Halo Infinite - Game Infinite Review (Campaign)
Halo Infinite’s campaign is one where I have incredibly mixed feelings about it. I have positive feeling around how great it was to play as Chief again, and go on another adventure; my nostalgia and love for this franchise. It is a franchise that got me into gaming; a franchise that dictated my console preference for 2 decades… That feeling is at war with my critical self that wishes for some things to be vastly different in the game.
I struggled with my score and final feeling. At times it dropped all the way down to a 6, and other times rose again to a high 9. As much as I wanted this to be a 10/10 GOTY game, I settled on a 8. It is a really good, but flawed game. In someways 8 feels high and in other ways 8 feels low. This review focuses on the campaign.
This review is my opinion alone and does not reflect the views of GiFriends or GiFriends MODS.
The Open World Mostly Works:
Halo Infinite’s campaign has tackled the open world formula, and I was very skeptical about this approach. Halo is best when it tells a solid if not typically linear story, and open worlds sometimes struggle with that. Giving players the open world freedom can sometimes distract from a powerful narrative, and temp developers to focus on busywork and errand missions. Luckily, I think Halo Infinite succeeds in the open world formula. It is bare bones, but in a good way. Other than securing “Forward Operating Bases” (think Assassin’s Creed towers), saving a group of marines, and assassinating targets, there isn’t much to do in the map besides the story. At times it feels like the open world is unnecessary as the bulk of the main mission is linear and contained in mini sections, with the open world serving more like a hub world does in a live-service. I think this balance works, as Master Chief isn’t just riddled with countless side quests, escorting, fetch quests. This doesn’t feel like an RPG adaptation. The open world simply is a platform to get from one mission to the next. It does give some longevity to the game once you beat the main story. You can still patrol around and fight the Banished.
The best part of Halo Infinite is the gameplay, it's what keeps this review positive. The addition of the grappling hook and the greater movement set in Halo Infinite really adds a level of speed and tactical nature to combat. While at times Chief’s feels like way more of a glass canon in this game, the movement does really make him less “tanky”. I will say, you get so used to the grappling hook, it really spoils you. I feel like it’s limited used in multiplayer or going back to previous Halo’s I will miss it. I was impressed at how important and necessary it became to feel in Chief’s moveset. I absolutely love how tactical it allows you to be. You are often times able to flank and approach enemy positions from new directions like never before. The addition of weapon ammo reserves and weapon caches at forward operating bases also bring a new level of control to your load outs, not seen before in campaigns past.
Chief is back in the drive seat:
Another great part of Halo Infinite is the return to Master Chief. They made him a guest in his own game in Halo 5, and Infinite returns to being a Chief centric story like it should be. He not only is back to being the main focus, but he is given even more depth and humanity, without compromising the cold stoic soldier that he is. The best scene in the game is when he comforts a comrade. Master Chief stops being a larger than life super soldier for a moment and becomes a fellow soldier.
I will also give it extra credit for cross progression. Few games offer this level of seamless cross-progression, so I want to give it special shoutout when developers go out of their way to include it. Cross-progression should be the future of gaming. I should be able to log into multiple devices and pick up where I left off. It is especially impressive with single player games that despite many of us probably played via gamepads, are technically premium games. The few games with quality cross-progression are usually free-play multiplayer games, so it was incredible to start the campaign on my PC, and pick up on my Series X. This is the future, and I want more games to include this.
Out with the good old guns and in with some crappy new ones:
Each Halo game usually adds and takes away guns from previous games. This is important as it keeps each game feeling fresh. However, I feel like Infinite really failed in this department. They removed one gun that feels core to Halo and that is the Plasma Rifle. The plasma rifle has been in every single Halo game to date, and leaving it out feels less Halo. It also feels like a helpful full auto plasma meta is missing from the game. More so, the game adds a lot of new weapons, and many of them feel bland. I did not like a lot of the new weapons. The biggest issue, and this could be better balanced in a patch, is that the game really makes you want to always bring the battle rifle or assault rifle because of ammo conservation. Every other weapon has comparatively, significantly, less ammo than these, that it feels like you can’t experiment with different load outs. What is the point of letting me collect weapons and add them to my load out before a mission, if each one of them runs out in a few enemies. The assault rifle and battle rifle each can last a good amount of a mission before forcing you to switch, where all the other weapons will force to keep picking up off the ground or weapon caches. I understand that Halo is always about playing with what you find, but it still feels implemented poorly. Why bother even bringing a sniper rifle with you if it will be empty in a few seconds. Bringing a gun with 6 bullets on a mission where you will face hundreds just doesn’t work. It feels like setting up for failure to bring certain weapons, because you will very quickly hope to find decent replacements. I want all the guns to have better ammo balance so I can keep playing with what I like.
The Story: (minor spoilers)
The story in Halo Infinite feels just ok. I feel like it’s painfully obvious how they were trying to course correct from Halo 4 and 5. Those games set up this story arc, that is concluded entirely off screen. At times I felt the story we were learning about between 5 and Infinite was more insteresting than the story we were getting. All the Promethian and Cortana story arcs are pretty much done and over with in between the events of Halo Infinite and 5, and it just jumps us to a new story completely unrelated and largely irrelevant to the last two games. There is not one Promethean in the entire game, and Cortana is dead. That’s not even a spoiler, we find out she is dead at the beginning of the game and that was in the trailer. We meet a new "Cortana model" AI simply called the Weapon. She just isn’t Cortana. I call her Great Value Brand Cortana to my friends, because she just feels like a lesser character, a poor substitute for Cortana. She’s not overly bad…she’s just not Cortana.
Except…she is, kinda? That’s the games big twist. The whole game I played with this preconception in my mind. Cortana is still alive somewhere, the game is lying to me, Chief is being all weird and quiet because he is on a grand mission to save her. Chief saves Cortana at all costs, that’s kind of a huge moral of 4 and 5. He basically loves her. She is basically his only friend. The games big twist? Cortana IS dead. She went full evil and declared war on the galaxy. The holographic flashbacks show us a more interesting game than the one we are playing. And the AI we’ve been with this whole time? Well it’s a direct copy of Cortana. I remember audibly speaking outlaid... That's it? She's a Cortana Copy. As far as twists go it's kinda of a huge let down. I thought, of course she's a copy...she looks just like her. Aren't all Cortana models copies? Isn't that how software works? Is there really a difference between the OS on your device and my same device? It's just lame. You play this whole game to beat two enemies and the game just ends on a sequel bait. I honestly feel like the story that happens in-between the games is more interesting than the one we got. I would rather have played as Chief trying to stop Cortana's war on the galaxy, to save her, rather than simply be told it happened off screen. Cortana dies without us having a chance to save her. I would rather have had "Halo 6"'s story that feels skipped than Infinite's.
We've been fighting the Covenant since Halo Combat Evolved. Honestly, while the games may have been divisive, Halo 4 and 5 did introduce a new enemy faction for the first time in Halo. The Prometheans offered something new. They gave us a new enemy and new technology and new aesthetics to the Halo games. I liked fighting them because they felt challenging without feeling cheap. Infinite rips all that out and goes back to just the Covenant. You can give them a new name all you want, call them the "Banished" all you want, but this is just the Covenant with a new name. There is ONE new enemy type, and they are barely used. 90% of the campaign, we are fighting the same Covenant enemies we've been fighting since Halo 1 and 2. In fact, the game feels even less so because now not only is there no Prometheans, but there's also no Flood. The game just has a lack of enemies that brings it down. It is a lot more of rinse and repeat than previous games. They tried to add some enemy diversity by adding these assassination missions, which could have been cool. However, the priority targets are just slightly stronger versions of existing enemies, and none of them proved a challenge. Halo Infinite would have been vastly better had they actually created a new enemy faction in addition the Covenant, instead of feeling like a complete copy and paste. In fact, the new "faction" is such a forgettable copy and paste job that I don't recall the game ever explaining the name change.
The Art Style
My absolute biggest criticism about Halo Infinite almost took this score down to a 7. Because it is subjective, and the fun gameplay was super polished, I kept it at an 8. I tried not to weight this much if at all because it is just my subjective opinion. But was good lord... the art style. I hate it. I absolutely hate it. They took the best thing that was improved in Halo 4 and 5, and got rid of it. It absolutely baffles me how much of a graphical downgrade Master Chief and Cortana look to me. I feel like I'm playing a Halo 1 remaster (not remake, remaster). It baffles me how Halo 4 that came out 10 YEARS ago on the XBOX 360 looks better than Halo Infinite on the Xbox Series X. I will admit, it's not nearly as bad as the panned reveal that initially trigged the games year long delay into 2021. it could be way worse. But the color, the detail, and overall quality of Chief is somehow LESS than it was 10 years ago. When they first showed him off for Infinite, he looked like a cartoon character, and it's certainly better currently, but still no where near to what I got used to seeing. The difference between the 2019/20 demos and now is huge, but still a massive disappointment.
Look at Halo 4. Say what you will about the game. I love it. Some hate it. But look at how much more detail and realism there is to it. Why on Earth they wanted to bring back the Halo 1 art style, is beyond me. Of all the criticisms, fans had for Halo 5, I don't think anyone said, "Chief looks too good, make him more cartoony" But being that this game is mostly first person, it's not nearly as distracting as "Cortana".
Like what is this?. WHAT IS THIS? Keep in mind these two games are separated by not one, but TWO console generations. Look at her hair. Look at the details in her face. How is Halo 4's 360 Cortana 10 years of video game evolution older than Infinite's? Her facial animations, her eyes, are both very buggy. Her hair looks low resolution. The detail on her character model is just so poor. "The Weapon" feels like a poor imitation of a character fans have known and loved for two years. When we do eventually see Cortana is the form of holographic flashbacks, she is purple again. Why? Why make her purple? It's weird and throws off the continuity. The only thing worse is the abomination in the new tv show we won't talk about. That is Sonic the Hedgehog levels of bad.
In the end, while I hate the art style and the story was average, the gameplay is super solid, enough to carry the whole game single-handedly like Din Djaren carrying the Star Wars franchise. I settled on an 8, and Halo Infinite certainly is top 10 2022 material, and a must play for any Halo fan. I just hope that future story content will add more to the game, and perhaps patch can fix Chief and "Cortana" further. Even after beating the game, the open world offers decent replay/continual value. We also know co-op and mission replays are coming, so it will be even better with friends.