[Minor spoiler warning for Halo Infinite. There aren’t any formal story spoilers here, but if you don’t want to know anything about the campaign, turn back now.]
Halo Infinite sees Master Chief square off against The Banished, a renegade faction of The Covenant who’ve taken over the Zeta Halo ring that Master Chief finds himself on in this, the sixth mainline Halo campaign. The Banished are led by Atriox, the main antagonist in 2017’s real-time strategy spinoff Halo Wars 2. But Atriox isn’t just a CEO with an army of direct reports. That wouldn’t be a very efficient management structure. No no…he’s got layers of middle management that Chief is going to have to shoot his way through before he can get to the guy at the top of the pyramid.
We’ve already learned a little bit about War Chief Escharum, the second-in-command to Atriox revealed in Halo Infinite’s 2020 campaign demo who’s leading The Banished forces on Zeta Halo. But there are also the so-called Spartan Killers, a group of top-shelf fighters who are hellbent on ending Master Chief’s reign as the Covenant’s own personal collective “Demon.” During our visit to 343, we spent time sitting down with the Halo Infinite team to discuss the notion of a boss fight in a Halo game, and more specifically, one of those bosses: Jega ‘Rdomnai, a dual-red-plasma-sword-wielding Elite who is among the Spartan Killers – who are also known as the Hand of Atriox – and should make for a fierce encounter on any of Halo’s legendary (including Legendary) difficulty levels. He was briefly shown in the recent Halo Infinite Campaign Overview trailer, but we learned a lot more about him.
“One of the things we tried to do with Jega was make him into the creepiest, most disturbing character that’s been in Halo,” said associate creative director Paul Crocker. “Just every time you see him…he looks at things as prey. The whole experience of how he toys with Chief is just…how he is.”
Elaborates Halo franchise narrative writer Jeff Easterling: “We wanted to build a character up to be more like a kind of subtle sidekick to Escharum. They have the closest relationship; they’ve worked together the longest. [Jega] is his most respected soldier, his closest friend.
“The entire group [of Spartan Killers] is a showcase of The Banished’s power,” Easterling continued. “Not only are they furthering the cause of The Banished, they are also inspiring all of the troops that are beneath them.”
But getting back to Jega and that creepiness, Easterling explains: “He was a member of the Silent Shadow.” And in one of his many secret missions, “One of those endeavors left him in the state we see him in now, [where] his lust for battle and vengeance completely outweighs even his own pride in his own culture.” Easterling is referencing Jega’s mangled appearance. As you can see in the image above, he has not exactly won every battle he’s been in, despite his ferocity and ruthlessness. So, going against Covenant tradition and principles, he accepts a robotic arm and mandibles. “The Banished represent what the Covenant would’ve been like if you didn’t have the [group’s] dogmatic restraint on things,” Easterling said.
“He’s almost like the inverse of what you’d expect from the Arbiter.”
“He’s almost like the inverse of what you’d expect from the Arbiter. Instead of the [taking] high road, it’s stripped down…we asked ourselves, ‘What is the psycho element of the Arbiter?’” Easterling added, “I want [new fans] to feel like they’re on the same even footing as an old-school fan when they play Infinite, and then when they get to the end of it, be so inspired that they want to maybe go play other games, or maybe dig in deeper and explore other parts of the universe.” At the same time, though, he clarified that “There are actually hooks into old storytelling, but it’s something that you can come in absolutely cold and just want to know more about this character.”
But now that we know there are some kind of formal boss fights in Halo Infinite’s campaign – we get a quick glimpse during the campaign overview trailer of a fight with Tremonius, who has his name and a health bar above his head – the Chief and Jega must face off at some point, right? “Yes,” Crocker confessed. “There is a confrontation between Jega and Chief.” When I asked if there would be custom AI written for these boss encounters, he also acknowledged that in the affirmative. “You take the base character and then you add personality,” he said of the team’s philosophy to designing those moments.
For more of our exclusive IGN First coverage on Halo Infinite, check back this Thursday for our hands-on impressions of the campaign after playing the first four hours of it. Plus: we’ll have an in-depth interview with Halo Infinite’s head of creative and original Halo writer Joseph Staten later this month as well. Earlier this month we revealed the new ‘Streets’ multiplayer map.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s executive editor of previews and host of both IGN’s weekly Xbox show, Podcast Unlocked, as well as our monthly(-ish) interview show, IGN Unfiltered. He’s a North Jersey guy, so it’s “Taylor ham,” not “pork roll.” Debate it with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.