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Halo Infinite release date, trailer, gameplay and beta

Eighteen years, three console generations, five mainline games, and dozens of spinoffs, comics, and novels later, any new Halo release is still as much of an event now as it was back in 2001. But that's especially true for what's shaping up to be the biggest and most ambitious title 343 Industries has released thus far: Halo Infinite. The game formerly known as Halo 6 has enormous expectations piled onto it as both the continuation of Halo 5's stunning cliffhanger and as the next evolution of a series that has defined three generations of consoles. 

It's likely for that exact reason that 343 is keeping a lot of the fine details of Master Chief's next big mission under wraps, but we've still got you covered. Here's your one-stop shop for all the news that's fit to print about Halo Infinite, and what to expect once everybody's able to hold it in their hands.

Halo Infinite's release date

As of this moment, Halo Infinite's simply slated for release in the latter quarter of 2020. Obviously, the target is likely smack dab in the middle of the usual AAA game traffic jam. What makes this more significant, however, is the fact that something else is also scheduled to drop in that same period: Project Scarlett.

Microsoft confirmed back at E3 2019 that Halo Infinite would be available on both Xbox One and Scarlett, and it's hard not to have visions of the next Xbox launching with a new Halo title — something that, after all these years, hasn't happened since the first Xbox. Xbox One folks shouldn't panic, though: Halo's franchise director, Frank O'Connor, reassured everyone back in July that the Xbox One version will still hold its own against its big sister. Given that, through some form of voodoo (we assume), Scarlett will support all previous generations of Xbox games, it's probably not too hard to assume that version won't be left too far behind, especially on the One X. 

The trailer for Halo Infinite

We've only gotten two all-too-brief glimpses at Halo Infinite thus far: an obtuse teaser from last year's E3, which is one David Attenborough narration away from being a Planet Earth special; and the trailer above, from E3 2019. Both of which, it's been explained, are less trailers than they are bite-sized little samples of the new game engine that 343 Industries is using for the game, Slipspace. The latest trailer at least gives us the tiniest peek of the universe we left behind in Halo 5, though it does nothing to answer most of the big questions. 

The new trailer is mostly not even focused on Chief, though: just this poor hapless bearded guy floating dead in space. Whoever he is, he comes across Chief's MJOLNIR armor just before we get a look at a broken Halo installation. Whatever awaits Chief once he jumps out of that ship, Microsoft's playing it extremely close to the vest. 

The story up until Halo Infinite

For those just tuning in, or at least tuning in after some time away, the status quo in the current Halo universe is very, very different from the Bungie days. The Covenant is done for,  giving way to a few mostly-friendly splinter factions. Nature abhors a vacuum, though, so in the Covenant's place came the Prometheans, discovered on the planet Requiem by Master Chief. These powerful new enemies are made even more hostile once a Forerunner called the Didact wakes up, hoping to restore the Forerunners as the dominant species in the galaxy.

Master Chief does manage to take the Didact down, but not without some help from Cortana, who basically has an AI version of Alzheimers. Rather than decay into insanity, she chooses to sacrifice herself to save the world. 

Except, she doesn't. Some time later, Chief gets a signal from Cortana to come find her on the garden planet Meridian, where she lays out — and rather frighteningly executes — her plan to use some massive Forerunner tech to  protect the species of the galaxy from themselves. To make things worse, she managed to rope virtually (heh) every artificial intelligence system in the galaxy to her cause. After he tries to stop her in Halo 5, Master Chief is left stranded in an unknown pocket of space. 

Halo Infinite's story

As for Halo Infinite, things are murky at the moment. 343's dropped some minor scraps here and there, though. The game itself is being referred to as a "spiritual reboot" of the entire franchise, which makes sense considering that Cortana has set galactic progress back a couple hundred years. The focus is apparently on building an in-game community. 

343 is also promising a much more accessible story than Halo 5, which also makes sense. Great as it was, nobody expected Halo 5 to fully portray technological singularity. But one gets the sense that they're talking less about that accessibility and more about the fact that they split the narrative between Master Chief and a new protagonist, SPARTAN Locke. When was the last time you heard somebody say Locke was their favorite part of Halo 5? The answer is never, which is why Infinite's focus will be on Master Chief, where it belongs. 

Aside from that, there is one thing worth addressing, which is a strange audio file someone pulled out of the E3 2019 trailer, which appears to be Cortana wondering where she is. Which is odd considering she should be having the biggest AI dominance party ever. Things might not be that simple after all.

Halo Infinite's new engine

343 Industries is actually rather talkative about their new engine. See, rather infamously, the old engine that Halo games used was extremely finicky to work with, which created internal problems during development. For Infinite, the team took some time off specifically so they could create a newer, more developer-friendly engine. What they came up with was Slipspace.

Slipspace is being dubbed "the platform for the future of Halo" by Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, so that's likely what we'll be seeing in the series going forward. We've already gotten a tiny taste of it in the two trailers thus far, and while the engine looks on par with what we've seen out of Unreal Engine 4, there is an extra layer of nuance in the character renders and movements. Combined with a studio that's already pushing the envelope visually — go replay Halo 5's opening hour, check out how much of the battle you can make out in the far distance — and a series that's starting to play on a whole new scale, Infinite should become one of the standard bearers of the next gen.

Multiplayer in Halo Infinite

While we don't have an exact list of modes and game types yet, there's some questions regarding Halo Infinite's multiplayer that have been definitively answered. Yes, Forge mode is coming back, meaning yes, spending more time building levels than getting headshot from half a stage away is still a viable play option. Custom SPARTANs are also back, as well as split-screen multiplayer, which is an extremely pleasant surprise.

343 Industries have shot down the idea of a battle royale mode, which is a crying shame for those of you who weren't satisfied with the other 700 Fortnite/PUBG clones on the market. Unfortunately, they haven't shot down microtransactions, though Microsoft's first party titles tend to be pretty good about keeping their purchasable items on the purely cosmetic side of things. Past that, if 343 has any surprises in store, we'll find out soon enough.

Halo Infinite is coming to PC, too

Microsoft's been doing some serious legwork regaining the trust of players who still bear a grudge against Games for Windows Live, the company's much-maligned PC games platform. And with stellar ports for the likes of Sunset Overdrive and Gears 5 and initiatives like Play Anywhere, they've gotten to the point where the dark times are kind of a distant memory. The last straw, it seems, is having a PC Halo title day and date with the Xbox version; and good news everyone, that's exactly what's about to happen. 

Halo Infinite will be the first Halo title to actually launch on PC day and date with the console version. Combine that with the fact that every other main game in the series will be available on PC with the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, it feels like the start of something beautiful for keyboard players jealous of their console siblings' exclusives.

Halo Infinite's beta

As with most shooters with a multiplayer component, there's the question of whether players will get a chance to tackle the game early via a beta. While there's not a whole lot of info this far out, the simple answer is yes, it's happening.

The one bit of information 343 has managed to confirm is the fact that the beta will roll out as part of a flighting program. The plain English explanation here is that 343 will essentially release whole chunks of the game to test out at varying points during the beta period. It sounds fairly similar to what 343's been doing with the PC port of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, just that this'll all be for the same game. Those lucky enough to have experienced it may remember that the content varied between multiplayer stress tests and small demos of single player levels. It's not a bad idea to expect the same situation here. 

How to get caught up to speed

Until Halo Infinite's launch, there's still plenty of ways to play catch-up. The most convenient way to do so will be the Master Chief Collection. However, it may not be a bad idea to hold off for a little bit, while 343 preps for a major update to the collection.

At first, players — Xbox players especially — assumed that it would just be a matter of adding the remastered Halo: Reach and calling it a day. But whatever it is 343 has been cooking up to coincide with the PC rollout has turned into a bit of a behemoth, enough of one where they've run into the upper limit of what the consoles are capable of. It's gotten to be such a hassle that 343 delayed the testing for Reach on consoles. That's kinda bonkers for a collection of 10+-year-old games, but without a doubt, whatever they're doing will be worth the effort.