Halo Infinite has a new release date of autumn 2021, Microsoft has announced.
343's hotly-anticipated Xbox Series X, S, Xbox One and PC first-person shooter was originally due out as an Xbox Series X and S launch title in November 2020, but was delayed to 2021 after the studio faced a number of "development challenges", including those relating to the coronavirus.
"It is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday," 343 said at the time.
In a blog post on Halo Waypoint, creative director Joseph Staten said he's played the entire Infinite campaign twice: "I was, in a word, stunned - in the best possible way - by what the team had done. Infinite is, by far, the most expansive and vertical Halo world, ever. Why did the team do this? Because they understand that wonder and freedom are key to the Halo experience.
"I could feel the classic Halo '30 seconds of fun' beating at the heart of Infinite's world. But I had never felt more powerful, more mobile, more in command of a rich set of tactical choices. This was the Halo we imagined back in 2000, finally come to life, after 20 years of technical and creative innovation."
Then: "Truly, Halo Infinite is a world in which I love spending time and that I'm thrilled to return to, both as a designer and a player. On behalf of the entire team, thank you for your patience and your passion."
Developer 343 said it has worked to improve Halo Infinite's visuals after its disastrous campaign demo reveal in July, and published new screenshots, below, of the interior space of one of the game's multiplayer maps:
343 also touched on "Craig", the brute who became the focal point of criticism of Halo Infinite's visuals and an instant meme because of his rather lifeless face.
343 said the facial animation on NPCs was not fully implemented in the build shown in July, which resulted in Craig's incredibly deadpan look.
"All characters are modelled in a neutral pose, prior to blendshapes and animation being applied," director of art management Neill Harrison explained.
"So, poor old Craig was never intended to be seen in that condition which is not something that was evident during the gameplay. It was only later, in the close-up freeze frame of his one bad moment, where it came to light and the legend of Craig was born."
Harrison added that more variety has been added for brute faces, and the developers are working to add some hairdos and beards. "So, whilst we have come to love our dear old Craig, he's certainly undergoing a significant makeover," Harrison said.
Meanwhile, 343 confirmed Halo Infinite does not have loot boxes, and does not have any randomness in rewards - even within the free-to-play multiplayer portion of the game. There will be customisation items you can buy with real-world money, however.
"Yes, being free-to-play does mean that there will be some premium cosmetics, but players will still obtain tons of customisation content through things like playing campaign, challenges, skill, special events, legacy rewards (such as the Halo 5 SR 152 reward), the progression system, and more," lead progression designer Christopher Blohm said.
"We will always provide value for pure engagement and simply playing the game. We believe that providing value isn't exclusive to monetary transactions, it's also about making sure you're properly rewarded for the time you're investing into the game. Players that play for free will be able unlock items across a multitude of different customisation types to allow them to represent themselves in-game."
343 goes on to reflect on the recent controversy about Halo Infinite's new customisation. Halo Infinite has coatings, seven-layer shaders that let the developers put any artist-authored colour, material or pattern into seven channels and apply it to in-game items such as weapons, armour and vehicles.
This new system ditches the popular primary/secondary armour customisation system of previous Halo games - something that has caused quite the stir within the Halo community.
Blohm continued: "We have looked at the system and we understand the concern. In our recent value balancing pass, which was a direct result of community feedback around coatings, we have looked hard at how many coatings are in the starting set and how many and of what quality are unlocked via engagement vs other systems.
"Coatings are one part of the customisation picture, but we feel all-up we will hit our goal for player representation by offering more possibilities across the entire system. While this does mean losing some player control, it increases the depth of customisation that we can achieve internally and that you can ultimately show off publicly."