- The Master Chief returns in an epic new instalment of one of gaming's most famous franchises
- Take on the Banished, a brutal syndicate of alien rogues and war-leaders with new weapons and abilities
- Explore a huge open world or jump into the expansive multiplayer mode with your friends
It’s hard to believe that it has been 6 whole years since Halo 5: Guardians. It’s such a prevalent property, with so many spin-offs, re-releases, and extended universe media that rarely a month goes by without someone talking about Microsoft’s flagship franchise. With the release of Halo: Infinite, 343 Studios are aiming to return Halo to its roots while somehow simultaneously bringing the series forward into the modern era. And by the Prophets, they’ve very nearly done it.
Looking back now, Halo 5: Guardians was a little hit and miss. The introduction of Spartan Locke as a secondary playable character was almost as controversial a decision as making us play as the Arbiter in Halo 2. Not because Locke isn’t a great character or integral to the franchise, but because he’s not the Master Chief, arguably one of gaming’s most popular and enduring heroes.
And the horse you rode in on
What Guardians did with its story didn’t please everyone either. The gaps between Halo 4 and 5 were bridged to varying degrees of success and failure by side content; novels, short films, web series, etc. For those who had never indulged in the extended universe, it was borderline confusing and a little frustrating. Infinite does its best to rectify that, telling a story that feels connected to the broader universe but which can largely stand-alone.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say that prior knowledge isn’t required, but the story told here feels clear, concise, and purposeful for the most part. It begins with our heroic Spartan getting his heavily-armored butt kicked up and down a UNSC ship named the Infinite by a hulking Brute war-leader known as Atriox. He leads the Banished at this point, a grab-bag of ex-Covenant war-bands made up of almost all the franchise’s previous enemy races.
Displeased with the Covenant and intended to unearth the secrets and lethal potential of a new Halo installation, the Banished are laying waste to multiple systems at the behest of an overbearing, almost deified puppetmaster known as the Harbinger. Picked up by a stranded UNSC soldier who has been drifting in space for years, the Master Chief seeks out a new AI companion and heads off on a quest to find Cortana, wresting the new installation from the Banished, and maybe, just maybe, finish the fight.
What follows is a campaign that can only be called “sublime”. This is Halo at its finest, and a stark reminder of exactly why this franchise is so highly regarded. It’s the best campaign since Reach, and in fact surpasses it, delivering an almost perfectly paced mix of open-world exploration and do-or-die bombast.
Once you set down on the Ring, you’re presented with a large map filled with enemy-controlled FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). Eradicating the resident Banished places them under UNSC control, and allows the various scattered marines you find to hold them, providing fast travel points and highlighting areas of interest in the immediate area.
You can of course simply follow the critical path by heading to the yellow objective each time, but you’d be missing out on so much more. There are squads of marines that need assistance, Banished strongholds to take down, collectibles to find everywhere. From cosmetics for your multiplayer character to Halo’s legendary Skulls (modifiers that change critical elements of the gameplay), audio logs, and high-value targets, every area is a smorgasbord of things to find and do.
Full contact safari
And yet, it never feels bloated. It never feels like you’re doing things for the sake of doing them. Everything earns you Valor, which can be used at FOBs to call in vehicles, weapons, and support, while simply exploring the map is its own reward. It’s stunning on PC or console, but play this game on something powerful and it will absolutely sing.
The skyboxes are phenomenal, the iconic ring stretching off into the heavens, with that sense of a paradise under siege as prevalent here as it ever was in a Halo game. The draw-distance is impressive, and you’ll track enemy patrols through pine forests and over craggy mountains, on-foot, or in one of the various vehicles you can find. Once you get the hang of them of course. Old hats may be right at home with the Warthog’s now-legendary physics model, while newcomers might wonder what on Earth is going on when a random rock sends them barrel-rolling into the air.
As you progress you will come across the bodies of less-fortunate Spartans, all of whom offer some form of upgrade or another for the Master Chief’s Mjolnir battle armor. While it’s great to have a deployable energy shield and a mobile threat detector, all the other toys pale in comparison to the one you start with.
The Grappleshot is a hook and chain that can either propel you across gaps, up sheer rock faces or can grab and drag things to you from exploding crates to dropped weapons. Offensively it can help you close the distance to enemies, or hijack Banished vehicles that are giving you trouble.
While it was occasionally swapped out for the shield or thruster dodge during indoor sections in tighter spaces, outside it was the only ability worth using to the point that it probably should have just been an intrinsic part of the arsenal in Infinite. It’s just so much fun and actually elevates an already stellar campaign to new heights.
If there’s a complaint to be made it’s that for a super-soldier, the Master Chief can’t weather many hits. Although that’s probably deliberate here because there’s such a vast spread of weapons, abilities, and upgrades that by the midway point you’ll be starting to feel a little godlike. The story is also a little creaky after the solid first few acts.
Finish the fight
There are a lot of enemy leaders and objectives for the Master Chief and his little group to contend with, and it can become a little difficult to follow exactly who you’re trying to sabotage with each strategic location you obliterate. But this is a minor complaint leveled against something so superbly crafted.
Outside of the campaign, there is of course the multiplayer, which has been available free on Gamepass for several weeks. Once again, 343 Studios have created a fantastic multiplayer element, combining their superlative map design with new mechanics like the Grappleshot, and new weapons like the Mangler and Skewer.
It is, however, built on a Battle Pass system which still has some kinks to work out. Progression is simply not even and smooth enough to feel fully rewarding, and the Challenge system leaves a lot to be desired when it requires you to complete certain challenges that you can’t access for whatever reason. Based on specific modes and objectives, these Challenges can be swapped out with tokens that you’ll need to buy in the cash shop, which isn’t a great design choice.
That being said, Halo: Infinite’s boots-on-the-ground multiplayer element is still as tightly-designed and eminently playable as it has ever been. It does far more than simply give the game legs beyond the campaign, offering a side that will continue to grow and evolve for years to come.
Achievements & Completion
Being a console game primarily, Halo: Infinite comes with a full suite of achievements to unlock, the majority of which can be completed simply by playing the campaign. It behooves you to explore every nook and cranny, and use the Chief’s pulse scanner to check the area regularly for hidden collectibles and secrets.
Halo: Infinite is a massive game compared to previous entries though, and will require well upwards of 20 hours to complete if you want to seek out all the secrets. It also has Halo’s trademark replayability, with compact story missions begging to be replayed on higher difficulties just for the sheer fun of it.
Final Thoughts on Halo: Infinite
- Superb campaign
- Great multiplayer element
- Looks incredible
- Shooting feels sublime
- Battle Pass system isn't great
- Story doesn't always feel focused
Final Score: 4.5/5
In a year that has seen some other high-profile franchises struggle to stick the landing, it’s impressive to see a title like Halo: Infinite come along and bowl the competition over so confidently and completely. Not only do 343 nail the world-building and character development, but the shooting is as good as it has ever felt. Mechanically speaking, if ever a shooter could finally come along and feel not just on par with, but in some areas better than, Destiny 2, then it’s almost poetic that this is the game to do it.
Simply put, Halo: Infinite is exactly the game it needed to be: an epic, sweeping installment to one of gaming’s most adored franchises that not only celebrates its own history but sets out its stall for the future, as well. While the story has its ups and downs and there are some kinks to work out in the Battle Pass system, Halo: Infinite remains one of 2021’s finest games – and the very best Halo campaign to date.
Halo: Infinite is available on PC and the Xbox family of consoles for $59.99, or free via Xbox and PC Gamepass.
*Disclaimer: This is a review of the PC version of Halo: Infinite. Console version was also tested. The game was downloaded via Gamepass on day one.