Halo Infinite review: 343’s campaign recenters the series’ legacy

It’s been more than twenty years given that Master Chief — and Halo: Battle Evolved — debuted. Because time, the Halo series has actually turned into one of computer game’ most renowned traditions, while Master Chief has actually ended up being the sign of Xbox — and console-based first-person shooters — as a whole. It’s a tradition that designer 343 Industries has actually had a hard time to bring given that taking over from Bungie, launching 2 brand-new video games that seemed like something of a decrease from the series’ previous sparkle. Halo Infinite is planned to be a course correction, explained by 343 as a “spiritual reboot” of the franchise, that not just reconsiders what makes something seem like Halo, however likewise discovers methods to press those qualities even more.

The brand-new instructions has actually settled. For the very first time in years, it seems like 343 understands where Halo is going.

Halo Infinite in some way feels totally like Halo and totally not, transplanting the franchise’s conventional direct story and objective structure into a semi-open world. It protects the strength of the series’ fight while likewise discovering the magic in the act of expedition. Halo Infinite is bring a heavy tradition on its shoulders, and it’s doing so with self-confidence.

Halo Infinite starts with Master Chief doing something he hasn’t done much prior to: losing. The Eliminated, a group of banished Covenant fans, have actually beat the United Nations Area Command and got control of Zeta Halo, the huge ol’ ring that the UNSC Infinity slipspace-jumped to when leaving Cortana at the end of Halo 5: Guardians. Halo Infinite’s primary thrust remains in gaining back control over Zeta Halo, finding out what took place to Cortana, and stopping the Eliminated from whatever bad thing they’re doing. 343 Industries has actually stated that Halo Infinite is an excellent location for Halo newbies to begin, however that’s not totally real. There are a lot of plot threads to pull on here (a number of them from the real-time method spinoff Halo Wars 2) that even devout Halo fans might discover themselves puzzled.

Accompanying Chief on this journey are the Pilot — a UNSC survivor of the Eliminated attack that banished the Chief — and the Weapon, an AI produced to simulate Cortana and, eventually, ruin her. While well-rounded characters in their own rights, the Pilot and the Weapon work as audience surrogates in 2 considerably various methods. The Pilot is well versed in the misconception of the Master Chief and, like us, can get annoyed when the hero retreads the exact same practices he has numerous times previously. The Weapon, unknown with the tradition of the Chief, wonders and hesitant: Who is this individual, and why has humankind pertain to revere him? Master Chief is usually the rescuer or the devil, depending upon who you ask. The Pilot and the Weapon are essential prisms through which Limitless questions, and reassesses, the misconception of the Master Chief.

Though Halo Infinite still informs a direct story, the structure of its world enables expedition. When moving in between mainline objectives, there’s plenty to come across — caught Militaries to rescue, propaganda towers to ruin, high-value targets to get — and everything motivates you to take the picturesque path. (And please, do so: Eliminated propaganda towers are essentially speakers that give off, basically, a Grunt podcast focused around how awful human beings are, and it’s exceptionally amusing.)

Among the more recurring side jobs includes cleaning Forward Running Bases (FOBs), which are little centers equipped with resources and antiques. As I discussed in my sneak peek last month, there’s a list of methods to approach these encounters. Often, I chose to drive a Razorback loaded with specialized Militaries directly through the front door. In one case, I utilized a sniper rifle I found on a neighboring cliffside, ideal beside a voice log from the Marine that, most likely, passed away there.

Halo is not the very first series whose designers have actually presented an open-world structure later on in its life process — Equipments 5 and Uncharted 4: A Burglar’s End likewise entered your mind — however it is the most effective. 343 Industries has actually produced a world in which Halo-style firefights happen naturally, in some cases at a hectic crossroads and in some cases in the middle of the woods. While checking out my Wasp — an aerial lorry — I was shot out of the sky, falling straight into a skirmish with a high-value Eliminated target. In Halo Infinite, these emerging minutes are the standard instead of the exception.

Artwork of four Spartans from Halo Infinite multiplayer

Image: 343 Industries/Xbox Video Game Studios

One issue with the open-world format, however, is that 343 Industries is dropping a crucial function of Halo’s style tradition: the capability to replay story objectives. It’s a core part of my own Halo experience. I like changing skulls to make larger surges, include more obstacles, and modify the fight in uncommon methods. I’ve replayed a few of my preferred Halo objectives lots of times throughout the years. I’ve played a few of them a lot that I can go through them in my head, and I believe that, offered the possibility, I’d get to that point once again with Halo Limitless.

There are some environments in Infinite that end up being unattainable once you’ve finished an objective, implying that you can’t go back to try to find tricks. It’s likewise an embarassment due to the fact that particular objectives seem like they’re asking to be replayed. One is embeded in an Eradicated training center. There are UNSC weapons and lorries spread on recreated set-pieces, and falling apart towers beside run-down tanks. It’s like a twisted museum that the Eliminated have actually produced to fight their most disliked opponents. It seems like the personification of Halo as a franchise: a huge sandbox brimming with explosive capacity.

That was crucial, for example, in 2004’s Halo 2. It wasn’t an open video game: It was really direct, frequently selecting long, dark corridors over roomy outsides. However there was something about its style and story that made it feel huge, like there was a whole galaxy to run around in. The magic of that experience was that Bungie was able to create something that felt expansive, despite the limitations of the time. Halo Infinite’s magic, then, is in fully realizing that vision. I don’t just feel like I’ve got an entire Halo to explore — I actually do, and I can’t wait to see how that evolves from here, especially with co-op on the way.

Though co-op isn’t coming to Halo Infinite until next year, the game’s free-to-play multiplayer component was released in beta nearly a month before the campaign to commemorate the original Xbox’s (and Halo’s) 20th anniversary. The staggered rollout has given 343 time to make adjustments ahead of the game’s full release, and the studio has already done just that: It has made multiple tweaks to Halo Infinite’s slow battle pass since the beta period began.

a Spartan in green camo armor wields an Energy Sword against a Spartan in orange armor holding a VK78 Commando in Halo Infinite multiplayer

Image: 343 Industries/Xbox Game Studios

Games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Valorant dominate the multiplayer sphere now, and in going free-to-play, Halo is aiming to carve out its own space in the modern landscape. Aside from its progression hiccups, it’s off to a great start. Despite the new release model, the moment-to-moment flow of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer matches is unabashedly Halo, the kind of experience I remember from the era of Halo 3. Smaller maps make games fast paced and exciting, with the grappling hook adding a new layer of acrobatics. It’s a familiar yet thrilling multiplayer experience that allows for both chaotic battles and precise plays.

Unlike Halo Infinite’s campaign, the multiplayer component does feel welcoming to newcomers. One excellent addition is the Academy, a tutorial that teaches the fundamentals before pitting you against AI bots. The weapons drill system in particular is a godsend, and I can’t imagine a game without it. Drills are set up as minigames where I’m testing how many targets I can eliminate in a set time period, and the stakes are low enough that I feel comfortable experimenting with every weapon I can.

Halo Infinite swaps out the loadouts and armor abilities of earlier games for a few new pickups, including the grappling hook, which is by far the most useful of these tools. After relying on it so much in Halo Infinite’s campaign, it feels criminal to pass it by in multiplayer.

In some ways, the grappling hook feels like a perfect microcosm of Halo Infinite as a whole. It’s an addition that somehow shakes things up while also feeling like it belonged the entire time. In Halo Infinite’s style tenets and its iconic characters, 343 Industries has created something that bears the weight of the Halo legacy, and it’s poised to carry that weight into the future. It’s invigorating to be so excited about Halo again.

Halo Infinite’s campaign will be released Dec. 8 on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X; its multiplayer component is playable now. The video game was reviewed using a pre-release Xbox Series X download code provided by Microsoft. Vox Media has actually affiliate collaborations. These do not affect editorial material, though Vox Media might make commissions for items bought through affiliate links. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s principles policy here.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.