I’ve waited a long time to review a new Halo game. I didn’t have this blog back when Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians came out. But ever since I made one, I’ve been champing at the bit to review Halo things.
The problem is, Halo things don’t just fall from trees. It’s been seven years since Halo 5 came out. Presumably, some of those years were taken up developing Halo Infinite.
And I spent all of those years yearning for a new Halo experience.
I’ve loved Halo for a long, long time.
I’m in no way the best Halo player out there. Far from it. In fact, you could probably count me as one of the worst players. I’m too brash in multiplayer, with no skills to back it up. I don’t bother spending time learning new tricks to make myself a better player either. I am the bane of my teammates’ existence.
But god help me, I love the games. I love the feel of them, the sound of them, the story of them, everything.
The soundtrack sends me in raptures.
I used to annoy my sister all the time, asking her to replay the campaigns with me. She got so fed up with me, my mother eventually had to step in and guilt-trip her into playing with me so I wouldn’t sulk and play alone.
My closest friends have all played Halo with me couch co-op style at some point during our friendship. Even the ones who don’t play video games.
I have more Halo books on my shelves than I do Stephen King books, and if you know how much I love Stephen King, you know that’s saying something.
So when I say I was “excited” for Halo Infinite, you’ll know that’s the understatement of the year.
This past December, Halo Infinite’s campaign released. Admittedly, it started off on the wrong foot for me because it released without a co-op option, but I kept an open mind.
And now, after having played it, I can say that Halo Infinite…
It isn’t perfect, but it is good.
And I am thoroughly okay with that.
To briefly summarize Halo’s narrative is rough. A ton of things have happened over the course of the five mainline games, six spin-offs, and the multitude of novels centered around its universe.
So I’m not even going to try to summarize everything. Rather, I’ll just let you know what you can expect from Halo Infinite’s story alone.
Halo 5 saw Cortana’s rise to power over the whole galaxy, using Forerunner technology to bring every sentient species to its knees. Master Chief and the rest of humanity have to rally what little they can muster to counterattack.
Infinite starts with the Chief and the UNSC forces interrupted in the midst of eliminating Cortana by a force of grumpy ex-Covenant known as the Banished. The leader of the Banished actually defeats Master Chief, which means six months later, Chief has to pick up the pieces of what happened while he was out of commission.
The plan to defeat Cortana worked, but the Banished now have control of Zeta Halo, one of the giant ring-shaped superweapons the Forerunners left hanging around the universe. Given the temperament of the Brute in charge of the Banished, the notion of them having such a superweapon at their disposal is terrifying.
Master Chief, along with a reluctant Pelican pilot who just wants to go home and an eager-to-please AI known as the Weapon, has to reclaim Zeta Halo inch by inch, defeat the Banished at every turn, and contend with a new foe that is lingering on the ringworld as well.
Right off the bat, you can kind of tell that Halo Infinite ignores most of the story from Halo 5: Guardians. Though it uses its predecessor’s narrative to jumpstart its plot, Infinite charts its own course when it comes to the story. Gone is the excessive amount of characters introduced in Halo 5. Infinite focuses on a smaller, core group of characters, which means the emotional journey each one takes feels more impactful.
Things are able to breathe with fewer characters. It was hard to care about Locke, Vale, Tanaka, Buck, Chief, Linda, Kelly, and Fred in Halo 5: Guardians because that’s eight people indirectly vying for attention.
In Infinite, we are happily limited to caring about Chief, the Weapon, and the Pilot. When they go through a trauma, express reservations, or crack a joke, you just feel more because they are our human connections to the world we’re exploring and the narrative we’re traversing.
Infinite also improves upon the antagonists this time around. Fuck Prometheans. The Banished are where it’s at. Damn, I have missed Brutes.
In Halo 4 and Halo 5, these Promethean warriors were your enemies, but they were basically robots. They didn’t have a “personality.”
They will get angry at Chief, taunt Chief, bum-rush him when they land in nearby drop pods.
Escharum, the leader of the Banished by the time Chief wakes up from his six-month nap, also has such a presence throughout the game. He’ll leave these long-winded messages gloating over the Chief. In a weird way, Escharum is happy the Chief survived because he wants a challenge in his life.
And it’s kind of nice to have a villain who wants you around.
That’s not to say I didn’t miss characters I was introduced to in the prior two games. Lasky is briefly mentioned in audio logs, and I found myself hungering for more information about him. I seriously wanted to know if he survived the destruction of the Infinity.
Hell, even Locke was referred to in an audio log, and I found myself wishing I knew more about what he and Osiris were up to during the events of Halo Infinite.
If you were unsatisfied with Halo 5: Guardian’s story, I think Infinite will be a balm to your soul. It feels more like a “Halo story,” if that makes sense, with less exposition and more experiences than in Halo 5.
The Open World
Many were surprised to learn that Halo Infinite would have an open-world structure to its campaign. While the series has definitely dabbled with an open world in levels like The Silent Cartographer, the games have all consisted of linear mission design.
When you’re first dropped onto Zeta Halo, there is this sense of wonder. You can see mountains in the distance, lightly touched by the rising sun, and you can feel awed at the assurance that you can in fact walk (and by walk, I mean sprint/grapple) to the top of that mountain.
Infinite encourages this sense of wonder at every turn. Fall damage is completely gone. You can shuttle up and down cliffs without having to worry about spraining the Chief’s ankle. And the addition of the Grappleshot means you can scale the tallest mountainsides with a few quick thrusts.
Sprinkled throughout the map are story objectives, upgrade locations, boss fights, unlockable FOBs, hidden audio logs, and rescue missions.
When I was in the middle of playing the game, I bemusedly asked my coworker if he thought they had cluttered the game with useless side content, like in current Assassin’s Creed titles.
He said, and I quote, “Yeah, I guess they did Ubisoft [Halo], but they did it in a classy way.”
The spacing of these missions and collectibles feels right, not too cluttered, not too far out. I never groaned to myself and thought, “Oh damn, another FOB to unlock.” I had fun opening up the map for myself.
However, I have two big complaints about the way Infinite is structured.
For one thing, while what we see of Zeta Halo feels grand and gorgeous when we first step onto its surface, it quickly becomes a bit monotonous. Gone is the variety of environments that we used to see in Halo games. There are no snowy levels, desert levels, swampy levels, or city levels.
You are either on the wooded surface of the ring or in the metallic interior. Those two environments are what you will constantly see while playing Halo Infinite, and while traversing the ring never gets tiring, the setting eventually wears out its welcome.
My second complaint deals in nostalgia.
As I said earlier, I love replaying the Halo campaigns. Every so often, I’ll still say, “You know what? I want to play Truth and Reconciliation.” And I’ll pop in Halo: CE and load up that third mission.
You can’t have that in Infinite.
The open-world format means no self-contained missions, and I kind of miss the cleanliness of being able to pick out one I like and replay it. If I want to replay a moment from Halo Infinite…I’m going to have to start the campaign from scratch.
Oh my god.
I love the way combat feels in Halo Infinite.
The physics-fun nature of it, the glory of the Grappleshot, the sheer joy of a weapons sandbox that finally feels useful again.
Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians suffered from a terrible weapons sandbox. Half of the weapons in those games didn’t feel fun to use, so you never bothered with them. Of the roughly twenty-five weapons in Halo Infinite, on the other hand, I think I’m not fond of only two.
My favorite weapons to use were the Sidekick (the new pistol that has replaced the Magnum from previous Halo games), the Shock Rifle (this zappy sniper rifle thing that just looks super cool), and the Heatwave (a total Dead Space plasma cutter rip-off, but I love it).
Fighting the different enemies on Zeta Halo is also more fun than dealing with the Wardern Eternal a gazillion times.
The Banished have such a personality. I already said this in the story section, but it’s true in the combat too. Brutes either rush you in this mad rage, or they relentlessly shoot you with weapons as they taunt you. Elites are more reserved, and you have to deal with their shields. Jackals now have a new way to hold their shields as they fire at you, making them surprisingly tough to get used to as an enemy type. And Grunts…
…they’re just adorable.
Halo Infinite has given Grunts the best bits of dialogue I’ve yet heard from them in a Halo game. They’re cowardly, they’re snarky, they shriek, they cackle. And someone needs to give that Grunt Propaganda Officer a raise.
One of the new ways Infinite places you in a combat scenario is through boss fights. In both open-world areas and in story moments, the Master Chief has to go up against some tough Banished baddies, and overall, it’s a fun and challenging experience.
That said, there were some moments that just utterly ticked me off.
I’m going to go right out and say it, I was not fond of the Escharum boss battle. Close quarters with a rampaging Brute holding a Gravity Hammer that practically one-shots you with a health bar that diminishes in millimeters?
Color me not interested.
I like tough fights, don’t get me wrong. But Escharum bordered a bit on the unfair and unfun. My boss fight with him devolved into me swinging from one side of a cramped room to another, shooting at him for two seconds, then repeating. I whittled his health down bit by bit, and I was grimacing the whole time.
I desperately missed the couch co-op element of Halo games while I was playing Infinite, not just because it’s fun to play games with friends, but because Infinite itself feels like it would reach pinnacles of greatness if you had a buddy by your side playing it with you.
It captures the wonder of the original games almost perfectly, and it maintains it for a surprising amount of time given the lack of variety in environments.
The combat has also never felt better to me. It might not be the “competitive” type of gameplay fans of Halo 5: Guardians preferred, but it feels like Halo.
Approaching encounters and enemies in Halo Infinite is different every time. I could be tackling the same objective as someone else, but we could both go about it in very different ways, which heightens the game’s replay value.
And that’s considering that it may be harder to replay Halo Infinite because that means starting from the very beginning.
But I can definitely say it will be worth it.
I rate Halo Infinite a joy-to-play-for-a-long-time-Halo-fan-and-a-massive-relief-like-I-swear-a-weight-has-dropped-from-my-shoulders-faster-than-a-Scorpion-tank-drops-on-an-unsuspecting-ODST.