Halo Infinite Campaign Review: The Halo We Didn’t Know We Needed
I finished the fight with Halo years ago, seemingly turning in my MJOLNIR armor and Needler in favor of moving into other FPS pastures. The Halo series has been long dead to me since the launch of Halo 5: Guardians, but 343 Industries somehow completed what should have been an impossible task: making me like, and dare I say love, Halo again, as you will see in my Halo Infinite Campaign review.
The Halo Game 343 Knew We Needed
Before moving deeper into my Halo Infinite Campaign review, be sure to check out my impressions of the multiplayer with its beta launch to see my thoughts on how that excellent but still somewhat buggy experience can be. This is because this review is dedicated solely to the singleplayer story campaign.
Without a doubt, Halo Infinite is the game in the series that 343 knew that we needed, even if it is not necessarily the one that we were asking for. For some players, including myself, I would have been fine with giving Master Chief and the Halo franchise one last try in a traditional linear campaign with some open sandbox elements sprinkled throughout it.
However, 343 decided to take the series in a brand new and bold direction by making the game a semi-open world experience where you can truly live and breathe among the denizens of the Zeta Halo. This was a complicated decision and one that I was not sold on, even up until the point of playing the game.
This is because I have already seen the Halo series move into the open-world environments with games like Destiny and other open-world shooters. It is a long-attempted sub-genre and one that I am not heavily a fan of. That said, 343 did a mostly great job selling that this was necessary and making it work under constraints.
Set sometime after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Infinite picks up by both returning us to its roots while simultaneously taking the franchise in a new direction. It is, by and large, a nostalgic trip designed to bring back players who were disappointed with the previous mainline entry by ensuring that this is a Master Chief story.
No frills are thrown in there; this is just a story of Master Chief trying to stop some alien bad guys from doing bad things on an artificially constructed wedding band floating in space. In the process, though, developer 343 sells the open-world formula and washed away almost every concern I had about it, even after the mixed results of the initial campaign review over a year ago.
Zeta Halo Is the Star of This Game
For starters in my Halo Infinite Campaign review, there is the fact of the Zeta Halo that we are playing on. The game gets to a quick start, revealing where Master Chief is currently at and throwing you into the mix of the open-world environments after some opening missions (more on that in a bit).
The Zeta Halo setting is the real star of this game, truly capturing one of these Halo rings in a way that has not been seen, in my opinion, since Halo 2. It surpasses that, even making the Zeta Halo ring a character in its own right with an interesting backstory and lore surrounding it.
There is a history established on the Halo ring. It is seen in the various locations you can visit, optional stories that you can discover, and the people you come across along the journey. This brings the Halo ring to life in a much-needed way,
The sights and sounds of the ring are stunning, representing the most graphically and visually impressive parts of the game. Unfortunately, I found that many of the cutscenes chugged even on the Xbox Series X, where I played the Halo Infinite Campaign review game.
That said, the Zeta ring is not perfect by any means. Frame rates during scenes would not be great, while the indoor sections were just fine and expected most of the time. However, it was outside on the ring itself where the stunning visuals helped bring this place to life.
One of the most annoying parts of the game is how one-note everything is visuals. Stepping out onto the ring for the first time and seeing the green fields, gray hills, rocks, and pretty trees was awesome. However, the 30th time coming out into the same environment was tiresome.
There is no real level variation in Halo Infinite like we saw in most of the past games, taking us from snowy regions to underground facilities to futuristic cities. It is disappointing how little 343 does with the environment in this game in terms of variation, possibly a testament to the troubled development cycle for Halo Infinite.
Infinite Gameplay Shines the Brightest in the Campaign
While the Halo ring is the star of Infinite, it is the gameplay that you enjoy for the 20+ hour experience that allows it to shine. I do really enjoy the Halo multiplayer, but I feel that the Infinite gameplay shines the brightest in the story campaign as Master Chief.
While the competition is fierce and fun in a way that I have not experienced in a long time in multiplayer, it is held by weird constraints that are not necessary as present in the story campaign. This is not the case when you step into the shoes of Master Chief and experience what this game can truly be.
For starters, there is the fact that Master Chief can use all of the major abilities that are seen in the multiplayer side of things. The best part about this is the fact that players can use the grappling hook as many times as they want, barring the short cooldown, and never have to worry about not having access to it.
It is jarring that the multiplayer did not ship with every player having access to the grappling hook and the story campaign only strengthened my thoughts on it. The grappling hook alone fundamentally changed how I played these games and made me a more aggressive and, ultimately, better player.
With the grappling hook always available, it felt so good to rush into fights by latching onto the nearest Brute and launching myself towards them to punch them to death and then start blasting everyone else in the vicinity. The grappling hook also changed traversal, encouraging me to just run around the world on foot rather than using the vehicles that I gradually unlocked over time due to how fun it is to grapple up mountains and walls.
But the best part is that you do not have to play the game that way if you don’t want to, focusing on the grappling hook. There is so much choice offered in Halo Infinite, from the guns you can use to the ways you want to approach the various points of interest in the open world.
The most fun I had with the game was creating my little scenarios and challenges that the game was not presenting me with. For instance, while much of the time I would rush in and start destroying a FOB (Forward Operating Base), the game felt the most interesting when I broke the mold.
Sometimes I would want to shake things up and snipe all of the enemies from afar to see the Grunts run around like crazy as they try to figure out what to do. Other times, I would like to drive up with a Warthog full of soldiers to help me turn the tides of battle, while still other times I would stand from a distance and toss energy canisters over and over, blowing up every Banished in sight.
The world is responsive. The sheer amount of choice that you have when approaching the content available, in terms of playstyles and weapons, brings a pure fun factor back to the Halo series and gaming in general that I have not experienced in a long time.
Content Is Vast and Usually Good
Speaking of the content in the Halo Infinite Campaign review, there is a ton to do in the game right now and it is mostly a good time. You can clear out and unlock the aforementioned FOBs for fast travel points, the more interesting Strongholds, high-value targets, and other random side activities.
Halo Infinite embraces that Far Cry style of open-world FPS, giving you plenty to see and do around every corner and enough upgrades and collectibles to get at the same time. That said, I think that Infinite is much more fun than basically any Far Cry, Destiny, or Borderlands game that I’ve played.
You decide how you progress and tell your story across the Zeta ring. If you want to chase the next story mission and focus solely on that, you can do that. But if you want to clear out the entire map area that you are in first; you can do that as well.
Furthermore, if you want to chase down hard-to-get upgrades, like the Spartan Cores that can upgrade Chief’s various abilities, you are free to do that as well. That said, this level of choice does not solve the main issue with games like this: repetition.
Without a doubt, Halo Infinite is quite a repetitious game and one that would cause me to want to take breaks every so often because of it. Though you are not always required to, the ring objectives and points of interest can start to feel like the same-old, same-old rather quickly.
I had many moments where I arrived at a FOB, for instance, and thought to myself, “Haven’t I been here before?” And I hadn’t; it just so happened that the layout for these areas was almost always the same. This is where the element of choice in the gameplay comes into play.
It can help to alleviate some of the issues with the sometimes one-note nature of the open-world content, but it is something that you have to commit yourself to. The game does not say that you have to do the next base with a sniper rifle-only or just using grenades; these are things you have to make up on your own. Thankfully, though, it can help offset some of the repetitive nature.
Story Is Poignant But a Tad Confusing
Many do not care too much about the open-world objectives as they care about the story missions. If you prefer the more traditional, indoors, and sometimes linear missions that the Halo series is known for, I’m happy to let you know that they still exist.
In between taking down bases and targets on the map, you can engage in the next main story mission that is available. This is where the tale of Master Chief, The Weapon AI, and the unlucky pilot who found you comes into play. The story missions in Halo Infinite line up nicely with what I expected heading into the game.
Some moments match the highs of my favorite campaign, Halo 2, while also never dipping lower than the lows of the other games, minus this weird middle section where the story tries to pad itself out some and detract from the main objective.
The opening couple of missions you do are fantastic and a strange way to introduce the open-world game, but still a welcome one. It shows that there are still the more classic hallways and clears the room-focused missions you would expect along with the new open-world content.
The story does go to some interesting places. Master Chief gets to stand out as a character once again, following up on one of the best parts to come out of Halo 4. While certainly similar to Cortana in some ways, The Weapon has a neat inquisitive and innocent nature that does well to usher us into the current state of the world.
Even knowing what happened in Halo 5 and Halo Wars 2, I found that the weirdest part of the story is just how confusing it can be at times. It starts in the middle of the action. For a while, it does not take the time to clue the most lore-interested players like me into what is happening here.
That said, you are introduced to some memorable new characters, including some fantastic villains and bosses that you fight, plus the final act of the story is extremely well done without getting into what happens.
Is It Recommended? 8.5/10
Without a doubt, Halo Infinite’s campaign is something that I can recommend to anyone who is a shooter fan, even if you have never played a Halo game before. And if you are a Halo fan, well, this is a no-brainer, especially with it offered in Game Pass day one. The open-world nature and the element of choice you have can appeal to a wide selection of players and is arguably better than its fellow open-world FPS inspiration.
That said, there are some glaring gaps in the content of the Halo story campaign that players should know about. There is no cooperative experience, which becomes a major issue in the open-world objectives. It feels designed for multiple players to tackle together, and the lack of a simple way to replay all of the missions without starting over entirely.
That said, if you can get past the long waits for those features to arrive, the singleplayer version of the campaign is a great trip down memory lane for the Halo series back to its roots of why I loved it in the first place, while also taking it in a new direction.
In the end, I would put Halo Infinite up there as my third or perhaps even second-favorite game in the series to date, which is high praise for a franchise that defined my childhood and history as a fan of FPS games. While it is not perfect, it is the foundation for a platform that could reinvigorate the Halo series for another 20 years to come; I did not think it was possible until this point.