Halo Infinite Review

The fight will never be finished.

by William Schwartz

If we simply judged games by their title screens and menu music Halo: Infinite would be a 5/5.   If there’s one thing that 343 Industries nailed, it’s that.  Unfortunately, everything else about Halo Infinite leaves me with mixed feelings about this entry in the long-running franchise.  It’s hard not to feel nostalgic when playing a new Halo game.  If just for the music alone, it makes you remember good times had with friends in an era for multiplayer games that paved the way for what we have today.  It makes you remember single player story and campaign highlights from previous games (and there were many).

It’s been a while since critics have dumped praise on this franchise

Any Halo game that releases has to stand up to these monumental highs for Halo fans.  The problem is, Halo has been a bit of a dumpster fire for Microsoft in recent years, and by recent years, I mean since Halo: Reach.  That’s the last time that critics really dumped praise on a Halo game.  Since then it’s been a slowly declining Metascore for the Master Chief and co.

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The problem that Halo has had in my opinion is that 343 Industries just hasn’t taken steps to the future.  Microsoft moves in weird directions with their most important franchise.  They sink copious amounts of time and development effort into things that amount to little more than one offs for that particular entry, never making or enhancing the core Halo experience.  That said, Halo Infinite isn’t quite as bad as the introduction for this review makes it sound like.  It’s a mixed bag in Halo Infinite.  The tried and true gameplay that Halo fans want is alive and well here, so much so that Halo Infinite can feel antiquated at times, compared to these aforementioned other entries in the series where Microsoft (and Bungie) were breaking new ground for the entire gaming industry with this franchise.  The campaign for Halo Infinite is an amalgamation of modern open world titles and first person shooters circa 2005.

Halo Infinite is a mixed bag

Halo Infinite is a game without an identity, the kind of  stuff you’d see from games that aren’t flagship exclusives designed to keep people loyal and purchasing consoles (or subscriptions).  It’s got the bad modern elements of free to play games in terms of having a poorly structured Battle Pass and progression system.  It’s got a lot of Craig, meaning the game doesn’t look particularly good.  It’s got a world class multiplayer gameplay foundation to build off of.  It’s hard not to be conflicted when playing Halo Infinite.

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Campaign

While multiplayer may have become the star of the show in the Halo series, this is one first person shooter with a story to tell.  Every Halo game has led into the next one with a big ending you have to wait 5 years to get resolution for.  Halo Infinite is no different.  While we’re not going to spoil story beats here, 343 does tie some things up well, leaving this fan with a sense of satisfaction that few of these games have.  Halo stories have been hit and miss, introducing many characters along the way, but Infinite does a good job of covering a good amount of ground in a fairly short campaign.  That said, the structure of it is unlike any previous Halo game.  It’s a mix of the traditional Halo experience, in being a linear first person shooter that takes players from narrative point to narrative point AND an open world game.  It’s not particularly great at either at this point.  Shooters have certainly evolved over the past 10 years and Halo’s straight forward gameplay feels antiquated at times, feeling somewhat repetitive as the campaign wears on.  The biggest change you’ll find in the linear sections of Halo Infinite are boss fights oddly enough.  Interesting Banished baddies are introduced throughout the game and you’ll get to tangle with these higher level enemies as you pass certain checkpoints in the story.  I’m not sure what I think about the boss fights of Halo Infinite.  Playing on the game’s normal setting these fights were quick a lot of times, not feeling like much of a boss fight at all.

Boss fights and Open World Elements is this what Halo needed?

Alongside those boss fights, the other new element is the open world nature of Zeta Halo.  The series has always had sprawling maps where you’d fight your enemies, but this is as open world as it gets.  This isn’t a half step like we saw with Gears of War, but it’s also not something like Assassin’s Creed that has too much to do at times.  There’s a handful of different collectibles to find, as well as optional activities in each zone.  One of the most enjoyable elements of Halo Infinite for me was the exploration that you could do with Master Chief, using vehicles or the grappling hook abilities Zeta Halo is fun to explore.  Almost nothing is off limits when you’re on foot, the grappling hook or dash can get you just about anywhere.  What wasn’t built for Halo Infinite is the current vehicle roster.  I got a vehicle stuck between geometry in the world at least 10 times while playing this game.  Ghosts, Mongoose, Warthog… they all seem to have weird physics… and that’s something you’ll notice across the board.. not just with vehicles.

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But if you’ve played a modern open world game, you’ll be right at home here.  Taking over the Banished Outposts are the main objective in each region.  Doing so will allow you to see what else is going on around you.  Taking a Forward Operating Base simply requires that you kill all the enemies in it and activate system.  Once you do, you’ll get some Valor (more on that later) and you’ll be able to see the different collectibles and activities around you.  These are Spartan Locker locations (which give you cosmetic items for Halo Infinite multiplayer), killing VIP enemies (for access to their weapons from FOB), UNSC that need to be rescued, and more.  The open world is certainly more compelling than the straight forward missions, but it’s certainly not breaking new ground.  One of the bigger issues with the campaign is how disjointed it is.  There’s a huge difference between the Open World and the linear missions.  While you do go back and forth between linear and open world towards the onset of the game, once you get to what I would say is about half way through, you’re basically on linear only for the rest of the game.

Halo Infinite doesn’t go all in on its new features

It makes stacking up all that Valor seem like a waste of time. Every action that you do in the Halo Infinite campaign will earn you this currency.  It allows you to do some interesting things from the Operating base, like spawn weapons, vehicles, and recruit marines to fight alongside you (while in a vehicle).  I thought for a second that maybe it would be more compelling?  That completing these Operating Bases and the challenges in the open world would have some meaning… they don’t.  You can simply run from story mission to story mission and you’ll likely be just fine if you want the story beats only.  You don’t really need the power-ups all that much.  There are plenty of weapons to find and scavenge along almost every mission in the game.

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Like other open worlds, there’s plenty to collect.  Dastardly hard-to-find skulls are littered throughout the world.  Finding skulls in Halo Infinite is a heck of a task given how many nooks and crannies there can be an open world. I stumbled across zero in my first playthrough.  Alongside that there are audio logs for the Banished and the UNSC to discover, there are Spartan Lockers to track down, and Spartan Cores that you can find which allow you to upgrade your basic four abilities (Shield, Boost, Grapple, and Sensor).  But it all hits with a thud.  Certainly so when you find yourself on the linear missions for the whole back half of the campaign.  Even if they do let you come back out into the open world and tie up any loose ends there may be left on the surface of Zeta Halo, it feels like you’re building up this army for nothing in the end.

Lackluster is a good word to explain what the Halo Infinite campaign is

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Halo Infinite campaign disappointing so much as it is just lackluster.  It doesn’t have many big moments.   It isn’t particularly impressive in terms of the visuals.  The combat is the tried and true Halo formula, but the open world and abilities just aren’t enough to carry the day away with something to be impressed with.  Still, for Halo fans there’s a lot to keep you pushing through.  This storyline has spanned multiple real-life decades and some of the things getting wrapped up in this entry in the series are long, long overdue.  That said, if you’re new to the franchise there’s going to be some parts of this game that are going to fly straight over your head.

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343 walks the line of trying to be appealing to long time fans with it’s linear campaign segments while trying to bring the series to the modern era with it’s open world.  As a first effort with these new systems it’s simply run of the mill.  For some games it might be acceptable… but this is Halo.  It really feels like it should be more.  There just wasn’t ever a jaw dropping moment, if this game would’ve launched alongside the Series X you would almost expect it to be a state of the industry, a technical showpiece that pushes the new hardware to the limits.  Halo Infinite just never feels like the tent pole game it’s supposed to be.

Multiplayer

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Multiplayer on the other hand, is awesome.  The core shooter gameplay is some of the very best out there.  We’ll get to some of the sticky subjects surrounding multiplayer in short order.  The core Halo gameplay is not going to disappoint fans.  The mainstay weapons prove to be just as good as they’ve ever been.  The new weapons are a bit of mixed bag, but nothing really moves Halo Infinite away from that baseline level of solidness when it comes to two players going one on one with comparable weapons.  There’s always been a level of skill required in Halo that was just bit more than other modern shooters like Call of Duty which lowered things like Time to Kill and closing the skill gap between a lot of players.

The core multiplayer shooter gameplay is some of the very best out there

Even the old hands have something to learn in Infinite.  New power-ups have been added to the mix that certainly change the way that Halo is played.  Mileage will vary on these power-ups but adding stuff like this makes Halo Infinite the best Halo multiplayer title since Reach.  It all has its place.  There’s a new grappling hook which can be used to zip around the battlefield.  You can use it to pick up objectives, weapons, you can grappling to higher ground, or grapple towards your opponent and cut them down with an Energy sword if you’re real good.  There’s a boost jump which allows you get out of trouble when you need it.  A stationary shield that can be used for taking tactical positions in which you can shoot from behind it but enemies need to break it down to hit you.  Lastly there’s a threat sensor, which can be used to see enemies on the mini map and via a silhouette that you can see through walls.  The new power-ups are fun, they work well and they feel balanced.

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These power-ups coupled the core weapon spawn system are a lot of fun, they make for really good matches.  It’s a multiplayer title in which skill factors in heavily to winning and losing, Halo Infinite could be the multiplayer game of the year if you’re judging it solely on its gameplay.  Whatever you’re into… smaller engagements of quick play, Big Team Battle, or Ranked Modes… there’s some breed of Halo multiplayer that’s going to be enjoyable.  If you like that core shooting, it’s all fun…. in-match.

343 has their work cut out for them in tuning things at launch

Out of match, Infinite feels bare bones.  This is a multiplayer suite that is currently technically in beta, but it’s been released to anyone who wants to play it.  The current status of everything surrounding Halo Infinite multiplayer is fairly poor and being worked on as the developers have received a ton of complaints regarding the Battle Pass progression, challenges, and rewards aspects of multiplayer.  This isn’t the first time Microsoft has gotten their hands caught in the cookie jar of monetization with one of their big releases.  Infinite is looking to take cues from Fortnite and other Battle Pass games by giving people challenges which unlock customization items.  There’s multiple problems here, actually.  Number one, it’s geared all wrong.  You can’t expect to give players challenges that don’t push them to play the objective in objective-based modes and then force players to play objective-based modes.  Every other match you’ve got people just looking to complete challenges instead of playing the game to win.  Second, the rewards aren’t that great anyway.  They just don’t have the creative freedom that Fortnite has.  They are fairly limited to their Spartan armor motif with different color palettes and some different modifications to that armor.  They’ve got some work to do.  Right now, people are playing the game because the multiplayer is great.  What will keep players playing is progression and keeping up with in-game events.  These things have to offer good rewards that make people want to play them, while offering good, competitive matches.

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What’s also worrying is a lack of modes at launch here for Halo Infinite.  You are really limited in the modes you can play.  In fact, some of the most popular modes altogether from previous Halo games aren’t found in any of the core playlists like Infected or SWAT.  I do truly wish that the extent of issues with multiplayer was that the progression system needed fixing and they needed to add in a couple of modes.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  One of the things that 343 is going to need to get under control and get under control quickly is the cheating in this game.  Ranked players are certainly running into cheats at a regular cadence.  It’s fairly easy to spot them, they snap on to your head from across the map and one shot you with a Hard Light beam.  There’s definitely wall hacks and aimbots in Halo Infinite.  They could probably follow Call of Duty’s lead in their vigilance of going after cheats and banning them where they can.  It’ll never be stopped by they have to put up some kind of roadblock to at least make it a little harder for this to happen.

Halo Infinite is a best-case scenario for Halo IF they can make necessary changes

All in all Halo Infinite multiplayer is a best case scenario for the state of Halo.  After the delay I wasn’t sure what state we’d see multiplayer in.  From a gameplay standpoint, Halo Infinite multiplayer is way out in front of both Call of Duty and Battlefield as multiplayer games of the year.  An off-year for COD and DICE dropping the bag yet again has given Microsoft a tremendous opportunity to capture shooter fans and for the most part they have.  They have to follow-up and fine tune these outside elements.  The Battle Pass, the progression systems, the rewards, it needs to have something to keep you coming back for more.  If 343 can do that Halo might be able to keep players playing in the new year and beyond.

The Verdict

Halo Infinite is by no means a bad game, but by the standards set by other first party publishers, it’s average.  The campaign just didn’t do enough to generate much excitement and the new gameplay ideas they tried with the open world make the game feel more disjointed than it needs to be.  Multiplayer is definitely what’ll keep you coming back for more, IF some of these egregious Battle Pass systems can be righted and there are actual reasons to come back.  Unfortunately, it’s another rocky launch for the Halo series and while some of the multiplayer and progression issues can be changed with post-launch patches, the dull, uninspired campaign can’t be.

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Halo Infinite

  • Score: 3.5 / 5
  • Available On: Xbox, PC
  • Published By: Microsoft
  • Developed By: 343 Industries
  • Genre: First Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: December 8th, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: " Halo Infinite might be kind of underwhelming on the single player side, but multiplayer has tons of promise if 343 can tackle launch issues swiftly. "
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