Halo Infinite campaign turned out to be a fantastic power fantasy that was dragged down by dilution through repetition and characters that struggled to keep me interested.
- What is it? The standalone paid singleplayer portion of Halo Infinite
- Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 5700 XT, 16GB RAM
- Developer: 343 Industries
- Publisher: Microsoft
- Release date: December 8, 2021
- Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Halo Infinite has good things to offer but they will be watered down heavily, should you decide the entire slog through grinding repetitive tasks is worth your time. There is also the matter of characters and writing, with the good ones being in short supply. Thankfully, Master Chief is just as great as ever and good enough to carry the campaign to glory.
Master Chief is back in the driving seat and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't like that. Locke was the last Spartan that took a shot at being the protagonist and the fans' favourite part of Halo 5: Guardians ended up being the cutscene where the Chief beats him senseless.
Anyway, with our favourite protagonist back, players are immediately presented with the stone-cold coolness of John-117 and his ceaseless focus on the mission. Still, 343 managed to once again subtly paint the good nature of the man behind that hard-shelled exterior.
They did this extremely well as MC didn't suddenly turn into a random good Samaritan that lives to please. He still keeps his stoic composure of an unyielding soldier and carries himself with the dignity born of sheer focus and commitment. Through the brief moments in dialogue, decisions and actions, you can see the aforementioned glimpses of a man who is simply trying to do his best, which is part of the package that makes the Chief the hero everyone loves and aspires to be.
Chronologically compare to Guardians, Infinite is set 18 months after the events of the previous game. Master Chief is aboard Infinity to deal with Cortana but things go wrong and he is quickly deprived of any allied characters to interact with, prompting the introduction of the two newcomers - the Pilot and the AI.
Unfortunately, this is where the weaknesses in the story and character building start to show. The Pilot quickly becomes an overbearingly melodramatic ball of agitation and keeps that one-dimensional personality throughout the game. There are eventually attempts to add more to this character but they fall short and you are left with a major annoyance on your comms.
Since he parted ways with Cortana, Master Chief hasn't really had an AI in his suit to do all the non-heavy duty work. Therefore, you are introduced to this new AI rather quickly into the game, for the purposes of hacking and a lot more. She is a better character than the Pilot as she shows much more than just one facet of a personality, even though she starts off slow.
The developers have gone overboard with her attempts at humour in the earlier stages of the game, which makes her annoying at times, but she is very much like a fine wine. As the game goes on, this character gets better as she shows more personality and reacts to the events of the game, and eventually ends up growing on the player. Unfortunately, I can't go deep into the analysis of this character without spoiling things but it's safe to say she was my favourite, next to Master Chief.
Two out of three is not bad for the good guys but the villains were not so lucky. There are the main baddies and a slew of their underlings who have some semblance of personality but they all failed to impress.
Zeta Halo is brimming with Banished, the splinter group that broke off from the Covenant so you will mostly be duking it out with Jiralhanae and their allies within the faction. The space apes are the dominant species here and while their physical strength is considerable, it appears that the ol' noggin is not among their emphasised qualities.
As such, the seemingly endless attempts at threats, trash-talking and taunting just seem dull throughout the entire game which is not a good picture for the Banished leader. He keeps talking up and throwing his underlings at Master Chief but they all fail to live up to the stories in a quick fashion, which makes the main space ape seem verbally impotent.
This guy tries really hard to provoke rage or hatred within the player but all he managed to do is almost make me fall asleep while forcing myself to watch one of his countless monologues. It really says a lot about a villain when it was my own Pilot's lines that managed to frustrate me more throughout the story.
As for the storytelling in general, the pacing is pretty good and fans who are eager to see what goes on in the Zeta Halo can have a pretty good ride, as long as they stick to the main story. However, if they wish to learn more about the temporal gap between Halo: Guardians and Halo: Infinite, they will be forced to hunt for collectables, which is one of my main gripes with the game.
Just like it was the case with Halo Infinite multiplayer, the gameplay loop is amazing. While they are mostly the same, there are some major differences in the campaign and multiplayer rulesets.
First, the power-ups work in a different way because Master Chief doesn't need to pick them up constantly. They are cooldown-based instead and this works like a charm as it gives the players a whole new way to play the game, compared to what they experienced previously. Furthermore, you will carry all of them at once so you can combine the effects to make them even more powerful.
Still not enough to satisfy that power fantasy of yours? That's what the best part is for - power-up progression. As you collect Spartan Cores, you will be able to improve your cool gadgets. For example, the Grappleshot can be upgraded so you can charge up your melee attack while pulling yourself to an enemy to release a very powerful melee attack in third-person.
Each of the powers gets additional effects at later ranks, which provides a ton of new creative and fun ways to deal with the invaders of the Zeta Halo. Unfortunately, they are also tied to the aforementioned collectable hunt.
The reason I dislike it so much is that Halo Infinite heavily dilutes the core of the game by simply throwing a bunch of collectable items all over the world and has players chase them in the most mundane manner. Collectables can be interesting if they are hidden behind well-crafted environmental or other sorts of puzzles and are not too numerous to intrude in the main focus of the game but this is not the case here.
You know exactly where they are located on the map, you can scan for them to reveal the things in a circle around you and they let out a loud sound persistently, just in case the previous two tools were not enough. Collecting these items is no challenge at all and there is a ton of them so you will need a lot of time to get everything. This type of approach eliminates any possible fun you could have with the system and only makes it a tedious chore to get everything.
Speaking of tedious chores, you will also need to capture a bunch of FOBs all over the map if you want to use them as fast travel points and reveal collectables around them. Once you see the first FOB, you've seen them all and this is just going to be the same thing all over again, dozens of times, further adding to the tedium that stains the otherwise great gameplay experience.
If you do end up grinding all the collectables and FOBs, you will unlock new vehicles and weapons in your bases. These are alternate versions of the UNSC arsenal and some of the additional effects are interesting enough to give the whole sandbox a refresh while you test out the new means of destruction.
On the topic of weapons and fresh experience, it's worth noting that many of them behave differently than in multiplayer as TTK on regular enemies is much lower than on players you encounter. For example, VK78 Commando was a bottom-tier weapon in multiplayer at the time of writing but it was a highly precise automatic rifle that could reliably place bullets in those weak spots on the enemies.
Besides FOB teleportation, travelling is also done on foot or with vehicles, which are not particularly fun for keyboard and mouse players. You will instinctively try to look around while driving only to find yourself turning in that direction. This issue is not as prominent when playing with a controller but it's an absolute nightmare on one's KB-M muscle memory.
Halo has a wide pool of interesting creatures to fight with and the menagerie is on full display in Infinite as the enemy variety adds to the quality of power fantasy and the gameplay loop. However, it's not every day that you see a game where fighting the regular enemies is the highlight and boss fights are something you get bored with.
Halo Infinite managed to do exactly that by making the majority of boss encounters merely a fight with a beefed-up version of a regular enemy. They are just your standard opponents but they are now doing a lot more damage and can soak up enough bullets to put an M1 Abrams to shame. In other words, the hard-hitting bullet sponges are a slog to go through and the boss fights are another stain on Halo Infinite's gameplay. Credit where credit's due, however, the final boss was unique in mechanics and it was fun to go through.
Graphics and sound
Halo Infinite boasts a pretty large world that is combined with great performance. On high details and 1080p with PC specs that are slightly under the recommended zone, the game was constantly capped at 75 FPS and would go higher if my monitor supported it. The reason I know this is that I kept experiencing screen tearing because I refuse to turn V-sync on and a mismatched refresh rate is usually a dead giveaway the game could be at higher frame rates.
With that type of performance, one would expect the game to have NES graphics but it couldn't be farther from the truth in Halo Infinite. The details on weapons, Chief's armour, vehicles and other models are immense. Characters have amazing facial expressions and 343 pulled this off even with alien races. Zeta Halo itself is beautiful and there are many vistas to be enjoyed and yet, I haven't experienced any horrible frame rate drops. That said, make sure you update your drivers to the version that supports Halo Infinite as the FPS boost is massive.
Another aspect that deserves high praise is the audio design. Spatial sounds are extremely well done as you can hear exactly where the enemies are. This is immensely helpful when fighting invisible opponents, especially because they tend to chase you down with melee weapons. With audio of this quality, you can figure out if they are chasing you even while behind your back. There is just so much quality in the sound design that it's hard to translate the experience into words.
Halo Infinite campaign has many strong points but unfortunately, the rough edges are also numerous. There is a lot to be liked about the game but the negatives weigh heavily and drag the overall experience down rather harshly. For every good character, there are several that are below par. For every minute of amazing action, there are 10 of empty travelling to collect items on the map.
However, when the Halo Infinite campaign shines, it does so brightly and that alone is worth at least your consideration. Master Chief is a fantastic character that everyone has heard of but it's well worth it to get to know one of the video game legends firsthand. This entry in Halo franchise is available on more platforms than any other and trying it out is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed, especially if you've already gone through the MCC.