Five months into 2019 and we are starting to show textbook symptoms of acute Halo withdrawal. What started as slight irritability towards the end of last year has progressed into full-blown sweats, shakes and mindless gibbering about “finishing the fight”. You see, traditionally the mainline Halo games take around three years to develop – Halo 5: Guardians released way back in 2015, Microsoft... you can't do this to us! We’ve sought out many specialists, but their prognosis is always the same: Unless we get our hands on a new Halo game soon, we may not see it through to Christmas.
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Our hopes were raised briefly when Halo Infinite was revealed at last year’s E3 conference, but with no mention of a release date we were left wondering when we would get our next hit. Thankfully, things have been starting to heat up over at the Halo camp recently. So much so, that a raft of recent reports and announcements are hinting towards 2019 being the year that Halo once again reigns supreme, and, more importantly, with it the prospect of us making a full recovery.
Last month, during an episode of Inside Xbox, 343 Industries’ community director Brian Jarrard revealed that Halo: The Master Chief Collection will be making its way to PC. This is fantastic news for PC gamers, given that the only mainline Halo games they’ve ever been able to play have been the original Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. But that wasn’t all Jarrard had to announce: alongside this news, he also revealed that Halo: Reach will at last become part of Halo: MCC, both on PC and Xbox One, and it will include the same improvements the other games in the collection have been treated to – such as 4K HDR visuals and 60 frames per second. The inclusion of Halo: Reach, which will arrive later this year, completes the set and makes every mainline game in the Halo franchise available natively on the Xbox One.
Jarrard has promised that the PC version won’t be a quick and easy port, but will instead include all of the features that PC users are accustomed to, such as mouse and keyboard support, ultra widescreen monitor support, field of view sliders, and mappable key bindings. It does come with one caveat, however: The collection won’t be arriving all at once. Instead, each entry in the franchise will be released one at a time, starting off with Halo: Reach. The rest of the games will follow in order of their original release. No release schedule has been mentioned as of yet, only that in-between each release 343 Industries will collate and implement feedback to make each entry the best it can be.
Although Halo: Reach will be released as a complete game on PC, on consoles it’ll be broken up into two parts. The multiplayer section of the game, which also includes the Forge and Theatre modes, will be available to everyone who already owns Halo: The Master Chief Collection, but the single-player campaign and Firefight modes will be arriving as premium DLC content. This will inevitably come as a disappointment to some. However, if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber you’ll be getting everything as part of the service.
From rocky beginnings to being an essential game for Xbox One owners, Halo: MCC has come a long way since its release in 2014. During an interview with IGN, 343 Industries’ studio head, Bonnie Ross, admitted that the game was released before it was ready and as a result disappointed fans. “It was supposed to be a love letter to the fans, and we let them down,” she explained at the time.
Ross also offered up a little of the game’s history, which begins all the way back to before the release of Halo 4. Her original pitch was to have Halo 4 release as a launch title for the Xbox One, but the decision was ultimately made to bring it out towards the end of the Xbox 360’s life cycle. But thanks to Halo’s typical three-year gestation period, it meant that another Halo game wouldn’t be seen until three years into the new console’s life. That is what prompted the creation of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The game started out as just the Halo 2 Anniversary project, but ambition got the better of the team and 343 Industries decided to bring every game in the Master Chief’s story to Xbox One. And even then it was only supposed to include Halo 2’s multiplayer mode, but once again the team wanted to go big and brought every map and multiplayer mode from every game to create one massive collection of Halo content.
With The Master Chief cast in Showtime's Halo Series, we are one step closer to see one of gaming's biggest franchises make it to TV. While it is expected that the nine episode series will launch in 2020, we'd be surprised if we didn't see a trailer before the end of the year.
The only problem was that this was far too big a task to do right in the amount of time afforded to the team, and as such the game launched with a whole host of problems, namely in the multiplayer modes. The problems ranged from unbearably long matchmaking lobby wait times and connection issues, to shots not registering in matches and the constant splitting up of teams after matches ended. It could have been easy for the developers to do the minimum amount of work and simply patch up the bugs and leave it at that, but they didn’t: they were determined to do right by the fans.
So 343 Industries announced that Halo 3: ODST would become a part of the collection and that, as a thank you for those that purchased the game at its launch, it would allow all early adopters to receive the extra title free of charge. Eventually it managed to fix pretty much every problem it had and showed its commitment to the fans. 343 has learned its lesson; the studio knows that you can't rush a good thing, and that's why PC players will need to wait a little while longer to get the full Halo experience on their preferred platform of choice, and it's why the rest of us still need to hold on a little longer to experience Halo Infinite.
Into the Infinite
343 Industries has stated on numerous occasions that it is taking everything it has learned from the experience – the good, the bad, and the unfortunate – of developing and supporting Halo 4, Halo: TCC, and Halo 5 to make Halo Infinite the best game in the series yet. And you know what, we're inclined to believe them!
One of the reasons given for Halo Infinite’s longer development was the need to create a brand-new engine, purpose built to help 343 usher in a new era of Halo. The trailer shown at last year’s E3 was as much an expression of the studio’s intention for Halo, as it was a tech demo for its new Slipspace engine. Here’s hoping for a full open-world Halo game with light RPG elements... look, we can dream, right?
Microsoft has confirmed that we will hear more about Halo Infinite at E3 2019. Reading between the lines, we are fully expecting to get our first look at the game in action – which is being treated as a soft reboot of sorts for the long-running series, pulling attention wholeheartedly back onto the Master Chief following the backlash to Guardians' focus on an ensemble cast. This will also be a chance to see what the studio's all-new proprietary engine, Slipstream, is capable of, as well as a chance to hear how the Azure Cloud is going to power the next generation of Halo multiplayer. We already know it's capable of bringing split-screen gaming back to the fore for Halo, a feature that is confirmed by the studio, so the mind can only wonder when considering the possibilities.
343i franchise development director, Frank O’Connor has already confirmed via Twitter that Halo Infinite will indeed be an Xbox One title. However, the ￼next generation of Xbox consoles is already rumoured to be looming over the horizon, with a lot of rumours pointing towards a reveal at this year’s E3. Combine this with the fact that Bonnie Ross has expressed her disappointment in launching Halo 4 towards the end of a console’s life, it seems unlikely that 343 Industries will want to repeat history. Which means that we may end up seeing a simultaneous release of Halo Infinite on both Xbox One and the new generation of Xbox consoles.
Then there’s the question of a release date. Wishful thinking tells us that we could see a release of Halo Infinite as early as November this year, just in time for the Christmas period, but conventional wisdom says that it’s more likely that we’re looking at a 2020 release. Either way, we’re already feeling our withdrawal symptoms ease off and with Halo: Reach arriving soon we’ll have something to tie us over until then. This is going to be the year of Halo, we can feel it in our bones.
Looking for more excellent games to play on your Xbox One? Then why not check out our list of the best Xbox One exclusives.