It’s as though Halo Infinite is a homecoming. 343 Industries was presented with a seemingly impossible task: to commemorate a 20-year history while laying the groundwork for future adventures.
So there’s a new ringed world to explore, with a new Smart AI partner to shine a little light in its darkest corners; a new extinction catastrophe to narrowly avoid, and yet another fight for Master Chief to threaten to end one day. Halo Infinite is Halo as you know it, but it’s also Halo like you’ve never seen it before.
While 343 has been in charge of the series for over a decade, it never felt like the studio completely grasped what it was working with. For many in the community, Halo 4 was too conceptually similar, Halo 5: Guardians was too mechanically expansive, and the scars left by the acidic launch of The Master Chief Collection never healed. The answer to such a continuous campaign of criticism in Halo Infinite is one of willful defiance.
Halo Infinite is a joyful return to the classic elements that drive Combat Evolved, restoring a sense of discovery that was once at the heart of Halo but has since faded.
Spartan-117 is pushed out of the little sandboxes he’s been so comfortable playing in for all these years in order to encourage exploration of the entire playground. A free-to-play multiplayer component ties it all together, bringing players from three platforms into one shared, competitive area. It’s an unmistakably daring package.
Halo Infinite begins with the war against the Banished already lost, and a loose coalition of Covenant exiles entrenched on Zeta Halo – having spent six months gradually tearing away the final remains of the UNSC as it works to reassemble a fragmented Installation 07 Master Chief is charged with returning to the planet and retaking the Banished frontline, fighting for every inch of ground while chasing the demons of his past.
Infinite takes place 18 months after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, and aside from a few collectible audio logs chronicling life aboard the UNSC Infinity, it doesn’t much care about what transpired in that time.
There’s a super soldier to control, a hostile alien world to tame, and a blue-hued hologram to befriend, thanks to 343’s intentional effort to pare Halo down to its bones, making it more approachable for players coming in without two decades of backstory committed to memory.
Halo Infinite strains under the weight of its own legacy in this grip. Newcomers to Halo won’t be able to understand much of the drama at the heart of Infinite’s main series, while new-time players will be disappointed by the absence of so many supporting characters, many of whom have grown integral to the Halo universe’s feel.
However, for those who have followed Chief from the beginning, the story satisfactorily concludes an arc that has been steadily growing since Halo 2 – even if the journey to the end can be a little rocky at times. And, yes, you might cry by the time.
The way 343 delivers this story deviates from the norm. Halo Infinite deviates from the series’ traditional frenetic, cinematic framework, but that isn’t always a bad thing. The core objectives continue to unfold in gorgeously lit corridors and perfectly staged sandboxes, but Chief now has the ability to explore the world around him in between the litany of protracted boss battles and tedious monologues.
Combat Evolved missions like ‘Arriving on Halo’ and ‘The Silent Cartographer’ have a strong impact on Halo Infinite’s world atmosphere and visual appeal, as well as the pace at which you can navigate through it. The majority of the action takes place beneath a truly gorgeous skybox, dominated by an awe-inspiring alien superstructure that bends off into the stratosphere, much like the first game in the series.
Installation 07 may be an undeniably lovely space to spend your time on, even if Halo Infinite lacks the amount of polish and visual detailing you’d expect from a premium Xbox Series X experience.
Zeta Halo isn’t a “open world” in the sense that we think of them these days; it’s not as big or as loud as the worlds in Borderlands, Fallout, or Far Cry. Instead, it’s open and uncluttered, with a focus on progressive advancement and exploration.
Access to new portions of the map is granted gradually over time, as the story progresses, so you’re never overwhelmed by the state of the world or a jumble of waypoints. If you’re looking for a classic Halo experience, Infinite is the place to go.
The world is mostly optional, so you may rush down the golden path if you wish, bookending each linear objective with a short drive in a Warthog and the odd fight with roving bands of sharply written, and surprisingly tough Elite, Grunts, and Jackals.
Exploring the world of Zeta Halo
Of fact, focusing solely on the essential path would completely miss the point. You’ll want to spend some time in Zeta Halo because it’s a fascinating world. It is a naturally fascinating landscape, not because it is overflowing with points of interest.
Looking around, using the new Grapple Shot to quickly scale the environment, or jumping behind the wheel of your favorite vehicle and going off in quest of hidden Skulls on mountaintops and other mysteries in murky loot caverns are all enjoyable activities.
When you’re out in the wilderness, you never know what you’ll find or what possibilities to engage the Banished will present themselves.
The world’s structure and speed cleverly mirror Chief’s struggle. While attempting to disable the Installation against the clock, he is also attempting to gain a footing against the Banished and rally what remains of the UNSC around him. As a result, each area of the map has a handful of overrun Forward Operating Bases to recapture, as well as Banished Strongholds to deactivate.
The FOBs successfully serve as exploration anchor points. When you retake a base, it will uncover optional goals and collectibles in the area – Banished bounty targets will relinquish entertaining weapon variants once destroyed; Spartan Cores can be collected and used to upgrade your equipment (such as your Shields or Grapple Shot), and Weapon Lockers will unlock unique cosmetics for use in multiplayer.
The sequence of moving into an area, seizing a FOB, clearing the space of waypoints, and then moving on to the next proved enjoyable during my 18-hour playtime.
FOBs can also be used to requisition unlocked weapons and vehicles, as well as to restock your ammunition supply. As you begin to equip yourself to push against Infinite’s more demanding enemy strongholds – packed to the rafters with devilishly sharp Banished forces – Halo’s dynamic transforms.
In the past, Halo games have seemed wide and dynamic, but what you could do in any of the sandbox venues was ultimately limited by the weapons and vehicles 343 (and Bungie) made. In Halo Infinite, however, every combat is interpretative.
In this regard, the variety of options available in Halo Infinite is astounding. You can park outside a Banished facility and use an S7 Sniper Rifle to take down Jackals at the range, then descend into the carnage you’ve created once the ammunition runs out. Maybe you could Grapple Shot above the defensive perimeter and start raining down M41 SPNKR rockets on unsuspecting Brutes.
Perhaps you summon a Warthog from a FOB, load it with Marines brandishing powerful weapons, and drive right up to the base’s front gates, horn screaming. The hostile AI will always respond in kind, no matter how you approach it. It’s demanding, energizing, and always exhilarating.
What’s impressive is that once combat begins, Infinite feels exactly like old Halo. Your peripheral view is filled with swarming adversaries across a variety of distances and verticalities. Movement is tight and methodical, a furious flow of gunfire, grenades, and melee strikes – your peripheral vision is packed with swarming foes across a variety of distances and verticalities.
Combat is more open-ended than ever before, yet it still has that handcrafted feel to it, as if each encounter is custom-made specifically for you, whereas in truth, any two players might have a completely different experience. The absence of co-op at launch is made all the more heartbreaking when you realize the scope of Halo Infinite’s combat.
Many of the more polarizing components introduced in Halo 5: Guardians were thankfully toned down by 343 Industries. The Spartan skills have been eliminated, although Master Chief may still sprint, mantle, and aim-down-sights of any firearm. You can no longer shoulder-charge foes, use ground pound strikes, or hover in mid-air using stabilizers.
The emphasis has shifted back to strafing in and out of the fire while the sound of your replenishing energy shield dominates the soundtrack. Even when using the Grapple Shot to reel yourself toward aggressors or away from danger, movement is grounded and tangible.
While the return to play from Halo 3 is pleasant, much of the equipment is merely cosmetic. Switching between your unlocks using the D-Pad is clunky, especially in the middle of intense combat confrontations, and only the Grapple Shot has any real utility.
The Threat Sensor is rarely worth the trouble of equipping, the Drop Wall is a weak echo of the Bubble Shield, the Thrusters are only effective on the odd occasion a pair of Hunters emerge, and the Drop Wall is a faint echo of the Bubble Shield.
That’s even after you’ve upgraded the lot using Spartan Cores you’ve obtained. To be honest, the Grapple Shot is such a game-changing innovation – it successfully expands the scope of play both in and out of combat – that there’s rarely any truth to move away from it.
Complete the fight
Halo Infinite is an undeniably enjoyable time. The movement is heavy and tactile, preserving the grounded sense that all successful Halo games have while not compromising agility or mobility. Combat is fast-paced and dynamic, with AI enemies continually pressuring you to use everything available to you for survival, including your equipment, weapons, and even the environment.
The decision to transform Halo’s long-standing traditions into a gigantic open-ended sandbox only works to increase the game’s scope of play.
Against all odds, Halo Infinite is both a familiar celebration of Master Chief’s two decades of adventures and a broad basis for future evolution. 343 Industries has taken the spirit of Combat Evolved and modernized it, resulting in the best Halo campaign in a long time.
This is one adventure you should jump straight into, whether you’re a series veteran returning to complete a fight or a new player arriving on Zeta Halo to begin one.