Image credit The Verge
Back in November 2001, Micorosft released their first console, the Xbox, and alongside it was a little game called Halo. Twenty years and a billion dollars, later Halo is now a gaming juggernaut, but ever since the developers changed from Bungie to 343 Industries, the series has been on the decline with many fans since 343’s first game Halo 4. While it had a good campaign, it had some questionable design choices for the multiplayer. Then for Halo 5, while its multiplayer was a step in the right direction, its campaign was easily the worst of the franchise. Six years after the release of Halo 5 now comes its sequel Halo Infinite, a game that promises to be a return to form and bring some big innovations to the franchise. Does Halo Infinite bring back the spark that has been missing from 343’s Halo games or has 343 continued to fail to meet the heights of Bungie’s Halo games?
Picking up just a year after the events of Halo 5, Master Chief and the USNC find themselves in the middle of a war between the USNC and the Banish over the Zeta Halo Ring. But before the game even begins, the Banish has completely defeated the USNC during the middle with few survivors. Now just six months after the battle, a lone pilot finds the Master Chief and reawakens him; a newly reawakened Chief picks up the battle in order to defeat and find what they are looking for on Zeta Halo. And, of course, find where Cortana has come after she had begun her AI uprising at the end of Halo 5.
Now, the big change to Halo Infinite’s campaign is Zeta Halo, which is an entire open world that the player can explore. Outside of the main missions, there are a number of side activities you can do such as rescue UNSC soldiers, take back UNSC bases, make assaults on Banish bases, and go up against powerful Banish leaders. There are even various collectibles you can find such as audio logs which fill the gaps between the end of Halo 5 and the start of Halo Infinite, the classic Halo skulls which can have some fun gameplay effects, and cosmetics for the multiplayer. The structure of the open world has you exploring and doing these side activities, but if you focus on the main story, you will be going through more linear levels within Zeta Halo’s structures.
While the open world is an interesting idea, it falls flat in a few areas that made me feel it wasn’t worth it. A big example is the biodiversity of the game’s levels, the open world itself is this lush green forest that invokes some of the same feelings Halo 1’s second level did. But you lack a lot of the interesting locations the series has taken you in the past, for example when it comes to Halo 1’s levels it had you going through human spaceships, alien ships, snow levels, beach levels, and even a swampy forest. A lot of these levels had their atmosphere and all felt different from each other. Even in the more linear levels, they just have you go through these grey corridors throughout almost all of them. To top this off there are no cool vehicle sections like the warthog run at the end of Halo 1 or the dog fight in space halfway through Halo Reach. These were some of the most memorable parts of past Halo games, but there is only really one of them in Halo Infinite and if you play on heroic difficulty as I did, it makes using the vehicle the harder option due to how fragile they are in Infinite. While I did have some fun with Halo Infinite’s campaign due to its fun combat and challenging AI (especially on heroic), the open-world for me got old fast and its level design is easily some of the most boring levels in the series. Though it should also be noted that despite being a staple of the series since the first Halo, currently there is no campaign co-op and won’t be added until some time in summer 2022. With the addition of campaign co-op though, I can see Halo Infinite’s open-world at least be more fun with a friend, but for now, it’s kinda just average for me.
As for the competitive multiplayer Halo Infinite easily gives us the franchise’s most enjoyable multiplayer since the days of Halo 3 and Halo Reach. They brought back Halo 3’s equipment and this time they are a lot more useful. A favorite of mine is the grappling hook, which is fun to grapple to another player and just go for the classic one-shot melee attack in the back. The map design is also really good, a massive step up from Halo 5’s multiplayer maps which always felt kinda unremarkable to me. The weapons are also a lot of fun, you have classics like the assault rifle, the battle rifle, the needler, and the plasma pistol. Though thankfully there isn’t any gun that is too powerful, there are some guns that should be given some buffs like the plasma pistol, the commando, and especially the pulse carbine. Speaking of things that should also get a buff through patches, I think the vehicles, especially the flying ones need to be a tad bit more durable as they feel incredibly fragile and a number of guns can take them out in just a few hits.
With the launch of Halo Infinite, 343 has decided to make the multiplayer free to play. This has changed how the game is monetized and how cosmetic armor unlocks work. Like a lot of multiplayer games these days, Halo Infinite has a battle pass, which basically locks most of the unlocks behind a paywall for ten dollars. The battle pass is 100 levels and you will need to pay if you want most of its unlocks, but thankfully 343 has stated that battle passes will never expire and you can still work on season 1’s battle pass while in the middle of, say, season 3. Though there are cosmetics you can buy in the store and while they are often overpriced, 343 has said they are listening and looking into making them affordable.
In short, Halo Infinite is a mixed bag, the campaign does have its moments but is lacking in a lot of areas and its open world is something that can get old pretty fast. The same goes for the story which while has some intriguing moments, feels overall kinda boring, and the events you hear in the audio logs paint a picture where the events leading up to Infinite were more interesting than the actual story. The multiplayer, though, is a blast but lacks a lot of content right now including fan-favorite modes like infection, griffball, and assault. Even some polish issues like big team battle matchmaking being broken for weeks as of the writing of this review. But that said, I did enjoy Halo Infinite enough to finish both the campaign and get to level 100 in the battle pass, and if you are subscribed to Xbox Gamepass, you can play the entire campaign and the multiplayer is free to play period regardless if you buy the game or subscribe to Gamepass. So while I don’t think Halo Infinite is worth 60 dollars, I do think it is worth giving a shot if you have a game pass or are interested in a new free-to-play multiplayer game. Halo Infinite is for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.