It should have been called Halo Limited. The sixth main title in the Halo universe offers a third fragment of the narrative from the second big story arc. They call it “Reclaimer saga “, and if you are not a Halo insider, you won’t have a single clue what the hell is going on here. I bet there is a whole legion of confused players that hadn’t been alive when the original Halo came out. Many of those caught up with the games over the years, but some surely skipped one or two, most probably, those Halo Wars tactical RTS ones. The thing is that all of them are essential for the proper insight of complex lore needed for understanding Halo Infinite. There’s no in-game recap at all – if you want a quick refresher, you must resort to youtube.
Who? What? Why?
Let’s assume that you came prepared. Halo Infinite continues the fight against the Banished, a splinter faction of the Covenant opposing peace with Humanity. Following the legendary ending of Halo 5: Guardians, we are witnessing the destruction of UNSC Infinity in the orbit of the Zeta Halo ring. Master Chief gets his ass kicked by Warmaster Atriox, who disarms him and throws him out of the crippled flagship. Six months after the debacle, Chief gets rescued by a nervous bearded guy piloting a single surviving Pelican dropship. Due to the unseen events, Zeta Halo suffered catastrophic damage, but the Banished are still swarming the ring space and attacking Pelican. Pursued craft lands on Halo, and Chief jumps headfirst into the action, trying to determine what’s going on.
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Part of a bigger picture
What’s going on… It is a good question that will get gradually answered through a ten to a twelve-hour campaign. Infinite is conceptually reminiscent of the original game from 2001, presenting a mix between fighting on the surface of the ring and inside of the various installations. The big difference lies in the campaign structure. Instead of classic linear missions, Halo Infinite offers a semi-open world, full of optional missions that serve the purpose of extending a running time while providing some additional lore for enthusiasts. I suppose 343 Industries had to implement that change lest risk being branded resistant to modern trends. Anyway, you will fight Banished, foiling their apocalyptic plans while the game unveils a brand new, emerging threat, setting the stage for the future Halo games. As I said initially, Infinite offers a limited fragment of a much bigger picture, probably destined to go on forever.
More humane Halo?
The game does provide some closure regarding the fate of Cortana. It also recycles Chief/Cortana dynamics by introducing the Weapon, another “female “AI that bears an uncanny resemblance to her. This whole thing represents the sad lack of vision from the developers. 343 promised us a more personal, humane Halo game, but they degraded the human aspect to another platonic relationship between super-soldier and artificial intelligence. And one frustrated pilot who freaks out all the time, providing a contrast to Chief’s stoicism. There’s no growth, no vertical movement, just retelling the old tale all over again. Halo once channeled late great Larry Niven and his Ringworld novels; nowadays, it seems satisfied with lazy cliches and repetition. I wonder how long they can keep using newfound Forerunner relics as a vehicle for continuing the global Halo storyline?
Action helps you stay awake, though. A semi-open structure of the surface section enables you to roam free, tackle many optional challenges, and search for audio logs, spartan cores, and skulls. Weapons are satisfying as ever, and a couple of quality of life improvements, such as audio and visual cues on hit and kill, are most welcome. There are many FOBs to be liberated and many stranded UNSC marine squads to be rescued, so the open battlefield evolves to some small extent. Vast open space facilitates the use of vehicles, but if you are in a hurry, you can use fast travel between liberated forward bases. Halo made its first baby steps towards Far Cry. It’s not glorious, but it’s serviceable.
This time around, multiplayer is a separate entity from the single-player component. It’s also free2play, with the season pass and purchasable cosmetics galore. For the PC players who had never played Halo multiplayer, it might not look and feel like a big deal initially, but it can grow on you. There are lots of modes, efficient matchmaking, and a massive player base, so the longevity is pretty much assured. That is if 343 Industries manage to solve the rampant problem with cheaters that are ruining the experience for everyone. Can a (dominantly) console developer with limited experience in PC multiplayer space do that? Time will tell, but also telling is the cry from the Xbox community for the option to disable crossplay. Currently, it is active by default, without the usual toggle to insulate yourself on the ecosystem of your choice.
Anyway, multiplayer offers two general experiences, 4 vs. 4 or 12 vs. 12. Standard, small arena games are perfect if you are pressed for time and looking for a quick shooting fix, but the real meat of multiplayer is big map combat with vehicles and everything. An unexpected bonus, at least for me, was a competent announcer who doesn’t sound like a mentally unstable drill sergeant from hell. You know, like the one from Call of Duty multiplayer.
Can’t top the original
Halo: Combat Evolved and ODST were unique games that bridged the gap between generic gaming fiction and artistic, hard SF. Unfortunately, that quality is history now, as Infinite doesn’t aspire to reach any new heights, except in a purely technical sense. The best thing about Halo Infinite is a generous, frankly, unbeatable business model. The whole game was free from day one for PC Game Pass subscribers, and multiplayer is free for everyone. I just can’t imagine willingly parting with 60 bucks for the single-player part, so that option is most welcome.
Competent game from a technical standpoint.
Multiplayer is excellent and free for everyone.
Pretty weak single-player campaign, with lots of recycled moments and sentiments.
Open-world segments are rudimentary.
Cartoonish villains are more suited to Masters of the Universe than deserving of Master Chief.