Halo Infinite's Open World Originally as Big as Breath of the Wild

Reports suggest that Halo Infinite's open-world campaign was originally going to be around the same size as the world from 2017's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What happened?

Halo infinite campaign botw
Wait, how big was Halo Infinite's Zeta Halo meant to be? | © 343 Industries / Nintendo

The giant open world that forms the basis for Halo Infinite's Campaign was originally going to be far larger, according to a Bloomberg report. In fact, the Campaign's open world was set to be so much bigger that it would have rivalled the scale of a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo's masterpiece. The cut equates, reportedly, to a decrease in size of almost two thirds.

The report from Bloomberg's Dina Bass and Jason Schreier, the latter of whom formerly wrote for Kotaku, released a detailed feature that explored Halo Infinite's development, and included an interview testimony from a number of Microsoft, 343 Industries developers and management executives. In the feature, it is revealed that amidst a crisis in 2019, "the studio decided to cut almost two-thirds of the entire planned game".

You see, Halo Infinite began preproduction shortly after the release of Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries' previous mainline Halo release back in 2015. The scale of the project was, reportedly, much larger than the sublime game that ended up landing on our screens this week. By the time that the game began to be back-scaled, though, it was apparently in a lot of trouble.

Halo Infinite Was Scaled Back from a Zelda-Style Open-World

After the disastrous demo of July 2020, which was made up of what was widely viewed as a "half-baked" nine-minute trailer, Microsoft brought Joseph Staten in to bring the large-scale project back on track. Staten was the lead writer for Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3, and a greatly respected Halo development veteran. We can likely thank him for the state that the game is in today, in particular, because Staten reportedly convinced Microsoft's leadership team to allow 343 Industries the time it needed to make the game the absolute best it could be.

To remind you of the context in which all of this happened, that demo (which you can check out below) was in such a rough state that Xbox's public head, Phil Spencer, publicly apologized for it during an interview with Garry Whitta, on the Animal Talking Podcast:

I’ll apologize to the fans because I never like to set up expectations and then not hit them, but I also believe we’re making the right decision, in the long run, for both Xbox and Halo and our customers.

In another interview with British GQ magazine, Spencer admitted that Microsoft "should have known before and just been honest with ourselves". Spencer is referring to the state and quality of Halo Infinite at the time of the nine-minute demo, and his belief that Microsoft should have been honest with themselves and allowed the game some more time before they revealed it the way that they did.

We have to remember that at the time, 343 Industries had been told by Microsoft that Halo Infinite needed to be a launch game for the Xbox Series X|S. The game, which originally was planned to have been a similar size and scale as a game like Breath of the Wild (which is absolutely huge), had been scaled down only a little under a year before the demo released. This is a big shift for a game to make, and with 343 Industries also developing the incredible multiplayer portion of the game, and (assumedly) more as-of-unreleased content, resources would have been stretched to get everything out in-time.

According to Schreier's report on Bloomberg, Staten convinced Microsoft to extend the deadline by providing "a list of all the things we could do to make [the] game excellent". This, it seems, is what absolutely saved Halo Infinite from being the disaster that it so seemed to be when they revealed it to the world mid-last-year. Instead of building an overly bloated open-world in the same style as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (a game that, in my opinion, suffered for just that reason), 343 Industries created the sublime single-player experience we have with us today.

So there you have it, an unbelievable story of perseverance on the part of 343 Industries. The story of Halo Infinite will forever be told, in our opinion, as the perfect redemption story. A game that was crucified when it was revealed, and if it had released, would have been a Cyberpunk 2077-style disaster. It's a lesson to be learned by an industry that far too often rushes games out to meet deadlines and make investors and stockholders happy, rather than produce high-quality products.