Since the original Xbox console, Halo: Combat Evolved created the modern first-person shooter. Having always been a juggernaut on Xbox with only one prior game on PC, the next iteration now bridges the gap with cross-platform. After delays due to the global pandemic and changes in staff, Halo Infinite is the latest installment in Master Chief’s journey.
To celebrate the Xbox’s 20th Anniversary, Halo Infinite released it’s free-to-play multiplayer into “beta”. One of the largest Halo games to date due in part to it’s open world nature, is available now. Most can play the game via Xbox Game Pass or buy it at full retail price. How does this Halo game stack up against it’s predecessors and does it have the power to keep long time interest? Here’s our review of Halo Infinite.
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed)
Release Date: December 8, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
A cutscene opens the game, Master Chief fights Atriox, the Banished leader who throws you into space, leaving him for dead. Master Chief is rescued by Echo-216 who has been in space for years by himself. After Chief boards, he then begins the fight against the Banished once again after finding out that Zeta Halo is partially destroyed.
It takes a few hours to get into the open world aspect of Halo Infinite but before it does, you will most likely enjoy the beats that it takes from Halo: Combat Evolved. Infinite definitely feels standalone and doesn’t feel anything like a continuation of Halo 5: Guardians and the way it ended. Perhaps, I would say that I enjoyed this story a lot more than Halo 4 which introduced new enemies and the start of the Reclaimer Saga.
After finding “The Weapon”, who was created to confine Cortana and delete her, Chief takes her to help solve the mystery. The Weapon acts like the same as any other AI, opening doors, hacking bridges and weapons, and detecting enemies nearby. Her chemistry with Chief is similar to that of Cortana from games past.
A lot of focus for the story was to zero in on Master Chief and his relationship with those around him, specifically Cortana. Chief is presented as a broken soldier and seeking answers of what happened and why. His personal journey is what makes the story better than the aforementioned Guardians, which was more of an OC fanfic where Chief is the villain to Locke’s hero.
Playing through the story directly (on Normal or lower) will be about 8 hours, if you’re only playing through the story. Nestled between the linear stages that present story, you also have an open world map with what could only be described as “busy work” but more on that later. The story isn’t great, but not terrible, but ultimately comes out as generic.
Nothing particularly amazing happens in the story but instead expands on some lore via Audio logs found throughout the game. It’s a story that even after you’ve completed it, you’re given a post credits scene that almost makes you wonder where the extra year 343 Industries had went. Sometimes in Master Chief acts as though there is some protocol to follow, doesn’t abide by it and then gets mad at others for not abiding by it.
Most of the issues I had with the writing were miniscule but you wouldn’t be in the wrong for forgetting every character’s name outside of the main cast. It’s forgettable and needs more to be better and maybe it’s 343 trying to prepare everyone for a live service. There were some scenes I remember and boss fights that were interesting but nothing to write home about; it’s just bland.
In the open world, Halo manages to do fine only because it’s tight gameplay. Chores, otherwise known as side quests, are not overwhelming and can almost be skipped until you beat the main story. Fighting “threats” gives variants for weapons and also makes them appear at FOBs, which act as bases. Freeing or helping Marine squads are also events you can tackle and you’re rewarded with them joining you in the field.
Master Chief is given at first the grappleshot ability which allows for you to zip up to a platform or enemies. Other abilities like the drop shield and thrusters are found during story progression and can upgraded to reduce cooldown and such. Typically with each iteration, Halo introduces something new to it’s formula like dual wielding weapons in Halo 2. In Infinite, there are new Banished weapons, that honestly seem underwhelming for the most part.
Everything thrown at you in the open world is something you can tackle when you want; as far as how you is a different story. Stealth is never an option, period. You tackle every encounter the same but with different weapons. Most of the time you can use vehicles to clear out what you want and get rewarded.
It’s a feeling of playing something like Far Cry where you can take over bases, find treasures, and continue the story whenever. These formulas work for other games that were/are designed for it, not Halo so much. Most fans are used to handcrafted levels and the linear nature but some of that has been lost when there’s busy work laid all over the map. Adding to the fact that Co-Op isn’t available at launch, which further adds to making Halo Infinite feel further disconnected from previous entries.
Multiplayer is where most Halo fans will spend their time outside of the campaign after 100% completion. At launch, there are 10 maps spread out across multiple modes, of which there are 6, but with recent discoveries more are available being offline. One of the biggest flaws that afflicts the multiplayer experience as a whole is the progression system.
Arguably, this is one of the most controversial features in the game next to the Season Pass implementation. The Season Pass is available for $10 USD and grants you the unlocks as you play and progress. Constant tweaks are always being done to the progression system for the multiplayer experience, so it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly it may be later.
Fan outcry has been about the lack of a playlist selector that was implemented in previous games. There you could select game modes specifically instead of a random assortment of various game modes that you may not want to play.
Calling Halo Infinite a “beta” could probably be accurate to a degree since there a multitude of bugs and performance issues on PC including crashing. It’s in a weird state of being completely incomplete with promises from 343 Industries themselves stating a “players first approach”. The overall stability is something that needs work and should have been ironed out after being delayed a year. This is even more concerning when you find out that the full game isn’t even on the disc.
When Halo 4 came out on the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, there was virtually no different graphics wise. While these graphics aren’t that bad, they most certainly aren’t what I would consider “next gen”. Some positives are the reflective metals of Zeta Halo and how the sun hits them, negatives are the grassy tuffs throughout the forest biome.
I originally played on PC with everything maxed out at 1440p but then opted to play on Xbox Series S. There wasn’t much of a difference in them besides draw distances and how somewhat muddy the image got on console. Facial features on human characters and Master Chief’s armor are detailed very highly while Escharum’s face is ok, and during your battle with him, drops to 30FPS regardless.
Outside of that, and the previously mentioned performance on PC, the Xbox Series S experienced freezing, mostly during two or three shootouts. It would only stick for maybe 10 seconds and then resume, probably a loading bug that they didn’t account for because of the SSD. It’s a game that desperately needs polish and refinement even on the “should-be best experienced on console” angle.
Positively, two things that will always be good is the music and sound. The audio mixing in the game is by far the best thing ever and carries it almost entirely. There’s no issues I found and no downside to this whatsoever.
Obviously, the iconic Halo choir and orchestra theme are still present as they should be. Battle themes that most longtime fans are familiar with are incredible sounding still and don’t overpower any background sounds or dialogue. Tribal drums, fanfare, and the best sounding orchestral music thus far in games this year make a solid contender just for the soundtrack alone.
For some unknown reason, the gravel-y sound of rocks when Chief’s boots slide on them and the handling of gear are ASMR tier. I don’t listen to ASMR but if I did, this would be it for hours. That’s not to dismiss the wind and waterfall sound effects found throughout the ring, which are also masterclass. If I could give this game a 10/10 for just the sound I would.
When all is said and done, the many failed attempts and missteps add up. I enjoy the grind of completing a map with objectives on it but only if there is the assurance I never have to fight the Banished again. I didn’t have glitches that broke the game or anything like that but I did get a little chuckle out of a Marine stuck in a chest.
If the audio didn’t absolutely carry this game, the one thing that I will give Halo Infinite is that it manages to be a good game, better than the other 2 big shooter games released recently. 343 Industries didn’t name this Halo 6 because if they did it would be so far departed from the franchise entirely. Thankfully, this managed to do what I knew it could, which is be the best out of the three FPS games in the past month.
Halo Infinite was reviewed on Windows PC using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.