Halo Infinite review: A great shooter, still in progress

It's not going to be different from the shooter genre, but it's a fun experience that can only get better with time.

Pros and cons.

The action is classic.
Weapons that are creative.
Combat in a game.
Grappleshot is a genius.


It was disappointingly safe at times.
The campaign is thin on ideas.
At launch, unfinished.

Why do you do it again and again?

It is all I know.

This exchange between an pilot and a master chief is a thesis moment for the game. For the past 20 years, the XBOX has been synonymous with the holsy. The shooter series has defined Microsoft's entire gaming venture. When 343 Industries took the helm, fans of the franchise remained committed to the future. It is all they knew.

Perhaps too careful is the approach of Halo Infinite. 343 used to experiment with game-changing changes that would polarize the Spartans. Infinite plays it safe in the single-player campaign, while keeping any experimentation to the lower-stakes single-player campaign.

The return to form is a reliable one that comes back to the glory days of Halo 3. It doesn't need to push the first-person shooter genre forward like its best entries because of a lack of signature ideas. The formula still works, even though it's called halo.

It's safe to play in a game.

I get to critique a live-service game after actually seeing what it will look like, because the Halo Infinite's multiplayer has already been out in a month. After spending a lot of time partying with friends, I have come to the conclusion that the game is not a pivotal one.

The gunplay is unique. 343 Industries has stuck to the basics rather than continuing unpopular experiments. I don't mean that in a bad way, but Infinite feels like it was plucked out of a box. The formula works well here, and there is no need to change it. The matches are slow, but not too slow, and players are rewarded for using every tool at their disposal. It is not about accurately landing headshots and more about using whatever it takes to destroy an opponent's shield.

The game has an arsenal of weapons. The assault rifle and pistol have been fine-tuned to feel better here. Some of the newer guns stand out. The Skewer is a harpoon gun that can blast a vehicle to smithereens, while the Cindershot is a powerful grenade launcher that packs a lot of power. They are not all winners, but players have more options than ever, and that can change the feel of a match.

A lack of personality is the main problem. 343's decision to play it safe is understandable, but I feel like Infinite lacks any defining characteristics, and the potential is there.

Shield Walls add an extra layer to battles. The Grappleshot is a great grappling hook that is great to fire. With the Grappleshot, players can zip across Big Team maps without a vehicle, counter an incoming Warthog, or launch themselves into enemies to get a melee kill. It is so pleasurable that I felt like I didn't have it equipped. I pick it up so rarely that I never use it.

I don't mean that in a bad way, but Infinite feels like it was plucked out of a box.

I understand why 343 didn't build the game around the Grappleshot. Longtime fans would have accused the studio of ruining the game. I wish 343 was more confident in its ideas. The developers only flirt with new ideas rather than adding their own innovation. That leaves the game feeling like a fun shooter, but not one that will meaningfully change the genre in the way that its predecessors did.

The game has a single-player campaign. It is a complete reinvention of the Halo formula, trading in linear missions for open-world fluidity. That structure is very similar to Halo. One of my favorite moments was when I hijacked a Banshee out of the sky, flew it across the map to an outpost, rained fire down on a bunch of grunts, and then got into a dogfight with another Banshee. There are a few moments in between missions that link Infinite's campaign to Big Team Battle mode.

The simple pleasures make the game work. The shooting does a lot of the heavy lifting. It is always fun to point-and-click waves of enemies into oblivion. The wealth of weapons is felt here. I knew I could always pick a random weapon from a corpse and change the pace of a battle. I was able to experiment with guns in single-player after barely touching them in the previous game.

The main hook is movement, which leads us back to Grappleshot. Master Chief has it here for the best. Chief can zip up cliffs like Spider-Man, as he is able to traverse the map. New tricks are added to combat. I was able to get a kick out of chucking the coil at the enemies. Each encounter feels different because of little details like that.

The simple pleasures make the game work.

There are a lot of the campaign's faults. The open-world design is the same. Nonstory map activities like clearing out bases are repetitive. The chrome corridors that the actual missions take place in are indistinguishable from one another. The mission uses the trope of finding a battery to power up a door. Assets and ideas are used to make the campaign feel bigger than it really is.

The campaign's tone is my biggest pet peeve. The characters constantly quip like superheros. The jokes are recycled. Chief's A.I. companion says a line that ends in a "Wait, don't answer that" joke. During battle, grunts are now constantly cracking one-liners. It's exhausting, draining any personality from the grand sci-fi saga.

The campaign is small enough that they don't drag it down. This is not a maximalist game. Even with extra exploration, players can get through the story in 10 hours. The slim approach works here because more time can be spent on map icons. The game's seams would become more apparent.

At least it is.

The game is launching in an incomplete state, so it is strange to review. 343 Industries has a lot of flexibility by adopting a live-service model. It can either fail now or fix it later. I think it is a great game with bad decisions. It feels like some of the decisions in the game will have to be changed eventually. Some already have.

The game has a battle pass. At launch, players only got a small amount of experience points by completing daily and weekly challenges. It could take hours to move up a level on the battle pass. The battle pass cosmetics are not great, and the rewards include a single shoulder pad or a visor color. The progression system received a lot of backlash before it was launched. It feels better now, and it is likely that more changes are on the way.

The game is launching in an incomplete state, so it is strange to review.

Quality of life issues that haven't been addressed yet are just as baffling. 343 says it plans to address the issue of the limited playlists shortly after launch. Quick Play, Ranked, and Big Team Battle are some of the modes that players can choose to play. You can only play Team Slayer if you like it the most. You will have to suffer through objective modes like Oddball for the chance to play the mode you want.

Stockpile is the game's absolute worst mode and is notable in Big Team Battle. The large-scale twist on Capture the Flag has players walking power cells to their base over and over, taking the emphasis off of the game's combat and mobility. I have largely stopped playing Big Team Battle because I detest it so much. It isn't worth it.

It doesn't help that the launch of halo Infinite doesn't include all the features. There is no co-op play until at least May. The campaign feels well-suited for it, and the lack of co-op at launch is disappointing. I think that is not a big deal. I will be occupied until then, but I am a little skeptical about the timelines. Is Forge going to make it out this year? Will co-op be delayed as 343 is forced to make more basic quality of life changes? I wouldn't be surprised if they take priority at the moment.

At this point, I can only critique the promise of the game. It is not going to be a game in five years. Is it in a good position to reach its potential? 343 is a responsive developer and I am sure it will be quick to address fan complaints based on its response to the battle pass. Considering the game's already slow development cycle, there's no telling how quickly it can be done.

It is a strong foundation that is built to deal with disasters. No matter what happens, the issues of Halo Infinite are not fundamental. The safe approach to the game means that any problems can be solved with a response.

The name is fitting. The core shooting feels infinitely usable when done right. The title is just reassurance that 343 didn't rock the boat this time.

It's plain and simple that the game is worthy of the name. The formula still works and there are some new twists that make it feel fresh. The campaign is a bit thin on ideas, but it is fun enough to make up for uninspired design. It is a shame that it is launching in an unfinished state, but there are plenty of things to keep players interested.

Is there a better alternative?

Rather than repeating the formula, Splitgate is a more creative shooter. Far Cry 6 is a more involved open world game.

How long will it last?

The campaign will take 15 hours if players are doing a lot of open-world activities. The Xbox Series X will likely have a good chunk of the game's life span supported by the multiplayer.

Yes. If you have an Xbox Game Pass, you should download the free-to-play multiplayer and check out the campaign. Even if they don't move the series forward much, both aspects are entertaining.

Microsoft provided an early review code for the game.

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