Halo Infinite Review (XBOX SERIES XS)
''HALO. IS IT ME YOU'RE LOOKING FOR''
Developed: 343 Industries
Published: Xbox Game Studios
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: December 8th, 2021
Platforms: Xbox Family Series/Windows
*Means of reviewing this title provided to me by Microsoft and Xbox Game Studios*
Halo Infinite is that latest entry into this long running franchise that is developed by 343 and published by Xbox Game Studios. Coming off a lackluster entry of Halo 5 in both its single player outing and its multiplayer, 343 aims to right the wrongs and bring back the game play and story telling that made people a fan of the franchise in the first place. But do they succeed in doing this? only one way to find out, so lets go!
Story: When all hope is lost and humanity’s fate hangs in the balance, the Master Chief is ready to confront the most ruthless foe he’s ever faced. Step inside the armor of humanity’s greatest hero to experience an epic adventure and explore the massive scale of the Zeta Halo ring.
Oh boy. Where do I even begin to start with this bad boy. Not only does this title itself have a lot of history and controversy surrounding it, but so too does the franchise in general. Going from a revolutionary series that completely changed the industry with some great sci fi settings, memorable characters and evolving what it meant to say ''online shooter''. It had its ups that's for sure, but starting with the release of Reach, Halo 4 and Halo 5 Guardians, the cracks began to show just a bit. Whether it was the changes to multiplayer that people disliked or the shoddy story telling of Halo 5 that made things more convoluted and feel ruined, in a way, specifically the great build up of emotion from Halo 4's Cortana and Master Chief interaction. Fans weren't happy. Fast forward to six years later and here we are with Halo Infinite, who sadly was also marred by its own set of woes and troubles. You guys know who I'm talking about. Our boy Craig. Upon initial reveal of some aspects of Infinite's story campaign, we noticed something was off. The game did not look like what we were expecting at all, especially for a ''next-gen'' console. Sure it didn't look TOTALLY ugly, but it was very underwhelming. However it wasn't until we got our up close and personal viewing of a Brute, now known as Craig, where we exclaimed ''man.. that is UGLY''. I would even say it was same level of ugly as Sonic's original design for the Sonic The Hedgehog movie. But just like Paramount, 343 listened to all our feedback and vowed to make a change and thus ended the reign and era of ''Craig''.. and If I'm going to be honest, I kind of feel... bad?. I mean he's just a silly game character, but he was just doing his job, shooting his action scenes, minding his own business, but then bam, next thing you know, he's sitting at home, waiting for 343 to call him up as an extra for the next Act in the story and he's told he's fired. CRAIG! how you gonna get fired on your day off?. But I digress.
At the start of your journey you're welcomed to the game with a scene of Master Chief getting his butt absolutely handed to him and knocked out into oblivion by the main baddie known as Atriox. Clearly at this point he should be dead, but luck was on Chief's side this time as he strangely enough, avoided death and is instead rescued by a Pelican pilot by the name of Fernando Esparza, also known as Echo 216. After Echo 216 is successful at reviving Master Chief and being thankful he's still alive, Master Chief goes super jerk mode, ignores him, doesn't say thank you and immediately jumps into asking him ''Status Report''. The heck Chief, that's so rude. After some complaining from Fernando, trouble strikes and your ship is attacked. It is here where your adventure FINALLY begins. The first few hours of your roughly 18-20 hour playthrough, depending on what difficulty you decide to play on, will put you back into the familiar linear space setting that you're used to with the Halo franchise. Think about it as a reintroduction to everything you knew or maybe forgot about in the years that have passed. But that's not exactly a negative. Being able to retread and relearn the mechanics is actually pretty helpful, especially when learning how to use the games brand new game play mechanic of the Grapplehook. Oh man. How can something so simple, be this fun to mess around with?. Sure it may not be exactly treading new ground, especially with games like Just Cause or Doom Eternal already using it before, but here in the world of Halo, it actually fits rather well. Using your grapple hook to grab and pull yourself up to high to reach ledges, grabbing explosives from afar to use as throwables, sling your way into an enemies face and proceed to deck the grunts in their stupid ugly stinky faces, yank a grunts shield to temporarily give yourself an opening or even use to grapple into enemy vehicles, such as Banshee, to hijack them both on the ground or even in the air. It's super fun. Honestly, to me it feels like a natural progression of the system we saw used in Halo 3 and if I'm going to be 100% honest, the game play at its core from start to finish in this title seems like a hybrid of the first three titles in the series. Which is definitely not a bad thing. It also doesn't hurt that slinging around with the grapple makes you feel like you're Indiana Jones or something.
After you push your way through the opening hours of the game, you finally make your grand entrance to your new playground and absolutely one of my favorite aspects that this game has to offer and that is, of course, the open world known as Zeta. Your once linear combat arenas? mostly gone and instead substituted for a wide open world for the first time in franchise history. Going into this game, I was a bit skeptical of what to expect really because certain games will have vast open worlds with not too much going on in it like Breath Of The Wild or heavily populated with tasks to complete like Immortals Fenyx Rising. So which does this end up being? the latter. Thankfully. Here in Infinite, the world seems very populated by enemies, quests or objectives to complete. Being able to freely run your away across the massive world of the Zeta Ring for me never got boring because I always ran into either something to do or someone to kill. If by the off chance I didn't find anything to do, I was able to make my own fun by grappling mountain sides to see just how high I could go and if there are any limitations to my mobility. When you're done goofing around with your grappling hook, open your map to reveal key points of interest to gain spartan cores and valor that you are able to use to upgrade your equipment and skills. With Valor and Spartan Core, you're able to unlock specific abilities such as Drop Wall, which lets you drop a barrier wall to protect from enemy fire, paralyzing shot using your grapple hook that stuns your enemies, giving you time to kill and knock them out, Thruster that allows you to go invisible for a short amount of time while you dash, etc. Each one of these will be vital in your playthrough to not only survive in strategic battles against harder bosses, but also lets you adjust to your own game play style and play how YOU want to play. But how do you get these so called valor and spartan cores? Don't worry, I'll explain, so I'd like to take a moment, so just sit right there, and I'll tell you how to get all the spartan cores and of course Valor. In West Philadelphia born and raised. Wait that's not it. Sorry. In a nutshell you'll need to complete various side objectives.
In order to get valor and spartan cores to upgrade your equipment and skills, there are a variety of objectives that you must complete in order to do so and weirdly enough, they never feel tedious or even like a chore to do like they would in other games with similar objectives like Far Cry 5 or Assassins Creed. When you explore the land or check your map for points of interest, you will be able to find Banished bases where you can rescue captured UNSC marines, who once saved, can be recruited onto your team at UNSC Forward Operating Bases. But in order to unlock the FOB bases to use your vehicles, new weapons or recruits, you must defeat each FOB located in your area and completely clear them of the enemy threat. Some of these are simple as pie, but others require you to go up against faster and more agile enemies that may hit heavier or put up more of a challenge. Once you've cleared the FOB, simple activate its panel and it's all yours. Congrats!. Also along your trek through the Zeta Ring, you'll notice dialogue from grunt sounding enemies spewing lines about you, your troops or anyone else that is an enemy to The Banished. Yes, that banished, that we last saw from Halo Wars 2 I believe. Destroying their propaganda towers will award you points and maybe even an achievement or two. But just gear and recruiting teammates alone aren't the only reasons for seeking out control of FOB bases, nope, because also when in your control, these act as ways to fast travel to different regions of the world that you've unlocked or access to your vehicles so you don't have to walk all the way to your objective in this massive open world. Welp, guess I am walking, because we all know my history when it comes to driving.. so yup. Ok, you get the point. One of the most intriguing and fun things about being on foot or even driving on vehicles is the sense retaining the series classic feel of what you know and love about halo, both on foot and even driving around in Banshee's, Ghost's or even Warthogs. Even though the formula is tweaked quite a bit, it still retains the feel of what you've known and loved about the franchise up to this point, both aesthetically and world wise. But don't get too far ahead of yourself, there's a slight catch to this ''open world'' aspect. You see, not everything is as you think, at least not a first. Zeta Ring's map is split in to roughly four different sections with each section unlocking and becoming traversable, the further you advance in the story by having Echo 216 fly you to that location. That may seem like a bummer, but trust me, with as huge as this overworld is, you will not notice this limitation at all. But... there is one thing you might notice. The environments.
With the game originally being delayed due to the graphics not meeting fans demand, you'd expected Halo Infinite to come back looking absolutely breathtaking, right? well.. it kind of is and kind of isn't. Don't get me wrong, the game looks really good as you explore Zeta Ring with its mountains, it's forests, it's giant monoliths and its.. um.. that's about it. Yes that's right, this is about all you're going to get from the zeta ring from its open world. Hey, I'm not complaining, not in the slightest, because we actually have COLOR in our first person shooter game and not just filled with grey's and browns. It seems 343 played Mario Paint and have learned their color pallet. Good job fellas!. However, I would've loved some variety in the outside open world to stretch beyond that and give us some nice urban area's like in Hallo 2, snow filled levels like the original Halo title or even variety like found in Infinites own multiplayer maps would've been nice, but alas, it's a no go. While the game might not be graphically extensive or varied in the open world, the linear style that's prominent in the Halo franchise for tight in door areas, look absolutely stunning. The dark atmospheres, the lighting, the blue's, space ships, temples, it's all really good and the work put into these areas really shines through. But one of the main aspects of this game, besides the open world freedom, that shows this series is looking to evolve further and move forward, is the introduction of the grapple hook for a new way to play and move around your sand box playground, the abundance of selection of things to do on the world map, has to be not only the story itself, but key factors that tie into it. This happens to be the dynamic between Master Chief, The Weapon, Cortana and Echo 216. Character development and story telling is put on the forefront here, more so than what we got in Halo 5.
Without a doubt, the story in Halo Infinite is the one thing that I didn't think I would love over the open world aspect or even the game play of the grappling hook. When the journey starts, as I mentioned early on, Master Chief gets completely annihilated by the evil Atriox and from then on, you're no longer playing as the overly bad ass, I'm so cool, Master Chief. Sure he still does awesome stuff, but mentally, you are now living through the story of a broken and guilt ridden man. If you've played from the start and since the beginning of the franchise, up until the story beats of Halo 4, then you know Master Chief and Cortana had a very strong relationship, one could even interpret it as love. Here in Infinite, Master Chief is dealing with the grief of not being able to save Cortana from her demise, but all of humanity as well. He has failed. As he journey's through his own emotions to try to make good with the humanity he has let down, he's joined by a Cortana copy named The Weapon. She looks like her, sounds like her, but she has no idea who he is or any of the previous adventures. The relationship starts off reluctant, with Chief not being able to trust her, each of them cracking sarcastic jokes at each other, learning from each other, hating each other because Master Chief decided ''ok bye felicia'' after they got into one jam because he considered her a liability, thus breaking his promise to her that he would protect her. You see both of them go through a wide range of emotions and you hear and see Master Chief struggle with his choices and non choices, even going as far as to befriend the pilot who saved his life and vowing to him, he may have failed Cortana, he may have failed humanity, but I will NOT fail you. It's just done so well and I loved the character of Echo 216 aka Fernando Esparza and his relationship he has throughout the game with Master Chief going from annoyance to trusting with his life, The Weapon and her struggles as a Cortana copy and coping with the fact that she may end up just like her and then the overall character development Master Chief goes through in this title, makes me feel like this campaign is the best campaign mode I have played since Halo 2. I loved it.
We have arrived. Online multiplayer. You can't make a Halo game without that classic multiplayer, that's like peanut butter without jelly, peas without their pod, Captain Underpants without his Underpants, you get the idea. With Halo multiplayer going free to play for the first time under the reign of 343 and releasing separately from the main games purchase, this could easily have sent out some red flags to people as the term ''free to play'' generally has a bad stigma attached to it. But squash those fears because for the most part, those thoughts are unfounded. If your immediate question before I start rambling relates to ''So is it like Halo 5's multiplayer?''. Then let me say no, it's not like Halo 5's multiplayer, at least not entirely. Halo 5 to me felt way more sluggish in a way with a push more towards the competitive nature of combat rather than what I feel is the ''moment to moment'' fun that Halo has been known for with titles such as Reach and the original trilogy. Gone are some of recent entries movement abilities last seen in Halo 5 and returning here, is the more skill based combat and hectic fun of old seen in titles like Halo 1-3 with of course tweaks and upgrades to evolve the online multiplayer with the actual good aspects that worked in Halo 5. Confused? well I'll try to shed some light on it real quick before we wrap things up. Well If I'm even able to be quick about it that is. You never know with me, I just keep rambling on and on and I'm... see I'm doing it again. Ok, were moving on now. I promise.
Here in Infinite's multiplayer, you will slay your friends and evil people over intense games of online battles. Yes, even loud obnoxious 10 year old's who yell obscene things at you and claim they know your know mom, even though they're halfway across the world, but.. that's besides the point. In Halo Infinite, as of this moment, there are a total of ten different maps to play and choose from with seven of these being arena maps and the other three being big team maps. Arena for being more linear and enclosed, while big team allows for a wider range of combat. Each map might look a tad bit similar with arena's having more of that industrial look and feel, with big team focusing more on the aesthetics of the open world of Zeta Ring look. They may look similar, sure, but I feel their actual designs in general, far outweigh that negative overall. I find them very well designed and are different enough from each other to warrant each one of their existences.
The gun play in this title is actually still as good as ever with a variety of weapons at your disposal such as your sniper rifles, machine guns, a Skewer weapon that if you learn how to use just right, can take down enemy Ghost's and Banshee's with ease. But that's not it either, it even ups the ante by having abilities placed around each area of the maps you play with items such as the Repulsor, that when timed correctly, or rather used correctly, can send enemies flying off ledges, repel enemy fire or even just buy you time to make a quick get away to regroup and strategize. Along side your strategic gun play of picking and choosing your spots against your adversaries, sprinting and clambering also make their presence known, which to some could be good or bad depending on whether you're a crouch jumping guy or a clambering guy. Not sure what I'm talking about? well, crouch jumping has always allowed you to get to high to reach places that you can only get to by jumping and crouching at the same time. However with clambering, this means whenever you jump to a ledge, you automatically climb it, no questions asked, no skill involved, it just.. does it, but with one flaw, it leaves you vulnerable to enemy fire. Thankfully maps now are designed with BOTH crouch jumping and clambering in mind so neither type of player is at a distinct disadvantage. Although I do feel bad for clambering players though, that one split second could determine whether or not they end up on a Top Teabags of 2021 compilation video. Tea bagging is a rising crime against player humanity. So remember, if you see someone tea bagging another player, don't just walk away, say something, do something. Don't be part of the problem. hehehe...
While I have talked about a ton of positives here with the multiplayer, there is a few things that slightly griped me. The gun play is great, absolutely, the action is fast paced or intense at times, for sure, but there are a few issues I had with it, such as ground vehicles feeling weightless and easy to flip. Yes, even if you put aside my awful driving, it's still very off. Melee'ing also doesn't feel as refined for multiplayer as it does during your single player campaign. It either feels not strong enough or feels like it doesn't even register. Plus there's... uhh. Nope. That's about all I have to say negatively about the multiplayer overall. Its a return to form to what I loved with the original trilogy and I can't wait to dive into more of it as it continues to be updated.
At the end of the day when its all said and done, Halo Infinite has not only met my expectations, but far exceeded them. With a single player campaign that moves the series forward with its engaging overworld, objectives to complete, improving mechanics by offering you a grapple hook that gives you new ways to maneuver around your playfield, engrossing story that makes you feel the strife of what Master Chief has been going through internally all these years and the return to form of Halo multiplayer with its attention to detail for clambering and crouch jumping, skill based but fun gun game play, power ups to use on the field that gives you a unique advantage. All of this and more makes Halo Infinite an absolute must own on Xbox or PC, regardless of rather or not you buy it outright or experience it via game pass. So with that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW.