343 Industries has previously described Halo Infinite as a "spiritual reboot" of the long-running shooter series. I've heard of reboots, remasters, remakes, and even spiritual successors over the years, but I have to admit that spiritual reboot was a new one on me. Fortunately, the latest Inside Infinite update offers some insights into what it actually means.
"'Spiritual Reboot' is a term we use to describe our approach to introducing new ideas while staying true to what it felt like to play the classic games. 'Feeling' is the key word here because we want to evolve, by creating new experiences and new opportunities, but still maintain the original essence," sandbox lead Troy Mashburn explained.
"The Grappleshot is a great example of adding something new that also super-charges things you are already familiar with like clamber or melee. You are familiar with clambering up a double stack of crates but the obstacles in Infinite are larger and more organic. The Grappleshot gives you the same fluid motion as clamber with a much greater range to get to more locations quickly."
Campaign art lead Justin Dinges said that from an artistic standpoint, the studio wants to lean into "iconic Halo imagery" that will appeal to new players and long-time fans alike.
"As a prime example, we have specifically chosen to begin Chief’s journey in Halo Infinite within the Pacific Northwest forest biome on a new Halo ring, a deliberate ode to the past. Another good example is how we have taken the visual design of the Jackals and Grunts back closer to their appearance in Halo 3 and previous titles. We want players to feel a nostalgic familiarity with these designs, like meeting up with an old friend, as they experience all that Halo Infinite has to offer."
Dinges said the art team has focused on the themes of "Legacy" and "Simplicity" to evoke those familiar feelings in a new game by (hopefully) presenting players with a well-remembered experience while not burying them under "overly noisy designs and details."
"With Halo Infinite, we wanted to take this new adventure back to its roots and create a visually pleasing experience that doesn’t overwhelm with unnecessary complexity where readability and clear artistic composition prevail," he said. "This is our artistic interpretation of a beautiful world to exist within—rather than something that is purely grounded in photo realism."
The update also contains a series of images showcasing Halo Infinite's time-of-day lighting system, which Dinges described as possibly the largest graphical feature added to the engine over the past few years. Simple or not, they're awfully pretty.
"Coming across a mysterious Forerunner obelisk during the day may feel peaceful and serene, where at night it might feel much more ominous and threatening," he said. "It really adds some incredible dynamically-driven visual variety throughout the experience where we were not able to have it before."
Halo Infinite was originally expected to be out in November 2020 but, following feedback from a demo released in July of that year, was delayed into the fall of 2021. That remains the case: Both Dinges and Mashburn said their teams are focused on wrapping up their final tasks before switching their focus to fixing bugs, balancing, and polishing the game.