Played on a RTX 3080 | 4K60 Ultra Settings

6 long years it took for 343 Studio’s to revert Halo back to its roots, while also trying to create something that’ll reinvigorate the franchise to new heights; my peers will be the first to tell you how much I love the Halo franchise – heck to me, 343 Studio did a fantastic job with Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians despite their issues. With Halo Infinite, it is undoubtedly their best work; paying homage to the studio that brought Halo to life while also expanding to what Halo would inevitably become – is worthy praise. However, while taking several steps forward, a lot of what made previous Halo games astounding is absent in Infinite, leaving the whole package feeling like an excellently told story wrapped by a glorified tech demo.

Cortana….Cortana?!

Halo Infinite takes place directly after the results of Halo Wars 2. While UNSC, Master Chief and the Banished are fighting each other, Cortana is roaming the galaxy creating havoc of her own. After Master Chief is defeated by Atriox, he is thrown into the void, and all is lost. 6 months later, the Banished has taken over Zeta Halo and a sole survivor finds Chief out of happenstance – a miracle only video games can perform. Echo-216 plays a pivotal role in expressing the devastation of war, an opposite reflection of Master Chief which is the harbinger of war itself. The pacing of Halo Infinite is closely inspired by the writing of The Last of Us and God of War 2018 where it’s very personal and character focused, while having the environment tell their story at the same time. I give praise to the writers over at 343 Studio’s for figuring out how to make Master Chief’s body language tell a deafening emotional response accordingly – you can feel the pressure laid onto him and although he’s a man of a few words, every time he speaks gives such a surgical impact, it is hard to not admire such amazing work.

Environmental story telling is one of the key focus of Halo Infinite as there’s very little cutscenes that does anything else other that give status reports of your adversaries or expositions about the results of the war while Master Chief was in a self-induced coma for 6 months. After you retrieve Weapon, an AI created to destroy Cortana, her curious and cheerful personally shines while everyone else is panicking. With excellent facial animations and voice acting, all of the interactions here is worth putting time to listen. The problem with the overall result of the story is that you’re left with just that – every objective given to you is a straightforward combat mission with no real puzzles to solve, mysteries to uncover or granular set pieces to praise about. Sure, there’s weapons and cool gadgets to use at your disposal – but there’s only so much wow factor one can take after throwing 50 explosive canisters to several brutes faces.

The variety of objectives you actually need to interact with is just putting power cells into control systems, then have Master Chief destroy a fleet of enemies while Weapon is unlocking the next door. With a game that focuses on extremely sophisticated technology that has foreign invaders trying to control it, you’d think there would be platforming involved, or death traps you need to evade or even environmental puzzles to solve; much is to be desired by the mission design and immersion. It does so much right in reflecting the classic Halo formula, but with a game that has this much time in development, and anticipation – more should be implemented.

It’s a Gloriously Empty Open World

Halo Infinite is acting as a continued game, but a reboot of the Halo Franchise at the same time. There’s a lot of meaning behind that but one key improvement is that Halo Infinite is now Open World, inside an explorable Halo Ring, even if it’s just a huge zone of the ring and not the whole thing. By default, that makes Infinite the biggest Halo ever – which is something Microsoft is not afraid to advertise.

It is a giant map for Halo – it is gorgeous by design, the tech inside Infinite ensures that the draw distance is impeccable, which showcases the hard work put into the environmental detail such as rock formation, tree placement, foliage and varied plant life with animals that scurries across the plain. Driving through the world with your Warthog or Wasp is a thing of peace and beauty; a lot of what I’ve experienced reminds me of the world inside Death Stranding – a sublime mix of devastation and wonder. But it is almost immediate on the limitations of this world that brings disappointment when exploring; the emptiness – and I don’t mean there’s nothing to shoot while roaming around – no, there’s a lot of that – what I mean is there’s nothing meaningful happening in Zeta Halo.

You would think that the aftermath of the Banished occupying the world would result in ruined structures to explore with dynamic side missions to uncover, strange artifacts to find, explorable depths or even rebel’s creating hidden bases and fighting back but no, there isn’t – instead it’s about securing Forward Operating Bases for fast travel points, destroying some propaganda radio towers, recapturing strongholds, rescuing UNSC soldiers, killing 15 Hight Value Targets (it’s not as special as it sounds) and collecting Armor Points for upgrades, which for some reason there’s 19 points beyond the maximum upgrades needed for all your gadgets – which is odd to me. That’s it. Yeah, they’re excellently designed and fun to do with Halo controls – but it is literally the bare minimum of open world activities; I mean there’s less things to do compared to a Ubisoft game, which they’re notorious for having nothing meaningful to do anyway!

After 6 years of development and delays, you would think that at the very least they would learn from open world design flaws and resolve that issue. Look at how Rockstar did their open world design with Red Dead Redemption 2 and replicate it – it’s literal perfection; 343 Studio is already copying Far Cry and Just Cause, might as well go all out.

And still, despite my gripes with the open world design, Halo Infinite is a monster of a game to play; absolutely tight controls with what feels like perfect balance of all the chaos you can ensue. Halo Infinite is at its playable peak, and I have extremely high hopes of what 343 Studio’s has planned for their next iteration.

Controls are Combat Evolved

As I mentioned, 343 figured out the settings and tighten the controls to peak Halo performance. This is the best Halo will ever feel – the trigger response, thumb stick curvature settings, defaulted layout, the way each weapons hit, the sound cues – everything is absolutely perfect. What I find strange though is, why does Master Chief’s legs disappear after I change my FOV slider beyond 79? Weird….fix it please?

Vehicles feels just like what you’d expect from a Halo game – seamless use of physics and weightlessness. The problem though, you can’t drive through trees and there’s a lot of deformation on the main roads and especially off road, which makes for an unpleasant time of bumpiness and stoppage. When I’m riding my Scorpion tank, I should trample trees with ease; I don’t know why this wasn’t implemented – EA’s Battlefield does this without issue, while having 128 players roaming the map in real time – I’m sure this could be done with less permutations.

The weapons provided in Halo Infinite’s campaign has variety with new additions like the Skewer, Shock Rifle, Mangler and so on – each with moment to moment use as you’re limited with a set amount of ammo. No way to increase your overall reserves either, but an answer to this is ammo type crates that can help refill your stock. I found that each weapon was an absolute blast to use, and one of the more potent ones is the Shock Rifle as it can disable vehicles. My main loadout throughout my entire first run was the Commando Rifle and the Bulldog. Boy, combining the two while switching between the Grapplehook and Dash is too fun.

However, weapons like the Forerunner arsenal introduced in Halo 4, Plasma Rifle variants and the Magnum are all absent in Halo Infinite. I find this to be entirely unacceptable – why would a studio think it’s ok to launch a main installment with missing elements of the previous games? It’s single-player campaign, not the competitive portion – let loose and unleash ALL of the arsenal and don’t hold back for future DLC’s to try to make more money from your fanbase. It’s selfish and disrespectful.

Also, this is the official 6th installment of the mainline franchise, which launched without the co-op function of the campaign! Microsoft made the “tough” choice to delay that portion of the game to meet the Holiday launch window, which as a Halo fan, doesn’t sit well with me; Halo isn’t truly Halo without a buddy to experience the story with and having this function missing (amongst a slew of other things) just makes the experience feel incomplete. As I powered my way through the campaign, I couldn’t help but feel alone.

The flaws don’t stop there – remember when Bungie introduced rear stealth kills in Halo Reach? And remember when 343 Studio’s brought it back in Halo 4 and 5? That’s entirely gone in Halo Infinite. Actually, there is no way to stealth in this game, which is a missed opportunity for some really great gameplay moments. It just seems that 343 Studio focused too hard in making the original fanbase happy, which I am all for, but forgot core elements; making it open world isn’t enough when you’re missing key components.

Conclusion

Halo Infinite is absolutely a fantastic game to play with an excellent showcase of their new engine and a heartfelt story to experience. 343 Studio managed to make moment to moment gameplay feel better than ever but that’s as far as it goes – with an empty world to explore, limited weapons and missing gameplay elements, Halo Infinite just feels like a glorified, very long tech demo.

REVIEW SCORE: 8/10

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