Halo Infinite feels like a breath of fresh air. For once in the series’ lifespan, players can explore an open world while still experiencing the thrill of what makes Master Chief’s command of the Spartans so memorable and important. It’s a bold move for a game that hopes to be the “spiritual reboot” for the legendary series and it lays the groundwork for what could be some great games down the road. This works – to an extent – and gives you a game that feels familiar but new at the same time.
- Grappleshot makes movement so much fun;
- Strong cast and powerful soundtrack make for an intriguing campaign;
- Multiplayer feels familiar but fresh enough.
- Open-world elements seem limited;
- Multiplayer Battle Pass is more of a chore than a feature;
- Campaign areas begin to look the same over time.
Welcome Back to Zeta Halo
One of the joys of its open-world setting is that you instantly feel like you have more freedom to play through the campaign at your own pace and even to explore your surroundings how you want. You are no longer limited to just a linear path nor will you feel cooped up in endless corridors until the next cutscene. Instead, the campaign mixes areas above ground with underground locations, bases, and substations to mix up how your adventure plays out.
The first hour or so of your game takes place within one of these indoor locations, but as soon as the doors open and you see the familiar and vast world of Zeta Halo before your eyes, you will be filled with a sense of awe. Halo Infinite has beautiful, sprawling vistas and the way the light shines and reflects off distant Forerunner ruins makes for an captivating introduction to what lies ahead. That ring in the distance? You can touch it.
To further add to how freeing the campaign feels, Master Chief now carries with him a handy-dandy Grappleshot that propels him wherever it makes contact. This makes for some easy zipping from one surface to the next and becomes an invaluable tool when traversing the mountainous and highly vertical landscape. It’s not Halo: Just Cause, but it does give your movement an refreshing boost in speed and makes the Chief feel just more dexterous. The map gradually opens up more areas to explore as you progress through the campaign, so you can’t just shoot your way around the whole world right away even if you try – and believe me, tried I have.
Open World Elements
Your main objective will be highlighted throughout the map, of course, but there are various other side missions you can accomplish if you stray from the beaten path. Some of these include freeing captive Marines or expunging forward operating bases, or FOBs, from enemies to unlock fast travel points. It wouldn’t be a Halo game without skulls, and so these, as well as Spartan cores that let you upgrade your equipment, also litter the map waiting for you to find them. Completing these side missions also grants you valor points which essentially act like experience to unlock weapons, vehicles, and other on-demand gear when you need it.
This format sounds a lot like that of any garden-variety open world game, but the difference is that this genre is entirely new for the Halo series, so its foundation is relatively soft right now. Sure, it’s great to take a break from the main mission, but a lot of these side jobs are just gunfights, or require you to locate a battery to turn something on, shut off power to a gate, or blow some stuff up. And because there are so few other people or even enemies that talk to you, areas you visit don’t really add much to the experience like it would in a bigger, open-world game like Far Cry or Grand Theft Auto. Your map also isn’t that huge, so don’t expect hours of wandering to find everything – whether that’s good or bad. Don’t expect that level of involvement because that’s not what Infinite is about.
That’s all well and good, but what also hurts the freeing nature of the game are also the similarities between how all areas all look. Your first glimpse of what’s to come may have been mesmerizing, but after ten hours of the same, dark underground bases, the same Forerunner ruin designs, and more of the same rocky mountains to hook to, it all will feel repetitive. Compared to the rich landscapes of previous Halo games, Infinite feels a bit of a step back, and that’s a shame because of how new it tries to make you feel.
A Story of Humanity
Because it has been six years since the last Halo game, it would have been a nice addition for the game to recap some of the events that have transpired so far, but instead, newcomers and even fans will need to piece these things together as they play. The game does its best to put a bow on the events of Halo 5 while also setting up a new conflict for future games. If you didn’t play the previous entries, you will most likely feel lost; if you did, you will feel like the Banished are just red-looking Covenant soldiers with a new leader who still wants the Chief dead.
And while the plot may focus on fighting the Banished while foiling Cortana’s plans to subjugate the galaxy, at its core is a story about Master Chief’s humanity. His soul has been shattered a little, and you can tell how layered a character he is with each interaction he has with his new AI companion, Weapon, and with the pilot who saves his life at the start of the game. The three have unique personalities which interact in an engaging way, especially since their relationship fluctuates throughout the course of the campaign.
You can also hear levels of emotion in their voices, and considering Steve Downes has mastered being the Chief, you won’t be disappointed by how raw he sounds at times. Jen Taylor’s naive-sounding, yet inquisitive and optimistic Weapon clashes with a sterner Chief, but also helps make him feel and sound more human, more vulnerable even. On the other hand, the pilot, with his goal of returning home, adds an everyman perspective to Halo’s campaign. The three make for a perfect crew you can’t help but love.
The powerful soundtrack featuring the familiar choir also adds a level of importance to your team’s mission and sounds amazing each time it plays.
Combat also feels more responsive overall and the various weapons you can use all feel unique. You will most likely want to use every weapon at least once just to find a favorite, but some fights against the Banished also force you to be strategic in how you play. The beauty of its open-world landscape also gives you a bigger playground to fight in, run, and hide.
The Grappleshot is easily the best tool when fighting enemies as it also lets you propel into them and bash them with melee attacks, but you can also equip other items as you play, including a shield, thrusters, and enemy locator. It’s cumbersome to have to switch out to them mid-battle, but they can offer some tactical advantage depending on the situation.
Personally, I couldn’t get enough of my Grappleshot, and after a few upgrades I used it mainly to paralyze enemies and take them down from a distance. Boss fights happen often, and while they all require the same strategy to defeat, their different environments provide unique ways to take them on. Do you shoot from afar and duck for cover whenever your shields are low, or do you grapple-thrust into them and aim for the head before punching them and zipping away again? The latter sounds about right.
Back in the day, the name Halo was synonymous with its multiplayer. I still have the announcer’s “Lost the Lead” grained into my brain from all the years of hearing it at LAN parties and conventions. It’s safe to say that pretty much the same level of excitement returns in Halo Infinite, with the exception that everything is now updated and feels more polished. The same fluidity felt in campaign translates beautifully to frantic online matches and your Grappleshot still comes in handy if you have it equipped.
It has some shaky moments, but Halo Infinite ditches the numbered installments and offers us a familiar, yet fresh take on the series. Its open-world setting serves as a foundation for what’s to come, and its story plants the seeds of future conflicts that will need resolution. It has elements in its campaign and online modes that for sure could be refined, but its emotional evolution, combat fluidity, and ever-addictive multiplayer are sure to please veterans and newcomers alike.
Infinite yet again proves that the series excels at creating sandbox-like experiences that make you want to get in on another match for hours on end. Whether it’s a 4x4 match or a bigger 12x12 battle, each map has been designed to offer various levels of verticality and enough room to prevent combat from stagnation. Whether you’re playing on foot, on a Warthog, or trying to hijack someone’s Mongoose, its modes make you feel like you are a vital part of the team – even if you’re on the losing side.
If you value progression in your online multiplayer, Infinite’s Battle Pass will surely disappoint you: it leads to some less rewarding unlockables and forces you to complete daily or weekly challenges that you may not be interested in. And if you decide to work your way through these trials, the game may not give you the mode you need to actually complete these challenges forcing you to waste time. However, you can always ignore them and simply play matches for the sake of enjoying them. For a game that hopes to reboot the series, its Battle Pass serves as one way to keep players coming back for another round, but, to some extent, it can also alienate those who yearn for the good old days of Halo.
It has some shaky moments, but Halo Infinite ditches the numbered installments and offers us a familiar, yet fresh take on the series. Its open-world setting serves as a foundation for what’s to come, and its story plants the seeds of future conflicts that will need resolution.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
Overall, Halo Infinite has elements in its campaign and online modes that for sure could be refined, but its emotional evolutions, combat fluidity, and ever-addictive multiplayer are sure to please veterans and newcomers alike.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com