REVIEW – The latest instalment in the Halo saga, a legendary series of Xbox consoles for twenty years, has finally arrived on the X-series – albeit with a year’s delay. PC, Xbox One, and Game Pass users will also be honoured to receive the Infinite episode, developed by 343 Industries, just like the previous Halo instalments. If the saying goes that you don’t change a winning team, the studio is taking advantage of this generational shift to change the basic formula in turn, as this time Master Chief will get an open-world playground. But is this the main advantage of Halo Infinite?
Before we answer that question in detail, let’s take a look at the highly diverse menu system, which offers us a myriad of options that allow each player to tailor the experience to their own taste. Caption size, interface colours, the field of view, sound mixing, text-to-speech chat, voice-to-text chat and message display time are just a few of the dozens of settings. It is worth noting that the campaign’s launch interface is designed to allow for multiplayer. However, the co-operative mode is unavailable at launch as it will not arrive until next year, which is obviously a shame. Let’s overcome this shortcoming and put on our Master Chief armour!
Master Chief starts from the bottom
You probably already know the intro to the game, which introduces us to a Master Chief in an awful state, unconscious after a badly fought confrontation with Atriox. Fortunately, the Echo 116 pilot finds our hero floating in space and gets him back on his feet. This is followed by the first series of battles on the battleship Gbraakon, and then a landing on Halo Zeta. The latter is currently in the hands of the Pariahs, led by the leader Escharum, who was once Atriox’s mentor. So much for the general context, which will, of course, be enriched later on as we get more information about Cortana and a certain Augur. We won’t give away any more details to spoil the surprises, but don’t expect any incredible twists in the story. Even if the story remains fairly classic, we do get some lovely cinematics, in which we can enjoy highly detailed facial animations. For example, the female hologram accompanying the Master Chief will look more alive and real than ever.
Tactical, fast-paced FPS gameplay with significant innovations
Being an FPS, the game’s biggest strength is, of course, the action. More tactical than ever before, you’ll constantly need to use the right weapon against the right enemy and the right tool in the right situation. With five different weapon types (kinetic, plasma, electric, solid light or heavy ammo) and the Master Chief now having five additional pieces of equipment, the gameplay options are endless. This “combinatorial” aspect could clash with the two-weapon limitation, but fortunately, the levels are full of racks of weapons to choose from with ease.
Out of the five gadgets mentioned above, the grappling gun is without a doubt the most creative and exciting extra ability and a new addition to the Halo saga. Not only does it allow you to freely grab onto any surface (making movement, exploration and platforming easier), but it can also propel you towards enemies to stun them for a short time, temporarily remove a shield held by an enemy, or pull a weapon a few meters away towards you.
This makes the gameplay much more dynamic without feeling like it lacks the real challenge of the series. The developers managed to find the perfect compromise, mainly thanks to the relatively low traction speed of the grapple.
The second most exciting gadget is undoubtedly the portable wall, as this one-way shield stops enemy fire but lets the Master Chief through. The threat detector is only helpful in particular situations, as it can detect the presence of invisible enemies. The shield generator is simple but effective in reinforcing the 117’s defense level. Finally, the engines allow lateral evasive manoeuvres. This is undoubtedly the most redundant piece of equipment (the campaign offers it to us quite late), but its presence is at least not distracting.
As a side note, we benefit from a particularly well-designed automatic rescue system during battles. Indeed, saves are frequent enough that the player never has to restart a battle from too far away. For example, the game is immediately saved if you kill a particularly strong enemy in a battle with several opponents. Boss fights are also saved at all crucial stages. And don’t panic; if the “Save checkpoint” message appears a few moments before you die (in an impossible situation), the game will notice it and automatically reset you back to the previous point. Perfect!
But what is the open-world like?
As for the open-world gameplay, what I feared the most has unfortunately proven to be true: Halo Infinite’s Halo Zeta uses the tired and tired recipe of Ubisoft’s open worlds. Thus, it’s full of collectables (sound files for narrative, gameplay modifying skulls, Spartan modules for upgrading gadgets, Mjolnir lockers with cosmetic items for multiplayer, Forerunner artefacts for scanning); of course, it uses the millennial concept of capturing bases. A few dozen enemy alien creatures usually defend these outposts. Once you’ve captured the base, you can order vehicles and find a few soldiers ready to follow the Master Chief, as is common in Halo parts.
The captured bases then also serve as quick travel points, revealing previously hidden points of interest on the map, which offer new side missions and tasks: allies to free, Pariah towers to destroy, or VIP targets to kill, which can be used to acquire more advanced weapons. A Courage Point system rewards participation in various activities. As you accumulate Courage Points, you can unlock more and more weapons, vehicles and Marines on captured bases.
As for the development of the open world, two adjectives can best be used to describe it: very static and lifeless. The most striking example of this is the trees, which don’t move when you fire a rocket launcher or ram an armoured vehicle into them. In addition, the physics of vehicles are often not very lifelike, some too light and others too cumbersome. And they all tend to get distracted by trees or rocks in their path.
Interestingly, the least revolutionary indoor levels in the Halo series are the most successful now. The cold colours typical of the saga and a rather pleasant gothic-futuristic architecture have become extremely atmospheric. However, Halo Infinite retains a flaw that was already present in Halo Combat Evolved twenty years ago: some locations have been shamelessly copied and pasted more than once. Where is the next-gen in all this?
What really makes Halo “infinite” is the open-world?
Even if the open world offers nothing particularly new (especially as it is relatively small and divided into several islands), its presence is welcome as it extends the life of the single-player campaign. The latter was completed in fourteen hours, only moderately meeting the numerous challenges of the open world. Therefore, it is up to us whether we complete the adventure in a straight line in eight to ten hours or, on the contrary, spend twenty to thirty hours roaming freely through Halo Zeta.
And as with other open-world action-adventure games, the game allows you to continue exploring after the final confrontation. Another way to extend the experience is the multiplayer mode, which was released as a surprise on 15 November to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Xbox and is free to play independently of the single-player campaign. The icing on the cake is that you can train with sticks through Spartan Academy and use some of the main adventure gadgets, starting with a grappling gun.
The separation of the paid campaign and free multiplayer seems to be a win-win situation. Players who are only interested in the multiplayer part don’t have to open their wallets. At the same time, those who bought Halo Infinite or are Game Pass subscribers will get cosmetic bonuses for the multiplayer part in addition to the excellent time spent on the adventure. Because, while there’s no doubt that the newer generation is certainly underutilized, this game really is an excellent Halo episode.
Will Halo Infinite dazzle the player with a next-gen title’s excellent, jaw-dropping visuals? Apart from the cinematic cutscenes, not really. Halo Infinite offers us an innovative, innovative open world? No, it’s the familiar, tired, classic Ubisoft recipe.
And yet, Halo Infinite is one of the best episodes of the saga because it offers more tactical combat than ever before and requires players to adapt to the situation constantly. The grappling gun adds dynamism to the gameplay without changing its usual difficulty.
And even if the open world isn’t revolutionary, it at least has the merit of offering side activities that can extend the main campaign beyond the main missions. All of this is supported by a successful multiplayer mode, available for free regardless of the purchase of the main game. And because it’s included in Game Pass, Halo Infinite is Microsoft’s most impressive Christmas present yet for fans.
+ Mild, though not outstanding story
+ Enjoyable gameplay with some genuinely revolutionary new features
+ Open world, with all its positive aspects
– The age-old open-world recipe
– A lifeless, static open-world world
– The graphics are nice, but not nextgen
Developer: 343 Industries
Genre: open-world FPS
Release date: December 8, 2021