Halo: Infinite review

Jackson Rickert, Editor-In-Chief

After six long years, and a three week multiplayer beta,“Halo: Infinite” officially released on Dec. 8, the first mainline “Halo” release since 2015. A return to form, “Infinite” goes back to the roots of the series. Classic gameplay, the original artstyle and an innovative single player campaign feature prominently. Yet, “Infinite” has its share of faults: A lack of launch content, predatory monetization and progression optimization issues. Taking everything into account, is “Halo: Infinite” the game we’ve been waiting for?

Overall, “Infinite” is a fantastic evolution of the “Halo” formula. First and foremost, the gameplay is spectacular. The overall gameplay rhythm: the shooting, movement,  weapon/vehicle sandboxes and equipment all feel really good and, for the most part, well balanced. The simple gameplay manages to return to the original “Halo” formula while still innovating on it, 343 Industries having managed to integrate once controversial features, such as sprinting and armor abilities, into the feel and flow of old gameplay.

Furthermore, the artstyle is a fantastic return to that of the original games  Bungie made before handing the franchise over to 343 Industries a decade ago. Following in the footsteps of 2017’s “Halo Wars 2,” “Infinite” marks a return to the artstyle of the original games, while also reimagining designs from 343’s artstyle into the classic visual form. Graphically, the game is incredible, with fantastic lighting and texture quality. The animations are great, and the sound design is also on point. The music and voice acting, as always, impress.

While the single player campaign of “Halo 5: Guardians,” was largely considered a dissapointment, with many, including myself, disliking the convoluted writing and nonsensical plot the game entailed, “Halo: Infinite” is a step in the right direction. While I wouldn’t say the story is perfect, it is a marked improvement. The characters are written better, the plot is more intriguing (though a bit vague in some areas) and the emotional beats are more impactful. Still, “Infinite” does not have a perfect story. Without spoiling anything, “Infinite” spends a lot of energy getting away from the mistakes of “Halo: 5.” Unfortunately, this means the story spends a lot of time course correcting, and at times falls short of following through in and of itself., though this isn’t a huge issue given the quality of what is there. Overall, I felt the transition into The story of “Infinite” was a bit jarring, and I disagree with the advertising that it is a good spot for new players to jump into the story, though 20 years into the franchise, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still, “Halo: Infinite” is a soft reboot. While it sticks to the same continuity as all the other “Halo” content released over the past two decades, it tries to make a fresh start. For the most part, I think it succeeds.

In terms of the single player world, “Halo: Infinite” is a first in the franchise, using an open world style campaign instead of a level by level system. Whereas older campaigns were composed of shorter, 30-90 minute levels, “Halo: Infinite” is one huge world in which shorter levels take place. Players are free to roam across sections of Zeta Halo, the game’s setting, but are railroaded into more linear, traditional sections as they go to mission objectives in the story. The open world also has several collectibles, side locations and activities. These are all great additions, and manage to be fun without overcrowding the game. If I had one complaint, it would be that the lack of replayable levels means that some experiences or collectibles could be missed. However, in an interview with The Verge, 343 Industries claimed that, “[they] haven’t announced a date, but that is being worked on.”

This brings us to the multiplayer. The maps, modes and features are all fun, though there have been reports of bugs and poor optimization for PC players, especially during custom games. The biggest flaw of “Halo: Infinite” is its lack of overall content when compared to previous games. “Infinite” launched with 10 multiplayer maps, 3 multiplayer playlists (and four more added six days after  launch), offline bot fighting and weapon drills, theater mode and custom games, as well as its single player campaign. While this may seem like a lot, “Infinite” lacks many staple features of the franchise. Numerous game modes are absent, either coming during planned events and then leaving, or simply gone  without a trace. The map editor, Forge, is also absent, as is co-op for the single campaign, though these features are promised to return down the line. In general, more maps, modes and features are expected to come as the game’s lifespan goes on. “Infinite” is planned, after all, to be the current mainline “Halo” release for the next decade. Still, this doesn’t help the lack of content now, during the first few weeks, or even months.

This is also exasperated by the poor progression, customization and monetization. “Halo: Infinite’s” multiplayer is free to play, with the campaign costing $60. To make up for the multiplayer purchases, “Infinite” uses a battle pass system of progression. Technically, there is a free battle pass, but to unlock the vast majority of battlepast content: player armor, color patterns, stances, etc, players must purchase the current battle pass for $10, an especially reasonable price given that it never expires. However, “Infinite’s” customization is iffy. Many armors and customization options are missing, and even more should be included in the battle pass or base game, but are instead part of a digital store outside of it. In this store, players are asked to pay exorbitant prices for “credits,” used to purchase shop exclusive customization options. Even worse, most of these options are temporary, disappearing each week unless bought, though they may come back later. 

The way you level up doesn’t help. Players are rewarded with diminishing returns. The battle pass is composed of 100 player levels, each with unlocks,  granted after 1,000 experience is gained. The first six games offer 300, 200, 100, 100, 100 and 50 experience respectively. After that, it’s 50 xp per game, plus whatever experience is granted by weekly challenges, which typically range from 100 to 400 experience, but are harder to achieve. While this current system is an improvement from the drip-feed progression that the beta started with, it is still fairly predatory. Specifically, many unlocks in the battle pass are “challenge swaps,” which players can buy in the online store as well, and are used to skip difficult weekly challenges and replace them with (hopefully) easier ones. This system comes in place of a per-game, performance based experience system, in which players rank up faster based on how they do, but always rank up regardless. This performance based system was often used in previous “Halo” games, though not always. While this problem is being worked on by 343, again, the problem comes down to the here and now. “Halo: Infinite” is a good game right now, but it is not a fantastic, out of this world, content rich experience just because it might be in a year. 

Still, despite my complaints, “Halo: Infinite” is a fantastic step in the right direction for the franchise, and the content that is there is excellent. Especially given the free to play multiplayer and that the campaign is available on Xbox Game Pass for free (you still pay for Game Pass itself), “Halo: Infinite” is a must play for any “Halo” fan. I strongly recommend it, and am pleased to see the series moving in a positive direction.