The success of Halo Infinite was never guaranteed. Because after the extremely lukewarm reception to Halo 5: Guardians by both fans and critics alike, the Halo franchise desperately required a game that would help propel it back into the limelight as one of the greatest FPS series of all time. And for a while, it almost seemed like that might be too ambitious of a goal for the series, and that Halo might never really recapture the spark that had once come to define it.
So when the first gameplay demo for Halo Infinite was shown back in 2020, many fans, including myself, were cautiously optimistic. The game looked great, but it still felt incomplete and it was obvious that a lot more polish was required to create the best possible version of the title. Thankfully Xbox Game Studios felt the same way, and the game was delayed to sometime next year.
Now after an additional year of waiting, Halo Infinite has finally been released and I can gladly say that the extra development time has been worth it. This might not be the best Halo game of all time, but it is still a great entry into the series nonetheless and a fantastic return to form for such an iconic franchise.
The story of Halo Infinite is messy to say the least. And that has as much to do with some bad writing in the previous game, as it does because of the mountain of convoluted Halo lore that has been established over the past two decades. In some ways Infinite is simply burdened with the weight of what’s come before it, but that still doesn’t excuse what the writers have chosen to do with this particular entry either.
Our plot picks up where Halo 5: Guardians left off, and as such it has an awful lot of baggage to deal with. But the game never properly addresses the multiple narrative threads that we’ve seen being developed over the past few games, and instead jumps into a completely new story and leaves the players hanging.
And while I understand the impulse to do this and leave the failures of the previous entry behind, that doesn’t make the sudden change of pace feel any less abrupt. Even if the plot of Guardians was bad, that doesn’t mean that we don’t want proper resolutions or answers. How did we get here? What is everyone even talking about? None of these questions are answered properly even for older fans who might be a bit lost on the story, let alone for players completely new to the series.
But either way, we jump into a completely new arc at the start of the game and are quickly introduced to the Banished, as their leader Atriox defeats Master Chief and leaves him stranded in space. Who are the Banished you might ask? Well, they’re a faction that split off from the Covenant Empire and were first introduced in the Spin-off game Halo Wars 2. If you didn’t play that particular entry, you might be forgiven for thinking that this group of enemies came out of absolutely nowhere.
Sometime after this point, the legendary Spartan is discovered floating in the void by an unnamed UNSC Pilot, and the two make their way to the Zeta Halo installation to stop the Banished. It is also here that we first meet the Weapon, who becomes the Chief’s new AI companion for the adventure. Now as far as these two new NPCs are concerned, I think that the Pilot is undeniably the weaker character.
Compared to the Master Chief, he’s simply a regular human and does not possess the skills or the temperament of a super solider. In his mind humanity has already lost the war, and staying at the Halo ring is simply prolonging the inevitable. During the story he proves to be a good initial counterbalance to the Chief’s unrelenting confidence, but over time his outbursts do become a tad bit annoying.
The Weapon on the other hand is undeniably the real star of the show. She’s an AI, and yet there’s a certain naivety to her beliefs and actions. She’s also woefully inexperienced compared to Cortana and you get to see the relationship between her and the Chief evolve into something truly wondrous. You see the two of them start out as complete strangers, but then over time grow to trust one another more and more until they truly become partners.
I also have to give a shout out to the writers for their work on this more vulnerable depiction of Master Chief. He’s still as strong and reliable a protagonist as ever, but for the first time we get to see him struggle with his mortality as a person. The game depicts him as an emotionally broken man who is struggling with his failures, and realizing that he might not truly be as invincible as he seems. It’s a fantastic aspect of this character to explore, and I’m glad that 343 Industries was willing to depict it with the nuance it required.
Hands down, the combat of Halo Infinite is phenomenal. At its core it’s mostly the exact same formula of shooting, melee, explosives and vehicles that the series is known for, but refined further that it has ever been before. There’s also the addition of a new Grappling Hook, that greatly improves the momentum of firefights and adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay.
From returning firearms like the Assault Rifle and M41 SPNKR, to newer guns like the Skewer and Commando, each and every weapon in the game feels incredible to use. Not only have they been balanced to perfection, but the incredible sound design also goes the extra mile in making them feel more weighty and powerful.
And when I say that every weapon feels incredible to use, I genuinely mean that each weapon in the game feels useful and suited for specific occasions. For example, the Mangler is a great new pistol that fires a single, high-damage projectile that can easily down most unshielded enemies with a single well placed bullet. And even if the enemy happens to be shielded, they won’t be after a few well placed shots.
The Heatwave on the other hand is a Hardlight shotgun that can fire a spread either horizontally or vertically, depending on what the player chooses, allowing them to either focus on a single target or get multiple enemies with a sing shot. The projectiles fired by this weapon also ricochet, so you can angle your shots to bounce off walls as well.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest new additions to the game is the introduction of the Grappleshot. This is a new piece of equipment that allows you to literally grapple onto things in the world and quickly propel yourself towards them. This is great for traversal, as it allows you to tether yourself onto basically any point in the open world and scale any cliff side or wall you may find. So if you see a structure in the world, you can climb it using the Grappling Hook.
But on top of this, the Grappleshot also has multiple other uses that are revealed to the player with a bit of experimentation. You can use it on enemies to quickly close the distance with them, and even deliver a crippling melee attack as you get close. Additionally, it can pull weapons and Fusion coils to you, and even allow for hijacking of vehicles from a distance.
It cannot be underestimated how radically this changes up encounters in Halo Infinite. It’s one of the most brilliant additions to the game, and now players are going to have a hard time adjusting to any Halo experience that does not include this piece of equipment as well.
Setting And Level Design
One of the main selling points of Halo Infinite from the start was about how the series has now shifted to an open world setting with this entry. And while Halo titles have previously given players sizable open areas to explore, the levels have still mostly been linear experiences with extremely planned encounters and set pieces. Ditching that linearity for a more open ended approach to the levels and gameplay is certainly a bold choice, but it’s also a double-edged sword.
On one hand, the openness of the world gives players an incredible amount of freedom in how they choose to approach objectives. For example, one player might grab a Sniper Rifle and pick off tough enemies in an encampment from a distance, before going in to finish the grunts with a shotgun. Another player might instead choose to grab a vehicle and some UNSC soldiers, and roll up to the exact same objective with a fully loaded squad instead.
The game allows for both of these scenarios to take place, as well as many more. It’s all up to how the player chooses to tackle the situation, and that lends an incredible feeling of choice to a game series that hasn’t always had that before. Yes, some previous titles have allowed players a certain level of freedom, but never to this extent.
But on the other hand, this open world approach takes away a lot of the spectacle and grandeur that the Halo games are also known for. By choosing to prioritize freedom and exploration, Infinite also does away with a lot of the beautiful set pieces we’re used to. Most main missions now take place within certain strongholds in the open world, and these are extremely limited in scope and ambition because they have to be restricted to certain locations.
And to make matters worse, a lot of the environments they take place in constantly recycle assets. During my 50+ hours with the game, I had to stop and reassure myself multiple times that the mission I was doing was not in fact a repeat, and only the environments I was in were being reused. Some of the Forerunner architecture in particular is so overused, that I simply stopped caring about my surroundings after a while.
Sometimes it actually feels like the entire experience is incomplete without the incredible atmosphere and structures that I’m used to with Halo games. Because it’s evident that the developers have prioritized the gameplay over the narrative and atmosphere. The world is in no way poorly designed, but the lack of variety clearly shows after a few hours of playing. None of the different regions on the map differ greatly in appearance either, and that really sucks to see in a world this big.
Open World Gameplay
In terms of the actual content however, players will never find themselves wanting when it comes to the open world. Every single region of the map is absolutely full of Spartan Cores to find, Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) to capture for your side, Strongholds to liberate and mini-bosses to defeat.
None of this ever feels like the type of repetitive content you might find in say a Ubisoft game, and that’s again thanks to the open ended nature of combat. During my playthough I sometimes spent hours in-between main missions simply going from one marker to the next, completing any objectives that I could find. And what makes all of this worth doing is a gameplay loop that handsomely rewards you for doing basically every activity in the game.
Spartan Cores for example are collectibles that can be used to improve the usefulness of your equipment and even unlock alternative functions for it. From enhancing the strength of your Shield Core to reducing the cooldown of your Grappleshot, Spartan Cores are necessary for all of it. So collecting these is worthwhile in order to improve your chances of thriving against even the most dangerous combat encounters in the game.
Assassination missions on the other hand allow you to take down powerful mini-bosses that drop named variations of already existing weapons in the game. These usually have slightly altered appearances, and are more powerful than their standard counterparts.
Additionally, completing main missions, liberating enemy outposts and rescuing UNSC Marine squads reward you with Valor points. These accumulate together to unlock new weapons, vehicles and even friendly units than can be collected at the various FOBs in the world. Visiting these locations is always worthwhile, because you can really deck yourself out with gear before you head into combat.
Vehicles in particular play a massive role in the gameplay of Halo Infinite. Because not only do you require them to move around the massive map by default, but also because many of the outposts in the latter half of the game are truly challenging encounters. You require whatever tools you can get your hands on to tackle these, and Scorpion Tanks and Banshees are indispensable boons in that regard.
The free-to-play multiplayer of Halo Infinite went live well before the actual Campaign of the game was released in December, and players like myself had already put dozens of hours into the mode by that point. And as you might have already guessed, it uses the same fantastic combat systems as a basis to create one of the most refined multiplayer experiences of this generation.
Trust me when I say that I have put more hours into Halo Infinite’s multiplayer than any other online game this entire generation. And I’m not even a fan of competitive experiences, I mostly tend to stick to single-player titles. Yet as of the time of writing this review, I have played well over 500 matches and already completed the first Battle Pass.
The gunplay is great, the weapons are balanced and the developers have been making constant tweaks to improve problems as they crop up. Over time we’ve also seen patches being applied to fix issues like matches rewarding players with an absolutely miniscule amount of experience.
When the Multiplayer first launched, each completed match would only reward 50 XP regardless of whether you won or lost. And even with the increased XP rewarded for completing challenges, unlocking a single rank on the Battle Pass could take hours.
This has since been updated to give players an increased 300 XP for completing their first match of the day, followed by 200 XP for the second and third matches. And this keeps on going until the seventh match, which finally reduces the XP gain back to 50 per game. So at the least, this new system ensures that most players are able to complete at least one rank on the Battle Pass by playing six matches a day. The new payout system is a massive improvement over the older one, but the limited number of unlocks available to free players is also an issue.
Because if you want some of the best cosmetics available on the Battle Pass, you’re gonna have to cough up some money to purchase the Premium Battle Pass. Without this, the rewards you’ll get are extremely limited. And sure, It’s hard to complain when you’re basically getting a completely free multiplayer mode, but that still doesn’t change the fact that most of the cool kits and skins are locked behind a paywall.
When the Multiplayer first launched, players were also extremely restricted in what type of mode they could play. You could either choose to get into a ‘Quick Play’ or ‘Big Team Battle’ playlist, and you basically had no further control in picking your preferred type of match. So if you wanted to complete Oddball challenges, you had to wait it out until the rotation came around to that type of match. Thankfully this is another feature that has since been updated, and the game now has a more precise playlist available.
Overall though, I’m really happy with how much progress has been made since release and I’m looking forward to what new content is added to the Multiplayer. Because there’s a decent selection of maps available right now, so I’m not going to complain too much about that. But after around 500 matches everything does start to get a bit stale.
Visuals And Performance
There is a prominent difference in visuals between Halo Infinite as it launched, and what we saw in the original 2020 demo of the game. Thanks to that extra year of development, the title looks significantly better and the level of lighting and textures is a massive step up.
The weapons look much more elaborate, and the dirt and foliage is much more grittier. Most notably, Master Chief’s armor is also radically more detailed and realistic. In fact, most of the character models look much better than before, even if there is a curious issue where light doesn’t properly projected onto them sometimes. This is only a minor issue that I noticed when comparing the two versions, and most people will probably not even care.
But even after all of that development time, Infinite is not as pretty a game as it could be. In fact, compared to other recent Xbox first party titles like Forza Horizon 5, the graphics are a noticeable step down. It is not an ugly game by any definition, but it’s evident that the priority here was making sure that it runs smoothly on every platform and not to make it a true next-gen experience. And as far as I’m concerned, 343 Industries has succeeded in that task.
Performance wise, Halo Infinite runs spectacularly on most consoles, including the base Xbox One that is now over 7 years old. At 1080p resolution the hardware manages to maintain a steady 30FPS in almost all scenarios, which is more than adequate for a machine this old. The visuals and lighting may not be amazing, and there is noticeable texture pop in, but I’m amazed that the game even manages to run this well at all.
On the Xbox One X, Infinite manages to run at 2160p at 30FPS in quality mode, and 1440p at a steady 60FPS in performance mode. This hardware is significantly more powerful than the base model, so this much is at least expected.
The Series S is a bit shocking, since it only manages to hit 1080p on both quality and performance modes. The main difference of course is that in performance mode it manages to hit a steady 60FPS, but I at least expected the resolution to hit 1440p in quality mode. It still looks great, but I suppose I expected more.
And Finally on Series X, the game manages to maintain a minimum of 2160p and 60FPS on quality mode. On performance mode however, the resolution fluctuates between 1440p to 1080p in favor of a whopping 120 FPS. The sacrifice in visuals in this mode is regretful, but I don’t think I’ve seen any other game manage such a high framerate on a console ever before. So it gets a pass in my book.
Halo Infinite Verdict
After almost a decade without a great entry in the series, Halo has finally come back in a big way with Halo Infinite. Not only is this one of the most ambitious games in the franchise, it might actually be the most refined when it comes to the gameplay
The Grappleshot is a fantastic new addition to the arsenal, and the open world has it’s pros and cons. On one hand the open-ended nature of the map allows for a lot of flexibility, but on the other we’ve lost a lot of the more curated and set piece levels.
Also, the story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and the developers have clearly struggled with where to take the plot. And while not everything works, both the Pilot and the Weapon are decent new characters for our protagonist to bounce off of. I also appreciate the more intimate look at Master Chief as a human being, as he struggles with complex themes like his own mortality and legacy.
All in all, this is a fantastic return to form for one of gaming’s most iconic franchises.
- Fantastic core combat.
- Grappleshot is amazing.
- Weapons are perfectly balanced.
- Open ended encounters.
- Rewarding side objectives.
- Incredible multiplayer modes.
- The dynamic between the Weapon and Master Chief.
- Story leaves a lot of threads unresolved.
- Map is lacking variety.
- Visuals could be better.
Halo Infinite Rating – 4.5/5
This has been our Halo Infinite Review. While you’re here, why not also check out our Forza Horizon 5 Review.
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