Map Overview | Halo Infinite CU29
Coming to Halo Infinite when Content Update 29 (“CU29”) lands on January 30 is a new map: Illusion.
Illusion takes place within an abandoned and forgotten ONI black site where old experiments with recovered (and familiar) Covenant technology still remain, evoking the feeling and design of maps from Halo: Combat Evolved. Let’s take a look...
We’re joined by multiplayer designer Cliff Schuldt to delve into the depths of this abandoned facility and explore how it came together.
Halo Infinite’s latest update brings an awesome new map to the game—Illusion. What can you tell us about it?
This map is really a love letter to the map design of Halo: Combat Evolved, where every map in that game has a kind of unique element to it—whether that’s in the layout, the location, and so on. Illusion is set at an ONI black site facility, and we really wanted to give it a unique hook to give it a strong sense of identity.
The main point of interest in this map is that its middle section has an active camouflage effect, so players who go into the center will turn invisible—we originally played around with having that area obscured by lots of smoke, but impacting the player’s vision in such a way just didn’t really translate to a fun time in gameplay.
Once we transitioned to the active camo hallway, the lore of the map really grew out of that. On one side of the map, you’ll see an active camo pyramid from Halo: CE and Halo 2 which is hooked up to still-functioning machinery, a remnant of ONI’s attempts to reverse engineer its effects. On the other side of the map, there’s an overshield cube also hooked up to the ONI machines, but that side is damaged and inactive with error messages.
Just as the Season 5 map Prism tells a story about the crystals being mined on Suban for the Needler, Illusion really showcases the secret experiments ONI was conducting around these power-ups from Halo: CE and Halo 2. It shows how this Covenant technology transitioned to the form it takes as portable equipment, which we see in how the camo and overshield modules appear in Halo 5 and Halo Infinite.
What are some of the unique features and locations of this map?
The camo hallway is the central feature, which harkens back to some of that Halo: CE design philosophy. And the ONI aesthetic, too, is something that feels unique. We have felt the “UNSC fatigue” as well at times, but—like with Cliffhanger in Season 3—there are some really cool new visual and design elements that ONI has which breaks away a bit from the more straightforwardly industrial design of the UNSC. This looks and feels like an abandoned and forgotten black site, the past is buried here.
The way we think of this map is that it has “roles” you can take on to suit your kind of playstyle. Do you want to be the person who ventures into the camo hallway to try to take advantage of the center of the map, or are you somebody who prefers to hang back and be the spotter for the team if an enemy is encroaching on your base while you play defense with the sniper? Those long-range plays can really swing the direction of a match. And you can play offensively, going around the side areas of the map or using kinetic launchers to get the jump on the enemy team.
What modes play well with this map?
This map was originally designed with CTF in mind. As a bit of a peek behind the curtain: maps are typically built with a particular mode in mind, and usually you can get a couple of modes that work well... but Illusion ended up surprising us because every mode we tested on it felt like it could have been the “origin mode” for the map.
Strongholds, King of the Hill, and Extraction were modes we particularly loved playing on this, zone control modes in general really brought out that depth in gameplay I mentioned earlier. But Oddball might have been one of my personal favorites—the camo hallway adds a whole new dynamic to how you play. If you take the Oddball into the camo hallway, you run a risky gambit of putting yourself in a vulnerable position but you’re also able to bait the enemy team if your own team is on top of their game.
And Infection... I think people are going to have a good time with that mode on Illusion. Lots of jumpscares!
I remember when you first showed me this map and I literally said “This feels like a map straight out of Halo: CE,” which you then said was very much the intent!
I’ve been a fan of the series since Halo: CE. We used to have LAN parties every weekend with over thirty people coming over, epic high school rivalries emerged from these experiences, and we really carried that feeling through to Illusion as a love letter to the game that started it all.
That’s in the design as well. Like I said about the difference between the “traditional” UNSC aesthetic and what ONI brings to the table, you have more of an eerie vibe to this abandoned space, brutalist designs with those unnaturally tall hallways, this pervading sense that your eyes might be playing tricks on you as you wonder what mysteries were buried here...
And then, in a gameplay sense, there’s a healthy verticality to it as well. Halo: CE had a lot of that when you look at maps like Prisoner, Hang ‘em High, Damnation, Chill Out, and so on. Those all had these strong characteristics, unique hooks in visuals and gameplay (especially when you think of mind-bending maps like Chiron TL-34!)
Do you think Illusion is a map geared towards a particular kind of Halo player?
During testing, one person actually said that they were having a good time on Illusion even though their team was losing! This is not a common response to that kind of situation, but hearing it was great because we want players to enjoy what they are experiencing. Winning is fun, but playing should feel fun.
Illusion is designed for both social and competitive play, we hope that every type of Halo player will find elements of this map that really grab them. It’s super rewarding when you find someone in the camo hallway and take them down with that feeling of “I got you!”, and on the other side of it you feel empowered as a player when you get to be invisible—there's just something about being stealthy and sneaky which adds a lot of fun, but it’s in a controlled area so you have to think about your positioning.
We wanted players to think about this map differently when they’re in those heat of the moment situations and make interesting choices with plentiful opportunities for risky gambits and exciting counter-plays.
We’re quite accustomed to there being fun Easter eggs on new Halo Infinite maps at this point, are there any that players should look out for on Illusion?
Every time people started exploring, we would hear “Oh, cool!” There are lots of little things we put in there that really felt like we were celebrating Halo, remembering our time with the series.
There’s a break room with some fun memorabilia. Let’s say that there are also some more... colorful elements that may prove to be key to discovering something...
And the location of this map is a bit of an Easter egg in itself, as it’s actually underneath another map in the game.
Thank you for joining us again, Cliff—it's always a joy to talk about map design and fun Halo memories with you! Do you have any parting words to share?
It’s been over twenty-two years since Halo: CE released and we are still so excited about leaning into the original DNA of that game’s design—strong identities, approachable depth, and great fun!
That’s really the heart and soul of the team’s love and passion for Halo. We’re all fans, we want to build maps which facilitate players getting to share their crazy moments at the water cooler, whether you’re just running around with your friends and punching each other or if you’re sweating with the team.
It’s been a huge honor to work on this game, but the blessing I didn’t expect was all about the people—from art, design, sandbox, community, and beyond. Getting to work with so many kind and passionate folks who deeply care about what they’re creating has been amazing, and it's been such a privilege to share these things with the fans. We hope you enjoy the map, and (as always) can’t wait to see the gameplay clips you share online!
For more on CU29, stay tuned for the following blogs to come:
- UPDATE OVERVIEW – Catch up on our January 19 community livestream which outlines the content coming in CU29 and our approach to Halo Infinite going forwards this year.
- FORGE OVERVIEW – Learn more about the new features and improvements coming to Forge, including the Covenant palette, Mode Creator, and more.
- CUSTOMIZATION OVERVIEW – Get a closer look at the Mark IV Armor Core, customization improvements, and upcoming Operations.