Halo Infinite has been beleaguered by a series of unfortunate events since it was announced. From being delayed for over a year, the infamous “Craig” meme, numerous online syncing issues, battle pass’ frustrating progression system, to lacking modes like campaign co-op and Forge — Halo Infinite has been all but a complete disaster.
Sure, the latter modes are finally coming, but even that good news has a sour note as split-screen co-op is officially dead. A year later, Halo Infinite's woes are continuing to pile up.
I lay all of this at the feet of 343 Industries. The company took the reigns of the Halo series after original developer Bungie broke off from Microsoft. Over ten years later and it has yet to deliver a truly exceptional Halo entry. I know some folks enjoyed Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Infinite, but even they’d have to admit the series has gone downhill since 343 took charge. This is especially sad considering how Halo was once considered the pinnacle of first person shooters. The series’ fall from grace is disheartening.
343 Industries was given many opportunities to set Halo on the right track but has thus far been unable to accomplish this. To that end, I think a radical step has to be taken. To save Halo, Microsoft needs to hand the franchise over to another developer.
343 Industries and Halo: An inauspicious history
To illustrate my point, I want to detail 343's history with the Halo franchise.
Microsoft formed 343 Industries in 2007 after long-time Halo developer Bungie announced it was splitting from the company. Named after Halo character 343 Guilty Spark, the developer was placed in charge of the Halo franchise, to which Microsoft kept the rights. 343 co-developed Halo: Reach content before completely taking over the franchise in 2010.
343 Industries' first Halo project was, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, which was a remake of the original title. Remaking a beloved classic was an easy victory for the company, and it gave people hope that the franchise was in good hands.
The company's first wholly original Halo project arrived in the form of Halo 4. Though some (myself included) thought this game wasn’t as good as the first three installments, it was generally well-received by fans and critics, even if the gameplay felt outdated compared to popular shooters of the time – namely, the Call of Duty franchise, which had overtaken Halo to become the new FPS darling.
To perhaps recapture Halo: Combat Evolve Anniversary’s success, 343 Industries released the Halo: Master Chief Collection, which contained Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4. What should have been the ultimate Halo collection and another easy win for 343 turned into an abject disaster that people still talk about nearly nine years later.
What went wrong with the Master Chief Collection? Though the single-player portions of each game were technically sound, the online multiplayer barely functioned. In fact, it was flat-out broken for many years. Considering how Halo games became hugely popular because of their addictive online modes, this was unacceptable. These issues have since been (mostly) resolved, but the persistent online issues marred what is otherwise a stellar collection.
Halo 5: Guardians was 343’s chance to prove it was capable of properly managing the franchise. Though it was an objectively solid game that delivered an enjoyable multiplayer experience, players didn’t care much for its campaign. Halo 5 wasn’t the first entry to feature another protagonist besides Master Chief (see: Halo 2), but, generally speaking, fans didn’t seem to care much for Spartan Locke (played by Marvel’s Luke Cage star, Mike Colter). Halo 5 was a sales success but soon faded into obscurity as fans continued playing Call of Duty and similar FPS titles.
Given 343 Industries' spotty record with the Halo franchise up to that point, people were understandably skeptical about Halo Infinite. It was positioned to be a hit for Microsoft’s then-new “next-gen” console, the Xbox Series X — with the game plastered across Xbox Series X boxes. But as we all know, Halo Infinite failed to deliver the goods. Big time.
Halo Infinite faced criticism even before it launched when Microsoft posted an eight-minute gameplay trailer in July 2020. Fans and critics accused the game of having dated graphics, especially for a title meant to launch alongside a brand-new Xbox system. Its performance issues, which included background pop-in, were also lambasted.
The only silver lining came in the form of the now-infamous “Craig” meme, which at least provided some unexpected levity to the rough reveal. Following the backlash, Microsoft announced Halo Infinite would be delayed to 2021. It eventually released on December 8 of that year.
With a year of extra development, folks assumed Halo Infinite would be the killer app for Xbox Series X. Unfortunately, that still hasn’t happened, and likely won’t.
We’ve documented many of Halo Infinite’s glaring problems, including (but not limited to) the aforementioned lack of co-op and Forge at launch, a broken battle pass system and a host of technical issues. Season 3 being delayed and removing split-screen co-op are just the latest problems for the game.
After a year-long delay, you’d think Halo Infinite would be in a better state. As things stand, it’s difficult seeing how, or if, this game can ever recover. Sure, games like Fallout 76, Sea of Thieves and No Man’s Sky overcame their rocky beginnings and found success, but I’m not sure if the same will happen with Halo Infinite. It may be too little too late.
Halo deserves a better steward
343 Industries has shepherded the Halo series for over ten years. Despite its great start with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, the studio has failed to return the franchise to its original glory. Everything shared here illustrates 343’s mismanagement of Xbox’s once-flagship franchise. Yes, the competition is fiercer now thanks to games like Call of Duty, Apex Legends, Overwatch and even Fortnite. But there’s no reason Halo shouldn’t stand alongside the current crop of successful shooters.
Microsoft has many studios under its proverbial belt. It acquired Bethesda and will soon finalize its purchase of Activision Blizzard. It’s not unreasonable to wonder what would happen if developers like id Software or Infinity Ward were given the Halo franchise.
Granted, just because these studios have made great games like Doom Eternal, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Call of Duty: Vanguard doesn’t automatically mean they can knock out a killer Halo game. But considering the current state of affairs, I don’t see how these established studios could do any worse than 343.
I’m not sure when or if Microsoft can relieve 343 Industries of the Halo series. But if such a thing is possible, it’d be wise to make it happen sooner rather than later. And if not, perhaps replacing 343 head Bonnie Ross with someone with a clearer vision for the franchise is in order. But whatever action Microsoft decides to take, it has to be drastic. If it ultimately means taking Halo away from 343, then so be it.