Halo Infinite Nailed It… Mostly

Few times have I ever been so worried about a game’s release. I mean, how many times did this game change directors? And how big was the budget, again? Five hundred million bucks? Not only that, but it was the follow-up to Halo 5, a game that every Halo fan in the world hated. If this one failed, that was it. Halo was done for.

Thankfully, despite all of its issues, the game actually came out great! Far from flawless! But great!

On their mission to stop and destroy Cortana on the Zeta Halo Ring, the UNSC is attacked by the Banished. In this battle, Master Chief is defeated by the leader of the Banished, Atriox, and left to drift in space. Six months later, pilot Echo-216 picks Chief up and revitalizes him. Together, along with a companion AI named Weapon (who totally isn’t Cortana, trust us, she’s definitely not Cortana), they reignite the war against the Banished in order to reclaim the Halo Ring. But the questions remain: what happened to Cortana? How did Atriox die? And what secrets are held within the depths of this unique Halo Ring?

The biggest issue with the 343 era Halo games has been the narrative. Luckily, the story here is pretty solid! It actually reinvigorates the Halo universe in some fun and interesting ways, introducing tons of new characters and concepts to be explored that actually takes it away from what we already had in the prior games!

The narrative is delivered in a fairly interesting way. Most of the actual major plot points happened before the game started. Now, you’re just trying to figure out what happened in order to find a way forward. It feels like you’re unraveling a giant knot piece by piece. It’s fairly well done and a unique direction to take Halo.

All of the characters in this story are a mixed bag. The villains are absolutely fantastic; every scene Escharum is totally engaging, as he is equal parts intimidating and exhilarating. Our heroes are fairly solid; Weapon is a fun, more innocent version of Cortana, who plays well with Chief’s no-nonsense strong-silent-type persona. Echo-216 is a good addition, but he does feel a bit one-dimensional, spending most of the game complaining or cowering.

The same critique applies to the dialogue. Most of it is incredibly well-written, being snappy and organic and fun to listen to. Unfortunately, not every attempt at humor makes the mark. A lot of it feels like Marvel humor, which, after god knows how many Marvel movies, has gotten fairly old.

Luckily, the enemy dialogue is consistently hilarious. That’s right! Enemies have personality again! Grunts will yell out in terror when anything goes wrong, the Elites and the Brutes will yell out taunts and battle cries, and the Hunters will scream bloody murder at you. Grunts even have their own towers you can destroy that they’ll use to taunt you! I haven’t laughed so hard at a Halo game since I was a wee lad!

It isn’t a perfect narrative. But compared to the absolute dreck we got in Halo 5, it’s a god damn masterpiece. If this is the direction the series is going to take from now on, then I’m excited!

The graphics are pretty solid, too. Rather than going for a completely photo-realistic style, like what we got in Halo 5, Infinite goes for a slightly cartoonish look. It feels like a modern take on the art style of Halo 1. The characters are all animated phenomenally, with some really solid facial capture and high-quality models. All of the environments are rock-solid and well-detailed, being bright and colorful. They even changed the style of the Forerunner structures to resemble what it was in the original trilogy rather than the 343 style seen in Halo 4 and 5.

And the music! The score has always been an important aspect of Halo, one that has been extremely disappointing in 343’s previous attempts. But I’m happy to say that Halo Infinite has a phenomenal soundtrack! We get tons of returning tracks from previous games and a whole bunch of new ones that are just as good! From the dramatic and bombastic to the quiet and somber to the chilling and nerve-racking or even to the simple ambient silence, this game sounds absolutely incredible!

That being said, I definitely ran into technical hiccups. The overworld suffers from many graphical hiccups, like textures that either show up late or never arrive. The frame rate suffers noticeably, as well. It’s actually kind of hilarious, playing through the game at 30 or less FPS, then watching it shoot up to a buttery-smooth 60 when entering a main story mission.

Speaking of which: those feel pretty repetitive. With only two exceptions, main story missions all look just about the same. They’re all the same dark and blue Forerunner hallways filled with the same enemies. Not only that, but they all feel the same gameplay wise, too; find a Power Seed, power an elevator, rinse and repeat.

Which leads me to the highlight of any game review: the game itself.

At its core, Halo Infinite is very much a Halo game. You run about killing enemies with a wide variety of sci-fi weapons that you pick up off the ground. All the classic vehicles are back, from the warthog to the chopper, all of which are capable of mass destruction. With all of that, along with a few extra pick-ups, you gotta run and shoot through every enemy, be they the Banished or the enemy team.

Not much is different, but the few changes they added are really fun. Like the grapple hook! It’s a simple thing, letting you grab items to throw or zoom in on distant enemies. But that one added layer to the gameplay makes Halo even more insanely fun, creative, and addictive! You can do some truly insane things with it!

Let’s start with the campaign. Unlike the last games in the series, this one isn’t just mission-to-mission. Rather, Chief is dropped into a fairly large open world with multiple objectives to complete. These range from:

  • Banished strongholds: destroy a camp filled with tons of Banished
  • FOBs: free a Base of Forward Operations from Banished control
  • SOS: rescue a squad of UNSC marines from the Banished
  • High-profile target: target a high-ranking member of the Banished to unlock a unique variety of a weapon type
  • Collectibles: find Spartan Cores for upgrades or chests containing cosmetics for multiplayer

Aside from these, the open world is all but empty. And the objectives themselves all feel pretty much the same. Every FOB, SOS, and stronghold feels pretty much the same, and the high-profile targets are just normal enemies but with a bigger shield. Not to say it’s bad; the core gameplay is more than fun enough to prevent boredom. Still, these side objectives can be really repetitive after a while.

Although it is fun to cheese them later on. See, you get Valor as you complete certain objectives. With that, you unlock the ability to call in weapons or vehicles from an FOB. Including a tank. Which you can use to easily kill any High-Profile Target or take another FOB without issue. Which is extremely funny.

The boss fights are also a mixed bag. At their core, they’re basically just normal enemies with a special weapon and a huge shield/health bar. But fuck me, these guys are hard! I was playing on Heroic and they were one-shot killing me like I was playing on fucking Legendary! These guys are truly brutal, and they’re decently fun. At least, if you can get past your seething rage and frustration.

I do love the upgrade system, though. It isn’t just about making your power-up items stronger. They also add some fun effects. You can add a stunning charge ability to your grapple hook, add shock damage to any shot fired through the shield, so on and so forth. It’s small, but it adds some fun incentive to explore and find Spartan Cores.

The campaign is fine. Not the greatest Halo campaign of all time, but still a very good one. Definitely an upgrade over Halo 4’s boring on-rail missions and Halo 5’s terrible team AI. But I do feel that the open world wasn’t entirely necessary. And we don’t have co-op yet, though that mode has been promised.

But hey! It’s not nearly as bad as a Ubisoft game! For what little that might be worth.

Now, onto the multiplayer. This one has all the core modes Halo has had for all these years. Slayer, capture the flag, Oddball, you know ’em, you love ’em. Whether you’re going at them with only a team of four or with a massive team on a big ass map, this is Halo multiplayer at its most simple. It feels reminiscent of Halo 3’s multiplayer, but with a few changes.

Unfortunately, this is the aspect of Halo Infinite that has the most issues.

Progression is the big one. See, the multiplayer mode is free to play; all sixty of your bucks are spent on the campaign. Unfortunately, that means the EXP gain is heavily stunted. If you want to unlock all the cool cosmetics, the easiest way to do that isn’t just to play the game. It’s to crack open your wallet and spend money in the in-game store.

Is this game breaking? No, thank God. All of the items you can buy are entirely cosmetic. But paying for them does undercut the satisfaction of actually having them. If you got a badass set of armor in Halo 3 or Reach, it was satisfying because it was earned. In Infinite, people will just make fun of you for spending real money on some fake samurai armor for your fake video game character.

It doesn’t help that you have no control over which modes you play or which map you play them on. Want to play Slayer? Well, you’ll have to trust that 343 doesn’t decide that no, you actually want to play Oddball or capture the flag. Don’t like the map? Too bad, you can’t choose to play on a different one.

Not to mention that there aren’t many of those in the first place.

Do any of these kill the multiplayer mode? No. It’s still a ton of fun, and it has a ton of potential; if more maps are added and players are given control over which modes they want to play, it could be a blast! But as it stands, it feels more like a beta than a proper release.

Is Halo Infinite perfect? Oh, God no. Both the campaign and the multiplayer are riddled with problems. This is far from the best game in the series.

But is it good? Yes. I’d even say it’s great! This is the first Halo game since the end of the Bungie era where I was actually having fun from start to end! Sure, it’s not perfect! But it has that spark that made the earlier games in this series so good! Without a shadow of a doubt, Halo Infinite is the best game 343 has made yet.

God, it feels so good to feel excited about Halo again!

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