Halo was phenomenal. The Halo games thereafter, just a good. Right up to Halo: Reach. That was probably the apex of the series, Bungie‘s good-bye gift to the masses. When the new stewards at 343 Industries took over, the magic wasn’t there no more. That goes for Halo 4, Halo 5…and now Halo Infinite.
Where are the grandiose launches? Where are videos of salivating hardcore fans queueing up for midnight launches? All gone. The fanfare and interest for Microsoft’s once grand franchise is just a shadow of its former self.
So…does that mean that Halo Infinite is a bad game?
Read on and you’ll see.
What is Halo Infinite?
Halo Infinite is the latest entry in Microsoft’s biggest franchise, developed by 343 Industries and Xbox Game Studios. It is essentially Halo 6, and I have no idea why it’s not called such. Halo Infinite is split into two different components; multiplayer and campaign. Its multiplayer is free to play, while its Campaign mode is a paid purchase, though it’s still free for Xbox and PC Game Pass subscribers. Halo Infinite is an Xbox and PC exclusive.
Our copy of Halo Infinite was graciously given to us by Xbox Singapore, because I’m an idiot for letting my Game Pass Ultimate subscription run out. Xbox Singapore has also given to us the PC version of the game, which we’ll be doing a visual comparison piece with later on.
Disclaimer: I came to the Halo party late.
I didn’t play the Halo games made by Bungie at launch. I only got to play them with the Halo: Master Chief Collection (because Sal gave me his Xbox One), in which Sal and I played co-op in a marathon session that lasted several days. I don’t have nostalgia coloring my view, which is why I guess Sal made me do this review.
Right off the bat, the first thing that hit me when I started the campaign was confusion. Who was this Atriox? Why was he attacking the Master Chief? Was he on the UNSC Infinity? What happened after Halo 5?
Halo Infinite assumes you’re familiar with the series and makes no concessions for newcomers at all. There’s no recap present and you’re thrown right into the deep end from the very beginning. I’ve played all the Halo games (though I don’t remember much of them) and I’m still finding myself confused. Not a good thing 343 Industries.
Is it so hard to do a simple recap to set the stage? I know you guys want to make an impact but think of people like me who don’t live and breathe Halo. I felt like I was playing catchup throughout the whole game. I’d find myself thinking, ‘Is this a new character? Or has he/she been in a past game?’. That’s a bad thing!
Anyways, the basic gist is that the Master Chief lost, the humans lost the UNSC Infinity and escaped back down to Zeta Halo and the Banished took control of the ring.
Fast forward a couple of months later and the Master Chief is rescued and reawakened. Turns out a lot of stuff’s happened in-between and all’s gone to crap for the humans on Zeta Halo. That’s where the Chief comes in. He reins in Echo 216 (the pilot who rescued him) and Weapon, the not Cortana (but is Cortana) AI in his madcap plan to singlehandedly fight off The Banished who are entrenched on Zeta Halo.
For the first two stages of the game, it’s classic Halo. Furious fights with all manner of alien races in linear environments. It’s fun, it’s mindless action and it’s done by the numbers. Gunplay is classic Halo, incredibly satisfying and weighty. Sounds great too, especially the triple shots from the Battle Rifle.
Once Master Chief touches down on Zeta Halon though, that’s when the game finally tries something new; an open environment. Yup, Halo Infinite is open world. The game takes place on a large slice Zeta Halo, with the Master Chief able to explore everything in it at any time.
Like all other open world games, Zeta Halo has multiple optional objectives for the Master Chief to clear.
There are UNSC squads you can rescue, FOBs (Forward Operating Base) that you can reclaim from The Banished, propaganda towers (which have some of the funniest dialogue in the game) you can destroy, hidden Skulls to discover, enemy bases you can sabotage, Most Wanted targets to assassinate, Spartan Cores you can recover as well as Mjolnir Lockers you can find.
That is of course, in addition to, the game’s story missions.
It might sound like there’s a lot of things to do in the game but strangely enough, it isn’t.
Most of the optional objectives are diversions with that require just a few seconds to tick off, especially if you have a Wasp (a UNSC aircraft you can call for at FOBs).
If you have one, you just fly over to the map marker, drop in to open the Spartan Core/ Mjolnir Locker or just blast the Propaganda Tower or Most Wanted target from the skies. Done. FOBs take a bit more time to clear since you have to kill everything in the vicinity, but that’s just a minute or two of work, tops.
Apart from the enemy bases (some of which are huge), optional objectives don’t really take up chunks of time to do. They do reward you well if you take the time to do them though. Spartan Cores lets you upgrade your abilities (Grappleshot, Drop Wall, Thrusters, Threat Sensor and your shields), Mjolnir Lockers gives you Multiplayer rewards and liberating FOBs, killing Most Wanted targets and destroying Propaganda Towers all give you Valor, which unlocks weapons, vehicles and AI upgrades at FOBs.
The move to an open world has diminished the fun in Halo a bit.
Being able to approach combat encounters with power weapons always at your disposal (or a Scorpion tank) makes the fights much much easier. You don’t really need to scavenge for guns when you’re in the open world, you just head back to an FOB (which also serves as a Fast Travel point) to resupply with whatever you’ve unlocked with your Valor points.
When every encounter can be completed from range with sniping, there’s really not much challenge to it. There’s no co-op too, which could’ve made the game more dynamic. The friendly AI in the game is a bit of step back to those in previous Halo games.
They can’t drive you around anymore and they tend to blow themselves up if you give them the explosive weapons. In fact, you don’t want to be driving anywhere in Halo Infinite. Not only is the terrain impossible to drive well on, the weird vehicular physics make driving nightmarish. You’re better off making like Spider-Man and using the Grappleshot to move around until you get a Wasp.
Speaking of which, the Grappleshot is hands-down the best part of Halo Infinite.
It gives you a ton of options.
You can use it to draw in weapons, you can use it to hook enemies (and then slam into them with a powerful melee attack) or you can use it as a traversal option, swinging around the locales to escape enemy fire or to reposition yourself. I truly can’t imagine playing a Halo game without it.
The rest of the other abilities are kind of meh. Even when upgraded with Spartan Cores, they don’t really stand out or feel really useful outside of some situations. That’s in contrast to the Grappleshot, which comes in handy no matter if you’re squaring off against the Banished or just exploring Zeta Halo.
If 343 Industries had any brains, they’d make it a fixture in all Halo games from here on out.
With the open world aspects leaving a lot of things to be desired, you’d expect the story missions to pick up the slack. Prepare to be disappointed. Compared to the ones in past Halo games (such as the Silent Cartographer), the missions here are boring, with barely any rewards for exploration.
It doesn’t help matters that most of them are set within the Halo ring, so the missions all tend to look the same after awhile. Forerunner architecture is boring as hell and seeing it mission after mission won’t lift your mood any.
The story too isn’t as compelling as previous games…and those weren’t that interesting in the first place!
The game spends far too much time building up lore for future games that it forgets about making the current plot interesting. The Harbinger isn’t explored at all as a villain, neither are the other figures in the story like the Banished leader, Escharum. Even events like what happened in-between the time the Chief was MIA and his reawakening are relegated to optional voice logs.
Everything revolves around Weapon, the Master Chief and his relentless drive to stop the Banished…even if he doesn’t even know what they’re up to. In fact, I feel the game focuses a lot of its attention on the Master Chief. too much even. Most of the time it’s wasted, but there are some rare moments (like when he comforts Echo 216) that are pure gold.
The move to beefier hardware (I’m playing on an Xbox Series X) has done the series some good too. It’s not the prettiest game I’ve seen but it does look decent, especially the Master Chief’s Mjolnir armor.
Loading times are much faster, and reloads from deaths are quicker. The frame rate stays constant most of the time, though there are hitches here and there for me as the game loads levels, particularly if there’s an elevator or hover lift involved.
The game autosaves a lot too, so you won’t lose a lot of progress when you die.
You’ll die no doubts about it. Even on Normal, the game is challenging.
Enemies aren’t shy about grouping together, hiding behind their deployed shields. Elites and Jackals especially. Grunts are as lovable as always, and their lines are incredibly funny. If they weren’t hellbent on killing humans, I’d love to have one as a pet!
Hunters are incredibly tough this time around too! Perhaps a bit too tough. They can take a ton of punishment and still keep going. It’s even worse when you kill off a Hunter, as its partner will go berserk and become even more aggressive! Weirdly, the Hunters’ Fuel Rod Cannon isn’t a playable weapon this time around, despite the Hunters clearly using them in battles.
Unfortunately…the Flood don’t make a comeback. Yeah, I’m disappointed too.
The game has a serious problem with enemy variety because of that. Too many old foes, not enough new ones.
There are also minor changes to weapons too, especially in regards to how they affect shields. Plasma pistols no longer disable vehicles and their ability to take down shields is also diminished. I can’t say it’s a change I appreciate, as I’ve always depended on the one-two combo of a Plasma Pistol and Battle Rifle (or Commando Rifle or Stalker Rifle) to take down shields and headshot an enemy.
I do love that all weapons can be recharged by duplicates. You no longer have to discard weapons like the Plasma Pistol because it can’t be reloaded! Still, the lack of new killer hardware to play with makes it feel like Halo Infinite is a glorified Halo 5 expansion instead of a whole new game.
The Bottom Line.
Halo Infinite is certainly a departure from the norm.
While that’s generally a good thing, the move to open world has also diminished the game’s encounters somewhat. When you have the freedom to approach a fight any way you want, it’s inevitable to do so from range, with the biggest guns at your disposal. In Halo Infinite, that’s pretty much how every fight goes in the open world.
On the flip side, the story missions are linear. Too linear in fact. They don’t reward exploration much (other than with the occasional secret weapon stash or collectible log) and the Forerunner locations bored the hell out of me after a few missions. Thankfully, the combat encounters are much better in them (due to the fact that you have to make do with the weapons you find).
Still, the hackneyed plot (what little there is) made me wish for a return to Halo 5 or even Halo 4. At least then you had some character development and some semblance of a story.
I don’t particularly like ragging on the game like this (because I did enjoy it) but as a Halo title, it ranks pretty low in my book.
Fun gunplay, but the new open world lacks things to do, story is lame and the combat not as intense as before.
- Awesome, solid Halo gunplay.
- Story missions have great combat encounters.
- Grappleshot breathes new life into the series!
- Fast loads and reloads.
- Lots of autosaves.
- Sabotaging enemy bases is fun.
- Open world optional missions easily cleared.
- Storyline is not beginner friendly.
- Combat in the open world is too easy.
- Not enough story missions.
- Needs more enemy variety.
- Not enough character (other than the Master Chief and Weapon) development.
- No co-op for now.