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Halo Infinite requires big downloads to start playing, disc or no disc

Halo Infinite screenshot
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Halo Infinite is finally available today (Dec. 8) in its entirety. While gamers have been able to dive into the multiplayer part of the game for the last few weeks, today marks the first time that the game's story campaign is available. 

If you've broken the shackles of physical media and purchased the game digitally, you can start downloading the game at 1 p.m. Eastern time. If you have the disc, though, you may run into a small problem: Halo Infinite's campaign isn't on the disc, at least not in its entirety.

This information comes from Eurogamer, which measured how much data the Halo Infinite disc installs versus how much the console needs to download. The disc contains 15 GB worth of campaign data, but the full game is much larger: 25 GB for the campaign, as well as 4 GB for the multiplayer component. (You need the multiplayer portion of the game even if you want to play only the campaign.)

If you have a strong internet connection without data caps, this admittedly isn't much of an issue. You can't preload the campaign either way, so if you boot up your Xbox at 1 p.m., you can have the game ready to play by dinnertime. 

But it does raise an interesting question: What good is buying a physical copy of a game if you can't actually play it out of the box?

Most modern games, including Halo Infinite, have substantial Day-One patches that you'll want to download to get the best experience. Yet generally speaking, discs ship with a playable copy of the game. 

This can be a boon for players with weak internet connections or restrictive data caps. It's also a safeguard against the Microsoft Store eventually shutting down. Someday in the far future, you'll no longer be able to download Halo Infinite, but a disc (in theory) should always be readable.

Microsoft hasn't explained the exact breakdown between the data stored on Halo Infinite's disc and the data the game requires players to download from the Microsoft Store. Either way, though, simply inserting the disc into your Xbox will not be enough to start playing the campaign. What, precisely, is the value of buying a disc if you have to download the better part of the game, anyway?

This problem isn't exclusive to Microsoft, granted. If you buy a physical copy of BioShock: The Collection on Nintendo Switch, you'll have to download most of the data before you can play it. The physical disc or cartridge offers no advantage over digital copies, and one significant disadvantage: You still need to keep the physical media in your system while you play the game.

In any case, Halo Infinite is finally here, and it seems like it was worth the wait. Our Halo Infinite review awarded the game 3.5 out of five stars, claiming that it's "exactly what the franchise needed." That seems worth waiting a few more hours. Xbox One owners should also be aware that Halo Infinite runs pretty well on older hardware, even if it doesn't have all the same visual appeal.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.