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The Stunning Transformation Of Halo Infinite's Craig The Brute

Since "Halo" debuted in 2001, Master Chief has served as the face of Microsoft's gaming brand. The passage of over two decades hasn't done much to slow down the futuristic adventures and battles of one of the industry's most iconic universes. In fact, there's enough "Halo" content to keep fans entertained for a long time. The list includes a series of books, a TV show, and, of course, over a dozen video games (though some are spinoffs and experimental titles), such as 2021's "Halo Infinite."

Boasting a massive open-world to romp around in, players may have missed some small details during their first "Halo Infinite" playthrough. While there are plenty of big unanswered questions in the campaign, one of the biggest might be: "What ever happened to Craig the Brute?" The alien made headlines following the "Halo Infinite" gameplay reveal in 2020, challenging Master Chief's dominance as the face of the series for all the wrong reasons. Craig has since undergone quite the glow-up. Here's a look at the transformation of this notorious fixture of gaming pop culture.

Who is Craig the Brute?

When Xbox dropped the first gameplay for "Halo Infinite" in July 2020, nearly five years had passed since the release of "Halo 5: Guardians." The next entry in the series had been announced two years prior in 2018, but there wasn't a single shred of gameplay anywhere to be seen. Coupled with the impending launch of the superpowered next-gen Xbox Series X|S, there was a lot riding on "Halo Infinite" to deliver in a big way.

Unfortunately, the gameplay premiere didn't go over as well as 343 Industries likely hoped. Plenty of details (especially the graphics) showed that "Halo Infinite" needed more time in the oven. For audiences, nothing made this more apparent than a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment where Master Chief punches an enemy Brute. Up close and personal, and paused just right, the internet got its first look at who would eventually be dubbed Craig the Brute. 

A meme is born

For plenty of fans, the gameplay reveal for "Halo Infinite" felt like a letdown (via Twitter) — a sensation almost epitomized by Craig's lukewarm, poorly textured, and low-resolution face. His seeming indifference to the fact that he'd just been killed by a gigantic space soldier mirrored, in a way, how many players felt about the lackluster look at the future of "Halo."

Despite the disappointment, many saw the opportunity to create the next big meme. According to the HaloMemes subreddit, Facebook user Ali Kay made the earliest known post giving the brute his name, saying, "We're calling this dude Craig idc what you say." The Craig the Brute memes exploded in the following months. He has snuck his way into other games, he's sported Shrek ears while asking, "What are you doing on my ring?," and he's often depicted as a gentle friend to Master Chief offering words of encouragement and "choccy milk." He appeared on shirts, throw blankets, and, for some, served as an unpleasant indicator that "Halo Infinite" might not amount to much. 

Craig would have to wait

Shortly after the less-than-favorable reveal of the game, Dan Chosich, the narrative experience director of "Halo Infinite" took to Twitter and did his best to put out fires and reassure fans. "I've been in your shoes. I know what it's like to have expectations built + feel let down. I want you to know your voice matters + is heard. You're not falling on deaf ears."

Xbox Games marketing general manager Aaron Greenburg pointed out during an interview with Inside Gaming that the title was being worked on and shown off during the middle of a global pandemic. Greenburg asserted that the entry's appearance would improve the closer it got to launch, but this was back when it was still planned for release during the holiday season of 2020. 

As players know, "Halo Infinite" got hit with a delay on August 11, 2020. However, a little over a year after the announcement, the developers released an update showcasing not only the game's overall improved visuals, but Craig's brand new look. 

New footage, new Craig

On October 25, 2021, the "Halo Infinite" – Campaign Overview trailer debuted. With an additional year of development, the game received plenty of praise for its updated visuals. Textures were more detailed, lighting was more refined, and, of course, Craig had been given a makeover.

In another freeze frame moment, Master Chief melees a Brute, which gave rise to a new Craig meme. Fans immediately noticed that, thanks to more detailed textures, a beard, a mohawk, and distinct profile, this Brute looked similar to the "Yes Chad" meme (via Reddit). Thus a new wave of Craig memes came forth showing the once downtrodden Brute as a powerful and shining symbol of progress.

Following the new gameplay reveal, a developer blog post on Halo Waypoint revealed the developers' thoughts about the situation, "The team has sort of a love-hate relationship with Craig," said character & combat director Steve Dyck. "While it was fun to see the community gravitate towards Craig, he unfortunately represented some content and systems that were not ready for prime time in that demo."

After spending plenty of time updating the game's visuals, however, it seems that the developers started to lean into the goofiness of Craig. "He is feeling very good about himself and has fit back in well with the rest of his Brute friends. He has also picked up a new hobby and has done well for himself. Long live Craig!" asserted character art lead Bryan Repka.

A certified Halo rock star

After Craig's glow-up, his fanbase expanded and plenty of players expressed their desire to see him represented or acknowledged somehow in the final build once "Halo Infinite" launched. One YouTube user commented on the Campaign Overview trailer, saying, "If we don't get an achievement for melee killing Craig, imma sue." While Microsoft may be waiting to hear about this lawsuit given that no such achievement exists, Craig lives on in more ways than one

Once players have accessed the open world of "Halo Infinite," they'll likely see an enormous structure in the distance called The Tower. This location is the site of an early boss fight, but at the very top of the tower is a hidden Easter egg referencing Craig's "new hobby." A vinyl record next to a futuristic guitar, a microphone, and some speakers show that Craig has officially become a "Halo" rock star. There's even a poster nearby detailing his "Zeta Halo Tour." 

Master Chief may not have been able to listen to Craig's undoubtedly sick music live this time around, but perhaps this isn't the end of his legacy. The next entry in the "Halo" series could be several years away, but fans can hope they'll see or hear from Craig much sooner than that.