Thanks to its multiplayer mode being free, and super good, it’s easy to forget that Halo Infinite (Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC) also has a single-player campaign. That is, unless you’re one of the people who prefer to play these games solo, and with its epic sci-fi space opera story driving the action. It’s for them — by which I mean us — that I present this assessment of Halo Infinite‘s story driven campaign.
After getting tossed out of an airlock,
and waking up in a space ship with a guy who’s been on his own for way too long, Master Chief finds himself first on an enemy ship (which he of course blows up) before ultimately landing on Zeta Halo — i.e., the one on the cover of Halo: Fractures — only to find it’s under the control of The Banished, a Covenant splinter group hoping to use their new home to wipe out anyone who opposes them. And we all know what that means…
As with all of the main Halo games, Halo Infinite is a sci-fi first-person shooter in which you’re a genetically-modified super soldier in shield-generating power armor. Using guns, grenades, melee weapons, vehicles, devices, and your fists, you have to take out an army of aliens, many of whom are chatty and super racist towards humans.
Except that while previous installments were made of largely linear levels (which this starts out with as well), Halo Infinite quickly drops you into a sizeable open world, one that recalls the mountainous areas of Skyrim. It is here that you’ll find your nicely varied missions. Along with the ones that drive the story, you have to rescue fellow human soldiers, clean out small and large facilities, assassinate high value targets, and sabotage enemy equipment. And that’s not even counting the random gunfights you get into as you make your way from one location to the next.
In other words, it’s a futuristic Far Cry 6 if the hero was a trigger-happy Captain America wearing one of Iron Man’s old suits.
The open Skyrim-like world…
isn’t the only thing that’s different about Halo Infinite, though. As usual, this has some interesting new weapons. The Mangler is like a Magnum if Magnums used shotgun shells, while the Heatwave shoots a flat line of projectiles not unlike the Plasma Cutter in the Dead Space games. Even the less effective weapons have their uses. While the Skewer, an anti-tank spike weapon, annoyingly has to be reloaded after every shot, and is too bulky to use against moving targets, when used on slow-moving bosses…
Though you can always throw things at your enemies. The Zeta Halo in Halo Infinite is lousy with glowing rectangular boxes, called Coils, which are like red barrels in other games, in that they explode when you shoot them. Except that you can also toss them at someone and watch as they explode on contact. It’s like throwing a big exploding football.
Halo Infinite also has some interesting new devices. The Threat Sensor, for instance, is a deployable radar-like bubble that’s exceptionally handy when you’re facing cloaked enemies.
What really makes Halo Infinite‘s campaign feel different than those in previous installments, though, is the Grappleshot, a grappling hook like the one Batman has in the Arkham games, though it actually feels more like when you use Spidey’s webshooters in Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Not only is it helpful when you’re navigating the rather vertical terrain, but it’s also an effective tool in combat. Like the robots Dave and Jack in Gears 5, the Grappleshot can get weapons that are out of reach, or ammo if you have them grab a weapon you already have. It can even pull you onto an enemy vehicle so you carjack someone, Grand Theft Auto-style.
But the most satisfying use of the Grappleshot…
in Halo Infinite comes when you latch onto an enemy and it pulls you towards them, which you can then accentuate with a shot from your gun or an elbow to the face. You can even upgrade the Grappleshot to shock someone, if only momentarily.
It also helps that while the Grappleshot needs to reset after every use, and has a limited range, it never feels restricted in either regard. Which isn’t to say you won’t still overestimate its abilities, and use it to try and save yourself when you fall into one of the Zeta Halo’s many bottomless pits, but most of the time, it works as advertised.
It’s also not the only device you can upgrade. By finding Spartan Cores, which are littered around the world like, uh, litter, you can not only add functions to the Grappleshot, Threat Sensor, and the other devices, but you can also improve the effectiveness of your shields.
Together, the combination of an open and multi-layered world, a fast and fun way to get around it, and deeply satisfying combat options, makes for some rather interesting gunfights. When not attacking from on-high, I often found myself using the Grappleshot to pull me towards an enemy fist first, a move I’d punctuate with a short, sharp, shot.
While combat is, of course, the focus of Halo Infinite,
it is made that much more interesting by being driven by an epic and engaging sci-fi story. And while much of the credit for how good that aspect works belongs to the writers, some also belongs to actor Jen Taylor, who does an exceptional job voicing your new assistant, Weapon, a sentient A.I. who, oddly, looks and talks just like your former A.I. assistant Cortana if Cortana had youthful enthusiasm and a snarkier sense of humor. Taylor has always been great as Cortana, especially when she when she had a breakdown in Halo 5: Guardians, but she’s absolutely delightful as Weapon.
Though having said that, I must admit there were times when Weapon could be a bit too enthusiastic. While some open world games don’t seem to care if you finish the story or not (Grand Theft Auto V comes to mind), Halo Infinite does, and so Weapon constantly tells you to get back to work, albeit in the nicest way possible. There are also times when the game turns off your ability to fast travel between certain locations, insisting instead that you do what it wants you to do.
Ironically, Halo Infinite has another issue that is common among open world games, especially those in the Far Cry series. When you take over an enemy base, the process removes any dead enemies from the area, including any weapons they may have been using or vehicle they used to get there. And while sure, your bases do come equipped with weapon printing machines, and a phone so you can get the lonely guy to drop off a new vehicle, there are times when a base’s former occupant had a weapon you can’t print.
Also, your weapons don’t hold a lot of ammo. Sure, there’s always other guns lying around, and ammo resupply boxes as well, but you still end up having to switch weapons when you’d rather stick with a gun you really like just because your ammo mag is empty. And while yeah, this is how the weapons in Halo have always worked, it’s more annoying in Infinite than it was in, say, Halo: Reach or Halo 4. Though, admittedly, it could just be because I recently played Call Of Duty: Vanguard, which is rather liberal with its ammo.
It’s also a little irritating…
that while there are special versions of different weapons, they don’t use the same ammo as the regular versions. If you have a Convergence version of the Bulldog shotgun, for instance, and find a regular Bulldog, you can’t use the latter’s ammo in the former, even though the Convergence Bulldog is just a regular Bulldog with a larger ammo capacity, less of a spread, and more range.
(I would also complain that the controls used to switch between such equipment as, say, the Grappleshot and the Threat Sensor are awkward and counter-intuitive, but considering I only ever used the Grappleshot…)
But perhaps the biggest issue I had with Halo Infinite — though, admittedly, it didn’t make it any less fun — is with the story. (Suffice it to say, the rest of this paragraph comes with a SPOILER ALERT.) Specifically, the story begins well after the end of Halo 5: Guardians, but doesn’t explain what happened between then and the beginning of Infinite. Or even what’s happening at the beginning of Infinite. Sure, some gaps do get filled in as the story progresses, but not all of them, and some not entirely. I even restarted the game so I could rewatch the opening cinematic, thinking maybe I had missed something…but I hadn’t. Though again, as with the weapon stuff, it didn’t take anything away from the game.
Which brings me to the ultimate question this review is trying to answer,
whether Halo Infinite is worth getting if you’re only going to play the campaign. And to that I said…well, I think the answer should be obvious by now. It’s a game so nice you’ll want to play it twice. Maybe even three times. (I’m thinking a marathon of Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians, and Halo Infinite may be in order.) And while sure, it may not add anything we haven’t gotten to do in other games, by adding bits of Batman and Spider-Man to the already superheroic Master Chief, and by setting itself in an open world that’s like Far Cry meets Skyrim, Halo Infinite has the most epic, engaging, and more importantly, effortlessly entertaining campaign since Halo 3. And that’s something you won’t soon forget.