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Halo Infinite: Release date, battle pass, customization, and more

Halo Infinite
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Halo Infinite is coming this year, and as its Holiday 2021 release date draws near, we're getting more and more news about the highly anticipated title.

The Xbox Games Showcase at E3 2021 has come and gone, but an Xbox Games Showcase: Extended is still set to come on June 17, so we may get even more Halo Infinite news (though it's unlikely). During the Xbox Games Showcase, we got a closer look at Halo Infinite, from its Holiday 2021 release window, to the surrogate Cortana.

Then, a Halo Infinite multiplayer overview gave us even more deets about the free-to-play multiplayer, like customization options, and the Halo Infinite Battle Pass (which never expires). 

The recent swath of information means we've got plenty of news about Halo Infinite to sift through ahead of some major new information. We know the next game in Master Chief's saga will release on PC, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S, and that Halo Infinite will bridge the console generation gap by also releasing on Xbox One.

We also know that Halo Infinite ranked matchmaking will separate controller and mouse players, with full cross-platform multiplayer and cross-progression between Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. That's good news for those of us who take our ranked matchmaking very seriously. Halo Infinite beta testing is also on the horizon, so we can get a taste of just how the game will feel.

Below, we've got all the information you need about Halo Infinite, including its release date delay, story, and much more. 

Fast facts

  • Halo Infinite release date: Holiday 2021
  • Developer: 343 Industries
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Format:  Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite Holiday 2021 release date

Halo Infinite was delayed in August, 2020 with 343 Industries citing "multiple factors" including pandemic complications and fans' response to Halo Infinite footage. The Holiday 2021 Halo Infinite release window was set during this past E3 conference, but we still don't have a concrete release date.

Halo Infinite Battle Pass

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industires)

Halo Infinite will have permanent battle passes that never expire, according to lead player investment designer Christopher Blohm. That means if you buy a Halo Infinite Battle Pass, you'll keep it forever, and if you buy a new one, you can choose which pass to put your progression towards. So, if you've got your eyes on a cool cosmetic and it's later in a battle pass, you don't have to grind in a certain amount of time to get it - and that's a pretty big deal in the world of the gaming battle pass.

"If you can unlock something the Battle Pass, we're not gonna let any other players circumvent that by purchasing it out of the storefront," live design director Ryan Paradis says in the Halo Infinite multiplayer overview video.  So you won't spend time grinding for a cool bit of armor just for someone to buy it in the Halo story for a fiver.

Halo Infinite multiplayer customization

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Halo Infinite multiplayer customization will be extensive, with "millions" of combinations available at launch. 

You'll be able to customize your armor, including your shoulders, kneepads, gloves, helmet, visor, and helmet attachments. You can add armor emblems, as well. Remember, Halo Infinite will have Destiny 2-style shaders, or coatings, for the first time in the series. Blohm has insisted that the decision to remove primary and secondary color choices "was not made lightly, but it has laid the foundation for greater detail and variation when it comes to color customization.

Also, you'll be able to chose your very own AI from a selectin of different voices, and slot them into your helmet just like Master Chief does with Cortana. And, for the first time ever, you'll be able to customize the Spartan inside your armor. "They can change their body type and their voice, as well as choose prosthetics for the first time," explains Blohm. 

Halo Infinite art and graphics update

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

A massive update on Halo Waypoint featured details from Nicolas Bouvier (concept artist and art director), Neill Harrison (director of art management) and Ani Shastry (development manager for graphics) about the art and design we can expect in Halo Infinite.

Harrison spoke about the feedback to the gameplay footage shown in July, saying "Much of the feedback we heard from the community aligned with our own views and work we were already committed to doing around things like indirect lighting, material response, foliage and tree rendering, clouds, level-of-detail transitions, and character fidelity. Still, the feedback was humbling, and it also pushed us to look at additional opportunities for improvement."

The team emphasizes that what we saw was a "work-in-progress slice of the technology," but that "visual fidelity is a very important goal for Halo Infinite." The art style of Halo Infinite seeks to combine "cleaner and simpler forms of classic games like Halo 1 or 2 with the next-gen requirements and expectations of Halo Infinite," and the team admits merging both has proven to be challenging. So far, they've mad progress in a variety of areas:

  • Better quality global illumination
  • Ambient occlusion
  • Shadows
  • Volumetric lighting
  • Sky
  • Atmosphere
  • Addressed issues with GPU-driven rendering and texture streaming
  • Re-tuned dynamic lighting to add more contrast
  • More fidelity in characters
  • More wear-and-tear on vehicles and weapons

Halo Infinite concept art

(Image credit: Microsoft)

There's more work to be done however, head to the Halo Waypoint developer update to read about the remaining priorities for Halo Infinite's graphics. 

Halo Infinite multiplayer

Halo Infinite customization

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Halo Infinite multiplayer will be free-to-play and cross-platform, with cross-progression across Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. 

Halo Infinite will also separate controller and mouse players in ranked matchmaking. "Social playlists and custom matches are open to all, you can play on any platform and any device with anyone you like," PC development lead Mike Romero explained in a blog post. "For ranked matches, we plan to restrict competitive playlists based on input type, not console versus PC. That’s because we believe the input is the biggest differentiator in gameplay ability (with things like aim assist on the controller or the precision of sniping with a mouse). You can play with a controller on your PC to play ranked with your console friends, or even mouse and keyboard on your console to play ranked with your PC friends."  

Halo Infinite gameplay

See above for the first full look at Halo Infinite gameplay. The opening, which pauses for a conspicuously long time on the "Press Menu to Start Demo" screen, reveals a brand new Halo Ring for Master Chief to conquer, while also confirming that The Banished are indeed returning as the main enemy faction from this spiritual reboot of the classic Xbox franchise. 

In addition, the almost ten-minute demo reveals our famous helmed hero has a few new tricks up his armored sleeve, including a grapple hook that can be used on both items and enemies, alongside a bunch of new weapons to bolster the arsenal of familiar firearms. 

Halo Infinite will have split screen co-op

GamesRadar reported that Halo Infinite will indeed have split screen co-op, thank the Prophets. We sat in on an a roundtable with 343 Industries that confirmed its existence: "We will have split-screen and we will have co-op when we launch Halo Infinite." 

It was disappointing when Halo 5: Guardians left out couch co-op, which was the only thing that kept me sane during family gatherings in my childhood. 

Halo Infinite will be open world with a day/night cycle

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Now this is a massive change for the Halo franchise - Halo Infinite will allow for open-world exploration on the biggest Halo ring ever, and the world will have a day/night cycle. As we previously reported, 343 Industries' Chris Lee tells IGN that the open-world will still tell a coherent story that stay's true to Master Chief's legacy in the Halo franchise. 

"I would think about it more like kind of delivering on that promise we've had from the past," says Lee. "There's a lot of open gameplay in those previous games, but they're always in these linear levels. This time players will have the freedom to explore the ring. But we are telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end that we want to carry the player through as you go."

"What you saw in the demo that we showed, you have this map, " he continued. There's this huge open section of the ring. As you get to that point in the game, this is several hours into the campaign, then you have the ability to traverse that whole area and explore where you want to go on the ring. That's what we mean by open and explore the different places that you can go to."

That massive Halo ring you'll be exploring will also have a day/night cycle, so prepare for some spooky night battles, with just the glow of the plasma grenades to guide your way. 

Master Chief will have a grappling hook and more upgrades

As we saw in the Xbox Games Showcase trailer above, Chief has some cool new tools, including a bad ass grappling hook he uses to pull himself closer to enemies. According to 343 Industries' Chris Lee, that won't be all the toys Spartan -117 gets to play with - Halo Infinite will have a new upgrade system that will introduce players to new tools and abilities as they explore. Some of these discoverable toys, be it vehicles or gadgets like Chief's new grapple hook, will even let you traverse more of the world itself. 

Halo Infinite will be on Xbox Game Pass at launch as a Microsoft Smart Delivery title

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

GamesRadar reported that Xbox boss Phil Spencer confirmed the sixth game in the Halo Series would be available on Xbox Game Pass on launch day. Spencer wrote this, which reads:

"In addition to games from across four generations of consoles, our leading game subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, will continue to have our first-party games, like Halo Infinite, included at their launch," Spencer says. It's important to note that while we know for sure that Halo Infinite will be released on PC for Windows 10, it's unclear if it will be available on the Xbox Game Pass PC library, or solely for Xbox One.

Also, Halo Infinite and other Xbox Game Studios titles will be covered under Microsoft's Smart Delivery program. Spencer describes the service as a way to guarantee that you "buy a game once and know that - whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X - you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you're playing on."

As part of making the transition between current and next-gen smoother for players, Microsoft's Smart Delivery service will help connect the console family. The program guarantees Xbox owners need to buy a game once, no matter what console they own. So, if you own an Xbox One and buy Halo Infinite, but your Nana gives you Xbox Series X for Christmas (that's some Nana), you'll be able to play the game on both consoles. Smart Delivery is a fantastic program for those who are able to buy an Xbox Series X at launch and for those who may not be able to get their hands on it immediately. 

Master Chief will be the only protagonist in Halo Infinite

Don't worry, this game is all about Master Chief, and no one else is taking center stage. As we previously reported, 343 Industries' Paul Crocker made that perfectly clear in a roundtable interview. 

"Well, Chief is the only protagonist in the game," Crocker said, noting that the team has been guided by this idea of building a 'spiritual reboot' all throughout development. "We wanted to build a Chief-focused adventure. We wanted to get back to how Halo had been in the past and how players had really embraced wanting to play as Chief."

What happened Agent Locke from Halo 5: Guardians? Do we care?

Halo Infinite will have the Banished as antagonists

(Image credit: 343 Industries/Microsoft)

A mysterious Halo trailer in June 2020, suggesting the return of a Halo Wars faction - the Banished, led by Atriox. Mere moments into the Xbox Games Showcase trailer and the speculation ceased, as Chief mentioned the Banished by name.

After a lengthy gameplay segment, Chief gets to a ship, where he activates a console that reveals a hologram. "The UNSC lost this war months ago. Your people are broken. Scattered. Hunted. Defeated. By me," he says. "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. Son the Auditorium as well. The Harbinger and the Banished share the same goal. We fight together to honor the will of Atriox. But without challenge, I grow weary. Lost. Alone." The villain, who we've discovered is called War Chief Escharum, steps out of the hologram and into flesh.

"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. Bare your fangs, fight hard, die well."

Halo Infinite will be the last standalone Halo title for a decade

You read that right - 343 Industries has no plans to make any other standalone Halo titles in the future. Instead, Halo Infinite will act as a platform for further Halo experiences in the future. It's an interesting structure, but one that takes reference from the Master Chief Collection.

As we reported, studio head Chris Lee explained this idea an interview with IGN. “Halo Infinite is the start of our platform for the future,” he said. “We want Infinite to grow over time, versus going to those numbered titles and having all that segmentation that we had before. It’s really about creating Halo Infinite as the start of the next ten years for Halo and then building that as we go with our fans and community.”

Halo Infinite has two pugs making alien noises

(Image credit: Halo Official Instagram )

Two pugs are better than one, and while we initially reported that Gyoza was the only furry friend providing animal sounds for an unknown Halo creature, we can happily report that there's a second pug doing the exact same thing. The second Halo Infinite dog voice actoris called Buddy, and he's also been in 343 Industries' studio recording snarfles and chortles for an unknown role. Stay tuned... could it be the Flood?

Halo Infinite Slipspace engine

As GamesRadar+ previously reported, Halo Infinite's engineering director, David Berger says that the new Slipspace game engine was designed to allow the team to implement and introduce new ideas and gameplay features that were impossibilities during the game's early development. 

"You have to make tools that allow you to make new features that maybe weren't thought about. You've got to give the content creators room to ideate outside of that." Multiplayer director Tom French adds that "Designers are more empowered themselves to actually tackle a problem and prototype something quicker and faster than we've ever been able to before." 

Franchise director Frank O'Conner speaks to what the new engine means for the Halo franchise, saying that 343 Industries "had to create an engine that was more powerful for next-generation development, but also more nimble, so the creatives and engineers are able to work more easily and iterate faster." 

In the same video, design head Jerry Hook discusses the delicate balance the team is facing when making Halo Infinite. "We have to be able to respect that legacy that we've come from to help make sure that Halo doesn't just become an amalgamation of what the market is currently doing, but that what makes halo unique remains unique for our players, our community, and for the industry," Hook says.

The Halo Infinite box art is a throwback to Halo: Combat Evolved

(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you thought the Halo Infinite box art looked familiar, it's because it is - it's a clear nod to the box art for the first game in the franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved. That certainly says something, as the game is considering a spiritual reboot for the franchise, but the gameplay we've seen so far definitely references the hyper-pigmented, colorful fun of the first few games in the series. It's clear 343 Industries is trying to evoke some of that magic that first made Halo so special, while still firmly planting the game in 2020.