Halo Infinite (2021)

Somewhere along the 5th game in the series, I lost all interest in the Halo franchise. ODST with its weird offshoot story, and Reach being at the end of the 360’s lifespan, along with Bungie no longer the developers of their own game… I just didn’t care about Halo, one of gaming’s biggest series for a long time. I tried replaying the original with the remaster, and the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One, and even tried doing a bit of Co-op gaming online with my friend Sean with Halo 4, sadly the magic was gone.

Halo Infinite’s development has been a fairly rough one, as when they finally had the big reveal of what Halo Infinite was going to be, all anyone could latch onto was a frame grab of an enemy that didn’t look super great. And when the internet gets a new meme, they run it into the ground in all of a single second. Then the delays came, and while it’s ultimately a good thing, the launching of Microsoft’s newest Xbox console without Halo didn’t feel right (Although, only the original Xbox in 2001 had a Halo game to launch with the system).

Another odd thing with Halo Infinite’s launch was the fact that the game was released in two parts, the first being the multiplayer, and labeled as a “Beta” (The word has lost all meaning), and then a month later the single player campaign showed up. I played a few rounds of multiplayer on launch day, along with an actual beta several months earlier, and found that although I don’t particularly care for multiplayer games, I did have a blast with it. I’m not gonna gloat and say I did spectacular, but I held my own and had an overall good kill/death ratio. I liked that the game let’s you customize your spartan warrior, with not just different colors, but symbols, helmets, armor and even stances during the loading… It’s just a great multiplayer package (except for the whole microtransaction part, but I never pay attention to that stuff anyways, so it’s easy for me to avoid).

The real reason I picked up the game, besides it basically being free to play with GamePass, was the single player campaign. Having never finished ODST, Reach, 4 and straight up skipping Halo 5, I had no clue what the story was going to be, and all I knew was that Cortana went rogue AI. So here is the basic plot. Cortana went off the reservation and Master Chief was sent in to destroy her, however another AI called “Weapon” was designed to delete her, and she accomplished her goal. The game starts with Master Chief in a massive fight and actually ends up losing to a Banished Warrior named Atriox. He tosses Master Chief into space and there he floats lifeless for six months. A lone floating space ship picks up Master Chief’s tracking beacon and rescues him and the both of them head for the partially destroyed Halo.

On the busted up Halo ring, covenant and banished have taken over and the UNSC have lost and mostly captured. It’s up to Master Chief to find “Weapon” and have her help regain control of the Halo Ring… I think I summed that up pretty well.

The big and shiny new thing for Halo Infinite is that the game is partially open world, and let’s you pick where you want to go. Spending time exploring and finding outposts to take over, which will unlock fast travel points and bases to restock ammo, switch out weapons and even call in vehicles are main priorities. You can go out looking for squads that have been holed up and need help fighting back, and once you do, you unlock more soldiers that you can bring along with you on a mission in various Warthog vehicles. Or you can go collecting bounties for high ranking enemies, who are much more tough, but give you special weapon unlocks that really help when facing some tough battles. My personal favorite was just going off and finding the “Spartan Cores” that allow upgrades to Master Chief’s armor. Things like better shield regeneration, or dropping a small shield, or the ever amazing grapple shot, a grappling hook that when fully upgraded, takes out enemy shields, latches onto them, and zipps you over to them while shocking them and anyone near them. It’s a massive help and changed the way I approached a lot of battles. I spent time taking out various guards in quick succession just by grappling, melee punching them to death, and repeating it with the next nearest enemy.

The open world is massive, but also fairly empty. At the beginning, everything is so different and new, that it felt like I could spend dozens of hours just exploring, but after only a couple, I realized that the only terrain in the game is pine tree forest clearings, and large black and grey Forerunner pillars that build the Halo Ring. That’s kinda it. So there isn’t much else to see except more of the same setting. Once I unlocked the Wasp single person jet, I basically B-lined it to every point on the map, completed the objective and moved onto the next, just like I normally do with those types of games. It didn’t really bother me, or get boring, as once you complete all the activities in the area, you really can’t do anything else of value except for advance the story along with a mission.

I won’t really spoil the ending, but with the game being called Halo Infinite, and it technically being the eight in the Halo series, I figured this would wrap up any Master Chief/Cortana storylines and give us something new at the end…. But just like Halo 2, you don’t actually finish any fight and are only at the start of it. With how long this game took to come out, having a full extra year of development time, and not having much data or information on the main bad guy or any understanding of what is going on… it’s a fairly large disappointment.

The game itself is great, and while the open world isn’t exactly brimming with different locations or activities to justify staying longer than completing the story, it’s a great new and fresh start for the series. One of my biggest issues with the Halo series is that it never felt all that interesting. Most levels are designed as hallway corridor shooters, with some larger open battle arenas, but nothing much more. The open world really gives a much grander scale and the different activities, especially the Spartan Core and Bounty Hunting brought a smile to my face that hasn’t shown up when thinking about Halo in a very long time. It’s a great foundation for the next game in the series, and 343 has redeemed themselves as a Halo developer. If they continue to build upon what groundwork was laid with Infinite, I can see Halo becoming that monolith gaming event that it used to be. I won’t line up at Midnight or anything, especially not with GamePass and Gigabit internet anymore, but I’ll play it as soon as I am able to. Just like when Halo 2 got leaked in French and we had a 24 hour LAN party at my house.