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Get up to speed on Master Chief's latest adventure with this Halo Infinite story explainer

Halo Infinite
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The Halo Infinite story can be a little confusing. Developer 343 Industries has built a narrative arc that can both serve as a jumping-on point for new (or otherwise lapsed) players of Halo Infinite and provide a resolution to a story that's been steadily building for 20 years. As a result, you might find it useful to have elements of the Halo Infinite story explained. 

We're going to go over many of the broader Halo Infinite story beats here, doing our best to get you up to speed on the major characters and events that inform the drama central to the campaign. Unsurprisingly, this Halo Infinite story explainer will contain light spoilers, so proceed with caution and jump around this article to get information on the staging, characters, and events as you so need them. 

Here's what you do (and what you don't) need to know to understand the Halo Infinite story. 

What is going on in Halo Infinite?

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The introductory hour of the Halo Infinite campaign underscores 343's decision to create as close to a blank slate as possible. Halo Infinite effectively opens at the end of a story that was never told, some 18-months after the conclusion to Halo 5: Guardians. So don't worry, you haven't missed anything, all Halo players (no matter their experience with the series) are in the dark in the beginning. The war against the Banished has already been waged and lost, with humanity now facing extinction and the remnants of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) scattered across a Halo Installation that's being slowly brought online.

What are the Halo rings?

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

There are seven Halo Installations, with Infinite set on Installation 07 – Zeta Halo. The Halo Array was built by an ancient precursor race called the Forerunners; each ring has its own unique ecosystem and is designed to serve a specific purpose – research facilities that study and contain different life forms across the galaxy. What you really need to remember though, is that each Installation is actually a ring-shaped, planet-sized superweapon that's capable of wiping out all life in the universe. A last-resort option created by the Forerunners to defeat a threat that is existential to existence – in previous Halo games it was the Flood, in Infinite it is something else entirely. 

Where has Master Chief been?

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

As a little primer: John-117 was abducted by the UNSC as a child to be enlisted in the Spartan-II program engineered by Dr. Halsey, trained and physically-augmented into the super soldier we know today. In the opening of Halo Infinite, we see Master Chief lose a battle with Atriox, leader of the Banished, and is presumed dead. The forces that survived the crash of the UNSC Infinity have subsequently spent six months scattered across Zeta Halo, alone and fighting for survival. By the time Chief is recovered, taken off life support by a friendly UNSC Pilot, and makes it planetside, it's his job to rally what little of the UNSC remains and stop the Banished from getting Installation 07 online. 

Who are the Banished? 

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Given that Halo 5: Guardians effectively ends with Cortana leading an army of unstoppable AIs, dubbed the Created, in a war against the universe, Halo Infinite's cold open with a fight against the Banished is a little confusing. Essentially, the Banished are a group of Grunts, Jackals, Elites, and Brutes who splintered off from the Covenant. This rogue faction was first introduced in Halo Wars 2 and arrived on Zeta Halo six months before Halo Infinite's action. The Banished are powerful, well-resourced, and driven by revenge – holding both fear and reverence for the Master Chief. 

What happened to all of the other Spartans?

Halo Infinite multiplayer

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Halo 5: Guardians players may be wondering what happened to Blue Team (the last remaining company of Spartan-IIs), Team Osiris (the new generation of Spartan Vs led by Agent Locke), and the numerous other Spartans that exist in the Halo universe. Basically, they are all MIA. One of Halo Infinite's collectibles are UNSC Audio Logs, many of which will hint towards what happened to the other Spartans that were stationed on the UNSC Infinity ship, while you'll also stumble across those that were killed on Zeta Halo by Jega 'Rdomnai – an Elite who specialises in hunting Spartans. 

What's going on with Cortana?

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Cortana has a huge presence in Halo Infinite, with Master Chief spending much of the game working to both shut down Installation 07 and find out what happened to the Smart AI who came along for the ride in his most formative adventures. Back in Halo 4, Cortana started showing the effects of "Rampancy", which is the name given to the deterioration of an AI after they consume too much information. In an effort to combat Rampancy, AIs are deactivated after seven years to prevent them from turning against their creators. Cortana sacrificed herself in Halo 4 to save Master Chief, but a part of her program is revived during Halo 5 – where she subsequently ammasses an army of Created and Guardian forces that are capable of enslaving civilisations and destroying planets. Much of Halo Infinite sees Master Chief hunting for Cortana, unaware of her location or status.  

Who is The Weapon?

Cortana

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Master Chief has a new friend along for the ride in Halo Infinite, so don't worry if you don't recognise them. 'The Weapon' is a new Smart AI specifically designed to help contain and eradicate a fully-rampant Cortana before she enslaves the universe, designed by Dr. Halsey – the creator of the Spartan II program and architect of the original Cortana model. 'The Weapon' was entrusted to Master Chief prior to Halo Infinite beginning, and his mission was to use the new AI to finally take Cortana offline. The results of that gradually unfurl throughout the Halo Infinite campaign. 


Josh West

Josh West is Features Editor of GamesRadar+. With over 10 years experience in both online and print journalism, Josh has written for a number of gaming, entertainment, music, and tech publications, including 3D Artist, Edge, gamesTM, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. He holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing, has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh plays bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.