The original Halo was a marquee title in 2001, popularizing the first-person shooter genre on consoles. The game did so well it practically created the Xbox monolith. While the series remained strong throughout the years, the series hasn’t reached the same heights as before. New developer 343 Studios had some missteps along the way, particularly with Halo 5, and the series remained dormant for years. Halo Infinite had a lot riding on it after years of anticipation. Thankfully, despite everything that went against it, Halo is back in perhaps the best installment since the Bungie days.
The two main components of the game (as of the writing of this review) are the campaign and the multiplayer. The campaign story picks up an unspecified time after the ending of Halo 5. Master Chief attempts to defeat a powerful Brute general named Atriox, only to lose to the hulking beast. The chief finds himself lost in the vacuum of space until a disgruntled marine known as “Echo-216” rescues him. Chief is informed that humanity lost the battle against the brutes, and he must retaliate. The only way to win is to secure an advanced AI weapon that can tip the scale of battle. Chief must explore the mysterious Zeta Halo and put an end to the Brute control.
The story of Halo Infinite has its various pros and cons. The cast of characters is smaller and therefore there is a larger focus on building up each one individually. Echo might come off as whiny, but his behavior makes sense in a world where humanity is depleting on a rapid basis. The “Weapon”, Cortana’s replacement, is a clever yet innocent companion to the Chief who always adds levity to the overall bleak situation. Lastly, hearing Steve Downes as the iconic Master Chief 20 years later is a treat, as he delivers some his best lines to date.
Unfortunately, while the characters are great, the plot itself feels disjointed. The game doesn’t explain what happened in the intervening times. There is supplementary material like novels that fill the gaps, but it makes the story feel emptier than it should be. A bigger shame is that the brute who defeated Chief, Atriox, isn’t a part of the main story. The main villain is a different brute named Escharum, a zealot of the fallen leader. Instead of going against the enemy that thwarted the chief, the main threat being his eager fanboy feels not as gratifying as it could be.
Infinite also marks the most drastic change to the campaign structure of the franchise thus far. After the first couple missions, Master Chief can fully explore the surface of Zeta Halo. This marks the first time the series ditches its linear format in favor to a more common open-world approach. Players can use the map to find various waypoints and tackle a variety of tasks aside from the main story missions. While there are many other shooters that use a similar formula, combining it with the tried-and-true Halo series works well. Every mission features a high octane battleground with a huge amount of enemies to destroy. In addition that are many items to find like audio logs that shed more info on the world, and spartan cores. You can use these items to upgrade the Chief’s abilities like better shield recovery.
However, there is one core problem with the open world format of Halo Infinite; its setting. While Zeta Halo looks amazing, its many areas aren’t different from one another. Combine this with the repetitive side missions and the game can feel a lot more droning than it should. The main missions do change the scenery and have some great moments and even some decent boss fights, but I do wish some of the side content matched their quality.
Despite my gripe with the open world structure, this is still Halo. No matter how bland missions may get, the shooting action the series is known for is the best it has ever been. Every weapon feels great to use, from the iconic Assault Rifles to the devastating Skewer. Experimenting with all the weapons in the game is exhilarating, and the enemies do give a fight to ensure players shouldn’t stick to only one gun.
The best addition to the Chief’s arsenal is the new grappling hook. This tool can help the chief climb tall mountains, close the gap on an unassuming grunt, or even pull in a weapon from a distance. The amount of utility the hook provides adds a new layer to not just combat, but traversal as well. There are also other additional tools like shield deployment and a short dash, but the hook is the main attraction.
Halo Infinite’s campaign is by far the largest in the series’ history thanks to its open world. While not every mission is created equal, the excellent shooting action mitigates a lot of its issues. That being said, at the time of this writing, there is no co-op available, neither on or offline. There are also more modes like Forge that are currently missing, but will be available in the future.
Thankfully, those who exhaust the single player package can always sink their teeth into the vast multiplayer mode. Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer hearkens back to the series’ legacy while adding some new elements. For example the tools in the campaign such as the grappling hook are available. All the classic modes are available from “Slayer” (the series’ deathmatch) to “Capture the Flag”. There are some new modes such as “Fiesta” that changes the weapon upon every respawn for those who like some randomness in their slaying. There are also massive maps that allow two teams of twelve to duke it out in a variety of modes, like collecting power nodes to activate a battery before getting swatted by enemies.
While the actual gamplay of the multiplayer is terrific, there are other elements that murk the experience. Each player can customize their Spartan avatar, but there is only one armor available at first. Each armor has parts and color options, but almost all are locked. The only way to unlock them is by playing the multiplayer and gaining experience. Unfortunately, the amount of experience gain is meager and even after one level gain, the reward feels underwhelming. Receiving one small shoulder pad for all the hard work feels unrewarding.
Players can acquire a battle pass to speed up the unlocking process, but it cheapens the progression of the actual experience. This clearly divides the players who shell out the money for items and those who don’t. Granted, it’s all cosmetic, but considering how there is only one Spartan character, it makes every player look exactly the same. Those changes may have been a result of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer mode becoming Free-to-play. However, this mars what is an overall spectacular multiplayer shooter.
The game looks terrific on the Series X. Not only does the game run at 4K, but also at smooth 60 frames per second. For those who don’t mind a slight resolution drop and have the right monitor, there is also a performance mode that allows 120 frames per second. Everything from the cutscene quality to the environment fidelity is top quality.
Halo Infinite had a lot going against it due to a lot of behind the scenes issues. But against all odds this game manages to deliver. Not all of its ideas work, like the bloated open world, repetitive environments and especially the abysmal progression system in the multiplayer. But at the end of the day, the core mechanics are excellent. They are so excellent, in fact, that I enjoyed the action far more than nitpicking every issue I had. I do hope that 343 will add more meat to the game and fix some of the issues as they did with the Master Chief Collection years back. This definitely doesn’t mark the end of the Halo franchise, but rather a rejuvenation of a legend.
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