There was a time when Halo was arguably the most important release on the video game calendar. Halo was more than just a first-person shooter back in the days of the Xbox and Xbox 360. It was a cultural phenomenon. Halo was the franchise that Xbox made its first flagship, and it was later used to launch the revolutionary Xbox Live. It saw mass-level marketing with special sodas, 7/11 cups, and TV commercials. This was a franchise that helped an entire generation of teenagers and college students learn what a LAN party is. Halo was on top and everybody wanted a character like Master Chief as their mascot. Then it wasn’t.
The franchise changed hands. The original developers of Halo, Bungie, parted ways from Microsoft and handed the franchise over to 343 Industries. With a new team at the helm came growing pains and 343 struggled to recreate the magic that Bungie had with the series. While Halo struggled, many of its biggest competitors jumped into the vacuum to fill the first-person shooter void. Franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield took its place and as time went on it started to feel like Halo was never going to be back at the top, but with this latest release, it is back there again.
Halo Infinite is the best Halo game since Halo Reach and not only because of the free-to-play multiplayer, but because of a new campaign that manages to breathe fresh life into the 20-year-old franchise. Everyone is talking about it right now and deservedly so. There is going to be plenty of debate on if this is the game where 343 managed to finally fill the shoes of its predecessors — and it feels like it has — but what’s impressive about this game is the way that Infinite did it. This is, in every way, a Halo game, but it’s also the most unique Halo has ever been.
A Huge Open World
Halo Infinite begins in very familiar territory. It starts off on a ship. Master Chief has been suddenly awoken by the pilot Echo 216 when they are ambushed by a ship piloted by the main antagonists of the game, The Banished. Being who he is, Chief quickly disposes of this problem and gets his bearings on what has been taking place since he was taken out of action. Turns out, The Banished took over the Zeta Halo ring and the UNSC was decimated in the process. To Echo 216’s chagrin, it’s up to Chief, the pilot, and his A.I. partner “Weapon” to save the galaxy from this overwhelming threat.
After that, Infinite does something that has only been done once before in the series, it throws the player into an open world. However, unlike when this was done in Halo 3: ODST, the world is much larger this time around and much more freedom is given to the player. It’s here where we see Infinite stray from the course of the series. While the open world in ODST acted as more of a hub for the player to go from mission to mission, Infinite goes a much more traditional path. Icons appear all over the map, objectives can be completed to earn upgrades, and exploration is a reward. Do not let the Halo skin on top of everything fool you. Half of this game is a traditional open world game, just like they said it would be, and it works really well — for the most part.
With a huge wide open world like this, there is so much potential in exploration. The problem is that because this is an open world game it also features some of the traditional problems that are associated with the genre, such as side missions feeling very similar to one another, or exploration not always being as fun as it sounds. The Zeta Halo is beautiful and at times it was hard to not just stare at everything, but it can also feel very empty whenever there is no action going on. Finding the quickest way to maneuver around is a must and that means getting vehicles. A good open world game should be fun to explore — think Breath of the Wild or Spider-Man — and while Halo Infinite gets close, it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Closing Out One Plot And Beginning Another
When the player isn’t exploring the open world, they are typically playing the main missions of the game. These are where Halo Infinite manages to be at its most unique. These missions will sometimes take place in the open world, with encampments scattered throughout the map that needs to be cleared out, but occasionally the game will take the player back into enclosed spaces and hallways. These levels feel like traditional Halo and tell us that the developers didn’t forget the series roots. They know what a good Halo level looks like, but for a long time they didn’t know what a good Halo plot looked like.
It’s fair to say that nobody was really happy with how things stood at the end of Halo 5 in terms of the overarching plot. Of course, 343 Industries couldn’t just abandon everything that had happened up until that point, but they had to find a way to get the story back on the rails. Without spoiling anything, they managed to walk that line while also doing something even more important. They managed to set themselves up perfectly for more games in the future. Halo Infinite is not a game meant to wrap up the series. If anything, it’s a soft reboot, and the new open world everyone experienced is the mark of that new direction.
By the end of the game, you will love these characters and you will be fully ready to go on new adventures with them. It wraps up what needed to be, while also setting up perfectly for this franchise’s new direction.
Accessibility And Multiplayer
So should you play Halo Infinite? We think yes. It’s the best the franchise has been in a decade and it’s one of the best games out there period right now. It is a game that is absolutely worth the $60 price tag, but even if that’s too much there are still so many different ways to experience this game. For starters, the entire campaign is available on Game Pass which means anyone currently paying the monthly subscription for that is able to experience the game in its entirety at no extra cost. It’s hard for us to not ever recommend at least trying a game like this and with Game Pass it feels like a no brainer.
For anyone that isn’t into single-player gaming, go ahead and give the multiplayer a shot. It’s completely free to play on both Xbox and PC, and while the campaign feels fresh and new, the multiplayer feels like returning to an old friend. It’s hard to explain it to anyone that hasn’t played Halo before, but the multiplayer feels exactly how the multiplayer in a Halo game should. It’s not perfect by any means, for example the Battle Pass is not the best, but it’s fun to play and that’s really important. In this day and age where so many games are more focused on getting us to buy into it being the next great esport, or push microtransactions on us, it’s really nice to have a game that is fun to play above all else. It’s just nice to have Halo back.