At long last, 343 Industries and Xbox Game Studios announced this week that Halo Infinite would be launching at the end of this year on December 8th. For a game that was first announced by Xbox all the way back at E3 2018 and was originally slated to launch alongside the Xbox Series X at the tail end of 2020, this launch date is one that many fans, myself included, have been waiting a long time to finally see come about. Despite the excitement that I should feel about Halo Infinite finally having a release date, though, I can't help but feel like the game needs some more time in the oven.
If you've been following Halo Infinite's development closely over the past week, you're probably aware that the main reason I feel as though the game should be pushed back even further is due to the fact that two longtime features that fans have come to expect from the series won't be arriving at launch this December. Notably, campaign co-op and Forge mode are both said to be in a state that 343 Industries doesn't believe reaches the studio's threshold for quality. With so little time left until December 8th, 343 opted to instead push back campaign co-op by about three months, while Forge won't be rolling out until next May or June. As a whole, this decision is one that 343's Creative Lead, Joseph Staten, said that the studio made to ensure that no further delays for the entirety of Halo Infinite would come about.
I'm far from the only person who has been upset about both Forge and campaign co-op being left out at the launch of Halo Infinite. Beyond just the simple fact that I'm annoyed that I won't be able to play the story mode with friends this December, the notion that 343 is looking to exclude these features says a lot about the current state of the game. After all, it has been six years since the launch of Halo 5: Guardians. For Halo Infinite to be arriving this year (a year later than intended) without so many mainstay features begins to bring about questions of what 343 and Xbox have been doing all of this time. Those questions become even apparent when you realize that Halo Infinite is said to be one of the most expensive games ever made.
Obviously, it's important to keep in mind that the manner in which many studios around the globe have been making games for the past 18 months has been anything but normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into game development pipelines for all studios around the globe, and, to that end, I'm more than understanding of what many devs have been going through. Still, even if the pandemic has hurt development, this doesn't serve as an excuse to forcefully release a game that seemingly isn't going to be ready to go on day one.
Even though it might be easy for many to overlook the omission of campaign co-op and Forge at launch in Halo Infinite, seeing these features get cut also makes fans question the other avenues of the game. As of this writing, the campaign of Halo Infinite hasn't been shown off publicly in over a year. Even though 343 asserts that everything associated with the campaign is shaping up well, seeing other features getting the ax ahead of launch brings the quality of the larger game into question.
What's perhaps been most baffling to me about the decisions that 343 is making with Halo Infinite is that the studio doesn't have a great track record when it comes to launch as it is. Halo 5: Guardians was notably missing a few features at its release, which is something that annoyed fans quite a bit. Halo: The Master Chief Collection also arrived in an incredibly dismal state and took years of additional legwork from 343 in order to turn around the narrative on the remastered collection and its overall quality.
Launch is an incredibly important part of any game release -- and that's maybe doubly true for Halo games. Even though many studios believe that their titles are living products nowadays (which may be true), much of the story surrounding any game and the way that casual fans view it comes about on day one. If Halo Infinite somehow ends up being a dud on December 8th, it'll be yet another instance where 343 will have to play from behind and move to shift the narrative.
From the outside looking in, it just doesn't seem like Halo Infinite is ready to release this year. While many other publishers would feel a need to rush their games out because of fiscal calendars and such, Xbox has already shown that it's bucking the traditional release format as it is. With Xbox Game Pass becoming the main way in which Microsoft wants consumers to interact with its first-party titles, getting a game out before Black Friday, for instance, doesn't carry the same weight as it would to another publisher. So why is there even so much urgency to ensure that Halo Infinite releases before 2021 comes to a close?
At this point, the perfect time to release Halo Infinite would have logically been in proximity to the arrival of the Xbox Series X and S. Once last year's delay became official, I really hoped that 343 would take all the time that it might need before releasing this game. Instead, all that we have seen within the past 10 days is that the studio is cutting back on launch features while encouraging fans to spend hundreds on additional accessories related to the game. It just seems like Xbox is locked in on releasing Halo Infinite before the year is over and won't budge even if the game itself might not be ready.
Above everything else, the main reason Halo Infinite should be delayed is because I so badly want it to be good. This is by far the most excited I've been about any game over the past few years. Halo is one of my favorite franchises of all time and Halo Infinite needs to prove that 343 Industries knows what it is doing with this series. But, based on everything that we've been told in recent weeks, I can't help but feel like the studio is continuing to make the same old mistakes that many in the Halo community have been critical of over the years.
At this point, all fans can do is hope that the version of Halo Infinite that we will be getting come December will be a good one. And, hey, maybe 343 will have some new information or footage to share in the coming weeks or months that will completely change my tune on this entire situation. But, for now, I believe that Halo Infinite should just be delayed into 2022 so that it can be the most complete game that fans deserve on day one.