REVIEW: ‘Halo Infinite’ falls just short of greatness


Courtesy Xbox

“Halo Infinite”, the latest installment in the Halo game series, provides players with exciting new features and updates.

Aidan Dilo, Staff Writer

“Halo Infinite” was released on Dec. 8, 2021 and is the series’ first mainline installment in over six years. After “Halo 4” and “Halo 5: Guardians” received mixed reception, the pressure was on the much-anticipated “Halo Infinite” to revitalize the series. So, does the game deliver? Well, almost.

“Halo” is a sci-fi first-person shooter franchise created by Bungie in 2001 and is currently developed by 343 Industries. Since its inception, the series has garnered critical and commercial success, becoming one of the most recognizable names in video games and spawning a multimedia franchise that includes books, movies, TV shows, eight mainline games and various spinoffs.

The games are set in the 26th century and are centered around the Master Chief and his AI companion, Cortana. Together, they are tasked with protecting humanity in an interstellar war against the alien force known as the Covenant. As the war progresses, the Master Chief comes to discover the Halo rings, planet-sized ring worlds that hold ancient secrets. In “Halo Infinite”, players will have to take back one of the mysterious ring worlds, Zeta Halo, from a new enemy faction called the Banished. 

“Halo Infinite” can be divided into two experiences: campaign and multiplayer. This won’t surprise people familiar with the games, but Infinite makes significant changes to these two modes. The multiplayer is free to play on Xbox Live and Steam, and for the first time in the series’ history, the campaign is open-world. 

The campaign’s open-world design allows players to unlock sections of the expansive Zeta Halo by progressing through the story. Players have the liberty to engage with a diverse roster of enemies and bosses through the game’s vast catalog of weapons, vehicles and armor abilities however they want. As a result of the combat’s open-endedness, no two encounters feel the same.

Scattered throughout the map are many incentives for player exploration as well. For example, Spartan Cores upgrade armor abilities, Armor Lockers grant multiplayer cosmetics and audio logs further flesh out the story. There are also numerous easter eggs and game-modifiers known as Skulls.

As for other side missions, players can take out mini-bosses called High-Value Targets that grant unique weapon variants, rescue allied marines, destroy enemy outposts and radio towers, and reclaim Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). After the player takes control of a FOB, they can use them to fast travel around the map, house marine reinforcements, call in weapons and request vehicles.

The map’s visuals are reason enough to explore, however. “Halo” has always been known for its presentation, and “Halo Infinite” doesn’t disappoint. The world is filled with gorgeous vistas that, paired with a fantastic musical score, simply leave you in awe.

The campaign isn’t without its flaws, however. For one, the level design isn’t on par with the gameplay. The open-world looks incredible, but the shortage of different biomes or weather patterns creates a lack of visual diversity. This isn’t helped by the more linear campaign missions, which take place in long, monotonous metal corridors. 

The story is also a mixed bag. After universal criticism of the story in “Halo 5: Guardians”, many of that game’s plot threads are abruptly dropped or resolved offscreen via flashbacks or exposition. This causes “Halo Infinite” to feel extremely disjointed as a sequel, but the new direction and characters form a solid enough story for the series to build upon.

The campaign misses components found in previous installments as well, such as allies driving vehicles, a level-select and rewards for beating the game on Legendary difficulty and completing all campaign objectives. The lack of a level-select is particularly missed since revisiting missions requires the campaign to be restarted from the beginning.

However, the most prominent absence is co-op mode, which allows up to four players to play the campaign simultaneously. Even though co-op is scheduled for release in five months, this is the first installment to have co-op unavailable at launch. 

Insufficient content also plagues an otherwise fun and balanced multiplayer experience that expertly utilizes gameplay mechanics. 

The multiplayer experience lacks fan-favorite modes such as infection and firefight, a functional theater mode, and one of the series’ main selling points, forge mode. This feature allows players to create entirely new maps and edit existing ones.

Forge mode is slated to release in nine months, but “Halo Infinite”’s need for post-launch updates to flesh out a barebones multiplayer experience has frustrated the fanbase.

“Halo Infinite” issues new updates to graphic features. (Courtesy Amazon)

The multiplayer also contains some questionable features. There is currently no performance-based experience points (XP), meaning how well you play in-game doesn’t affect how much you level up. Instead, per-match XP is based on how many games you’ve played that day. To progress at a reasonable rate, players need to complete challenges, which can feel tedious. 

As for unlockable cosmetic items, the game could use more free and challenge-based rewards as the free-to-play model puts most cosmetics behind a paywall. There are very few ways to unlock things without using the item shop or battle pass. These offer cosmetics, but they can only be obtained with real money.

Some positives include weekly events that give players the chance to unlock items without spending money, and a seasonal battle pass that doesn’t expire after purchase. Unfortunately, the game’s Armor Core system severely limits customization.

Armor Cores are sets of armor compatible with only certain cosmetics, meaning players cannot customize across different Armor Cores. For instance, a Mark V core helmet can’t be equipped to the Mark VII core. What’s worse is the presence of seemingly identical items between cores. For example, I have a gold visor for the Mark VII, but I have to unlock another gold visor for the Yoroi core. 

Even though their present offerings feel somewhat sparse, the multiplayer and campaign are definitely worth trying. The multiplayer is free, and the campaign contains some of the series’ best gameplay. On the bright side, the development team has addressed many issues listed above and has already made changes since launch, such as adding game modes and making challenges easier. 

“Halo Infinite” lays a fantastic foundation for the franchise to build upon and is a return to form in many ways. In the future, updates can bring new content to the game and remedy issues, but in its current state, the absence of numerous core features and limited multiplayer prevent “Halo Infinite” from reaching its full potential.