Game developer 343 Industries recently announced that Halo Infinite, due this fall, will not come with a co-op campaign at launch, as well as no Forge mode. And the former has hit me with a surprising dose of disappointment.
"Unfortunately, as we focused the team for shut down, and really focused on a quality experience for launch, we made the really tough decision to delay shipping campaign co-op for launch. And we also made the tough call to delay shipping Forge past launch as well," said Joseph Staten, head of creative at 343i for Halo Infinite.
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While the delay of a Forge mode, which lets players create their own multiplayer game modes and custom maps, doesn’t bother me, the lack of co-op at launch does. That might seem like a minor gripe, given Halo Infinite could be a very interesting instalment in the Halo franchise and a major console exclusive for the Xbox Series X. But allow me to explain why it irks me.
Just this weekend I finally finished playing all six main Halo games and the expansion game Halo 3:ODST in co-op mode with my friend and fellow tech journalist Nathan Spendelow. And we had a raucously good time, despite ending our adventure on the rather disappointing Halo 5: Guardians, which sorely lacked the magic of earlier Halo games.
While Nathan is better at first-person shooters than I, meaning we tackled the Halo series on “Heroic” rather than “Legendary” difficulty, there's a heck of a lot of fun to be had in Halo co-op. We flitted from focus-firing down tough Elite enemies with the scalpel-like military precision that might have made Tom Clancy get butterflies, to hoonin' around in the iconic Warthog that often resulted in hilarious vehicular acrobatics and rather too-frequent trips off cliff edges.
While I’ve played most of the Halo games solo, there’s a lot to be said for playing it through with a friend, even if it means supposedly sombre cutscenes are filled with snarky commentary. So I was looking forward to doing the same with Halo Infinite.
Sadly that’ll now not be the case until some months after Halo Infinite’s initial release. The reason for this delay is down to the complexity of Halo Infinite's scale.
"On the co-op side, we have the opportunity to play the campaign all the time, it's this wonderful, open, non-linear take on the Halo campaign. It's going to offer so much more flexibility to take down Banished bases from all different angles, to progress through the game in your own way," explained Staten. "At the same time though, that's complicated. When you think about save systems and all the technology that needs to drive this more non-linear experience, and in the co-op experience that's even more complicated."
This seems fair enough, as I’d rather a polished, slick co-op experience than one that feels half-baked. But given Halo Infinite has basically been pushed back a year — some thought it would be a launch game for the Xbox Series X — I had hoped the Halo we’ll get this fall would be the complete package.
I can see a silver lining in that playing a big Halo game solo will at least give me the focus to really explore the game at my own pace; Shooter Spendelow tends to blast ahead at a pace that I struggle to keep up with as I inspect at environmental details and design tweaks on weapons. And I’m hoping the open-world aspect of Halo Infinite will give me a lot to explore, so when Nathan and I finally get to our co-op venture into Halo Infinite there’ll be plenty of areas to poke around in that I may have missed the first time round.
And to be fair to 343i, taking its time with Halo Infinite appears to be yielding positive results. My colleague Jordan Palmer’s recent hands-on with the Halo Infinite multiplayer test had him waxing lyrical about the game; that’s a solid antidote to my disappointment at the lack of co-op at launch.
Hopefully, we’ll hear more about Halo Infinite rather soon, including a formal release date. Until then I still have high hopes for the next Halo game.