Halo has always been such an important FPS. From its reveal and the launch of the original Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved, now over 20 years ago, it has always had a special place with fans. Since Halo 4 the plot of Master Chief’s continued adventure has been a bit all over the place and one of the main points of contention from fans. With Halo Infinite’s year-long delay, missing the launch of the Xbox Series X, how has Halo Infinite managed to steady the plot and set a course for the future of Halo?
Halo Infinite begins many months after Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Wars 2. The players on the board are the UNSC, heading to Zeta Halo to try to contain Cortana, the Banished who are seeking out the ring for its destructive capabilities, and the mysterious new Harbinger. Each coming to Zeta Halo for different purposes it’s their clash, or potential alliances, that fuel the conflict and the main plot of Halo Infinite. While it can seem complicated, it gives players a known ally, a known enemy, and a completely unknown equation. With the Halo universe doubling down on expanded universe content you might need to do some reading to learn who the Banished are too.
You’re immediately dropped into a full attack from the Banished Forces where Master Chief is completely defeated, something not common in the Halo franchise. Being rendered helpless he’s dumped out of the airlock by the Banished and left to float for months. After being rescued by The Pilot and revived from stasis Master Chief is brought up to speed on how bad the situation is. The Banished have a firm foothold on Zeta Halo and that there’s been no word about the fate of Cortana or The Weapon, an AI designed to capture her.
These new characters, The Pilot and The Weapon, are an excellent addition as their presence does so much to add depth to Master Chief’s character. Through The Pilot, an everyman character who is scared and just wants to go home, Master Chief shows not only his ability to be a strong protector but also creates a relatable link reflecting on his own concerns and failures. It’s a side of Chief’s humanity that doesn’t often get shown. In The Weapon, a fresh and bubbly smart AI, we get a fresh set of eyes on the heroic Master Chief. So often we know of his reputation from screaming grunts or proud marines, it’s rare that someone doesn’t know him. The Weapon and her interactions with Chief show that he is approachable, not to mention how he needs an AI with him with the ability to open doors in ancient alien structures for him.
Halo 5: Guardians left Master Chief, Cortana, and the story of Halo in a very confusing and overly complicated space. Cortana has determined that she and the rest of the smart AI will run the universe and even with all of Master Chief’s plot armor it would be difficult to take down such an immense threat. Halo Infinite doesn’t spend too much time going over any of these large story points instead opting to focus on the future. Introducing a new enemy, a new Halo ring, and a new secret does a lot to distract from any lingering Halo 5: Guardians questions.
Halo Infinite doesn’t feel like it’s focused on wrapping up the Reclaimer Saga, the name given to the collection of Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians, and Halo Infinite. Halo Infinite spends more of its time focusing on developing a new foundation, and teasing the future of what is next for the Halo franchise. That is not to say that Halo Infinite doesn’t answer these questions, those answers are few and far between new plot points. With how little interest I did have at the end of Halo 5: Guardians’ story, the willingness to move past it did have me a lot more interested in Halo Infinite‘s story.
While the basic overview of the story “Master Chief kills thousands as he seeks to stop the activation of a Halo ring” has been done before, the approach that Halo Infinite takes with its new open-world format is incredible. The game begins like a linear Halo game, but before too long you’re suddenly in the vast open worlds of Zeta Halo. Beelining through the story there are over a dozen truly Halo-like levels. Some as multi-part objectives in the overworld, and others where you make your way through forerunner or banished structures. It was nice that while an open-world format was added, the classic Halo experience is still left complete.
As I played through this new open-world Halo experience I couldn’t help but think about and draw parallels to God of War (2018). How it departed from the blueprints of previous games and was all the better for it. While Halo might not have explicitly needed to change the formula this new direction for Halo has really worked well. It certainly wasn’t as large a leap as the one God of War (2018) took. This new approach further develops the world and offers players a chance to participate in smaller skirmishes along the ring’s surface.
There’s also plenty to do in the overworld. Forward Operating Bases serve as quick travel points and also reveal the locations of collectibles on your map, Banished Outposts as bases with their own series of objectives to complete as you seek to cripple Banished operations on the ring, and High-Value Targets are mini-boss like Banished that you need to track down. All these activities serve to expand your influence and arsenal on the ring. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see less Banished around, but the weapons and vehicles you have access to will grow.
There’s a really good balance between how large the world is, and how much there is to get done in it. At no point does reaching a new region feel like you’ve had hundreds of things added to your to-do list, but there’s enough to keep you entertained and invested. On your way to one objective, you might happen to walk by two or three so it’s easy to check off a number of boxes along the way. Chief’s increased movement with abilities like the thruster and grapple shot make getting across this overworld an enjoyable experience too. You can always spawn in a vehicle but with how dense some of the terrains are, you’ll find yourself getting stuck on rocks more than coasting across the landscapes.
The best part about Halo Infinite is just how good the game feels. Halo Infinite continues the trend of meshing traditional gameplay elements, like your shield and recently added sprinting, with new gameplay mechanics like the grapple shot. For something as simple as a grapple line the amount of ways 343 has been able to integrate it into movement and combat is astounding. Some basic uses of the grapple line include increasing the Chief’s traversal speed, scaling tall structures, knocking enemy shields away, and picking up weapons. Upgraded it can stun enemies, grapple punch, and even create a stunning shockwave. The usefulness immediately makes it an integral part of your strategy when approaching any situation. With so much going on with the Grappleshot the other upgrades, an enemy radar, thrusters, and a drop shield aren’t quite as versatile but still certainly have their own situations to shine.
Returning guns mostly feel good, though I’ve had mixed feelings about the Needler. Between the slow speed of the needles never finding their targets, and its inability to work at longer range always made it my least exciting weapon to come across. There are plenty of new guns available to players that offer new opportunities for taking out covenant forces. The Shock Rifle is a particular standout, showing off the electric ammo type. You can stun and arc electricity to additional enemies. With the ability to restock on your favorite weaponry Halo Infinite is extremely generous with how many options it provides across missions. Being so spoiled for choice allows you to approach any situation with freedom. Do you want to show up to a Banished outpost with snipers and pick away all your enemies without them knowing where you are or call in a Scorpion to assert dominance?
With everything going on it’s also impossible to miss just how fantastic the game looks. Looking out over the lush terrain of Zeta Halo you’re treated to beautiful tall trees and mountainous terrain. As well as the dotted man-made structures where the ring has broken you also see cold steel and machinery an ever-present reminder you’re on a ringworld in space. The more impressive set pieces are found deep in the Halo as large forerunner rooms stretch seemingly infinitely. There were more than a few moments that I stopped to take in such scenery.
Multiplayer for Halo Infinite is a lot of fun but is missing a number of key features. Launching earlier last month as a free-to-play portion of the complete package you can immediately hop into multiplayer matches with or against friends. Halo Infinite has continued to implement design choices that show the continued push and commitment to creating a competitive scene. It’s good to see that 343 doesn’t just want people to have fun, but wants to create the kind of polished multiplayer experience that people want to compete in.
As previously stated the gunplay feels good and knowledge of the map and weaponry is integral to your success. While some of the game modes might have slightly different names the contents of them should be familiar to players, Tactical is the new name for Swat and some other changes. One interesting omission from multiplayer currently is the lack of separation for different queues. There’s no way to go in with the goal to only play objective game modes, you need to chance upon it. The multiplayer is technically in beta, and due to fan appeal/outrage, we do know that these are things that are looking to be added. The situation is very reminiscent of how the multiplayer included in Halo: Master Chief Collection was also met with quality concerns. Whether they’ll be able to improve upon this going forward will be exciting to see.
Halo Infinite manages to get a lot done over the course of its playtime. It does handwave away some of the elements of Halo 5 but uses it as a chance to wipe the slate clean and prepare for the story going forward. It doesn’t feel as if there’s as much a start, middle, and end to the story, just an “until next time.” The format of the game has shifted from entirely linear levels to a wide-open world. It manages to so perfectly balance the size and density of the world that it never feels like “too much.” Most importantly Halo Infinite nails the gunplay and offers up a variety of new gameplay options so that returning players will have something they remember enjoying as well as a new mechanic to master. It may be that Halo Infinite was delayed for a year but this end product is something that all Halo fans can look forward to.
TechRaptor reviewed Halo Infinite on Xbox Series X using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.