With a legacy that comes with hefty expectations, Halo Infinite represents a precious, second chance for 343 Industries to do right by Master Chief following the debacle that was Halo 5. The past six years needed to be time well spent, and for the majority of Halo Infinite, the developers have certainly delivered a reinvigorating first-person shooter, marking a powerful return for the towering Spartan.
Worries about the previous lacklustre and boring campaign are dispelled once you have the chance to jump into the open world of Zeta Halo, combining the secret sauce that made Halo: Combat Evolved such a huge hit, now with the added freedom of being able to explore and experience at will.
Instead of the overly convoluted story and drawn-out arcs, Halo Infinite takes things back to the basics. Players who have stuck with the series will certainly get more of a kick out of things, but the main tenets of Master Chief, his relationship to both Cortana and the new AI, The Weapon, and the looming threat of a catastrophic danger are enough to whet the appetite for newcomers.
Following a brutal beatdown from Atriox, the leader of the Banished, we catch up with Master Chief six months after he was reported missing in action while Earth’s UNSC forces suffered. Finally recovered, the journey to save the universe begins yet again with both new and familiar faces returning.
A key part of that is The Weapon, the new AI companion that is the yin to Master Chief’s yang. With Cortana no longer around, the arrival of The Weapon allows our hero to develop more as their relationship blossoms. The engaging observations, her capacity to make the Chief more human and relatable, and her naivety are all helpful in easing new players into this established universe in an organic way.
That is, when you are not out there enjoying the intense and enjoyable gameplay that is present in Halo Infinite. In fact, this might just be the best version of the moment-to-moment gameplay in the series yet, improving upon the first-person shooter roots.
With an open world awaiting exploration, the addition of the Grappleshot makes perfect sense as an integral part of the gameplay loop. Master Chief is able to scale heights and structures easily, manoeuvre around danger swiftly, or use it to grab weapons or explosive canisters as makeshift weapons. Hell, no Grunts can escape your wrath as you can simply pull yourself towards them and deliver a painful melee attack.
This enhancement of player freedom paves the way for you to explore how you want to enjoy Halo Infinite, and adds a much-needed verticality to the proceedings that should have been there all along. It also lets 343 Industries spice up the level design, generating a world that is more believable and infinitely more entertaining to traverse through.
That world-building has delivered Zeta Halo, the Halo Infinite sandbox that players need to get used to. A peek from a high vantage point will reveal a breathtaking creation that is littered with opportunities to enjoy the core gameplay, where enemies mill about, structures hide potential secrets, and plenty of allies to rescue too.
With the tools at your disposal, not forgetting an arsenal of powerful weaponry and vehicles to commandeer, how you approach any given situation is entirely a choice. Stealth can be an option by taking down enemies from afar, or you can always go in guns blazing and chuck an explosive canister into the mix.
This satisfying loop that goes on and on never quite gets old, and the blank canvas that is Zeta Halo makes for moments that can be uniquely yours. The combination of entertainment and flexibility can be hard to come by, but Halo Infinite is built upon this solid core that keeps drawing players in.
The world is also broken into optional side activities and main story missions, where there is much to gain from helping to clear the Banished from points of interest on the map. By taking down Banished strongholds, eliminating high-value targets, rescuing captured Marines, or destroying propaganda towers, Master Chief is able to earn Valor, which enables you to call upon more resources, such as better weapons or better backup, for other engagements.
There are also plenty of collectables to be found, ranging from Mjolnir armour lockers that grant multiplayer cosmetics, Spartan Cores that can upgrade the Chief’s abilities, and datapads that add more colour to the lore. Curiosity is certainly rewarded, and if you really want to seek out everything, capturing Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) will help tremendously in that aspect.
While the side stuff’s gameplay loop is rewarding, it is the story missions where Halo Infinite shines brightly yet again with impressive set pieces and focused storytelling. The enjoyable blend of the open-world action and the more concentrated story beats delivers on all fronts, constantly pushing players to the next big encounter.
That high standard is also evident in the game’s multiplayer offering, bringing back that excellent arena shooter experience at the low cost of nothing. Once you get the hang of things through the Academy mode, it will not take long before you are blasting opponents and hightailing out of danger in the intimate 4v4 matches or the larger scale 12v12 Big Team Battles in a variety of modes.
The maps currently available are all well designed, with movement and pickups strategically placed to encourage new approaches almost all of the time. Whether it be a smooth execution of teamwork or going at it as a lone wolf, players can find joy in firefights and close-quarters combat alike. Big Team Battles are also a hoot, with vehicles and changing terrain spicing things up for a different kind of action.
Being able to count on gadgets like the Grappleshot in multiplayer also adds a new dimension to the competitiveness, giving room for smart tactics and usage that can turn a basic melee kill into something more enjoyable. However, the battlepass system is in need of some work, with progression and rewards coming perhaps a little too slow. If it starts to feel like a grind, it can be hard to incentivise players to keep jumping in, even for such stellar gameplay.
Having been in the works for so long, and suffering from a less than ideal reveal with underwhelming visuals, Halo Infinite is definitely looking better with the full launch. Players are getting a beautiful open sandbox that performs well most of the time, and while you might see some rough edges when it comes to certain textures, the realistic lighting, awesome particle effects, and smooth animations should more than make up for any missteps.
Taking a tried and tested formula and adding a new twist was always going to be a risk, but 343 Industries has gambled wisely, with Halo Infinite living up to the expectations of an open world brimming with opportunities for fun. Rather than restrict players to defined ways of playing, it lets you loose with a supportive structure made for standout moments and deep memories. With Halo Infinite, the studio has fully redeemed itself, and now, it is time to finish the fight.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
With a free-to-play multiplayer that is utterly enjoyable, and a substantial single-player campaign that delivers an addictively entertaining gameplay loop that makes sense for both newcomers and veterans, Halo Infinite is a return to form well worth the wait.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 8.5/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 8.5/10