Review – Halo Infinite
I’ve never been more anxious about a game than with Halo Infinite. Halo has always been a huge part of my life and of those games that really got me into gaming. Booting up Combat Evolved for the first time, I was blinded by its majesty. Since then I’ve played just about every Halo game and put countless hours into both the single player and multiplayer of the franchise. I could always count on Halo for a good time.
Then 2015’s Halo 5 Guardians came out and my love for the franchise started to fade away. With a terrible campaign and story that did a disservice anything that came before and a multiplayer experience that only resembles Halo in passing. At least Master Chief Collection gave me the option to revisit the Even Infinite didn’t get off to the best start with a mediocre E3 presentation and a massive delay that pushed the game back an entire year. Can it possibly live up and reignite that love for Halo?
Finishing the fight
Halo Infinite is set after the events of Halo 5 Guardians. The UNSC have lost; obliterated by the Banished, a faction of Brutes that separated from the Covenant way back in Halo 2. The Zeta Halo is fractured, Cortana and the created threat are seemingly destroyed, and all that remains are the Banished and a handful of UNSC. Now they are planning something, and Master Chief, joined by the Pilot Echo-217, and The Weapon must rebuild the UNSC on Zeta Halo and stop the Banished.
To start, the story feels like we are missing an entire act starting right after the hero’s defeat. However, this is a compelling set-up for the story and quickly establishes the Banished as a formidable threat. After that though, it’s a pretty straightforward Halo storyline, but delves into some deeper lore that I really appreciated. It does have some high points and a somewhat return to form for the franchise. The pilot is a fantastic character who brings a sense of dread and helplessness’s to a dire situation. Then to balance this out, we have The Weapon: a new Cortana-like AI who brings some charming humour and innocence to the game.
However, it also skips over some major plot points left behind since Halo 5 and Halo Wars 2. Namely, the Cortana and the “Created” conflict, which whilst not well-regarded amongst the community, should have been a bit more direct. We get references to these events and characters, and 343 does try to tidy this up, but it’s hard to ignore that this important storyline was just skipped right over. Also, major villains introduced in the opening hours rarely get mentioned again, same with characters from previous games. Lasky, Locke, Halsey, and even the Arbiter are nowhere to be seen.
Halo Infinite takes a completely different approach to its game structure than any other Halo before it. This time the game takes place on a small scale open world of Zeta Halo. You’ll be liberating UNSC captives, taking down Banished outposts, and reclaiming Forward Operating Bases one by one. It’s a fairly cookie-cutter open world with markers pointing you where to go. It feels a bit static; nothing dynamic really happens other than a Banished dropship or the random pocket of enemies you can encounter. It does get a bit better in the later stages though, with more interesting and tougher encounters. The Banished outposts are an absolute treat.
As expected, gameplay is fantastic. Hell, it’s the best feeling Halo to date, with great feeling weapons and movement that should appeal to fans of new and old. Sprint and ADS are brought back from Halo 5, but balanced in a way so they aren’t essential. Dashing has now been moved to an armour ability. Equipment also makes a grand return, with the grappling hook being the big new addition. It’s a multipurpose tool that allows Master Chief to grapple around the Halo ring with ease and grab new weapons from afar.
If you’re not a fan of open worlds, then not to worry since Halo Infinite also smartly weaves this in with linear more Halo-like levels. These moments generally showcase Halo Infinite at its very best. From rocking up to the mission entrance in the open world, to eventually getting funneled into linear sections. Although, you do get a few large scale missions in self contained areas. Then the late game’s “point of no return” really showcases the best. The biggest surprise, however, is with the quality of the boss fights. Halo has always struggled with boss fights, but Halo Infinite manages to nail them.
Playing the game on Heroic difficulty for the first time, I was admittedly a bit disappointed. Most of the fights you encounter fall way too far on the easy side, especially in the opening half of the game. Although, you will eventually meet the Hunters (Still no Lekgolo in gameplay), Wraiths, Elite Ultra’s and more. The Banished provide a strong sandbox opponent.
Halo Infinite‘s campaign is easily the best of 343’s run of Halo. Going back to a lot of the core strengths of the series past whilst also adding their own twist to things. Halo Infinite as a whole just feels like one of those large sandbox missions that we all know and love.
Spartan vs Spartan
Halo Infinite had a surprise multiplayer release last month with the game launching into beta alongside it’s first season: Heroes of Reach. Multiplayer in Halo hasn’t felt this good in years. Much like the campaign the core gameplay is the best we’ve had in a long time. The weapons are an absolute blast with most of them being very much usable in some way. Though there are some hit registration issues, particularly with melee, but it doesn’t happen often enough to become a major issue.
The map design is also fairly solid across the board. Behemoth will stand amongst the best the franchise has to offer, whilst Streets and Aquarium are wonderfully fast paced arena maps though often don’t work very well with Objective modes. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of maps to be seen here: seven for arena and a low three for big team battle. Also, no remakes of classic maps that would have been a great fit to pad out the map numbers. Where is my Valhalla?! Regardless, I’m mostly happy with this set of maps with the weakest one being Livefire which isn’t a terrible map anyway.
Unfortunately, the fantastic core of Halo Infinite is ruined by some of the most baffling and frustrating design decisions that I have ever seen in a multiplayer shooter. First of all, at launch playlists were missing tons of modes that it really should have had. This has since been fixed with separate game mode playlists for casual, but not ranked (or even Big Team Battle to a lesser extent). This forces objective-based game modes that just don’t quite work for these maps. Then we got crossplay, and whilst I am all for having crossplay, it should be optional. Console players have to deal with the occasional cheaters on PC, whilst PC players have to deal with really strong aim assist from controller users. I’ve seen this frustration on both sides, and it doesn’t make sense for the game to force this.
Then we move onto the progression and customisation, and what happened? The battle pass is a tedious unexciting drag that limits the options available to you with a terrible challenge-based system that doesn’t reward good gameplay. We need to stop using battle passes for progression because they are just boring. Sure the Halo Reach Credit system was also grindy, but it was fun and rewarded good gameplay more than a checklist of random challenges. Said challenges were often not limited, some of which even force you to use weapons you might not like. Even Halo 5 Guardians REQ packs were better than this. As for customisation, you can’t just paint each component however you want. Instead, you have to get Destiny 2 style shaders which can be bought with real money or earned throughout the season pass. Even simple colour combinations are locked behind this, which is yet another limitation to the customisation.
Then we have the storefront, which is just ridiculously overpriced for what you get. Twenty dollars for a single set of armour and a shader? Why? This limited stock of armour and event battle passes is just a lot of FOMO, something that was promised to not be in the game. In the month since the beta launched we’ve had a battle pass that only appears when the events on. Why does every bit of progression have to be tied to one of the most uninspired and uninteresting systems?
As a whole, Halo Infinites multiplayer is a total blast and one of the best multiplayer sandboxes in years. Everything from the feel to the maps and weapons are well designed. However, these baffling design decisions can lead to some frustration. A lot of these issues are being addressed, but they really shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
For the first time in 343s run with Halo we have a perfected art style. Halo 4 and Guardians in particular, suffered. Taking a step back, with some inspiration from Halo Wars 2, we have a perfected Halo art style that is beautifully depicted in the slipspace engine. Thankfully, what we saw at E3 2020 is not what we got here. However, it does lack in visual variety. Structures all look the same and there’s no different biomes.
Sound design is also a strong suit, with some solid voice acting from Steve Downes that brings Chief’s cold heroism and brief glimpses of humanity to the front. This makes for possibly the best iteration of Chief to date. Also, Jen Taylor absolutely kills at as The Weapon. Then we have all these fun voice lines from the UNSC soldiers and Banished alike that are admittedly quite funny and bring a bit more personality to Halo once again. All of this is tied together with a fresh yet nostalgic soundtrack and phenomenal sound design in the campaign.
Does Halo Infinite reignite that Halo passion? For the most part, yes! I will admit that there is a lot of frustration regarding the decisions in multiplayer and a rather static open world. However, the core gameplay experiences keep Halo Infinite fresh and one of the best first person shooters in years. Halo is back!
Zeta Halo is impressive, but lacks visual variety.
Halo Infinite‘s core gameplay is fantastic. Not only is the combat pristine, but the open world setting and grappling hook add an extra layer of exploration and creativity to the mix.
Fantastic voice acting and a wonderful soundtrack that evokes the tone of the originals.
The core of Halo Infinite is excellent, but some of the design decisions are infuriating and can put a serious dampener on the fun.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Halo Infinite is available now on Xbox and PC.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.