Halo is back.
For fans of Xbox’s signature series, it’s been nearly a half-decade since the release of underwhelming spinoff, Halo Wars 2, and over 6 years since the last title in the main series (the divisive Halo 5). But with Halo Infinite, Master Chief is finally back to blast and smash his way back into everyone’s consoles, PCs and hearts.
While the monetization system for the multiplayer has been predictably criticized, Halo Infinite is generally a return to form for the series, with the gameplay, narrative, and environment that fans have come to expect from one of the most recognizable video game franchises in history.
Halo Infinite also marks a pair of significant anniversaries for the franchise, with the original launch of the first game coming 20 years ago last month and the remastered version — which also happened to be 343 Industries’ first title in the franchise — releasing exactly a decade later.
At this point, 343 is Microsoft’s most trusted team when it comes to Halo, and that faith is finally paying off in Infinite — likely the series’ best entry since the original trilogy.
Perhaps most importantly, Halo Infinite feels like a modern take on classic Halo, and a large part of that is the flawless sci-fi soundtrack that places players straight on to the ringworld of Zeta Halo. Composed by award-winners like Gareth Coker and Joel Corelitz among others, the score fuses themes new and old to bring a breathtaking familiar, yet exciting musical experience for every step of the way.
Playing the role of ringleader for the massive — both in scale and skill — soundtrack, 343’s Music Supervisor Joel Yarger brought everyone together time and time again on arguably the most ambitious Halo title to date. SPIN spoke with Yarger about the soundtrack ahead of the game’s release.
SPIN: What can people expect from the Halo Infinite soundtrack?
Joel Yarger: A sense of wonder, beauty, mystery, action, sci-fi, heroism, and heart. This even extends to our multiplayer soundtrack, where we focused on bringing the post-rock genre into the Halo universe.
With how much people have been anticipating Halo Infinite, was there any additional pressure or excitement with creating the soundtrack?
Yes, excitement has been our key driver. We all know Halo — in various ways — from our past individual experiences with the franchise. Halo is special, and I think you can see, hear, and feel that across the entire game. Our motivation has been to take that excitement and feed it directly into our music production on all levels, from the music composition, musical performers, music editorial and the music design in the game itself.
Considering the history of an IP like Halo, how much emphasis goes into sticking to the sounds and themes of the previous soundtracks while still being able to put a new spin on things?
With Halo in general we have our familiar settings, characters, stories, and scenarios that we support in familiar ways. The voices of each new composer help to drive our sound forward while living within our Halo universe.
What was it like working with not just one, but multiple award-winning composers on this soundtrack?
Absolutely fantastic! The talents and individual voices that each composer brought to the musical tapestry of Halo Infinite was a joy to be a part of. With three composers involved in the campaign and another team of writers for multiplayer, it was a real treat to have the different perspectives from each composer.
Given that this is the first Halo title in a few years — and the first on the new consoles — were you able to expand or change the soundtrack in ways that might not be possible with a shorter lead time?
We set out to support all Xbox One generation of consoles as well as the latest Series X|S consoles and PCs from the start. Any expansion of our soundtrack goals came with the broadened scope of Infinite itself, regardless of platform. It needs to play identically across all platforms. With some of that time, we were able to devote more resources to expand our in-game music systems to support the more open Halo experience in Infinite.
Was there anything else that made working on this project unique?
I’m sure a fair number of projects can cite this, but COVID-19 and all the challenges it introduced into game development and live music production. Despite these challenges, we all came out with our health and were able to continue to work with the top talent from around the world.
Is there anything else you’d want people to know about Halo Infinite and your work on it?
Halo Infinite represents a large team effort across multiple continents and time zones. I’ve been very happy and excited to play a central role and look forward to producing more Halo music as our live seasons begin!