[Editor’s Note: Very minor story spoilers follow. If you want to be completely surprised by what happens in Halo Infinite, turn back now.]
Prior to today’s long-awaited gameplay reveal of Halo Infinite at the Xbox Games Showcase – the biggest launch title for the new Xbox Series X console this Holiday and the first mainline Halo game in five years – IGN had the chance to sit down with 343 Industries developers Chris Lee and Paul Crocker to discuss the new direction that Infinite looks to take the franchise, and how the story of Infinite both ties up loose ends from the Forerunner Saga while also laying the groundwork for new storylines in the Halo universe.
Halo Infinite takes place well after the ending of Halo 5, with a rampant Cortana nowhere in sight and the Master Chief adrift in space. The Pilot (as seen in the E3 2019 presentation trailer, which 343 reconfirmed to IGN is the very beginning of the game) then discovers him. The Pilot’s name will be revealed during the course of the campaign. “He ended up being named by the actor who plays him”, said Crocker, the game’s associate creative director. “The name is actually his two best friends from childhood.”
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“Chief and the Pilot are in exactly the same position as the player when the game starts,” Crocker said. “They don’t know what’s happened. They’re learning what’s happening, together.” Lee told us that the new Xbox Games Showcase demo takes place roughly four hours into the campaign, which he said is “several times larger than our last two campaigns put together,” referring to Halo 4 and Halo 5.
The Banished Are the Bad Guys
Players fight The Banished in Infinite – a rogue faction of Brutes (along with plenty of familiar Covenant Elites and Grunts too) who were prominently featured in Halo Wars 2. The team at 343 is quick to note that you won’t need to have played that 2017 real-time strategy game to feel comfortable in Infinite (“It’s not required reading,” Crocker noted), nor will you have to consume the comic books and novels of the larger Halo universe in order to understand what’s going on in the new game – a criticism of Halo 4 and 5 that 343 acknowledged. “We don’t want a game where players have to do homework to enjoy this game,” Crocker said. But why The Banished? “Because they’re super cool and everyone likes them,” he said with a laugh, before more seriously adding that the team wanted “to have something that’s an evolution of the Covenant so you get some of the familiar, but something that’s different [too], and it comes together to feel fresh.”
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To that end, it is both the conclusion to what has to date been known as the Forerunner Saga, and it also sets a course for new stories. “It is the conclusion of events that have been set up in the past, but it is very forward-looking as well,” Crocker said. “We want places to go and we want new mysteries.” Lee added, “It’s setting the foundation for future storytelling as well as tying some of those threads from the past. You don’t need to go through the whole franchise to learn and understand the fiction coming in, but if you do have that knowledge we want to reward that. You’ll see these [extended universe] elements and nostalgic moments. There have been a lot of goosebumps in the studio as we have [finished] different scenes and things that are in the game.”
Meet the Villain, War Chief Escharum
As to whether or not we should expect a chattier Master Chief, a la Halo 4, or a more “strong and silent type” performance from veteran Spartan-117 voice actor Steve Downes, a la Bungie’s original trilogy, Crocker said, “I think it’s probably somewhere in-between. We are definitely leaning more towards the strong silent type but there is quite a strong emotional core that involves him being a lot more vocal.”
The end of the demo showed a flashback sequence, during which the UNSC Infinity supercarrier – a centerpiece of the previous two Halo games – blips off of radar. So was it destroyed? “The simple answer to that question is that that is one of the things Chief is going to discover during the game,” Crocker explained. “What you saw in the montage at the end was us setting the stage for the journey the Chief and Pilot have been going through.”
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That ending sequence also introduces us to the villain of the story: a Banished leader named War Chief Escharum, who is the leader of The Banished on this Halo ring and “is connected to The Banished in a fundamental way,” according to Crocker, and proclaims this Halo ring as his last stand, knowing that Master Chief is coming for him: “This is my last fight, a true test of legends,” Escharum says in the gameplay demo. “A story that will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart. Bare your fangs. Fight hard. Die well.”
That same speech also mentions “The Harbinger.” Neither Lee nor Crocker would say what that is referring to – besides confirming that it wasn’t Escharum referring to himself in the third-person – but the ending of Halo 5 had me guessing that it might be Cortana. I presented my theory to the developers, but they wouldn’t comment one way or another.
For more on Halo Infinite, don’t miss more of our exclusive conversation with Lee and Crocker, including details on the Xbox Series X’s premier launch title’s open world and its new weapons and upgrades, why Infinite is trying to be a great starting point for new Halo players, and why there won’t be a Halo Infinite 2.
Source: IGN.com Halo Infinite Villain and Story Details Revealed