Halo Infinite is set on Zeta Halo, 343 confirms

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Halo Infinite is being positioned as a spiritual reboot. 343 Industries is building its next-generation Halo to harken back to Master Chief's earliest adventure, including returning us to a Halo ring – something we haven't done in the series since Halo 3. While speaking with 343 studio head Chris Lee – as part of our deep dive inside Halo Infinite: 343's attempt to build "the most ambitious Halo game ever made" – he confirmed that "Halo Infinite will be set on Zeta Halo", which is also known as Installation 07. 

Fans have long suspected that this would be the case, following on from clues in the Slipstream Engine reveal in 2018 and Halo Infinite: Discover Hope trailer from 2019. Now that Lee has confirmed the Halo Infinite location, let's dive into everything you need to know about Zeta Halo, Installation 07, and what we know of the Halo Infinite story.

When is Halo Infinite set?  

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

The Halo Infinite E3 2019 trailer worked to establish the stakes for Master Chief's upcoming mission right uptop. That six minute "Discover Hope" segment is actually the Halo Infinite opening cinematic, and it's the fuel we needed to kickstart our Halo Infinite story theories. This doesn't rule out the possibility that Halo Infinite won't open with a prologue – as so many other games in the series have done – but for all intents and purposes this is where the adventure will begin, with Chief drifting through death and destruction on a scale we've not yet seen in a Halo before.

As Master Chief is being revived aboard Pelican Echo-216 by an unnamed, but set to be story-essential UNSC pilot, we are able to catch a glimpse at his systems rebooting. One date in particular caught our attention, a blink and you'll miss it citation that Chief's new armour was created on 10 February, 2559, and later modified by SPARTAN-II Program and Cortana creator Dr. Catherine Halsey on 19 September, 2561. This is three years after the conclusion to Halo 5: Guardians and a few months out from the 27 May 2560 date glimpsed aboard a Pelican in the 2018 debut of Halo Infinite and the Slipstream engine. 

The Halo Infinite Ascension campaign gameplay demo takes place one day later, on 28 May, 2560. 

Halo Infinite is set after Halo Guardians

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

If Halo Infinite is to be set some time after 19 September, 2561, then that would place it three years after the conclusion of Halo 5: Guardians, an adventure which took place around July of 2558. To understand this part of our Halo Infinite story theories, let's run a quick history lesson. Halo 5 drew to a close as Cortana is overcome by Rampancy – a terminal state of being for smart AI constructs that activates after seven years of activity – and in control of the Domain – what is effectively a living information repository that was once used by the Forerunners to contain vast amounts of knowledge, meaning the rogue AI can move freely between systems throughout the galaxy rather than being constrained to a fixed location –  joining with other rogue AIs and the Warden Eternal to begin systematically deconstructing the defences of Earth, the outer colonies and, we can assume, those of the Covenant too. 

Halo 5 ends as Chief reunites with Dr. Halsey after six years, joined by the members of Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris, at the Arbiter's base camp on Nuusra on Sanghelios. What happens next is covered in the novel Halo: Bad Blood, which bridges the gap somewhat between Halo 5 and Infinite. It tracks the doctor and Spartans as they reunite with the UNSC Infinity – the flagship war-vessel of the UNSC – as the last line of defense for humanity attempts to evade Cortana and the pursuing Guardians which takes us up to January 2559.

Halo Infinite takes place on Installation 07: Zeta Halo

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Should you complete Halo 5 on Legendary, you'll be treated to a seconds long tease of Halo Infinite that was planned way back in 2015. In it, the camera pans across an unknown planet in the Milky Way Galaxy where we can see an unidentified Halo Installation ring whirring into action; behind all of this we can hear a woman – let's assume Cortana – humming a tune that sounds suspiciously similar to the one Halo Installation 00 monitor 343: Guilty Spark could be heard humming so many years ago.

I'm going to posit that the ring you see in the closing moments of Halo 5 and the displaced ring we see in Halo Infinite's opening moments are one and the same. This is Halo Installation 07, otherwise known as Zeta Halo; it's a ring that's been given a cursory exploration in the novels, but has never been properly seen in the games, given only a passing Holographic representation. If you look closely at the Pelican dashboard during the Discover Hope trailer, you'll notice that the radar has a small note on it that reads "Local Ref Zeta" lending further credence to this notion. If you want to dive even deeper into this theory, a handheld radio in the 2018 Halo Infinite trailer plays morse code, which translates roughly to "SOS ZETA HALO GRD". 

343's studio head, Chris Lee, has now confirmed to Gamesradar that the ring we see in the Halo Infinite campaign demo is in fact Zeta Halo. It's occupied by the Banished, and it'll take everything that Master Chief has got to wrestle control of the superweapon away from the hands of  War Chief Escharum. 

Why is Zeta Halo important?

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Zeta Halo is one of the seven core rings that make up the Halo Array. That, if you aren't up on your Halo lore, is a collection of six installations that, when activated, can wipe out all life in the universe. Installation 07, Zeta Halo, is the only surviving ring of the original 12. Once 30,000 kilometers wide, its diameter was shaved down to a modest 10,000 kilometers after the majority of its superstructure was damaged and subsequently discarded 100,000 years before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved – who knows how much of that Chief will be able to explore in Halo Infinite. 

Zeta Halo also happens to be one of the seven rings rendered inert following Master Chief's efforts on Installation 00 in Halo 3. Given the Banished's ambitions, following the climactic events of Halo Wars 2, you can only assume that the mercenary group will be looking for a way to reactivate this ancient relic. As Zeta Halo has a different origin to the other rings we have visited in Halo games so far, you should expect it to have a different infrastructure and ecosystem – something we got but a small look at in the Halo Infinite gameplay demo. 

Expect plenty of mysteries 

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

I'm not going to lie, the history of Zeta Halo is pretty confusing and I gave my Halo novels away to a charity shop a few years ago, however, I do remember that Installation 07 has a pretty interesting past. Enough so that Master Chief's adventure across it will surely lead to plenty of interesting discoveries. 

For starters, Zeta Halo was used as a location to preserve a multitude of life forms – including the earliest humans, or the Tudesjsa. I'm not going to get into the full history here, but the 'People From Here' spent considerable time building settlements and small cities, which means there's a pretty good chance Chief will stumble across ruins and relics from the ancient human race for the very first time. Oh, and Zeta Halo was also where Halo 3's grand villain Mendicant Bias was installed. 

Ever the evil AI, Mendicant Bias ended up using the humans on the ring as a part of his pretty gnarly experiments with the Flood. Spoiler alert: it didn't turn out great. In fact, it seems likely that there are multiple test sites all over Installation 07 – including the appropriately titled 'Palace of Pain' – which means there are multiple opportunities for what little remains of the UNSC to stumble across an ancient form of the Flood, or even those infected by them so many thousands of years ago, and unleash them unwittingly from a facility. 

With months to go until release, there's sure to be more story teasers and information on Zeta Halo. Halo Infinite is set to launch on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC, and through Xbox Game Pass, later this year. 

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he 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 likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.