There aren’t a whole lot of games I can think of that had the same impact that the original Halo did on younger me. As the premier system-selling game for the original XBox, Bungie’s first-person shooter was a great example of the kind of excitement to come with “next-generation” gaming. It was more than just a graphical showcase, too – it delivered, resulting in a combination of shooting, driving and exploration that other shooters have been trying to follow for years.
Now, over six years since the last – and somewhat disappointing – entry in the series, we’re returning to Master Chief’s adventure to “finish the fight” once again with Halo Infinite. Will this fight ever truly be finished? Probably not, and I’m here for it.
We follow Master Chief yet again – and only Master Chief, no diversions this time – as he explores the ruined Zeta Halo ringworld. Along with his AI companion Weapon, the Chief will battle the villainous Banished and their leader Escharum. Even the Chief’s strength might be a struggle when it comes to dealing with the mysterious alien force backing up the Banished, though. Then again, a Scorpion tank can get a lot of things done…
Halo Infinite’s campaign follows the leader, as many franchises have, into a new world – a new open world, really. It’s got a lot in common with the Infinite (!) number of Breath of the Wild clones that have popped up since that game hit the Switch and essentially created a new genre. Master Chief can explore Zeta Halo to his heart’s content, taking out Banished bases and finding goodies like power upgrades and customization options for Infinite’s multiplayer. Think of this as a hyper-extended version of one of the more open areas in previous Halo games and you might have the idea.
There’s new weapons, of course, like the flame-field-spewing Ravager, and plenty of old favorites return for the ride. You’ll blast away at baddies both old and new while they do their best to fight back using AI tactics and trickery. Being able to approach objectives designed in the classic Halo style using your own tactics – and the Chief’s new grappling hook, the Grappleshot – is a joy. Unsurprisingly, so are the gunplay, melee combat and vehicle battles on offer. Halo Infinite shines as only Halo can.
This is all great, of course, but perhaps the greatest advancement Halo Infinite makes is on the multiplayer front. That’s not even saying that Infinite’s multiplayer is all that different from previous entries from a gameplay standpoint. You’ve still got your familiar modes – Slayer, SWAT, Oddball and so on – along with the large-scale objective-based Big Team Battle. The gunplay, secondary gear and objectives also all come together in the same pleasant way that they always have, making Infinite’s multiplayer a dream to play. There’s nothing like using the Grappleshot to swing in on an enemy, then delivering the killing blow with a Plasma Sword.
No, Infinite’s innovation from a multiplayer standpoint is making this mode completely free. That’s not “free, but you’ve got a hobbled version of the game” – it’s free. When you buy Halo Infinite, you’re buying the campaign and that’s it. This is, in a word, amazing. Free-to-play shooters have existed for some time, sure, but rarely on this level of quality and with this degree of accessibility. If you’ve got friends, it’s easy to invite them to join you, and they’ll be able to pick up the game and enjoy themselves in no time.
They also won’t have to spend days as “meat” feeding hardcore players as is usually the case in your Call of Duty and Battlefield games. It’s a great business move that makes Halo Infinite an easy go-to game for groups.
Another excellent move was ensuring Halo Infinite’s presentation popped on an aesthetic front rather than just wowing players technically. As is the norm for the gaming community, there was some degree of concern the first time we saw a trailer for Infinite. It looked fine, but just that – fine. Is “fine” good enough for a sequel of this caliber? Turns out that after some tweaks, “fine” is an understatement when it comes to how Infinite looks. It’s gorgeous, combining a rock-solid FPS with beautiful level design and distinctive enemy design.
This is also the first Halo game to debut on multiple platforms, from the fancy next-gen Xbox Series X / S to PC and all the way back to the Xbox One consoles. It’s even available on Microsoft’s cloud streaming service, meaning you can theoretically play this on a toaster if you find one compatible. How you play will determine your performance, however, with increasingly diminishing results from PC/next-gen Xbox downward, though by all accounts the game runs more than adequate on whatever runs in, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
You’ll be speeding through areas in both campaign and multiplayer, but it’s never difficult to sight in on a target and leap to the attack. At the same time, both campaign and multiplayer locations are gorgeous and it’s worth taking your time to get a look around. It’s the best of both worlds.
Maybe the best of all worlds, really, considering that Halo Infinite’s campaign is available on Game Pass. That’s the price of a song, really, and if you only want to play multiplayer you don’t even owe Microsoft that. In a hobby suffused with negativity and griping, you can pay less for the latest, potentially-greatest Halo adventure than you did for the first one. Truly, the industry is falling apart. Sarcasm aside, Halo Infinite is a fantastic shooter experience that signals a bright and optimistic future for the franchise.