What Halo Infinite does well It’s 343’s best-feeling Halo ever, with a fantastic weapon sandbox, a classic design, and a grappling hook to rival Titanfall 2. Halo Infinite is a fantastic game.
Yes, I understand my position in the game. While I decried a repetitive open world and a stupid tale, I thought the moment-to-moment gunplay was a bloody terrific fun. My confidence in Halo Infinite’s multiplayer battlegrounds kept me going back for months, despite the poor framing.
Infinite has been on my shelf for about a month. I even uninstalled it last week.
It’s nearly redundant to claim Halo Infinite has a progression issue now. When the Battle Pass was launched, it was criticized for being dull, dripping unimaginative unlocks and requiring tiresome challenges to achieve.
Since then, 343 has worked hard to slow down. The challenges have been streamlined and now give guaranteed advancement just for playing matches. If you play for an hour or two per day, you’ll finish the pass well before the six month (!) season ends in May.
But a faster pass merely highlights Infinite’s rewards’ thinness. Only minor armour pieces or coatings every 3-5 levels, with challenge swaps and XP bonuses padding out the awards. The fact that these are constrained to specific cores (basic armour sets) just adds to the difficulty of finding “your” setup.
Using pre-defined “coatings” instead of bespoke colors loses an aspect of personalization. Halo’s armour pieces were restricted, but you could mix and match them to create your own unique suit. It’s difficult to put together an outfit that doesn’t look like you got to level 40 in the pass or overpaid for a special coating in the store.
After the time I found a Spartan I liked (by paying a few levels), I’d lost all motivation. I’m not alone either—a pattern has developed among my regulars where people master their Spartan appearance only to abandon the game. We’ve been playing Halo 3 every weekend (and sometimes more) for two years, and now we’re dropping like flies.
We see content rationing on a greater scale. Unlike other live service games, Halo is repeating the identical Tenrai event five times over the duration of Season 1. But growth isn’t the only thing that drags. Infinite is a game seeking to fill an unnaturally lengthy season with too little.
Infinite began with a restricted map pool and a limited mode choices (the launch game didn’t even have free-for-all). The addition of Slayer-only, Fiesta, FFA, and Tactical Slayer playlists has helped, but many Halo mainstays remain absent.
It’s getting easier to find the experience you desire with more customized matchmaking queues. But there are still maps I won’t see for days and modes I won’t find when I need them. Big Team Battle was also broken from late December, deleting three complete maps from the game.
But Halo Infinite feels like replaying the same match on the same few maps, and the boredom sets in quickly. There’s no Forge to improve the map pool, and the custom game tools are limited. 343 said it didn’t want Infinite players to “grind it like a job,” yet earning weekly prizes requires completing dozens of difficult missions.
After a long day of hopping from matchmaking to custom games to chaotic Forge maps, we’re all burned out by the time we finish our daily challenges.
I expect many of these flaws to be resolved as Halo Infinite matures. There’ll be more maps, modes, and I’m hoping 343 can develop a more rewarding progression system over time. After all, leaks show Infinite’s map editor is close to a game engine in and of itself.
The main annoyance has been all the little things that don’t work for me. Sorry, but I’m about to get nitpicky.
Too many equipment, such as grappling hooks, make vehicle hijacking easy, while shock weapons render tanks and fliers ineffective (though the terminally shit Banshee does a fine job of being useless all on its own). With expanded player numbers and a spawning method that gives each team a vehicle every minute, Big Team Battle becomes a mindless swarm of players hurling grenades at each other.
More than anything, the game’s weapon balance is dull, robbing it of many wild Halo moments. For fear of being too powerful in multiplayer, many of Infinite’s more odd weaponry have been stripped of their campaign effectiveness. The Ravager and Hydra should have more punch than they do, and there are fewer guns that can shake up a firefight like the Brute Shot or the original Shotgun did.
The maps in Halo Infinite are fantastic, but none are as memorable as Hang ’em High or Blood Gulch. They’re tight and competitive, but lack set pieces and unique focal points like storming the windmill in Zanzibar or squeezing a team through the tunnel in Avalanche. Infinite feels intended for esports at the price of silly fun, both in terms of maps and weaponry.
Those nitpicks are still nitpicks. Despite this, Halo Infinite is still a blast to play—made it’s previous Halo games harder to play by removing grappling hooks, ledge mantling, and satisfyingly firing assault guns.
Halo Infinite rocks. But I feel like I’m waiting for it to be more. I can’t wait to play this game in two or three years, when I expect a wider variety of maps, modes, and Forge projects that completely reinvent what a Halo match can be.
Like I wrote in my review, Halo Infinite could be the series’ best game. It might get there in a few years. So I’m putting this one on hold until I’m certain that Infinite’s battlegrounds have enough fight to keep me coming back for more.
Does Halo need an open world? That’s been asked of Halo Infinite since its announcement. It’s been six years since Halo 5 went awry, but 343 Industries has dusted up the Master Chief’s armor for a tribute to Bungie’s original.
A true return to form for Master Chief, although I’m not sure Halo needs to be open world.
But let’s be clear: this is some fine Halo. After a year of playing Halo 3 with the guys every weekend, Infinite is a breath of fresh air. Running and gunning in Halo has never felt better, with Master Chief moving with actual heaviness across ancient alien amphitheatres.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer launched a month ahead of the story. Whereas the game’s arsenal falls flat in team slayer, the campaign makes even the weakest weaponry sparkle. On harder settings (I played on Heroic), maneuvering between breaking shields with plasma, busting skulls with kinetic, and stunning enemies with shock weapons becomes critical. However, in the campaign, the Pulse Carbine is a lethal Elite-killing machine.
Every weapon is satisfying to use, snapping, popping, and busting. Infinite’s firefights are frantic, a perpetual search for the next best tool (even if that means tossing a nearby plasma barrel at a pack of Grunts).
Nothing compares to the exhilaration of the grappling hook. Infinite immediately throws you a Titanfall-style rope to fling around Zeta Halo. With a few upgrades, it turns into a deadly electric wire that shocks unshielded villains and allows you slam-dunk entire groups of foes with a single push of the melee button.
However, this does make the rest of the equipment feel redundant. Aside from revealing cloaked Elites with the danger sensor, a hooked rope’s utility (and unexpectedly rapid cooldown) is always preferred.
Explore the wide universe of Halo Infinite with that grapple. After two linear missions, Infinite takes you to the open-ish plains of Zeta Halo. Don’t be deceived by your AI sidekick’s (more on her later) sudden flood of map icons. It’s not Far Cry: Ringworld, and the wide world is disappointingly limited.
Instead, they feel like interludes between key story missions. On your way to the next narrative beat, you can come across a marine squad or a FOB (base from which to fast travel and summon weapons and vehicles). As fun as they are, I rarely felt the need to deviate from the main path to spend time on them.
Halo isn’t suited to a slow-release of unlocks. Main plot missions rarely allow you merely show up with a tank. You can gain powerful weapon varieties by killing valuable targets in the open world, but levels constantly throw new difficulties at you. Why stick to a long-range Sidekick when a mission has you fighting Elites?
Some missions make use of the open universe, including a mid-game level where you must trek km of space to reach Forerunner beacons controlled by Banished forces. It’s here that you can finally use all those unlocked toys—one last attempt at an open world Halo before Infinite gives up on the open world entirely.
But Halo Infinite is still an open universe, and even as it slows down in the second half, it retains that structure. Infinite’s universe is based on the Pacific Northwest, thus the Forerunners must have enjoyed their visit. For this reason, missions can’t branch off into desert landscapes, freezing valleys, or dense urban warzones. In a mission, you’re assured pine trees and beautiful Forerunner architecture.
It’s a lovely woodland. Infinite is a stunning game that avoids the overdesigned characters and scenery of 343’s prior titles. Forerunner structures are formidable, and the forests are teeming with fauna. The horizon ring interacts with the sun, producing long shadows over it.
But that familiarity robs missions of their character, and the sole mission I remember is a late-game level in a cool Banished compound. However, none of the primary missions can compare to The Silent Cartographer’s ageless design, or even Halo 3’s less-fondly remembered meat maze, Cortana.
Level and encounter design are amazing now. 343 makes sure fights never get boring by constantly changing up the pain points. Defending Sentinels from a frustratingly sluggish gondola, tearing down valleys in a Scorpion tank. That time Halo 3 dumped two building-sized Scarabs on top of you and said “figure it out.”
Infinite has boss battles. This is a more bullet-spongy version of Halo’s core loop with more punishing attack patterns. They’re fine, if long. This duo, one riding an upgraded Chopper and the other firing artillery at you, summons extra villains when either is defeated.
Imagine Ornstein and Smaugh with grenade launchers.
The Noisy Cartographer
The most frustrating aspect about Infinite is that 343 can’t let go of the baggage the series’ lore has accumulated over the last 20 years. But it’s also annoying because the game revolves around Chief’s relationship with The Weapon—an AI modeled after Cortana after Cortana went galactic dictator-god in Halo 5.
This dynamic works! Chief is tired of being a gaming hero, but his need for heroics and duty creates a fantastic dynamic with a stranded Pilot who is at his wits end. The Weapon’s remarks sometimes come across as gratingly naive and whedonesque, but she’s a welcoming voice to accompany you through ancient ruins and catastrophic plots. This is okay. A family can be a giant green man, his blue holographic spouse, and a nervous wreck behind the controls.
Unless you’re familiar with Halo 5 (and its RTS spin-off Halo Wars 2), the tale is a steaming mess. The Banished are a crimson and cruel reskin of The Covenant, but they soon share the stage with 343’s favourite cliché. The Forerunners are no longer mysterious, therefore we meet a new ancient extraterrestrial with a grievance against the Forerunners and, indirectly, humans.
It’s difficult trying to keep track of all the proper nouns and thousand-year machinations that used to comprise Halo. That’s probably why the story isn’t actually about The Banished, The Harbinger, or The Endless. It’s about Master Chief and Cortana, a bond that drives everything our big green man does in the game. And, to be honest, it’s never worked for me.
Infinite wants to start a new era of Halo by examining why we love it so much. Even my jaded old heart feels it. Exploring the open world after the campaign is a thrill, searching for mysteries and marveling at the alien beauty of watching the sun set behind the ring and rise on the other side. Wrapping up all those side missions I skipped, admitting they were probably better left till now, when I’m done with the story yet crave more Halo fights.
Halo Infinite is great. In the heat of combat, Halo Infinite is the best running and gunning the series has ever had. It’s easy to see how Infinite could have been one of my all-time favorites. With a repetitive open world and a tale that can’t shake the series’ baggage, Halo Infinite’s campaign falls short of fantastic Halo.