Halo reaches for a combat evolution
I’ve always liked Halo. The straightforward structure and fast-paced arena-shooter gameplay fits what I look for in a first-person shooter. Halo has been delivering the goods for 20 years now, and in that time we’ve seen Master Chief go through it all. But now his biggest challenge is upon him.
Navigating an open world.
Halo Infinite takes a tropical leaf from the Far Cry playbook with its latest instalment, and like all things new and unknown, it has its benefits and its drawbacks.
Master Chief and his new stowaway buddy open the game with a fight for their lives which ends with the pair being jettisoned to a nearby Halo ring that has taken some damage, to put it lightly. It’s all buggered up and the game’s antagonists, The Banished, have decided it’s a sweet place to cop a squat and do some bad guy stuff. Master Chief doesn’t agree, so he goes about kicking the aliens off of their new home.
From the go, I was lost. I didn’t know who The Banished were. My mate Vince, a proper hardcore Halo nut, had to tell me they were in Halo Wars 2, a game I’ve not played. Also, when did Cortana get botox and a new cut? Oh, that’s right, it’s not Cortana, it just looks like Cortana. Apparently, she went rogue and now she and Master Chief aren’t mates anymore.
Yes, I’m a bit useless on Halo lore, and considering Halo 5 came out years and years ago – before I started numbing the pain of life with whatever I could get my hands on – all memory of the story is gone. Should I have played Halo 5 again before Infinite? Maybe. But would a “previously on Halo” intro saved me a lot of head-scratching? Definitely.
You can split Halo’s gameplay into two different sections; traditional linear missions, and open-world do-as-you-like exploration.
Halo Infinite’s open-world… sucks. For one, it’s quite lifeless and dull when you’re not dodging colourful blaster fire. Simply getting around the place is a chore, too. The usual slog of vehicles are present that help in getting across the barren lands quickly, but often, I’d have to abuse the new grapplehook feature to cheese my way to my location or jump stupidly over rocky formations.
The open-world serves to give you something to do outside of the main missions, and being that Halo is a modern game, there is an RPG-lite system that plays into the world. Exploring the different locations and enemy hideouts will reward you with stuff, and as you collect point tokens, you can upgrade Master Chief’s abilities. Honestly, I found this a bit pointless, too. Sure, upgrading the armour is a good move, and I didn’t shy away from the grapplehook upgrades either, but Master Chief’s three other abilities (dash, deployable shield, and the enemy scanner) were rarely utilised. I didn’t find myself being forced to use them, so I stuck with the grapplehook as my main right bumper ability.
Despite Halo Infinite’s open-world being a bit lacking and unoriginal, the game’s trademark gameplay is fitting, and when the world was being put to good use with massive arena’s to duke it out with the nasty aliens, I really enjoyed the idea, it’s just when you’re not actively engaged with anything in the world that it becomes a bit of a bore. Thankfully, there is fast travel to save a bit of lugging around.
The other side of the coin is the main story campaign missions. These are excellent and while I was lost with the story to begin with, I was quickly invested in Chief’s tale, and I came to like the new not-Cortana. In fact, the story is probably the best that I can remember in a Halo game. I actually really like not-Cortana with her chirpy attitude. It came as a genuine shock, then, when later in the story, she gets really mad at Chief and it hits hard.
Chief himself feels more human than ever, too. He is still a man of few words, but I found what he had to say was impactful when it mattered. For instance, not-Cortana asked Chief if he was OK, and his response of “no, not really” gave me a little kick in the belly. This was Master Chief, the hero of five games, the face of the Halo brand, and by extension, the go-to mascot for Xbox. He said he wasn’t OK. In that moment, he felt vulnerable, and I genuinely wondered if the game was going to throw a Red Dead Redemption ending my way.
The linear missions were definitely my favourite sections of the game. There are some great encounters to be had with new and old baddies alike. Tackling these moments was pure fun, and the new grapplehook served as more than just a gimmick. Being able to grapple a nearby weapon without breaking cover was great, and being able to quickly zip away from a no-armour-low-health situation saved my bacon more than a few times. I actually grew to love the grapplehook and I’d use it whenever I had the chance, even if I was just moving from one corridor to the next.
Gameplay centres around the familiar gunplay of Halo. That means no iron sights, light jumping, and utter mayhem. You can stealth every now and again, but it’s pointless in the end and you’re better off running into every encounter with a fully stocked gun and a couple of plasma grenades. Yes, it’s a quick way to die sometimes, and I died many times throughout Halo Infinite (I played on normal difficulty, by the way) but I was never tempted to hit the dashboard and Quick Resume the relaxing Lego Harry Potter game I’ve got on the go.
Actually, dying was sometimes quite funny. Despite the story being fairly mature in tone, the writing outside of the game’s narrative is pure comedy. Every time I died, I would get roasted by a nearby enemy. I’m surprised they never tea-bagged me.
Friendly NPCs, who can join you in vehicles and in battle in the open world, are also a little on the daft side. It’s nothing near to the point of being parody, but it’s funny enough I noticed but it didn’t take away from Master Chief’s serious mission.
All said, I really did enjoy Halo Infinite. The gameplay is top-notch – in fact, I could play a combat game based around those Ghost hovercrafts all day – and the story is well done and brings some real humanity to its characters. But the open world feels a bit undercooked and it doesn’t bring anything new to the formula. Sure, it’s Halo in a decent-sized open world, but it could have been a traditional level-based campaign and I wouldn’t have minded. Still, better to have than not to have, and it gives you something to do after the story if you’re not going to invest the hours in the multiplayer.
I played some multiplayer, and I’ll play some more, but I’m definitely a single-player dude and single-player games are what I aim for. Halo Infinite delivers a sold single-player dude game. If you’re on Game Pass, this is a no-brainer. If you’re not, but you are a massive Halo fan, then it’s probably still a no-brainer.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: Xbox Series X. Secondary versions tested: Xbox Series S, Xbox One X, Xbox One S, PC (Steam)
- Gripping story with some real humanity behind it
- Classic Halo gameplay that makes good use of the open world at times, but is best when you're being led along a "proper" story mission
- Looks and runs really well on Xbox Series X and Series S - 60FPS is the way to play
- The open world is lacking, no doubt due to the need to run on the older Xbox consoles
- Outside of the grapplehook, the special abilities don't add much to gameplay and you can forget about them
- Could have used a recap introduction for players not familiar with the lore