Developed By: 343 Industries
Published By: Xbox Games Studios
Platforms: Xbox One X, Series S & X / PC
Reviewed On: PC
As popular as the Halo series has been I have only played the first in the series that came out on the PC way back in 2003. I admit I really wanted to try it because of all the hype that surrounded it being one of the greatest (shooters at the time) but I thought it was just okay. It was most definitely a good game, but I guess the hype got me expecting so much more. Since then, even with release after release in the series I never really felt any motivation to jump back into the Halo universe but that’s not me trying to take anything away from fans and the developers who have grown the series to the heights it finds itself today.
Thanks to 343 Industries, we were granted this unique opportunity to jump in and experience the Halo Infinite campaign in its entirety. Much has been said about the development of this game with the time it has taken and who doesn’t remember the whole Craig the Brute controversy that came up last year when the early gameplay of Halo Infinite was first shown off. Most fans were wondering if this was finally the beginning of the end for the Halo series.
I went in blind to Halo Infinite because I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if this game would be capable of pulling in new fans who might not have known anything about the series up to this point. I barely even remembered playing the first game way back when. It took me around 26 hours to get around a 90% completion of all the activities/collectibles that the campaign offered and when the credits rolled, I found myself loving only most of what the game offered and the reason why I said that is because for a series that has existed for such a long time, there are some missteps that should have been avoided. And I write this full well knowing how everyone and their mother has been raving about the campaign.
Darkness Had Stretched Its Colour, Deep Blue Across The Pane
Halo Infinite starts off with the UNSC being attacked by the Banished aboard the starship Infinity over the Zeta Halo. Led by Atroix, the Banished picked apart the UNSC forces with ruthless precision resulting in the great Master Chief being defeated and ejected into space. Cut to six months later where he is then found adrift in space by a random person by the name of Echo 216 (not his real name in case anyone was wondering). Echo-216 just wants to get out of there and go back to Earth (even though I wondered why hasn’t he already) but Master Chief even after knowing that the Banished has essentially won the battle and taken over the Zeta Halo wants to keep fighting. So we follow Master Chief and his journey in taking on the Banished one mission at a time.
I quite liked how the main plot moved throughout my playthrough. Sure there were some really strange choices but it did work for the most part. I both like and dislike the personal story that the Master Chief goes through because although it is good, it also ends up being kind of a cop-out. I have no qualms if most fans of the series or other players absolutely loved it but for me being an essentially new player to the series who doesn’t really know much about the universe or its characters, I found myself not being immersed as I should have been. But this is just my experience with it and I do have to talk about it with spoilers so for those who don’t want to be spoiled feel free to skip the next section.
My first issue with Halo Infinite is how they set up Atriox as being this incredibly ruthless and calculative antagonist who managed to take down the Infinity in four minutes and eject Master Chief into space only to immediately proclaim he died and the primary villain of the campaign being Escharum. It was kinda crappy as it was just so incredibly apparent that Atriox was not dead but then made even more bullshit as to how his presence was relegated to being in the post-credits teaser setting up what obviously is just coming next in the series. Escharum is not a bad villain, he turned out to be decent at least but in all honestly as much as the devs tried to give perspective on the Banished and their pride or willingness to sacrifice in what they thought was right (even when Master Chief literally says it), I just didn’t care all that much about them. It just feels like a fleeting moment that never sticks.
The same goes for Echo-216 or as the devs try to cleverly keep his name right until the end of the game for some sort of feel-good moment, Fernando Esparza. The reason why it annoyed me was that Fernando is mostly used as the whiney guy who constantly “wants to get out of here”. For some reason at a point in the story as well Master Chief insists on rescuing him when he gets caught just because. I mean I’m not someone who has no feelings, but I sincerely questioned why that was as up to that point Echo 216 did nothing but just be kind of annoying (sorry Fernando). So when the reveal at the end of the game came to tell his real name I just felt it was such a manipulative moment.
Throughout the whole journey involving rings, and forerunners, the Banished, Harbingers, and etc There was one aspect that I’m kind of glad was quite well made and that is the exploration of the relationship between Master Chief, the Weapon, and Cortana. The revelations on the choices and consequences that all three were subjected and bound to bring a little more connection to the walking soundboard, Master Chief. I get that he is intentionally made a man of few words but aside from the bravado and heroism, the weapon and Cortana just brings more weight to his character. Even not knowing the history of what they went through until this game, I still quite enjoyed how their relationship played out. Unfortunately, the main story is just setting up another.
A New Pale Day Is Breaking And The Deep Night is Gone
I don’t have a beefy PC so I was mostly playing the game on Medium settings but I still was incredibly impressed. The texture work for most of the game looked very nice especially on Master Chief’s suit of armour that brings out so many intricate details. The reflections and lighting also looked very nicely done immersing me into the environments whether indoors or outdoors in the open world. Aside from the initial load as well the game ran relatively snappy when fast travelling or reloading and smoothly with very little graphical problems at 1440p. The only graphical issue I encountered was some artifacting when aiming down the sights which might be related to a driver issue so hopefully, that would be rectified soon. There were many times where I kept wondering that if it looked this good on Medium, the highest settings must look insane.
The sound design in this game is also incredibly immaculate as when it comes to battles where it’s loud, bombastic and adrenaline fueling or in quiet emotional moments that tug at the heartstrings with whispers was amazing. That experience goes a step further when accompanied by the perfectly curated soundtrack that brought such a range of instruments and emotions to scenes. After finishing up the game I looked up to see the composers and learnt that it was a collaboration. It really was quite astounding to hear the level of talent and vision.
And In Your Opening Eyes I See. Night Born In Day And In Time Eternity
If you have played a shooter before you know the basics of it already and Halo Infinite doesn’t bring anything new to the table in that regard. What it does do is take existing gameplay mechanics introduced by shooters over the years and implement them in a way that is very close to perfection. Master Chief has access to an embarrassment of weapons types that are separated by the five different ammo types. These five ammo types are Kinetic, Plasma, Shock, Hardlight, & Power split over 20 different weapons that fit any given situation. Feel like using more traditional weapons then stick to the CQS48 Bulldog or the MA40 Assault Rifle. If you feel like feeling more powerful then whip out a Gravity Hammer and stomp enemies to oblivion. Be warned though, even on the normal difficulty the enemies can pose a challenge.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much enemy variety there is in this game as well ranging from the Banished to Grunts, Brutes, and etc. I might not understand why they are all conveniently working together but it still provided a very welcomed range to dispose of. Each enemy type has different weapons and tactics, and sure players can use the run and gun strategy but might find themselves quickly overmatched. Thankfully the Master Chief also comes with a range of grenades and abilities like the Grappleshot or the Drop Wall that more than evens the odds. Although there was a bit of more challenge there but being honest, they do sometimes suffer from the standing in one spot problem especially if you are far enough.
Now comes the part of what my biggest problem with Halo Infinite is. This game really did not need to be an open-world one as it really feels a few generations behind the current competition. It’s always impressive to see an incredible draw distance but the open-world feels so ironically lifeless. It doesn’t help how most of the open-world activities are also very checklist based rather than trying to tell stories and this is what I mean when I say it’s a few generations behind. Most open-world games now try to incorporate side quests into their world-building so the actual open world feels more immersive but here its more about just going here to collect an upgrade point so your Master Chief gets better abilities, or cosmetics for the multiplayer mode or even just clearing out a base just because.
That’s because they introduce an interesting mechanic to the game and yet fail to do anything more meaningful with it. See, the more FOB’s (forward operating bases) the player liberates the more Valor Points you will accumulate which then gives the player more access to better soldiers, vehicles or weapons. It sounds great in theory because it’s cool being able to drop a Razorback in and pick up a few Marines and ride into an enemy base with backup. However, that is the extent of it as the UNSC forces and the Banished forces do not engage each other at all in the open world. So aside from a few open-world activities where you rescue the marines, nothing ever happens. They both just casually stroll around doing mostly nothing in direct opposition to how the game constantly tells the player how the never-ending struggle between both forces has been. That and the repeating NPC who keeps talking about what she had to eat.
I also found it to be extremely hilarious how the execution and payoff to fighting “named targets” were so meh. I can literally just fly a Wasp and pick them off from afar with minimal effort because all of them are out in the open just to get a slightly more interesting variant of a weapon. I really dislike open-world games that waste my time like this.
Everything about the open world was just to create artificial scale to the area of Zeta Halo that players are on but I would have rather they just stick to the main missions which were so much of a stark difference in quality because it was focused.
What I Liked
- Story – Even when It’s just an obviously transitional story, I still enjoyed the parts where they dive into Master Chief and Cortana’s relationship.
- Gunplay and Enemy Types – The gunplay can be very satisfying with a dizzying array of weapons and enemy types that can be tackled in any which way the player chooses even if it can be laughably easy with certain situations.
- Graphics – Even on medium settings the graphics looked really great for me. Can’t imagine how it would look on a beefier PC.
- Soundtrack – Truly mesmerizing soundtrack that heightened the experience.
- Enemy Variety and Gunplay – There is a really good variety in enemy types to take down and doing so with any weapon combination was satisfying.
What I Wished Was Better
- Open World – Quite a disappointing open world with dull activities.
- Recap? – It would have been nice to have sort of a recap at the beginning of the game as to what newer players would need to know but it’s just a minor preference for me.
Dust And Echoes
I think that the team behind Halo Infinite bounced back admirably from their initial showing. There are large parts of the game that I truly did enjoy but the gamble in trying to make the game an open-world one is just disappointing on many levels. I recently read that the team had to cut about 2/3rds of content from the game and honestly, I don’t really know if that is a good or bad thing. If it’s just a bigger map with more of the same things then I am glad it got cut, but if it’s more activities and side stories that really fleshed out the open world on Zeta Halo then that is such a regrettable loss. I really liked Halo Infinite, but it really could have been so much better.