Upon release, Halo 5 was met with positive reception from top-tier review outlets but when it came to the general fanbase the reaction was much more divided. Now a full six years later, 343 Industries is attempting to rekindle the love of the franchise with Halo Infinite while also introducing a big new gameplay element. While the multiplayer side of the game was released free to play as a separate download, the full value of this package relies on the campaign and its new open world experience.
The game begins with a healthy dose of narrative cut scenes and set pieces that find Master Chief being plucked out of space by one of the new main allies for the adventure, simply known as the pilot. Despite the new character’s protests, an annoyingly common trend from start to finish, Master Chief ventures out on the first two missions which take place in the traditional linear style. These entail finding a new AI companion only referred to as The Weapon, avoiding every explosion possible and ultimately landing on Zeta Halo, the open world map of the game.
The remaining missions from the main campaign will take place here, usually with a small portion beginning or ending on the surface and the rest playing out in their own separate linear environments that all look pretty similar. These can be completed in roughly eight hours depending on skill level and thoroughness but I highly recommend breaking them up with some open world map exploration. If you focus on just the story, you will quickly find that it follows a very repetitive and almost archaic structure. It’s perfectly fine and there are a few twists but nowhere near what we have grown to expect from the industry in the 20 years since the first entry.
Modernization comes in the form of the previously mentioned open world, a first for the Halo universe. Initial steps on Zeta Halo are overwhelmingly positive with activities seemingly littered all over the place. The game play loop begins with finding an occupied forward operating base and reclaiming it by destroying all of the Banished. This will become one of your fast travel locations and a spawn point for unlocked weapons and vehicles. Additionally it will reveal most of the other points of interest in the area on your map that all possess their own activity or reward.
There is a blast to be had running around gathering Spartan cores to upgrade your abilities, defeating high value targets to unlock weapon variants and even finding customization pieces for the multiplayer game. After a short while, however, the realization will hit that these are just checklist activities with repetitive objectives rather than actual side missions. A squadron icon on the map will always be a group of UNSC soldiers that need help defending a point or being freed from the Banished. You will never explore and stumble upon an unmarked cave that has a rescue signal coming from it leading to an interaction over comms as you try to locate some lost miners that will reward you with a Spartan core, the core will always be just kind of sitting out. In this regard to how the open world is designed, Halo Finite would be a more fitting name.
Also if you are hoping for visual diversity in the open world, that’s not here either. The landscape you see upon first arrival will be the landscape you see the entire time. Apparently when building an artificial landscape there was need for birds in the atmosphere but not snow capped mountains. Add in the emptiness of the landscape between the pockets of activities and this is where the lack of coop gameplay on launch really hurts. The chatter between friends and strategizing on encounters would have done a lot to minimize the feeling of repetition. It’s very apparent how co-dependent the main missions and map exploration are on one another to supply some level of variety.
Luckily they added the grappling hook into this game, which can be used both in combat and also for traversing the ring. Flinging the Chief from point to point was actually the preferred method of travel since land vehicles would often get stopped by tall peaks, valleys and random rocks in the landscape if you tried to venture off the clearly marked roads. Besides, what’s more fun than feeling like an armor wearing, space faring, alien blasting type of Spider-man.
To be clear, none of these elements are bad but they aren’t exceptional either, just a very good first attempt. The reason I was so driven to keep logging on is the thing that Halo, as a franchise, has excelled at since day one – the gunplay. When it comes to shooting aliens, having diverse weapons with good feedback, and feeling like an overall powerhouse, Halo Infinite’s combat continues the tradition of being top tier. Enough cannot be said about how enjoyable it is to balance between destroying an objective, while keeping an eye on ammo reserves and avoiding enemy fire seemingly coming from every possible direction. Very few first person shooters can feel this solid and responsive, resulting in your planned course of action matching perfectly in execution. You can be running and slide under some world debris to nab that Needler on the ground because you used your last clip to drop the foe that was holding it only seconds prior. Everything not only works, but feels great at the same time too.
If there is one place that the variety in this game is not lacking, it’s in the armory. From basic MA40 assault rifles to alien plasma pistols and energy swords, the sheer abundance of weapons and the fact that they all have their own look and feel will keep you busy just experimenting and engaging for hours. Halo fans will know exactly what that means and will know that it is often more than enough.
The environments and models in Halo Infinite are quite exceptional – they have come a long way from what we saw years ago. Yes, you will run into the same mountain, forest and alien areas that the Halo series is known for again and again but this makes the game feel comfortable and known to the hardcore fanbase. Would it have been nice to have an open world with different types of environments? Of course, but this is Halo and we all know that we are here for the combat. Halo Infinite doesn’t end up being a revolutionary step forward for the franchise; it is just a very solid entry that doesn’t really do anything wrong and focuses on what the series built its foundation on – great gun play. Since the multiplayer is available to everyone for free, it is difficult to recommend purchasing the game at full price. However, being a day one release on gamepass for both console and PC means both fans of the series and those just curious about it shouldn’t hesitate to install it.