There are only a few games when released demand attention: a pause in your backlog, some time off from a multiplayer game. One of those games is the Halo series, the story of humanity’s struggles in the stars, mysterious rings, and one genetically engineered warfare in the middle of it all.
After nearly five years, a delay, a myriad of memes giving birth to the now legendary “Craig”, 343’s follow-up to Halo 5 is here. Halo Infinite is both a sequel to its predecessor, but also what at times feels like a soft reboot of the storyline. Since 343 Industries took the mantle of Halo from Bungie, many including myself felt that the studio still needed to find the soul that is synonymous with Halo.
After two entries into the series, I am more than happy to say that not only has 343 Industries found Halo’s soul, but fundamentally improved it in ways I was not expecting.
This is a new story, a more personal one. This is Halo Infinite.
Blood and Family
The Halo saga has always been about high-stakes, big characters (and explosions), and Master Chiefs’ conflict against the many extraterrestrial (and terrestrial) threats that come his way. We’ve seen his conflict, but we’ve never seen him truly struggle, something Halo Infinite introduces right away.
The opening moments of the Halo Infinite campaign show the UNSC forces being crippled by the Banished, a faction of the Covenant introduced in Halo Wars 2 (and frankly a bit confusing introduced in Infinite). While we’ve been more than used to seeing humanity’s forces being decimated, it wasn’t until I saw Master Chief being handled like a stale piece of bread, repeatedly slammed on the countertop, that I realized how vulnerable humanity is in this universe.
While it’s not the first time we’ve seen humanity struggle, having been exposed to the tragic story of Halo Reach, it’s the first time we’ve seen a character who’s expected to overcome every odd and challenges before them.
Loss and failure are a huge part of Master Chief’s narrative arc and an absolutely intriguing and fascinating glimpse into a character that is shedding their “strong, silent type” shell.
With loss and failure, the inclusion of two new supporting characters to Master Chief also introduced the contrasting themes of family and perseverance. The pelican pilot and a brand new AI character aptly titled “The Weapon” have given us two fantastic characters since Cortana and the Arbiter. Unlike the latter, both of these new characters feel more human and relatable.
The Pilot, Echo 216, is simply that: a pilot. Not a soldier, an ODST, or a Spartan, but a survivor of the massacre prior to the beginning of this story: someone who just wants to survive. The introduction of Echo 216 creates such an effective grounding of Chief’s character.
All of this is accomplished by a fantastic new approach to the narrative which feels very similar to the recent God of War with long-take scenes and a more somber, human narrative. Even with Master Chief’s helmet on at all times, the narrative designers have done an exemplary job using body language, pacing, and inflection in his voice to portray a character struggling silently with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
While the inter-personal storyline is well fleshed out, the overall story arc of the mystery of the ring and a brand new threat feels very by the numbers. This is where the story becomes a pseudo reboot, but that’s something I rather have players discover.
But that’s not the star here, the real star is Chief’s conflict within and his conflict with the leader of the Banished, Escharum, who was lovingly portrayed giving a fantastic performance brimming with gravitas (and a gravity hammer).
Brave New World
Halo Infinite’s story unfolds in a brand new setting and game-design approach. The game sheds the linear structure for an open world with intriguing results. But before getting into that, let’s get one thing out of the way: I appreciate 343 Industries so much for taking an extra year to finalize the visuals of the game. Halo Infinite is a drop-dead gorgeous game.
During the first reveal of Halo Infinite’s gameplay, the game was criticized for its lackluster visual fidelity which also of course birthed the Craig meme. Infinite was then delayed by a year, and the visuals were significantly updated. The world of Zeta Halo, the location of the game, is a beautiful, sprawling landscape filled with mountains and plains dotted with alien structures, animals running across the world, and some of the best lighting I’ve ever seen.
Infinite’s open-world on top of being gorgeous is also a ton of fun to explore. Having access to FOB sites which also act as safe-travel points give you access to weapons and vehicles that are earned through completing campaign missions, side-missions like freeing fellow UNSC soldiers and eliminating Banished special targets, and liberating Banished fortresses that are reminiscent of the Far Cry forts, albeit, a bit better.
The world of Infinite is gorgeous and vast with one glaring issue: there aren’t any biomes. Halo is synonymous with its variety to its sandboxes: snowy landscapes, vast deserts, crumbling cities, and the like. In Infinite, we’re introduced to just one biome, beautiful yes but it just feels like such a missed opportunity to have some varying landscapes in such a massive world.
While I did have an issue with that, it didn’t take away from just how fun it was to explore, I just hope the sequel adds a bit more exploration prompts and side-missions and some variety in its landscape.
With Halo going more of an open-world format, my worry was if it could keep up with its predecessors in terms of moment-to-moment gameplay. It appears 343 Industries came at this problem with a myriad of great additions and changes to the formula including a grappling hook that pulled itself right into my heart.
Before I break down some neat changes to the gameplay systems, I just want to talk about the grapple hook. The item itself is not revolutionary with many games having had them, but Infinite’s application of the item is easily one of the best. You could drive or fly around, OR you can use a fully upgraded grapple hook to strike absolute fear into the heart of all Banished as you swing around like a murderous Spider-Man hell-bent to find out who killed Uncle Ben.
Halo Infinite on top of the grapple hook includes a whole myriad of new abilities that can be switched between including a thruster, shield-wall, a radar ping, shield upgrades, etc. This is all managed through a fantastic new in-game menu where you can apply points afforded by “Spartan Cores” found around the world. Word of advice? Fully upgrade your grapple hook, you’re welcome.
With ability management, the game also features a fantastic in-game map, a lore page, and a section to manage High-Value Target assassination missions which reward you with unique weapon variants.
Speaking of weapons, Chief’s new set of arsenal features some fantastic weapons and some bizarre choices like the Plasma Rifle, the Ravager which is only decent in the campaign, and the terrible replacement of the DMR from Reach. You know what is surprising? The Sentinel beam has been completely overhauled and is an absolute terror especially when you find the special variant from an assassination mission.
The weapons in unison with the new abilities and the bread and butter of grenades make for the most exciting Halo in years.
Once you roll credits on the campaign, it’s time to take your experience and knowledge of how the game works online. This would normally be the case except that 343 Industries dropped Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, which is now free to play, a month before the launch of the campaign.
Yes, Halo Infinite is now a F2P multiplayer with impressive results and a couple of glaring issues that the community has been quite vocal about. But before we get to that, let’s get something out in the open: Halo Infinite multiplayer is the best playing F2P shooter on the market. I would even say it’s better than the latest Call of Duty and…unfortunately the latest Battlefield as well. It’s just so much.
While it is fun, it does feel a bit barebones as the developers are slowly adding multiplayer features and playlists back into the game. For many players, leveling continues to be a big issue. In Halo Infinite, you can only level up by completing challenges not simply by playing.
I could (and have had) matches where I was top of the team with 20+ kills but I didn’t level up my battle pass because I didn’t get 3 kills with a pistol. While the developers have made daily challenges easier and more rewarding, for most of the community this is a sore spot.
For me? I could care less: it’s Halo, after all, a game that’s never really been about progression and more about just messing around with your friends or playing ranked matched (which is available). What I do have an issue with, is the pricing structure for the store items.
Halo Infinite like most F2P shooters features a cosmetic store where you can buy skins, colors, and more. It’s unfortunate then that the pricing feels a bit unbalanced. An armor bundle that comes with a new helmet, a color change, and an emblem can set you back $20 (Canadian) which seems…a bit much. 343 Industries has already stated that they are working towards store adjustments, but it can still be a bit jarring even with this knowledge.
Despite some murky waters with the price structuring, when it comes down to gameplay, this is the most fun Halo has ever been. Now we just need co-op and forge to release.
A New Saga
Halo Infinite is both a soft reboot of the storyline, but also a return to the grace of what makes Halo so special. It’s a combination of grandeur, sprawling landscapes, exciting combat, and hilarity with friend and foe online. What 343 Industries has injected here, is a great start to an open-world adaption, and a more human narrative that fleshes out characters in ways we haven’t seen in the series.
343 Industries took on a gargantuan undertaking of taking the reigns of Halo from Bungie, and after two games with mixed results, has created one of my favorite Halo games of all time: Halo Infinite is an exemplary example of how to effectively evolve a series in new exciting ways even with a few fumbles along the way.
I cannot wait to see where this story goes: not just its overarching “end-of-the-world” story, but the story of a soldier who’s suffered so much loss and still tries his best to preserve and move forward.
This game was reviewed on an RTX 3070, with an i7-10700K processor and 16GB or RAM output to a 21:9 monitor.
- Sprawling, beautiful open-world
- The best Halo gameplay in years
- A more personal, human narrative
- Lack of biome variety
- Overall narrative needs more work
- Multiplayer store prices need adjustment