After years of anticipation and delays, is Halo Infinite worth playing? Here’s our full Halo Infinite review to help you make up your mind.
It’s perhaps fitting that Halo Infinite begins with humanity’s UNSC forces in tatters. Huge ships have been torn asunder, and even Master Chief himself has been bested. Spartan 117 hasn’t ever really lost before, and the sight of him floating out in space, frozen, is a sobering one.
The good news, though, is that just as Chief is at the beginning of a comeback story against incredible odds, developer 343 Industries is poised to complete their own turnaround of sorts. Not since original custodian Bungie’s days has Halo felt so confident and assured of its place in the gaming world, and Infinite feels like 343 repaying fans’ faith in them.
Forget the Master Chief Collection’s woes, forget Halo 5: Guardians’ campaign, and yes, even Craig the Brute can be grappleshotted from your memory – Halo is back, and it’s a homecoming worth celebrating.
We’ve kept the following review as spoiler-free as possible.
Halo Infinite – Key details
- Price: $59.99 (USD) | £49.99 (GBP) | $99.95 (AUD)
- Developer: 343 Industries
- Release date: December 8, 2021
- Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PC
Halo Infinite trailer
Hail-o to the Chief
Despite being often derided as a big man in a green suit of armor tearing through alien hordes, Halo has always weaved a more personal story between its biblical analogies and proper noun-filled skirmishes between factions, and in this regard, Halo Infinite is perhaps the most personal yet. As mentioned earlier, Master Chief is bruised as the campaign opens, rescued by a similarly downtrodden pilot.
Completing this heroic triumvirate is cheerful AI companion, The Weapon. Chief remains the clear focal point (much to the relief of fans disappointed by Halo 5’s Spartan Locke chapters), and he remains a man of few words, bound by duty and, well, childhood indoctrination to complete any mission. Adding color to his human side, though, his less fearsome comrade just wants to get home, while The Weapon is happy to be along for the ride.
The way the trio interacts brings a much more personal touch than the last game’s muddled narrative, as Chief grapples with legacy. In between heartfelt moments, Halo Infinite’s writing is also just fun. Master Chief occasionally references the fact that he’s the galaxy’s biggest badass, and there are plenty of lines that will be remembered as fondly as “I need a weapon”.
There’s no shortage of villains, either. The Banished are ferocious, a more brutal collective than the Covenant, and each of their war chiefs has their own personality. Did we mention Halo now has more regular boss fights? More on that later.
In fact, there’s plenty of character to be found throughout. As expected, Grunts taunt Chief and beg for mercy when the tables turn, while marines are overjoyed to be fighting alongside him. If Halo’s jargon has lost you in the past, though, Infinite doesn’t mark the best place to jump on – but it’s still an enjoyable blockbuster adventure that touches on deeper themes.
These moments are punctuated by Gareth Coker’s sumptuous score. It flits between dramatic and dreamlike, all while staying true to the essence of Halo. This is no mere cover band playing the old hits; this is a master at work given the composite parts to build something wonderful.
Open (ring) world
Halo Infinite’s biggest shakeup of the franchise, though, is in its gameplay systems. If you winced at the thought of Halo going open-world, we have good and bad news.
The good news is that Zeta Halo is gorgeous. Its craggy rocks, rolling plains, and small pockets of wildlife all feel natural and believable while remaining alien. Pockmarked throughout are small outposts called FOBs, and clearing these of enemies will reveal points of interest on the map. These range from simple item collections like Spartan ability upgrade points and multiplayer skins, to high-value Banished targets and a chance to rescue marines.
While Halo Infinite’s multiplayer has drawn plaudits for feeling like a return to the halcyon days of 2004, this feels a little more contemporaneous, like a Halo game made through the lens of Ubisoft circa 2012. While it doesn’t offer anything truly new to the open-world genre, it does allow a chance to play with Master Chief’s new toys – especially the much-publicized grappleshot.
This new tool doesn’t exactly make Chief into a Spider-Man-style acrobat, it does allow for slightly faster traversal of Zeta Halo, as well as a series of new combat opportunities that reward experimentation. Out of ammo? You could grapple to the nearest enemy for a satisfying melee kill, or you can grapple a weapon from the floor to use instead. You can even grab explosive environmental hazards to hurl at foes – as long as they don’t blow them up while you’re holding them.
Other abilities feel a little under-utilized. The drop shield offers cover in a pinch, for example, but I never found myself reaching for it as much as I’d have thought – simply because staying mobile is often just as useful (and fun, with the Grappleshot). Still, the Threat Sensor comes into its own when tackling cloaked enemies that are much harder to spot than ever before.
I need a weapon
As with prior entries, Chief’s arsenal has grown, too. While I’ve always had a soft spot for the assault rifle/battle rifle combo, previous Halo titles had made that difficult due to inconsistent ammo drops that made that viable. In Halo Infinite, 343 have added an ammo crate system, where certain types of ammo can be found in abundance. While that means I could use my favorite weapons more often, I never felt like I settled on a perfect combo, and constantly switched up my approach. Halo Infinite’s appeal is that it opens up the battlefield so that there’s no right or wrong way to tackle a combat scenario.
That’s backed up by a progression system fuelled by Valor, a resource awarded for completing objectives on your travels. As Chief earns Valor, he can call in more powerful resources from FOBs, from weapons to vehicles. The latter is particularly important, though, because otherwise, you’ll spend much of your time on the ringworld hoofing it.
If you’re worried about the more open campaign setup getting in the way of epic set pieces, then fret not. While much of Halo Infinite takes place in the spaces between missions, those core story beats almost always feel chock full of memorable moments. The game’s intro starts stronger than any Halo since the second installment’s New Mombasa conflict, and campaign missions remain a high-point throughout – both on the surface of Zeta Halo and within its depths.
These missions are often capped with a boss fight, and it’s here that Infinite offers its most gladiatorial look at Master Chief’s capabilities. While the franchise has always pinned its challenge on enemy numbers and team composition, the Banished’s war chiefs are mostly a different ball game entirely. Some fight Chief one-on-one, while others attack with cohorts, but all are challenging.
Boss fights tend to take place in enclosed spaces, and while this does add to their intensity, this comes with some issues. For one, combat against one early-game boss with a tendency to charge and swing a Gravity Hammer can feel cheapened by being caught on level geometry. In other instances, though, fighting a constantly-cloaked adversary with your weapons and the Threat Sensor is thrilling.
In fact, our biggest disappointment about Halo Infinite’s campaign is that there won’t be co-op at launch. It feels so perfectly tuned for flanking around enemy bases, or teaming up to fight bosses, that it’ll end up being the best way to play for many.
While we’ve already gone into depth on Halo Infinite’s multiplayer in a separate review, it’s worth restating that the game’s launch lineup feels well-stocked to foster a competitive community.
Each of the ten maps feels distinct, and while we’d give our plasma grenades for a way to pick which mode we play, Halo Infinite multiplayer is off to a very promising start, changing little of the three pillars of guns, grenades, and melee but still finding ways to make it feel fresh.
While many have bemoaned the miserly battle pass rewards system, we feel confident in expecting it to improve. Even without the carrot on a stick of constant unlocks, though, Halo Infinite is an absolute blast to play with friends in both Arena and Big Team Battle.
There are some core modes missing (SWAT being a big one), but when you nail a no-scope on an enemy flung across the map, it’s hard to think about anything other than trying to do it again. Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, as with its campaign, rewards ingenuity – like grabbing the flag in CTF with the grappleshot, or using thrusters to sidestep and carjack a Warthog that was careening towards you.
In short, nothing has ever felt quite like Halo, and in that regard, Halo Infinite feels like the most logical next step. While Halo 5 was no slouch, Infinite feels like an excellent foundation of modes, weapons, and maps to be built off with the game’s upcoming seasonal content.
That’s a theme of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, though. It’s good and while it’s widely expected to get better with tweaks, anyone jumping in right now is unlikely to be disappointed.
For more on multiplayer, though, be sure to check out our standalone review.
Verdict – 9/10
Taking both single and multiplayer as a whole, Halo Infinite marks a return to form for a franchise that is in desperate need of one. Its open-world may feel a tad formulaic, but it also houses plenty of emergent gameplay opportunities while continuing to offer huge set-pieces.
Multiplayer battle pass progression aside, playing with friends in Halo Infinite feels closer to the glory days of Halo 3 than ever. If you’d been concerned based on prior showings, you can put those concerns to rest – Halo is back, and it might just be better than ever.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X