Halo Infinite Review

For me, ever since 343i took the reins of the Halo franchise the series has lost that spark that made it all but essential play. While the campaign in Halo 4 was decent, it fell a long way short of the fun and chaos of the original trilogy, and the less said about Guardians solo effort to better. Multiplayer wise, those sentiments could be reversed per game, but no matter the game and mode, there was always something missing. We’ll discuss the Multiplayer of Infinite in a separate article later on, but having beaten the campaign this past week I feel confident in saying that not only is this 343i’s best effort yet, but it does a damn fine job of remembering what made Halo special in the first place.

That is to say, Halo Infinite feels like a true Halo game through and though. There are more modern elements for sure, but the core feel of the gameplay is the best the series has been since Halo 3. The three pillars essential to the older games – Guns, Grenades, and Melee – feel spot on, and Infinite’s equipment additions are probably the best implemented yet, even better than their introduction in Halo 3. Movement is fast and fluid, and gunfights are hectic, weighty, and full of surprises in the way only Halo can do. Enemies duck and weave behind cover, flank us, and even lob smaller grunts holding grenades at us . Weapon impact is super satisfying, with shields crackling and bursting with a palpable sense of energy and damage. An errant grenade might just tip the scales in our favour, or it might just fuck it all up as we detonate an unseen explosive barrel that careens right for us. And when a battle is all said and done, the carnage left strewn about the place is ripe for looting and weapon swapping before we move onto the next. The combat was one of the key selling points in the original Xbox launch title for good reason, and for the first time 343i have nailed that feeling perfectly.

They’ve also taken great pains it seems to improve in ways that bring Infinite more in line with today’s standards. An area wide scan is available at a button press letting us see all the available pickups around us easily, even those hidden under bodies or behind walls. Sprint, as in Guardians, is a given now which helps keep up the pace, and mantling lets us traverse more of Zeta Halo far easier than we’d have otherwise gotten. All weapons can be zoomed in by holding the trigger, but crucially this appears to be a mostly aesthetic thing in terms of accuracy or damage. Hip firing the assault rifle is just as effective, but the zoom can help fine tune our aim that little bit. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, but the effectiveness of 343i’s improvements here makes it feel as though Halo has always had them, and I can’t applaud them enough for their implementation.

The core gameplay is solid then, mixing new and old to a fantastic degree, but clearly the biggest change players will notice going into Infinite is the new open world approach. Older Halo’s had the feel of a wide open play space but were really just large corridors with occasional pockets of openness. Zeta Halo is, for all intents and purposes, ours to explore. Some may be slightly wary of this approach, with others likening it to Far Cry based on the preview coverage. I’m happy to report though that the open world here is neither too large nor filled with a ton of busy body shit to do. The section of Zeta Halo we’re on still takes time to get across but with a Mongoose or Ghost the time just flies by. That’s not to mention the side activities that are here all work to progress the story and player in some way. The main missions are easily noted, but in between are Forward Operating Base’s to liberate. These work almost like Ubisoft Towers in that they reveal nearby missions or collectibles, but they don’t then litter the map with ten ton of icons to wade through. Instead, we’re treated to a handful of extra missions, a few optional collectibles and upgrades, and that’s it. They also work as fast travel and supply points where we can gear up and round up some of the remaining UNSC troops to hop in a Warthog with us on the way to the next mission.

In addition, there are several collectibles to find, chiefly Spartan Cores. These allow another new element to Infinite: upgrading Chief’s abilities. As we progress through the story we gain access to several of the aforementioned equipment, including the Grappleshot, Drop shield, Dodge Burst and Scanner. If you’ve played the free Multiplayer you’ll likely have seen all of these in action, but whereas there they are consumable pickups, here we can swap them out at will once collected, with them on a slight cooldown instead. We begin with the Grappleshot and it’s safe to say that this makes traversing the game world so much more fun than it otherwise would have been. Not only can we attach to enemies for cool looking melee attacks or grab weapons from a distance, we can attach to almost any surface in the world to pull us towards it. This allows almost Titanfall levels of movement, with skilled players learning how to swing round corners or up and over ridges later on. Each of the five possible upgrades to the equipment (as well as the shield) costs a certain amount of Spartan Cores, so hunting them down is pretty important. Handily, once a FOB has been claimed those nearby show up on the map, and they emit a low tone when nearby so even if we go hunting in an unrevealed area we might still be able to find them.

Additionally there are skulls to unlock (although I must note that I didn’t find any in my playtime, but I also didn’t go looking for them), as well as various extra side missions such as Banished Towers and Silo’s to destroy, UNSC marine groups to rescue, and High Value Targets to kill. Again, all of these feed into the story in an interesting way while giving player tangible returns on the time invested to complete them. All actions unlock Valour points, a kind of XP system that in turn allows us to access better weapons, vehicles, and marines from unlocked FOB’s. I was initially sceptical of this approach, but in practice it worked out really well.

When it comes to Infinite’s main missions, we get back to that classic Halo wide corridor feel, and once again 343i have really upped their game in terms of how fun these are to play. Zeta Halo’s architecture is very reminiscent of older titles which helps, but the play spaces they have designed are always fun and exciting. Even the few sticking points I came across when the enemies seemed to be almost insanely overbearing in terms of numbers were well designed enough that I was given plenty of options for approach, once more that classic Halo hecticness and almost random element feeding into the encounters brilliantly.  

I’ve always enjoyed the Halo story (even going so far as to read the books) but I must admit to being a little lost at times with all the different names being thrown around, as well as a lack of understanding as to who the Banished were. I’ve not played Halo Wars 2, and it’s been many years  since I thought about Guardians story, so a little pre-amble video might have been a nice touch to get those unfamiliar with the history of Master Chief. However, I will say that other than that I enjoyed to story very much indeed. Chief came across as far more than an emotionless killing machine in very few words, while the accompanying Pilot and AI Weapon both bring a touch of life and interest to the story. The Banished leader Escharum is supremely intimidating to watch, his constant holographic monologues to Chief both filled with exposition and such a deep, bassy performance that I thought my headphones would blow at times.  Overall the tale here is far better and more interesting that the two previous titles, and once again has that classic Halo fell that permeates the rest of the experience.

All in Infinite took me about 12 hours to clear the campaign including collecting most of the Spartan Cores, killing a few HVT’s and liberating most of the FOB’s. There are plenty of side activities still to go back and do, but on the whole I felt this length for the main campaign suited the game perfectly. There are very few dips in the pace, with explosive set pieces and boss battles that are actually fun to play. And again, though there are extra side things to do, I don’t see this stretching the game out more than a handful of extra hours in reality. A blessing in my eyes as there are already too many games that demand tens or hundreds of hours of our time already.

In fact, the main real sour point for me is that the co-op mode is going to release at least six months after launch. Co-op has been a staple of Halo since the beginning, and with such a large world to explore and missions that would suit having a friend or three by our side I’m genuinely gutted we have to wait for this. While we can go into battle with AI Marines, there is no way to direct traffic as it were, and more often than not I found my starting team of 3 or four dead by the end thanks to running into my line of sight, getting hit by my grenades, or simply picking a fight with a Hunter alone. It’s just not the same as having a team of Spartans heading in to fight together. 343i have been a bit cagey as to why co-op isn’t coming out until much later and I can only hope that when it does, it implements all player progression so that a team can all work through without only one player benefiting. My only other nitpicks are that it can be quite awkward to switch between grenades and items mid-fight, with the d-pad used for almost too many purposes at once. I’d often find myself scanning or turning on my flashlight instead of equipping a new item. Also, ammo seems far more scarce than before, meaning I’d often run out mid fight and have to barrel around trying to scavenge some sort of new weapon while under heavy fire. I get that this encourages players to mix up the weapon choice – and to be fair I did find a few new favourites thanks to this – but it seems to have gone a bit too far in terms of leaving us high and dry mid fight.

We’ve got to talk about the visuals and audio for a minute too. Many were left disappointed in the initial reveal over a year ago, with the infamous Craig meme one of the more prominent results. While I thought it looked decent enough, there’s no denying this final release looks utterly lovely, if a little less than we might expect from a Series X|S only title. The effects work is tremendous, with it recalling a lot of the original title’s promise but making it appear how it does in our minds eye. The draw distance is large – though not without pop-in in the far distance – and the general aesthetic is just simply Halo through and through. Some aspects such as the marines do look a little dated, and there were a few times the frame rate struggled with the action (I played on Quality mode for reference) but overall it looks great. Audibly, Infinite fares wonderfully too. 343i have plucked plenty of classic motifs and themes from the older games and used them very smartly to help accentuate the action and feeling at certain points in the game while mixing in all new original compositions that feel a natural fit. Weapon effects, voice acting, and the Banished’s war cries are all excellent, with special mention once again going to the comic relief of the Grunts as they taunt the Chief or run in cowardice as the sole man standing.

Conclusion

343i are trading heavily on Halo nostalgia with Infinite, and for the first time since taking over the series they have delivered a game that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the Bungie originals. The combat is excellent, it looks stunning, the hits of nostalgia at points are perfectly placed, and outside of the lack of co-op for now, this is exactly what I’d expect from a new Halo game.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • 343i have finally found their stride with the series
  • Looks and sounds classic Halo through and through
  • Combat is so much fun
  • Open world is a nice touch and resists the urge to fill it full of rubbish
Bad
  • Lack of co-op (for now) is a big sore spot
  • Equipment management is a bit fiddly mid fight
9.3
Excellent
Gameplay - 9.2
Graphics - 9.3
Audio - 9.7
Longevity - 9
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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