Halo Infinite has remained a mystery since its reveal. A delay allowed doubts to linger, that after six long years 343 Industries might fail to deliver upon its creative vision. Those worries can now be put to rest, since Master Chief’s latest adventure is excellent. You’ve all had a chance to sample the stellar multiplayer, and having now dabbled with the campaign, I can safely say its single-player portion lives up to expectations and at times even manages to surpass them.
I can only talk about the opening hours right now, but by focusing on a small cast of characters amidst Zeta Halo the story is able to shine, carrying firefights that at times can fall victim to repetition and unimaginative level design. These shortcomings are impossible to ignore, but the gunplay that defines Infinite and the reverence it shows for the series’ history is immaculate. After being away for so many years I felt right at home, with tears welling in my eyes as the iconic theme soared and the true nature of this journey became clear.
What I expected to be a sprawling open world experience is a more grounded affair, a touching examination of Master Chief’s character and how the hardened space marine is tired of fighting, desperate to piece together some form of personal meaning to a life that has been defined by conflict. While his mission dictates he must once again save the galaxy from an unstoppable threat, his true drive sits with Cortana, the artificial intelligence programme that is the closest thing this troubled man has been able to call a friend. The relationship between them is almost motherly, Chief afraid to abandon a guiding light in his life while regretting his own inability to save her. He’s a faceless superhero, but one with a heart.
Halo Infinite is about saying goodbye, looking back at the past with a warm appreciation for the memories you’ve made while moving forward into the future with a bittersweet acceptance of loss. Time changes all of us in ways we’ll never be able to predict, and there’s something beautiful about a blockbuster focused on shooting aliens that is able to take time and examine its narrative themes in this way. Cutscenes are framed in a fittingly intimate way, the camera seldom leaving Master Chief’s purview as it soars around him to accommodate other characters, making this man akin to a monolithic titan whose mere presence can win wars. Never has he felt this significant, yet an immovable physical presence doesn’t do anything to detach from what he really desires - to belong, to stop fighting, and maybe to give up once the call of duty finally fades away. It feels like Halo Infinite is finally cashing in on years of nostalgia in the right way, knowing it needs to push the story forward and leave the past behind while echoing back to what makes the series so special. It achieves in every regard, whether it be characters, plot, or gameplay.
As you might have already discovered from the multiplayer, this is the best Halo has ever felt to play. The simplicity of unleashing a clip into an Elite’s face before downing them with a melee attack returns, while Grunts and Jackals can be bested with a well-timed headshot as you jump about the battlefield unleashing hell upon everything in your path. Master Chief feels unstoppable, and Infinite expands that definition with a number of optional abilities and upgrades that gel perfectly with the larger world you inhabit. The grappling hook steals the show - it’s one of the best mechanics I’ve toyed with this year because it complements the existing mould so perfectly. With the touch of a button you unleash a hook that can cling onto foes, dragging you towards them to execute a fatal punch to the teeth. It feels amazing every single time, while it can also be used to make traversal far more immersive.
You can cling onto the ground to launch yourself forward, or chain together multiple actions to ascend cliffs before soaring down to the ground. There’s no fall damage, so the consequences associated with darting around like an eagle are minimal. It’s amazing because Infinite’s world is a joy to discover, even if it isn’t the inconceivable landmass many were expecting. The campaign takes place on a fractured part of Zeta Halo, the entire region separated from the wider ring as The Banished work to rebuild it for nefarious purposes. I’m relieved the campaign is more subdued, providing a massive arena for you to explore in order to take outposts, earn upgrades, and make small discoveries of your own accord instead of relying on icons to do all the work. Traditional missions are nestled across the map, often located underground as you descend into underground ruins to uncover The Banished’s true plans and learn about the game’s best new character - The Weapon.
No it isn’t the name of some wasteman you’ve encountered in the local pub, it’s the moniker applied to a new artificial intelligence entity designed to replicate Cortana. Her job was to mimic her, copy her programming, and stop her from activating Zeta Halo - destroying it in the process. After all this she was meant to be deleted, but this doesn’t happen. Instead, Master Chief choses to take her under his wing as a new companion. She’s brilliant, her personality imbued with a level of gleeful innocence that hasn’t been defined by years of loss and heartbreak. In reality she is little more than lines of code, but the way she interacts with Chief is so sweet and honest, this position fading as the truth behind her intentions becomes clear throughout the opening missions. Halo made me cry, please don’t judge me.
She’s meant as both a replacement and a reminder of Cortana, a more positive interpretation of her character that maintains a special bond with Chief while highlighting everything that’s been lost. Sometimes you need to confront these demons to move forward, and with only a few words we’re about to see that struggle in our main character and sympathise with him. I can’t say where the narrative goes just yet, but the true purpose of The Banished and those who sit above them is enticing to say the least. You’re also joined by a man known as ‘The Pilot’ - a normal dude who finds himself stranded in space orbiting the ring with nowhere to go. Humanity lost this war six months ago, and this failure defines the entire campaign as you fight for a victory that will inevitably mean nothing.
He wants to run, to return home and leave this futile battle behind, and you understand why, but Chief has been indoctrinated to finish the fight so that’s what he does - no questions asked. Never has Halo bothered to deconstruct how problematic this upbringing is and how fucked the Spartan Program was to so many people, but Infinite does so and executes it with unexpected grace. 343 Industries has often been mocked for delving too deeply into the lore, but here it works, choosing the themes it wants to focus on instead of being lost in convoluted exposition dumps. The story is human, and that’s all it needs.
Halo Infinite isn’t trying to replicate the open worlds of Far Cry or Breath of the Wild. That’s a massive relief. It’s Zeta Halo not Zelda Halo. Instead you have a selection of FOBs (forward operating bases), outposts, and select items to uncover, many of which are found on the map itself. You can choose to seek them out or ignore them completely, exploring on your own terms as the campaign unfolds before you. The amount of things to do are selective enough that each one feels satisfying and worth seeking it out, whether it be caches to upgrade existing abilities or audio logs that expand upon the events of Zeta Halo. I wanted to take a look around, the scenery was so luscious and varied that learning its inner workings on foot or at the wheel of a Warthog always feels rewarding. It still felt like Halo, and I didn’t expect that.
The opening of Halo Infinite perfectly encapsulates what the campaign is trying to achieve. Master Chief is throttled by Atriox, dragged across the Pillar of Autumn’s burning hanger before being dropped into outer space like he’s nothing. He’s lost, he’s failed humanity, and now he has to stand up and finish the fight for a purpose that doesn’t exist anymore. He can’t get home, there’s nobody for him to save, so pick up your assault rifle and start shooting.
After spending years doubting that Halo Infinite would deliver, the campaign thus far is an ambitious reboot of everything that makes this series so special. Master Chief and Cortana have always been at the heart of Halo, and by focusing on that and the freeform experimentation of Combat Evolved, 343 Industries is finally onto a winner.
Today’s stories feature updates on titles including Halo Infinite, Pokemon Go, and Stalker 2.