“It was never about being the biggest, it was about being the best”: One Halo Game’s Controversial Decision May Have Saved the Franchise

Halo Infinite's open world was far more focused than your average Ubisoft title.



  • Halo Infinite's development team chose to innovate within the Halo universe instead of simply following modern open-world trends.
  • The "spiritual reboot" and smaller scale campaign aimed to recapture the essence of the original Halo while acknowledging the series' history.
  • The open world design avoids excessive side quests and focuses on delivering a tight, narrative-driven experience that complements the campaign's smaller scale.
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Halo Infinite is the first open-world game in the series, and its development cycle reflects that. Taking 6 years to develop on 343’s brand-new Slipspace engine, Infinite ended up releasing in 2021, after a year-long delay from its initial planned release.


Going the open-world route was a big point of debate for the return of Master Chief, as well as Infinite‘s unconventional direction as a “spiritual reboot” built on a smaller scale compared to other open-world titles. However, here’s why that might have been the very element that saved the franchise.

Halo Infinite’s Open World Is Much Different To Other Games

No padded-out fetch quests in Halo Infinite's map, says Crocker.
No padded-out fetch quests in Halo Infinite‘s map, says Crocker.

Speaking with The Gamer, Halo Infinite associate director Paul Crocker explained that the development team consciously avoided mimicking modern trends or relying on comparisons to other titles:


There’s a lot of games out there now, so it’s easy just to say this game is Halo meets whatever, it’s the classic elevator pitch, right? Like it’s Die Hard on a bus. But the thought for us was ‘It’s Halo, how are we going to make Halo?’ and what a modern interpretation of Halo looks like. That’s why we didn’t talk about adding a million things into the world because it doesn’t bother Master Chief. He doesn’t care, you don’t have to go on a fetch quest to find tires, you can ride a Warthog without them.

Infinite‘s open-world design definitely eschews the normative “Ubisoft” template that many others find themselves using, with maps being overcrowded with random activities and most side quests requiring players to travel to a distant corner of a map to obtain an in-game item.

343 Wanted Infinite To Be A “Spiritual Reboot” Of Halo

Infinite was always meant to be a soft reboot with the premise of the humanity losing the war.
Infinite was always meant to be a soft reboot with the premise of the humanity losing the war.

Instead, Crocker says 343 focused on what makes Halo unique. Their aim was not to create the biggest Halo game, but to deliver a refined and modernized experience that captured the essence of the original:


There’s all these situations where we want to reinforce Chief as this unstoppable force of hope and power, and that is what affects the design. It’s this super soldier basis, the ‘green man, blue lady’ goal of if you squint at Halo, this is the thing you remember, and all of those things are what we focused our efforts on. It was never about being the biggest, but it was about being the best, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way.

This ideology is evident in Halo Infinite‘s campaign design, which was purposefully smaller in scale with a more intimate approach. Gone are the days of Master Chief single-handedly saving the galaxy like in the old games.

In Infinite, he awakens to a world “where the war is already lost,” and the fight is about rebuilding and finding hope. The premise of the story essentially serves as a “spiritual reboot,” says Crocker, that acknowledges past stories while paving the way for the future of the Halo series.

The intimate, smaller-scale campaign ties in perfectly with the focused open-world design.
The intimate, smaller-scale campaign ties in perfectly with the focused open-world design.

The tighter campaign goes hand-in-hand with the game’s aforementioned open-world structure. Missions exist within a larger explorable map, akin to franchises like Fallout and Far Cry. However, Halo Infinite‘s open world avoids excessive padding, preventing the narrative from getting lost in a sea of side quests and exploration fatigue.

Halo Infinite‘s heralding as a ‘spiritual reboot’ and the smaller scale campaign may have seemed like controversial decisions initially, but they ultimately delivered a Halo experience that mostly resonated with fans and critics, respecting the series’ legacy while embracing modern sensibilities.


Written by Viraaj Bhatnagar

Articles Published: 247

A lifelong gamer, lover of cars, and Master's student of Automotive Journalism, Viraaj Bhatnagar is a gaming writer at FandomWire who aims to be one of the greats. When he's not hunched over on his laptop typing out copy, he can be found lapping circuits in Gran Turismo or slaying draugr in God of War.