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A scene from the video game ‘Halo Infinite.’ (Photo: Microsoft/343 Industries)

The last time video game players witnessed an Xbox launched with a Halo game was nearly 19 years ago. So, it’s only fitting the latest chapter in one of Microsoft’s most important video game properties draws inspiration from the original.

On Thursday, Xbox unveiled the first footage of the campaign for Halo Infinite, slated to launch this holiday season along with the Xbox Series X console. It not only marks the comeback of Halo, but of its signature star, Master Chief.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Halo Infinite director Chris Lee describes the game as a “spiritual reboot,” centered on continuing Chief’s story while paying tribute to where it all began: 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved.

Lee says the team at 343 Industries developing Infinite wanted to “go to the roots of Halo, bring those elements forward, and then modernize them for gamers today. That’s really been a key creative inspiration for us.”

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As Thursday’s demo shows, Infinite appears to offer far more opportunities to explore. Lee said Infinite is “the most open and expansive” Halo campaign they have created to date.

“You’ll be able to choose how you’re going to approach things, and you’ll end up having this freedom to be able to experience the story and to be able to choose your path through it,” he said.

Among the key features in Infinite is a tactical map, where players can view different installations to explore. Also new: a “grapple shot” where Chief can reach higher points, grab items in the environment or even pull enemies closer.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about what is iconic Halo,” said Bonnie Ross, head of studio 343 Industries. “And then how do we take what we can do with a next-gen platform and a brand new engine and maybe bring what we only dreamed of to life before.”

A scene from ‘Halo Infinite.’ (Photo: Microsoft/343 Industries)

Halo, created by video game studio Bungie, has been a pivotal franchise for Xbox since it first arrived.

“We probably wouldn’t be here talking about Xbox if not for Halo: CE,” said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. “It really gave our console an identity at launch.”

Since then, Halo has become “the most important franchise in Microsoft’s gaming portfolio,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. Several flagship Halo games have launched on various Xbox consoles since, as well as spinoffs including the strategy game Halo Wars. To date, lifetime sales of Halo games have reached 77 million. 

The franchise has also spun off to various other mediums, including books and TV shows. Two years ago, Showtime confirmed it picked up a 10-episode season of a live-action series based on Halo.

Ross said Microsoft has tried for years to bring together a new Halo with the launch of a new video game console, and have been working in parallel with designers of Xbox Series X to match the vision they have for both the game and console.

“We have teams collaborating on what do we want to do, how do we want to bring this world to life, how do we build the platform for the next 10 years, not just Halo but how the whole ecosystem is built,” she said.

Because the original Halo was a new franchise, Spencer said there was some uncertainty whether it would generate buzz for Microsoft’s first console in 2001, let alone become the blockbuster franchise it is today. 

“As we got closer to console launch, and we got our hands on it, you really got the connection not only what the game was, but what the character and the lore was,” he said, “and it’s really great to see in Halo Infinite the team returning back to some of those core pillars that makes Halo what it is.”

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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