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Why We're Worried About Halo Infinite

With a partnership that turns 20 years old in November, Microsoft's Xbox consoles and the "Halo" franchise are inextricably linked. The series is so important that the arrival of a new title in the series' core set of games becomes a sort of de facto industry event, grabbing the attention of both video game enthusiasts and the mainstream media.

So when "Halo Infinite" promised to not only deliver the next chapter of the science-fiction saga, but to also perform a soft reboot of the series supported by an all-new graphics engine designed for the next generation of consoles, people started to pay attention. The ambitious project was first announced at E3 2018, more than two years after the launch of "Halo 5: Guardians." Since then, gamers have seen disappointing footage and a major release delay for the anticipated sequel.

While there is nothing wrong with 343 Industries putting in the time needed to make a proper AAA title, obstacles like high-profile turnover and scope changes have shaken the community's confidence. Here is why fans are starting to worry about "Halo Infinite" becoming one of the greatest gaming failures.

Halo Infinite still does not have a release date

One of the most distressing things for many gamers is that "Halo Infinite" still does not have an official release date. Ever since the game was first revealed, the amount of time it has taken 343 Industries to ship the next chapter in the "Halo" series has been an object of anxiety, and the continued lack of clarity about when to expect the game has done nothing to alleviate that.

For many, the potential arrival date of "Halo: Infinite" transitioned from an oddity to a point of concern was around the time that 343 Industries debuted a disappointing E3 2020 gameplay trailer. At that point, fans had no reason to expect that the game, which had at that point been in development for five years, wouldn't be launching alongside the Series X|S the following November. However, the footage fans saw looked unpolished, unfocused, and ultimately unready for a debut that was less than six months away.

It appears that someone at Microsoft agreed because on August 11, "Halo Infinite" fans got terrible news: the game was delayed until 2021. While disappointing, most fans were willing to sit another year, even if it meant that the Series X|S would be without a strong signature launch title, and settled in to hold out for the rumored Fall 2021 arrival. However, at this point, E3 2021 has come and gone and that release window is still not officially confirmed. While fans got some heavily expanded looks at both the single and multiplayer experiences, the event did not include the detail fans anticipated most: the release date for the game.

Halo Infinite fans are still concerned about a split release for singleplayer and multiplayer

343 Studio's failure to commit to a definite release date has renewed some long-rumored concerns that the game might see a split release for its solo and competitive experiences.

In August 2020, just days after the game was delayed, Shacknews reported that Xbox head Phil Spencer had been a part of a discussion between Microsoft and 343 Industries about staggering the arrival of the singleplayer and multiplayer components. At the time, the focus had been trying to get at least one of those experiences to gamers at the same time that the Series X|S launched, but Spencer said, "It just didn't feel, to all of us, like the 'Halo' release that we would want."

However, with no firm date given at E3 for the release date outside of an updated Holiday 2021 tag, some fans on Twitter wondered if Microsoft was willing to let the entire project slip into 2022. It has already been confirmed that the multiplayer and its generous battle pass system will be free to play and thus separate from the paid single-player experience. If either aspect of the game receives a further delay, will Microsoft be able to resist releasing the portion that is already set to launch?

Halo Infinite has lost some crucial staff members over the years

With such a long development cycle (including a full extra year's delay) why are there still concerns that the team might not finish the game by the new Holiday 2020 deadline? The answer lies in the worrisome amount of turnover that 343 Industries has seen for critical members of the design team.

"Halo Infinite" has lost two creative directors, amongst other key figures. The first significant change occurred when Tim Longo left 343 Industries in August 2019. In a statement provided to Kotaku, Microsoft explained that some of Longo's duties as a creative director would be assumed by studio head Chris Lee, while executive producer Mary Olson would take a lead role in supervising the campaign.

However, barely a year later, both of those individuals would also no longer be employed by 343 Industries. Mary Olson would depart the company just two months after Longo, via GamesIndustry.biz, and Chris Lee would resign from 343 Industries in late 2020, as reported by WndowsCentral.

Microsoft and Xbox head Phil Spencer tried to put a positive spin on the staffing shakeups. Spencer even told GameSpot, "I actually think in the long run, turnover is a healthy thing because we want people who are really motivated by the things that they're working on." While there may be truth in that, it's hard not to wonder what it means if longtime 343 Industries veterans like Chris Lee no longer felt invested in the project.

Performance concerns for Halo Infinite's new engine

Another lingering worry that fans have for "Halo Infinite" circles back to one of the game's significant innovations: the all-new graphics engine and the next generation visuals fans hope it will deliver.

Fans balked at the 2020 E3 gameplay trailer because the game's visuals looked a bit rough for a flagship, next-generation title. Widespread backlash from fans, including accusations on Reddit of a graphical downgrade, prompted 343 Industries community manager John Junyszek to admit in a blog post, "we do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game."

Thankfully, fans were much more impressed by the E3 2021 footage, which included revamped visuals and a peek at multiplayer that made fans of other games jealous. However, without better knowledge of how the new engine will perform across two console generations, fans on Reddit have wondered if the game's visuals would be held back by its support of the Xbox One. With the damaging last-gen release of "Cyberpunk 2077," especially on Xbox One and PS4, still on fans' minds, worries about "Halo: Infinite" graphical capabilities seem well-founded.