While fans of Halo were feeling let down by Halo 5 and the gameplay reveal of Halo Infinite being uh… underwhelming to say the least, you’d have been right to feel hesitant about the Halo franchise. What we saw back in 2020 was disappointing, to say the least. However, Microsoft made the decision to send their flagship title back to the kitchen, allowing 343 Industries more time to put out something better. After having spent about fifty hours (give or take) with the game, I can say that they made the right call.
Developer: 343 Industries Publisher: Microsoft Platforms: Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC Release Date: December 8th, 2021
Halo Infinite begins in space, high above the franchise’s iconic, circular weapons of mass destruction, Zeta Halo. As the UNSC ship, Infinity is sacked by the Atriox and his army of Banished. The Master Chief is defeated and left floating in space as he watches the Infinity explode and the remnants of the UNSC flee to the surface of Zeta Halo. Six months later, Chief is rescued by a man we come to know as the Pilot. With the Pilot’s help, Chief promptly destroys a Banished warship and lands on the Zeta Halo to retrieve The Weapon, his new AI companion. After doing so, Chief and his ragtag crew establish a base of operations and set out to stop the Banished at all cost.
The first thing I’ll say is that Halo Infinite is a perfect way to establish a new direction for the story after the previous games’ narrative failed to catch on. For those who may not remember, Halo 5 left fans off on a big cliffhanger. Fearing her own deletion after being cured of her rampancy, Cortana had gone rogue, taking any AI who wished to avoid their eventual rampancy and an army of powerful Forerunner Guardians with her.
For what it was worth, I wasn’t a fan of Halo 5 or how it ended but I was quite interested in where things would go next. Halo Infinite doesn’t include any of the mistakes made by its predecessor out the window almostentirely. While those events still do happen, I still believe that 343 Industries has gone a fantastic job. One that makes Halo Infinite a return to what made the original games so good. A return to its roots, so to speak. I won’t go into details on how though, as it is something that you should experience and I would hate to spoil anything about the campaign.
The one downside, in my opinion, of course, is that by the end of the campaign, I was left with a few questions. Throughout the course of the campaign, there are a number of collectibles in the form of audio logs for players to collect. I found all of them and while they do help expand on the events that took place on Zeta Halo, that’s about all that they do. While we come across some dead Spartan VII’s, there’s a number of important individuals we don’t learn the fates of. Knowing that 343 plans to keep Halo Infinite around for quite some time. I can only assume they’ll expand on what they’ve laid out later on.
I also feel like the game lacked characters. While I loved The Weapon, which proves to be a mighty fine replacement for Cortana, I struggled to vibe with the Pilot, however. He’s just a cowardly character throughout most of the game, although by the end, he experiences vast improvements. Escheram makes his return from the Halo Wars, and is the imposing main villain throughout the story who is fantastically voiced as his monologues really hold your attention. There are other characters but they really take a backseat to the three mentioned above. Even the Harbinger, Halo Infinite’s other villain, doesn’t really have much to do in the narrative.
Where Halo Infinite’s campaign truly shines is in its gameplay. The campaign brings about the franchise’s most massive change, offering an open world for players to explore. Armed with his shiny new grappling hook, Master Chief really isn’t limited to how far he can go, barring another trip into space. Halo Infinite gives you plenty of reasons for players to scour the map, whether it be to take down the Banished or hunt down those pesky skulls. While you can easily just focus on the story missions, you’re going to want to take part in the side activities if you want to upgrade Chief and build up his arsenal.
Throughout his journey, the Chief will gain multiple new abilities to overcome the Banished. Chief’s grappling hook can be upgraded to deliver a powerful melee blow and his drop shield can electrify bullets. By hunting down dangerous Banished targets and liberating a variety of bases, players can unlock access to a wider variety of weapons and vehicles. I particularly enjoyed the “variant” weapons like the Arcane Sentinel Beam and Impact Commando. Once I unlocked Chief’s “falcon punch” grappler upgrade, I felt like an unstoppable force.
I played through the game on normal and there were moments where the AI managed to outplay me. Jackal snipers can prove to be deadly if you’re caught out in the open with low shields. There’s also nothing quite as scary (or humorous) as a Brute throwing a kamikaze Grunt at you from across a room. Another small detail I loved about the Banished is that Elites and Jackals would often roam around Zeta Halo with their shielding disabled. It made them feel more real in a sense as they were unaware of the potential dangers just around the corner.
My biggest complaint about the open-world, is that it does become repetitive. You’re either reclaiming a base, destroying a base, killing a High-Value Target, or hunting collectibles. They’re all worth doing but exhaustion does set in toward the closing acts of the game. Thankfully though, I also felt like the campaign ended at just the right time. By the time burnout began to set in, I was watching the credit roll.
The multiplayer is a blast and a great reminder of what made Halo the king back in the day. I don’t really like competitive PvP shooters but I’ve sunk quite a bit of time into multiplayer since it launched. It’s chaotic and messy in all the ways a multiplayer game should be. Most of the weapons all function well and teams that work together well can dominate the maps.
Not every gun feels viable though and in my opinion, there are at least three that need some work. First off, there’s the pulse carbine. Its only perk is that it tracks enemies, but it’s slow and doesn’t do much damage. Then, there’s the hydra, a weapon that fires mini-rockets. While it also locks on to enemies, it doesn’t do much damage and it’s easy to outshoot it. Finally, there’s the ravager. It works best in small rooms but otherwise, the pool of fire it leaves on the floor is useless, and getting a kill with it isn’t easy.
I enjoy all the maps with the exception of one. All the other maps feel like the devs were focused on the map and chaos that would eventually unfold within them. Except for the map Launch Site. Launch Site is the worst map the game has to offer. It’s a touch too large due to the massive empty space that takes up the middle of the map and navigating it is just not that fun. Both sides feature this weird bit of verticality but then the “side road”, where most of the conflict takes place, is a mostly wide open and empty area with some side buildings for cover. Every time I play on Launch Site, I assume it was crafted with vehicular and long-range combat in mind but vehicle spawns are weird and the weapons don’t really compliment the map well enough.
The two largest complaints I have are concerning the game’s progression system and pay model. I’ve already gone into why I don’t like Infinite’s progression system and how it feels predatory. If you’re interested, you can read about it here, but I don’t like it for obvious reasons. However, there have been some changes to the progression model since the multiplayer’s November launch.
Originally, 343 Industries put in a daily challenge that offered 50 XP per match played. Not long after though, the progression system was altered again. This time, adding a series of daily challenges with diminishing returns. The challenges start at 200 exp and eventually dwindle down to 50 exp after your 6th game. It isn’t the best fix for the progression issues, but it certainly helps a lot because it’s a guaranteed level for playing 6 games a day. Combined with your other challenges, this helps significantly.
Graphically, this is a gorgeous game and its open-world lends itself well to the visuals. I often found myself climbing to the top of mountains to soak in Zeta Halo’s environments. One detail I found especially endearing was the effort put into environmental storytelling. Throughout Zeta Halo, you’ll come across the scattered remnants of the battles that took place during Chief’s nap in space. It’s those moments where you find the lone marine surrounded by a pile of banished or a road lined in destroyed UNSC vehicles that create a real sense of the past.
One of the only downsides to the visuals is that it begins to feel a little samey after a while. Despite how great the game looks, it never swaps it up, unlike past Halo titles where you felt like you were exploring a larger portion of the rings. Given the “10-year plan” however, I can only assume that we’ll be exploring more of the ring in the future.
The soundtrack is so uniquely Halo. It hits all the notes that’ll take you back to the good old days of the franchise. With Infinite’s new open-world, there’s this one track that plays while you’re outside of combat. It’s soothing and promotes a sense of exploration in an otherwise chaotic game. It’s one of my favorite open-world games, thus far anyway.
Halo Infinite has its problems, but it is light years ahead of what 343 Industries gave us with Halo 5. The guns feel great, the multiplayer is a blast, and the single-player campaign rights the wrongs of its predecessor by setting the narrative on a new path that doesn’t disregard the past. It’s a wonderful return to form for the franchise and I hope they can keep the momentum going as they expand on the game in the future.
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Halo Infinite Review
Halo Infinite Review
Halo Infinite has some minor issues but otherwise, it really shows that 343 put a lot of love and effort into restoring Halo to the glory that it once held.
Narrative shift works well in Halo’s favor.
Open World makes Halo feel fresh.
Multiplayer is a blast.
Some questions left after completing the campaign.