Halo Infinite is a blend of old and new when it comes to its score. The old Marty O'Donnell classic riffs are complemented by some new riffs that are clearly heavily influenced by the beats of old, especially Halo 2. It's a very good arrangement, with some solid voice acting to boot.
Halo Infinite's visuals aren't going to blow you away, that's for sure, but from a purely artistic standpoint, it's a very pretty game. Is it next-gen enough? Probably not, but it’s not a sight for sore eyes. Far from it.
It's brilliant. There's no other word for it. From a gameplay point of view, Halo Infinite is not only at the top of its game, but one of the best first-person shooters around, from a handling perspective.
The open-world campaign is likely to prove divisive, but even beneath the open-world exterior, there's still plenty of narrative-driven and linear sections. Switching structured set pieces for emergent gameplay is certainly a risk, though.
A really good list, especially from a multiplayer perspective, with a smattering of less-than-conventional kill achievements. That said, I do wish the campaign achievements were a little more creative and less by-the-numbers.
December 06, 2021
Roughly around this time last year, Halo Infinite became meme material on the internet. Microsoft’s triple-A, flagship title, the one game that was set to launch alongside their new powerhouse, the Xbox Series X, had become a laughing stock on the internet thanks to a Brute who went onto to be named Craig. This was make or break for developer 343 Industries. After a solid start with Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians fell pretty much flat on its face – campaign-wise. In fact, if it wasn’t for the new multiplayer mode, Warzone, the game might have been dismissed outright. Here we are now, though, after a successful beta period for the multiplayer, and the mood has changed significantly. The big question ahead is: does the campaign match the lofty heights of its multiplayer portion? Is the campaign any good? The short answer is: yes, and no.
She's not Cortana… Her name is simply ‘Weapon’.
For the first time in the franchise’s history, Halo’s campaign has gone open-world. Kind of. And when we say first time, we're saying that fully acknowledging the brilliant Halo 3: ODST. Halo Infinite sees the prodigal son, Master Chief, return, this time for more than three missions. He’s all on his own, (as he probably should be), trying to stop the Banished – Halo Wars 2's Covenant faction - from repairing Installation 7, AKA Zeta Halo, and unleashing hell upon the universe. Again. This is a straight up old-skool fight between Master Chief and a familiar foe, in the form of a ragtag bunch of Grunts, Jackals, Hunters, and Elites (and a new winged beast). There isn’t a Promethean in sight, thankfully; and one thing is for certain, Halo Infinite’s story is leaps and bounds ahead of Halo 5’s. It’s coherent, it’s evocative, heck, it’s even a little moving at times, and while nowhere near as good as Halo 3, ODST, and Reach, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable affair.
What I do find quite odd, is that 343 has opted to almost start from scratch for Halo Infinite, essentially pretending that Halo 5 never happened. No explanation of what happened to the Prometheans, no mention of the huge Guardians or anything - it’s almost a clean slate for the franchise. There are a lot of question marks in terms of key story beats as well, and huge revelations nonchalantly dropped throughout the story, which we hope 343 will elaborate on at some point, otherwise it’s definitely a missed opportunity.
The more open-world format of Halo Infinite means that this is Halo like you’ve never experienced, which is both good and bad. There are times that Halo Infinite feels so much like a Far Cry clone – in terms of mechanics – that it’s almost jarring. Taking down targets, liberating outposts - it’s all incredibly generic stuff from that perspective. But the truth is, because Halo has the tools in its arsenal – the weapons, the vehicles, the gadgets – liberating outposts and the like can be incredibly fun. The open-world format actually really suits Halo’s suite of tools.
Where the new structure lets down the Halo formula is in its set pieces. That’s not to say they don’t exist, because they do, but they're few and far between now. When considering Halo is all about the set pieces usually, it’s a disappointing turn of events. A lot of Halo’s action sequences now occur organically – although there are some obviously manufactured moments. The scenarios you'll encounter here are a product of the emergent gameplay, meaning instead of you rocking across a bridge in a pre-placed Scorpion tank, this time you’ll call in a tank from a captured Forward Operating Base, or grapple and jack a patrolling Banshee.
The truth is, every aspect of the open world has its pros and cons; and how people react to them will differ from one person to the next. For instance, it’s a con that with the game being set exclusively on Zeta Halo, you do miss travelling the galaxy, visiting a whole host of really diverse locations, with Chief doing his thing – I really missed the city missions, for instance, whether that was visiting urban regions like New Alexandria, New Mombasa, and so forth. At the same time, being set in one location actually gives players a chance to explore the environment, get used to the environment, and more importantly, become attached to the environment. I do wish there were fewer 'boss' fights, although that’s been a problem with Halo for eons.
Gameplay-wise, there’s no disputing that with Infinite, Halo is in the best place it’s ever been in the entire franchise. And we’re not just talking about the minute-to-minute shooting here, which is absolutely fantastic, as always, but combined with the gadgets and new weapons, it’s simply a blast to play. Raiding bases is fun because the actual gameplay is sublime. Two of the biggest and most welcome changes, for me, come in the form of the new grappling hook (dubbed the 'grappleshot') and the way that 343 has approached ammo.
I have no issue in saying this, but the grappleshot is the best addition to the Halo franchise, possibly ever. And that’s not hyperbole either. It not only an increase in mobility where the grappleshot shines, but using it to jack vehicles and grab items is actually brilliant. And on top of that, you can use it to stagger Jackals with shields and grapple enemies themselves. It all plays into the emergent gameplay stuff we alluded to earlier, and is at the core of the experience. Honestly, pulling weapons off weapon racks while staying in cover, or using it to grab Halo’s explosive barrels, to throw at enemies, are just a couple of the non-conventional ways to use the new grappleshot. Sure, the other gadgets are great too, whether it’s the thrusters, the drop shield, or the radar beacons, but you’ll find yourself maining the grapple more often than not.
And then there’s the ammo. I recently criticised Halo when it comes to ammo, and its lack thereof, and thanks to ammo dumps for different ammo types – kinetic, shock, plasma, and hardlight – it now means you can use your favourite weapons for longer. Factor in the Grunt Mules, who drop a load of weapons when you kill them, and Halo no longer has an ammo problem. It’s also pretty ace that you can now top up Plasma Rifle ammo, and the like, from other Plasma Rifles you find on the ground, as opposed to having to pick up a new gun when that one runs out of ammo.
Where Halo Infinite well and truly excels, though, is in its multiplayer, which we’ve already waxed lyrical over recently, and it’s clear that 343 is in a state of evolution here - the studio constantly tweaking Battle Pass progression and adding more game modes and playlists on the fly. With the fantastic shooting, the new weapons and new gadgets, there’s no doubt in my mind that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is the best out there at the moment – and the best we’ve seen in quite some time. Being able to earn multiplayer cosmetics in the open-world campaign is pretty rad, too! I will reiterate again, however, that it’s a little disappointing that there aren’t more playlists available at launch – we’d love a ranked Big Team Battle, for instance – but 343 has already promised a few more before the end of the month, so there’s that. Should this have been ready for launch? You’d have to argue it should have, but the main thing is that the handcrafted maps are well balanced – but perhaps not as iconic as some of the series’ best – and the overall FPS mechanics are phenomenal. Halo’s multiplayer is well and truly back.
Excuse me, can I sink this sword into your side?
And that’s the thing with Halo Infinite - the most important thing, the shooting, is at the top of its game. The new weapons, the new ammo tweaks in the campaign, the grappleshot, everything combines to elevate Halo Infinite above all the other shooters in the shooter space. While the open-world campaign definitely has its pros and cons, there's no denying the sheer quality of the gunplay and the array of cool toys and vehicles at your disposal – it really works for the most part. Throw in the best Halo multiplayer gameplay since… well, possibly ever, and Halo Infinite is almost certain to put Microsoft’s flagship series back on the map.