. I would actually expect the Slipspace Engine and Halo Infinite to deliver the Halo universe in sinstallments all within the games’ interface, with new chapters of the story (new campaigns) being delivered according to a yearly or so schedule – infinitely advancing the Halo universe’s storyline from one base single and multiplayer experience.