A new generation of Master Chief's armor powers up the single-player campaign in Halo Infinite, which brings back to its roots the original series. By shifting to an open-world map, it offers a level of freedom in combat not seen in any previous game of the series. There is a lot to do in this expansive playground, and completing its never-dull-or-overwhelming list of activities earns more combat options and, ultimately, more fun. It doesn't recreate the environmental variety or memorable story of the original trilogy, but it is still a thrilling return to form for one of gaming's most beloved series, and for Master Chief himself.
It has a nice ring to it.
The first time developer 343 Industries has deviated from the plan that was drawn 20 years ago is when they decided to let you explore the ring without being restricted by the traditional linear series of combat arenas. The space proves to be a good fit for a kind of shooter where unexpected things happen. On a grander scale, that same thing is true.
You are not dropped onto the ring and set loose. The first couple of the 25 hours I spent completing it on Heroic difficulty take place indoors, and that is a good way to get acquainted with the Grappleshot and the first of many delightfully challenging bosses.
Infinite feels like a cross between Halo 1 and 3.
The Grappleshot feels right at home in the game, even if you have played games like Just Cause or Titanfall. This tool can be used to grab weapons from afar, escape dire combat encounters when your shields are screaming at you for a refill, or launch you directly into the bad guys for a finishing melee attack with your full weight behind it. It is a natural extension of the equipment idea introduced in Halo 3, which is why Infinite feels like a cross between Halo 1 and Halo 3.
The bosses make up many of Infinite's best encounters, not those that you organically create for yourself out in the wilderness. The Banished Brute lieutenant Tremonius is the first game that will require you to keep your wits about you. If you are not ready for it, he uses a jetpack and ground-pound attack. It is your first indication that each boss fight will keep you on your toes, and in total, Infinite features the best implementation of them yet.
Infinite features the best implementation of boss fights yet.
When you get out there, the warm-up serves as ample preparation for the open world. You will need to get around on foot first and then learn to grapple onto trees or into the ground to propel yourself onward. You can find a lot of opportunities to get into trouble on Zeta Halo, from taking down propaganda radio towers to infiltrating massive Banished strongholds to freeing captured UNSC Marines. The feature is similar to games like Far Cry or Just Cause in that it is varied and not repetitive, and it feels like it is part of the game.
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In the grand tradition of Grand Theft Auto 3, you can't go everywhere immediately. I wish the new lands had more variety, as the key story missions open up new lands to explore. Any variety at all. There is no snowy area in Combat Evolved, no urban area in Halo 2, or any other area other than the mix of forest and stone monoliths. 343 took its artistic inspiration from The Silent Cartographer and not from the rest of the game. It was disappointing after a couple dozen hours.
It is as if 343 took inspiration from The Silent Cartographer.
I also wish that Zeta Halo was a bit more attractive. 343's own Halo 4 elicited a late-in-the-generation "How did they do this on the 360?" kind of reaction to its gorgeous graphics back in 2012 as a graphical showcase for their respective consoles. Infinite looks good at best, but not as good as it could have been, even though there are some impressive vistas across its outdoor landscape.
What the hell is going on in the game?
The only concern I had going into the game was the story. The emotional core of the game is67531, but its focus on Master Chief's relationship with a Cortana who was rapidly succumbing to rampancy gave it a memorable and commendable emotional core. The narrative crimes of 4 were barely letting you play as Master Chief, after the flop of Halo 5. It dug a deep hole for Infinite to try and climb out of, given that Infinite tries to both tie up 5's loose ends and keep the existing storyline going, while also serving as the aforementioned "spiritual reboot" meant to welcome in new fans. It is too tall a task.
When a game actually lives up to high expectations, it is so nice. Since it was first announced three years ago, Halo Infinite has been one of the most anticipated games out there, and for its multiplayer component to so fully deliver on the series' classic feel while also keeping up with the modern-day competition in the first person shooter genre is a huge achievement. The map design, a collection of straightforward but highly engaging modes for both large and small groups, excellent weapons and gear options, and those delightfully bouncy and sticky grenades make Halo Infinite the top tier of competitive shooters. It manages to give nostalgic veterans the best of what they remember from the original halo game while also introducing new players to the joys of Spartan combat.
The score was 9.
Read the full review of the game.
It isn't a 5-level disaster, but it probably isn't going to make most players happy. The tale focuses on the splinter Covenant group The Banished, which was not particularly satisfying for a long time, and the new players Infinite is hoping to bring in might be lost. If you are in the latter group, you will ask the following questions: Who are the Covenant? Why is she evil? What are they? The ground is not covered.
Infinite doesn't waste time with characters who aren't Master Chief.
It is not easy to get comfortable with Infinite's plot, even if you have played every campaign multiple times. We have seen other long-running series such as Microsoft's own Psychonauts 2, where a cinematic that rolls before you start playing is a must. Maybe 343 ran out of time or never came up, but it was a failure that could have been avoided.
The relationship between Master Chief and his new companion, who we only know as The Weapon, is a really good part of the story. She is voiced by Jen Taylor, who also stars as Cortana. You don't need to be a hardcore fan of the game to recognize Taylor's nuanced performances in playing three different roles, she plays brilliantly off of the fact that The Weapon doesn't know the Chief at all We get to watch their partnership grow. They argue and get sarcastic with each other. In his sixth turn as Master Chief, Steve Downes is fantastic as an emotionally broken and lost man who blames himself for the sad state of humanity, and the details of which are made painfully clear over the course of the campaign. I hope 343 doesn't recast these two wonderful voice actors.
Combat has evolved.
The key to Infinite's open world is the FOBs. If you capture them, you will get a map filled with many of the activities, along with other map icons like Spartan Core locations, which allow you to upgrade your equipment in ways that let you tailor your playstyle. I put all of my points into the Shield Core at first, which made the extra punishment feel manageable. I would highly recommend this strategy if you are going to tackle Legendary. The Grappleshot can be upgraded to add a paralyzing electric shock attack, boosting the Thruster will let you go invisible for a short time when you dash, and maxing out the Drop Wall will give you your own protective electric fence. The equipment added variety to how I handled abolishing the Banished, and many of the key boss fights cry out for one of them, but I prioritized them in that order, ending with everything maxed out. Infinite is never too heavy-handed in suggesting which one is best for each battle.
You can earn more Valor points by completing the open-world activities, which will allow you to summon additional weapons and vehicles from reclaimed outposts. You can fast travel to any of the places you have unlocked. As I approached the optional High-Value Targets scattered around the ring, this became vital. A pair of heavy-hitting Hunters are flanked by a legion of supporting Banished, along with some mid-battle surprises. I quickly traveled back to the closest base so that I could order a shiny new Scorpion tank, and then trained my tank turret on the H VT Hunters turf. The heavy vehicles aren't "I win" buttons, as bad guys on higher difficulties will quickly and repeatedly disabling your vehicle with Shock Rifle blasts, forcing you to try another strategy.
Vehicles have never felt more important.
The freedom to fight how you want has always been a cornerstone of the game, but after the introduction of more structured battles with a slim choice of weapons, it became less important. The diversity of locations and the ability to approach them from any angle and with any gear give Infinite a big, fun way to recreate that signature freeform action. You can fight in rivers, indoors, and in midair, but you will have to fight uphill in scraps that feel like early 20th-century wars of attrition in the Halo universe. I was encouraged to use a lot of the huge arsenal instead of just falling in love with one weapon. Sometimes a scoped weapon is the best option for quickly hitting the Elites with their shields, and sometimes a charged-up Ravager grenade launcher is the best option for charging the Brutes.
In a halo, vehicles are of particular importance, where you can wander all over the ring. The first ride you will unlocked is the Mongoose, it is only purpose is zipping from point A to point B faster than you could run. Once you get into the meat of the campaign, you can call in a Warthog at a FOB, load it up with Marines, and take out as many bad guys as you can from the perimeter before heading in. You can bring the swastika into the sky, clearing out some of the Banished from the sky. Vehicles have always been a high point of the series, and thanks to the large scale, they have never felt more vital.