It’s been seven years since we last fought as the Master Chief (partially) in a Halo game and a lot was riding on 343 Industries to give us the game that we’d been waiting a long time for, especially considering their stewardship of the franchise had been questioned on occasion. My thoughts so far with Halo Infinite though are that they might have just delivered their best game.
Note: there’ll be a couple of references to Halo: Combat Evolved (the original Halo game) as it seemed like a good baseline for comparison but the game has also been touted as a spiritual successor too so it works in that respect as well.
Halo Infinite opens at an interesting point in the narrative with the UNSC ship Infinity under heavy attack from a breakaway faction of the Covenant known as the Banished. It’s down to the final moments where we see the Master Chief holding out until he is eventually defeated. However he survives and it’s from that point the game takes off as you have to effectively regroup from the loss and take back Zeta Halo which the battle was fought above. More of the narrative can be drawn from audio logs found during gameplay but it’s not completely necessary… you know exactly what you’re doing. The most important thing to note is that the game avoids the stumble of Halo 5 Guardians and has a laser like focus on the Master Chief’s story and the player being able to experience it. There are some really great support characters (as seen in trailers) who help build and reinforce the Chief’s character and it works really well here.
Initially the game introduces you to the basics of Halo combat via an early focus on levels with tight corridors and rooms that get you accustomed to the abilities of the Master Chief. It compares well to the Truth and Reconciliation level of Halo CE (where you rescue Captain Keyes) but with WAY less repetition in the path you travel. The confined space is a smart way to get players used to the concept of having guns, grenades and melee being key to playing well. Once you hit the ground though it takes a massive shift and literally opens up the world to you. There’s been some comparisons made to Far Cry in that you have this big world to travel across with optional side missions but I think I agree with a Digital Foundry assessment in that it leans more into the formula of past games, such as the self referential Halo level from CE, which provide the classic sandbox mechanics across multiple objectives in a large area. What Halo Infinite does is take that concept and dial it up to 11 with an even larger map that gives you enough space to pick what objectives to pursue and when to tackle the mission goals.
I’m so glad to find just how well the controls feel “right” in the game. If you’re a long time fan you’ll be at home with how it’s come together. If anything the time spent in multiplayer in advance of the campaign has done wonders for me getting comfortable with the game systems and many of the weapons. And it’s helped reinforce my like for the burst fire Battle Rifle as I take down many a Banished foe from range. The equipment from multiplayer such as the grappleshot (hook) is available here in the campaign but are earned through progress and gain useful upgrades, some of which are integral to overcoming foes more easily. The threat sensor especially comes in very handy against enemies using active camoflauge but you have to get used to quickly switching between equipment using the directional pad (on controller) which can take some getting used to. Having the grappleshot available from the start is a massive shift in how you approach the environment as there is little you can’t access and the Master Chief’s ability to traverse it – no fall damage is a huge bonus – might be unmatched in anything I’ve played in a long time. In terms of difficulty I’d say it’s balanced well enough to compare to previous games. If you’ve played games in the series before I’d still recommend playing at Heroic difficulty for a fair challenge.
Visually the game totally sells that it is the best looking game in the series to date with some impressive vistas and plenty of detail in both the characters and the environment. The biggest difference in how the map is constructed is made pretty clear with huge sections of the Halo ring broken apart, leaving areas working as floating islands with plenty of cliff edges that drop off into nothingness. Of course it’s part of the game’s design to restrict certain areas from eager players but visually it pretty clear to players where you can and can’t go. In the 343 era of Halo, there’s no doubt that the audio has been given a lot of love and this might be the best yet with a soundtrack that includes both classic and new themes and sound effects that pack a punch. When you use the sniper rifle the boom it creates when firing helps sell that it’s a powerful weapon. The voice work is great and the sheer variety of incidental chatter means that you are always bound to hear something new during play. The banter from Grunts, Halo‘s cannon fodder enemies, never gets old.
There’s no doubt that the year long delay to polish the game paid off handsomely. The timing couldn’t have been better being launched against shooters Call of Duty Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 that are both looked on as weaker entries of their respective franchises. It’s been a great opportunity to win over new fans or bring back old ones and the game does well in achieving that. Admittedly it’s not feature complete and is missing its co-op mode (due soon) but that feels like a minor nitpick considering how good the game is right now. I for one am glad to see Halo Infinite reminding players that the old champ has still got enough spark to take it up to the big boys in this new generation. Welcome back. 🙂
Halo Infinite is out now for PC and Xbox. Played on an Xbox Series X via Game Pass.