Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X
December 8, 2021
Xbox Game Studios
Just over 20 years since we first meet John-117 on the Pillar of Autumn, Halo Infinite continues the big, green spaceman’s journey to defeat otherworldly foes. 343 Industries, with the support of Certain Affinity and SkyBox Labs, may have struggled with significant delays but the result is a solid entry to the story and a new direction for the multiplayer.
This review is based on the currently available PC Multiplayer Beta and a preview build of the Campaign provided by Microsoft/Xbox for review purposes. Certain issues or experiences discussed may be resolved or changed with future updates.
Wake me… when you need me
Found floating in space 18 months after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, Master Chief is saved by a lone UNSC member and the two land on the heavily damaged Installation 07, the Zeta Halo. There, Master Chief recovers an AI he describes as “The Weapon” who resembles the wise Cortana, cracking jokes back and forth with an abundance of flair. The Banished is busy trying to unleash a new threat on this Halo and together the team aim to finish the fight.
Immediately, Halo Infinite leans into the classic story experience. Master Chief is set on another impossible mission, throwing out one-liners with gusto and the very first scenes will fill anyone with glee when he says “status report” and “I need a weapon”. The back and forth with Not-Cortana may initially be annoying until it quickly grows on you because 343 Studios know what they have on their hands — a Halo game. It’s supposed to be entertaining, and the voices and their delivery are the best they’ve ever been.
“Halo Infinite leans into the classic story experience… the very first scenes will fill anyone with glee…”
The UNSC member that saves Master Chief plays a huge role in the emotive tones of the story. A soul lost and broken from his experiences, he sees demise and failure in every step. A touching moment with Chief about hope, failure, and determination refreshes the man’s outlook and back they go to face an incredible challenge. Albeit, this is a Master Chief story through-and-through, but this character reveals a vulnerable side of the tough Spartan that we don’t often see.
Overall, the narrative plays on its strengths and doesn’t do much more than it should. The voice acting and animation are terrific, and the seamless transitions between cinematic and gameplay are impressive. The story itself isn’t too complex or contemplative, so no mind-blowing revelation or twist. It also lacks a mission select screen, making returning to specific areas of the game to find collectables a painful chore. Regardless, it’s a serviceable story to drive remarkable gameplay.
Battle for Installation 07
The major change is the open-world aspects of the Zeta Halo. After two great intro missions, the Spartan steps out into the open world with Forward Operation Bases (FOBs) to capture, marines to save, and Banished to eliminate. Halo purists might be screaming at their screens right now, but it’s not all bad. In fact, the game still feels quite linear and forces the player into a straightforward path of missions to progress and unlock more spaces of Installation 07.
FOBs are UNSC deployed bases lost to the Banished during their six-month occupation of the Ring. By clearing out enemies, Chief captures these points and uses them to reveal high-value targets with rewards, UNSC distress calls, call in vehicles, customise loadouts, and rally NPC marines to join the fight. Valor is awarded for these heroic actions, used to acquire resources at FOBs. It is a very light open-world feature that doesn’t get in the way of the key plot. You can simply ignore all these optional tasks and race through the main story or take your time and smell the roses… or the fresh blood of Grunts.
“…enemies in Halo Infinite are striking and help develop one of the most playful worlds in the series.”
Several first-time cute and terrifying enemies rear their ugly heads in Halo Infinite. Skimmers are flying creatures that attack in packs and are equipped with Shock Rifles. They aren’t too bothersome on easier difficulties but become menaces on harder modes with skull modifiers. A new alternate of the Brutes that sprint at you like a hungry pitbull is fierce and horrifying. All the enemies have more audible lines on this Halo, screaming in fear or taunting over Chief’s dead body after a failed firefight.
Boss encounters with so-called ‘Spartan Killers’ are mostly bullet-spongey deviations. Boss fights are still impressive moments, particularly the key characters that Chief faces — but many of these high-value targets are usually placed in an open space with only slight changes from a typical battle. Despite this, enemies in Halo Infinite are striking and help develop one of the most playful worlds in the series.
Legendary action with a twist
Halo Infinite has some of the strongest action in the series by incorporating the best mechanics of the original trilogy with the modern changes from the last few games. Instead of focusing on armour abilities, equipment is at the forefront. Master Chief begins the game with the amazing Grappleshot, used to tether objects or enemies and fling forward with speed. The tool can be upgraded to add a shock effect and decrease cooldowns for super-fast traversal. It’s such a useful gadget in the campaign that at times you’ll choose to avoid using vehicles because it’s so much fun.
Besides the Grappleshot, Chief obtains a drop shield, enemy sensor, and evade dash which can be swapped on the go. While admittedly not as entertaining, all the equipment has a purpose. The enemy sensor and drop shield are essential for boss battles and hectic firefights with invisible enemies. Selecting which to use at the right time encourages creativity and player choice in every encounter, adding to the variety and thrill of the journey.
“Master Chief begins the game with the amazing Grappleshot… at times you’ll choose to avoid using vehicles because it’s so much fun.”
The Spartan still has an arsenal of iconic weapons at disposal with a few new, yet forgettable, additions. The VK78 Commando acts as a DMR variant with automatic fire, slightly weaker than the favourite BR75 Battle Rifle. The Disruptor is a shocking Banished pistol that annihilates enemy shields, and the Stalker Rifle is a semi-auto sniper like the Covenant Carbine. Most of these new weapons aren’t very creative, with the exception of the Forerunner additions. It seems like 343 were playing it safe with ideas for new firearms.
The lack of a cooperative campaign on launch is a sad letdown, too. Blasting through hordes of aliens with a friend is signature to the Halo series and releasing without it is a tough blow. Understanding the choice to continue improving the co-op experience and release it during Season 02, approximately three months after launch, makes sense — however I worry players may move on to better and fresher games by then.
Enjoy it while you can, Marines
Halo is celebrated for its multiplayer, offering players a wide array of weapons, vehicles, and tools to play with. Infinite’s edition to the online experience launched early and is free to play and may be the best value for an online shooter this year, yet the current version (November 2021 Beta) is problematic.
When in a matchmaking queue, players can’t omit game modes they dislike from playlists. There is no map veto and at the end of every match you are booted back to the menu to queue again. UI for some menus are awkward to navigate, making the overall pre-game experience hopeless. Halo Infinite Multiplayer does not currently have Forge mode, either. It is supposedly coming in Season 03 which should be around half a year after release. As of right now, without customisable game modes and maps, there is only so much fun to have.
“The Battle Pass and progression is an inherent problem that will likely not be a quick fix.”
The Battle Pass and progression is an inherent problem that will likely not be a quick fix. Experience points are awarded in minuscule amounts by completing matches or challenges, designed to bring “ongoing value to players”. For whatever reason, medals and winning don’t award greater points like they used to. You might achieve the valiant Kilimanjaro but not see a drop of extra XP for your efforts. Challenges also invite players to stray from the teamwork-based modes and instead chase personal tasks. The system might be the slowest grind of any online shooter, with upwards of 100 levels and many, many cosmetic items to never unlock.
Frustrating concerns aside, gameplay in practice is exceptional. Halo Infinite feels like how Halo multiplayer should. Movement and map design is superb across the board, levels unique with creative elements while maintaining practical routes. Equipment is tweaked to be a balanced strategic advantage against the enemy team when used correctly. Every weapon has its strengths, every vehicle has its weakness, every match has its epic moments.
We’ll have to wait and see how Halo Infinite multiplayer evolves in the coming year — 343 Industries are already listening closely to player feedback and making substantial changes. I have faith they’ll amend the progress, menus, and matchmaking problems and cultivate a long-lasting multiplayer community.
A heroic redemption ark
When the first gameplay of Halo Infinite was revealed, the community laughed at its awkward and janky visuals. Playing on PC and testing across 4K, 2K, and 1080p resolutions on an Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, the game has indeed had a facelift. It’s not a visual masterpiece and there are texture pop-in and model clipping bugs — so far nothing as harmfully distracting as fans initially saw.
However, many are already reporting input lag in Multiplayer. This becomes much more apparent when switching between single-player content and the online experience. It’s an odd issue that might affect particular people but doesn’t have a fix just yet.
Gareth Coker composes the music for Halo Infinite and absolutely delivers a memorable score. The soundtrack plays with all the familiar notes, the angelic choir and dramatic action fans know and love. Coker introduces original pieces that match the tone and quality you’d expect from the series. Hearing the tracks fade in as heroic firefights begin is always exhilarating thanks to the score.
- Open-world elements are great and don't ruin the campaign
- Gunplay and action is strongest in the series
- Terrific voice acting and characters
- The Grappleshot is so much fun
- Multiplayer progression and matchmaking needs work
- New weapons are uninspired
- Lacking signature content at launch like Forge and co-op
Master Chief is back and better than ever. Halo Infinite introduces open-world elements that don’t distract from the main story and add value to its replayability and memorable action. Even with the inclusion of the thrilling Grappleshot, the gameplay still maintains its signature feel. Multiplayer may need a lot of finetuning, but it costs nothing to play and provides plenty of frantic fun for a group of friends and solo players. With more features and additions to come, Halo Infinite isn’t slowing down… No. I think we’re just getting started.