343 Industries had to cut “almost two-thirds” of Halo Infinite, says new report

Laurent Giret

The Art of Halo Infinite

As Halo Infinite’s campaign is about to launch on Xbox and PC later today, a new report from Bloomberg has just shed some light on the game’s difficult development process. Halo Infinite is the first game in the series to experiment with a semi-open-world design, but the game that is launching today has far less content than what 343 Industries initially envisioned.

Bonnie Ross, CVP at Xbox Game Studios and head of 343 Industries previously explained to CNET the complexities of executing on an overambitious vision all while Halo Infinite’s Slipspace engine was still a work in progress. Ross said that the developer had “made a tremendous amount of cuts” ahead of the controversial Ascension demo from July 2020, but Bloomberg revealed that it’s almost two-third of the game that actually ended up in the gutter back in 2019.

The report also describes 343 Industries as a siloed company, not far from the popular caricature describing the old Microsoft with different divisions pointing guns at each other.

Halo Infinite’s creative direction was also in flux until unusually late in its development. Several developers described 343 as a company split into fiefdoms, with every team jockeying for resources and making conflicting decisions. One developer describes the process as “four to five games being developed simultaneously.”

By the summer of 2019, Halo Infinite was in crisis mode. The studio decided to cut almost two-thirds of the entire planned game, leaving managers to instruct some designers to come to the office and do nothing while the studio figured out the next move. Eventually the game’s open world was cut back from a vast, Zelda-like experience into something far smaller.

The disastrous reception the Ascension demo received in July 2020 was a wake-up call for the company, and the event lead to Halo Infinite being delayed for a full year while Joseph Staten, the lead writer for the first three Halo games, rejoined 343 Industries to fix the game. “When Staten arrived, he pushed his bosses to let 343 take its time, presenting them with a list of features that would make Halo Infinite a success if time weren’t the only factor,” the report explained.

Fast forward to December 2021, it’s clear that delaying Halo Infinite was the right call to make for Microsoft, and the general consensus on Halo Infinite’s campaign is positive so far. Still, we pointed out in our own review that the game’s open-world isn’t fully fleshed out, and the game launching today looks far less ambitious than what we’ve seen in the first Slipspace engine demo from E3 2018.

Halo Infinite’s campaign will officially launch today at 10am PST on the Microsoft Store and Steam, and it’s not possible to pre-load it on your Xbox and PC. If you don’t want to pay $59.99 to enjoy the campaign, be aware that it’s also free to play with Xbox Game Pass for PC and Console.