Halo Infinite Review
It was quite bold to name Halo Infinite as part of our shortlist for our picks of 2021 even before the campaign went live. It’s become my running joke to friends – what if it turned out to be a flop after all is said and done? Halo Infinite was already delayed for more than a year from the Xbox Series launch and depending on who you ask, could use another delay due to the missing features that are considered as staples by fans.
Objectively, I’m not a big fan of the series, and the last and only Halo game I’ve played is Halo Reach, which is ironically the last game released by Bungie before they manifested Destiny (heh). My experience with Reach has been generally positive. While the multiplayer part of it was definitely the way to go, I did play the campaign alone and with some friends at some point punctuated by a memorable ending.
Fast forward 10 years and with the last couple of Halo outings from 343 Industries not being received as warmly, I went into the game with an open mind, and hopefully, I don’t have to issue apologies if this game doesn’t live up to its “Best of 2021” hype.
Okay, Spartan, let’s do this.
The Halo Infinite campaign is a mixed bag of old and new. This third installment from 343 Industries continues the adventures of Master Chief from Halo 4 and Halo 5, chasing down the remnants of the Covenant who continues to threaten the survival of humanity. However, Halo Infinite opens at an extreme low with the introduction of the Banished – a powerful adversary led by the formidable Atriox who systematically destroys Master Chief and the Infinite. From the get-go, this game doesn’t fuck around.
Six months later, humanity has lost the war against the Banished and the Zeta Ring to this powerful force. Master Chief, believed to be dead, has been recovered by a lone pilot, Echo-216. Not even a minute into his revival, Master Chief wastes no time to infiltrate the Zeta Ring and lead a fractured resistance against the Banished. Recovering “The Weapon”, a copy of his rogue AI partner Cortana, Master Chief sets off to stop the Banished and prevent them from uncovering what’s locked away in this ring.
For the most part, Halo Infinite is a redemption story. Master Chief, brutally defeated and fighting against all odds, represents the hope of humanity. He still maintains his veneer of badass, taking on impossible odds, but shows his humanity in more ways than one. He’s not just your generic perfect soldier, and just like the Mandalorian, you can feel his hurt and frustration behind his mask.
The rest of the new characters in Halo Infinite plays with or against the protagonist, solidifying his legend either through the backstory shown in the echoes of Cortana’s previous programming. The introduction of the Weapon while being juxtaposed with the backstory of Cortana really contrasts their personalities. Echo-216 makes for a good support character, and he was far less annoying than I thought he would be. Finally, Escharum, the current leader of the Banished might not be fully menacing, but after a while, you feel for him as an antagonist especially as you check out the audio logs that address his backstory and motivations.
While the Halo Infinite story is nothing new, how the characters are written really works for the story campaign. With the campaign being an open world (more on that later), if the main campaign story isn’t at all captivating, I find myself wandering off into the world. For the Halo Infinite campaign, I’m more motivated to continue the story, and I’m intrigued with the mystery behind Cortana and the Weapon, while also finding out what’s hidden in the Zeta Ring. I’m totally with Master Chief from the get-go to its rip-roaring conclusion, which is quite hard to say for FPS games in general.
A Whole New World
As pointed out earlier, the Halo Infinite campaign leans into a new open-world design. The first few chapters bring you into the Zeta Ring, but when it opens up, the sense of wonder really settles quickly and invites you to check out what’s on offer. Once you’ve done some of the activities though, it really is nothing special from any other open world.
Besides the standard activities on offer: unlocking the tower to open up area activities, taking out enemy outposts, hunting down bounties, and collectibles; it’s your standard fare. While the game could do without it, somehow I feel that the open-world represents the connective tissue between story missions. The distance between areas is quite near enough and I feel the activities are brief enough to serve as a quick break in between chapters.
The counter-balance between the open world and the linear storytelling work in tandem and if the open world is removed, the pacing on the campaign would probably feel a bit rushed. Also, collecting some Spartan Cores to improve some of your skills really adds a bit more to the Master Chief skill set without turning into something that you can grind to make the game easier.
I feel that a lot of respect is shown to Master Chief by not adding loot or character levels into the system because it will diminish the natural skill that Master Chief possesses. As someone who’s seen many uninspired loot systems ruin many open-world shooter-RPGs, I respect what Halo Infinite did by not adding it.
The small map works really well because you don’t need to use many of its vehicles, some of which could really use some work. Vehicles such as the Mongoose or the Warthog have wonky controls and their maneuverability is terrible, contrasted by the sublime controls for the Ghost and Banshee. Why use them though when you’ve got a new tool in your arsenal – The Grappleshot? It’s a really great addition to the game that adds so much to the mobility and overall creativity of Halo Infinite.
The open-world activities feel like they’re there to be enjoyed as an option. You can leave it alone because besides leveling up the armor upgrades, nothing is truly gated. If you want to have all the collectibles especially the cosmetics for multiplayer, it’s there for the taking and you can always return to it when the main story is over, but nothing is required and that turned out to be a really good decision by 343.
The meat and potatoes of Halo Infinite, or any FPS for that matter, should be in its gunplay and 343 have done a superb job with this release. It has one of the best shooting in games for the year next to Back 4 Blood, without the reload animation or weapon mechanics hindering your performance. Every gun has distinctly different weight and mass mechanics, and each feels different with their level of use or damage type. A plasma weapon definitely feels different from a kinetic or a power weapon, which is a basic FPS element that 343 simply gets right.
Enemy types don’t feel like copy-paste versions of other enemies, and each plays their role to prevent you from infiltrating their bases. You have speedy types like the Jackals, cannon fodder being the Grunts, while different levels of Brutes and Elites really test your mettle. Boss fights are just as epic, each with their unique move set that puts your skills to the test.
A lot of the fun I had with Halo Infinite is experimenting with different weapons against specific enemy types, improvising along the way based on what’s available really keeps you on your toes.
While it is expertly hidden, Halo Infinite still has obvious technical flaws and an air of feeling a tad incomplete. Performance mode frame rate dips are quite frequent even though trying for 120fps is admirable. You probably won’t notice it at first, but it happens often enough that you’ll eventually see some slight stuttering.
Usually, I’d be a lot more critical about what’s missing, but the Halo Infinite campaign delivered an enjoyable experience with quite an engaging story that made me truly acknowledge that the Chief is indeed back.
What We Liked:
- Engaging story campaign that finds the right balance between an open world sandbox and the linear corridor story missions.
- Fantastic gunplay and Spartan abilities without taking away from the core Halo action.
- A wide variety of enemy classes and weapon types that keeps it fresh without it devolving into looter shooter hell.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Open world mechanics aren’t anything groundbreaking, could also be skipped.
- Vehicle mechanics need work, maneuverability is problematic.
- Frame rate dips and glitches are frequent.
Verdict: Buy It!
The Halo Infinite campaign has numerous flaws and an obvious air to being incomplete, however, despite all odds, 343 Industries delivers a serious shooter that doesn’t have to rely on its brand pedigree. The groundwork of a legendary shooter is definitely present in this campaign, with hordes of unique classes of enemies, a wide arsenal of weaponry, grand vistas of the Zeta Ring, and an engaging story.
The open-world provided the right counter-balance to make Halo Infinite stand out from its predecessors and while it may not match the many highs from the original saga, it shakes it up enough to offer something new to the table despite it doing very little to prove itself groundbreaking. Suffice to say that the open-world provided is enough to keep its brief campaign fresh and offer a little more love especially to single players who enjoy the solo experience. Traditionalists will have to wait until the campaign co-op drops at a later date.
I definitely recommend playing Halo Infinite even on the Xbox Game Pass for now in anticipation of the fully complete game, whenever that would be. The story campaign is polished enough to provide some serious fun and then some with some great highs that solidify Master Chief’s return to the forefront. It is an excellent shooter at best and it would definitely become legendary once all its parts have been aligned. The legend of Master Chief lives on for years to come, and there’s definitely room for him in the future.
Halo Infinite is now available for the Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.