Last week, the multiplayer shooter Halo Infinite, which makes headlines more often for its stumbles than its successes, suffered its biggest PR blow to date: Couch co-op, a feature first flaunted half a decade ago, wouldn’t come out as intended. It wasn’t delayed, as with most of the planned features for Halo Infinite. It was straight-up canceled. For fans hoping Infinite would eventually morph into a title worthy of its legacy, the news was a massive letdown. Now, the community is hanging its last basket of hopes on one feature: Forge, Halo’s creation mode.
In fact, even though Forge is (officially) unavailable, players are already using it to supplant content they consider absent from Halo Infinite.
Forge has long been a staple for Halo, having first been introduced (well, in a rudimentary state) in 2007’s Halo 3, where it allowed players to alter existing maps. For Halo: Reach, developer Bungie, then the stewards of the sci-fi shooter series, went all out. The prequel featured a multiplayer level called Forge World, on which players could fabricate new levels totally from scratch. Forge was improved upon somewhat in 2012’s Halo 4, and then significantly in 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians. Both games were developed by 343 Industries, the current studio behind Halo Infinite, and both had Forge functionality either at or shortly after launch.
This has not been the case for Halo Infinite. If you count its slew of public multiplayer tests, the shooter has been out for about a year now. As a free-to-play game, it’s based around the seasonal model, with new “seasons” rotating content in every few months. As Halo Infinite creative lead Joe Staten told Eurogamer last year, Forge was initially planned for a release in May—the end of the game’s first season—at the very earliest. Then, earlier this year, 343 gave a beta version of Forge a late August release date, before delaying it to November 8, 2022—initially the planned start of the game’s third season. (Season three has now been delayed an additional four months).
That said, the mode has been leaking like a senator’s office all year. A wave of footage released in February suggested Halo Infinite would include easily the most robust suite of Halo creation tools to date. The sheer amount of objects you’re able to place—marked by a “budget” meter—on a single map far surpasses everything possible in previous iterations. That’s to say nothing of the ways in which you can tweak those objects, even coming up with head-spinning innovations (like one that turns explosive barrels into teleportation machines). Following 343’s test of the game’s online co-op campaign this summer, some players were able to use the build to access Infinite’s Forge mode—a move that has resulted in, to use a technical term, a ton of wild shit from devoted community members.
“After seeing all the Forge features and forge canvases coming out, I can say Forge isn’t lacking anything,” Rebs Gaming, a prominent Halo community member who runs a popular Twitter account focusing on gaming news, told Kotaku. “I think the current wave of Forge creations has what it takes to revive Halo Infinite. The amount of people who [have] viewed, shared, and left positive comments is astounding.”
Over the past month or so, Rebs has become the de facto public champion of Forge. Between news coverage of upcoming games, his feed is a repository for some of the most mind-blowing designs made in the editor. Scroll through and you’ll see Minecraft villages, Borderlands bases, and, um, the town from SpongeBob SquarePants. You’ll also see how players have used the mode to create content that by all accounts should be in Halo Infinite, including the popular asymmetrical Infection mode, which spawns one player with energy swords, the rest with pistols, and moves the pistol players onto the sword user’s team upon every death.
The coolest creations, Rebs noted, tend to involve customized scripts that alter existing objects. One such script, designed by the YouTuber Foregium, allows players to summon a bridge of floating boulders at the push of a button; after a few seconds, the rocks will then succumb to gravity. Another one, from the YouTuber Artifice, reverses the logic of Infinite’s Repulsor gear, transforming the equipment from “basically Force Push” to “basically Force Pull.”
But nothing surpasses the most immediately playable-looking map to date: a full-scale recreation of Guardian, the close-quarters map from Halo 3 that’s widely hailed as one of the best multiplayer levels in the entire series. It’s courtesy of Uneeq, a preeminent Halo Forge artist. The result of 100 hours of work, the version of Halo Infinite’s Guardian is already fully playable—and it looks like a blast. (UneeQ is also working on a recreation of Foundry, another excellent, albeit less beloved, Halo 3 level. Foundry was perhaps best used as a staging ground for that game’s Forge mode.)
Halo Infinite is the first Halo game to launch without some sort of reimaging of older maps, whether it’s the circumferential Haven jumping from Halo 4 to Halo 5 or the purple-hued Midship basically existing across the entire franchise. But Halo fans are infamously married to tradition. Adding one of the most popular levels to ever grace the series to the roster would fire up devoted players.
“People love the older Halo games and their maps,” Rebs said. “[Or maybe] players don’t enjoy the Halo Infinite maps as much.”
The big question, of course, is if 343 Industries will support the implementation of Guardian—and other creations that are already completed—into Forge’s full release.
You’d think the answer would be an obvious “yes.” In the face of an infamously floundering player count, Halo Infinite needs as many wins as possible. Supporting existing content would score big with creators who’ve poured hard work into these designs. It’d also sate players who are hungry for new maps to play and tools to play with. Last week, Forge lead designer Michael Schor tweeted a “100” emoji in response to a former 343 staffer wondering if stuff like the Guardian reimagination would indeed come to Infinite. Many observers took the response as confirmation that, yes, it would. Schor quickly clarified that his statement didn’t necessarily mean such support is coming.
“Forgers have dedicated a lot of time to making these amazing creations, and it would be a shame if they weren’t able to share them with everyone,” Rebs said.
When reached for comment, a representative for 343 Industries redirected Kotaku to information shared last week regarding Infinite’s winter roadmap.
Yes, Forge is set to be a huge boon for Halo Infinite’s lapsed playerbase. (“The only thing  could do to stop its momentum is to delay it again,” Rebs said.) But it’s not the only thing going for Infinite right now. This week marked the launch of the limited-time “The Yappening” event, which spawns 24 players with mostly randomized loadouts on big-scale maps. It is pure chaos, representative of the uproarious low-stakes casual play that defined earlier Halo games. So far, praise from the community has been unanimously positive. (This has paid dividends for player interest, too: According to Steam-tracking database Steamcharts, following the rollout of “The Yappening,” Halo Infinite saw its first uptick in players since May.) The event wraps up on September 20th.
There’s even light in the tunnel for splitscreen co-op. Earlier this year, engineer Alexis “Zeny” Bize, the founder of HaloDotAPI, an unofficial backend stat-tracker for Halo Infinite, uncovered a method for brute-forcing splitscreen co-op. The workaround uses a glitch in Infinite’s menus and is by no means officially sanctioned, but it is, in the strictest sense of the term, possible.
It’s stuff like this that keeps me—and, I like to believe, everyone else who still devotes dozens of hours per week to this messy, fascinating, at times infuriating game—coming back. Despite the shifting goalposts, the dour outlook, the almost infectious negativity among certain subsets of the community, there’s always at least a little hope in being a Halo fan: You can see land on the horizon, no matter where you are. Just look up.