The legendary Halo series returns with the most expansive Master Chief campaign yet and a ground-breaking free to play multiplayer experience. When all hope is lost and humanity’s fate hangs in the balance, the Master Chief is ready to confront the most ruthless foe he’s ever faced. Step inside the armour of humanity’s greatest hero to experience an epic adventure and explore the massive scale of the Halo ring.
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Also available for: Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC
Cast: Steve Downes, Jen Taylor, Nicolas Roye, Kari Wahlgren, Robbie Daymond, Mara Junot, Erika Ishii, Darin De Paul, Jason Charles Miller
Developer: 343 Industries
Directors: Joseph Staten, Paul Crocker, Tom French
Writers: Dan Chosich, Paul Crocker, Jeff Easterling, Aaron Linde
Producers: Pierre Hintze, Greg Stone, Damon Conn
Composers: Alex Bhore, Gareth Coker, Curtis Schweitzer, Joel Corelitz
Coming off the release of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer being a massive success by most accounts, the single-player portion looks to reinvigorate fans that were let down by the last entry and bring in new players who may have only jumped into the Xbox space recently. I’m somewhere between the two, having played the original trilogy in split-screen at friends, and have had to sit on the bench listening to the discussions around iron-sights, Cortana and Locke over the last few years. With Infinite, now is my time to jump into the fight, and if you’re like me, fear not because, for any confusing plot beats you meet, you’ll quickly slide them aside to get back into some of the best FPS action of the year.
Following a cinematic opening with a lone soldier saving Master Chief from floating endlessly in the void of space, Chief lands on the Zeta Halo Ring. It’s here you’ll spend the rest of the game, and you’ll open up the semi-open world as you progress through the campaigns missions. Just how open this Halo Ring would-be has been confusing since the game’s initial reveal. In terms of comparing it to the massive open worlds we get in most games these days, it’s small, contained and thankfully will have you feeling that you could achieve 100% completion without needing to take time off from your day job.
The main optional task of interest is securing Forward Operating Bases (FOB), which will allow Master Chief to call down vehicles and guns as he unlocks them. Plus, you can fast travel between the FOB’s you’ve unlocked. Other side activity’s include taking out high priory targets, destroying enemy radios, saving captured humans and searching for hidden skulls. Opening the map, it’s never overwhelming, and you’re free to ignore all of this if you wish or clear each area as you progress through the campaign. Completing optional tasks will enable you to unlock new vehicles and weapons you can call in from any FOB and gear up for your next mission.
The number one reason I stopped on my primary mission to take out a high priory target was always just to have an excuse to shoot some enemies. Because if there’s one thing Halo Infinite gets right, it’s the gameplay. The regular Halo guns are here, like the sniper and assault rifle coming out of UNSC armoury and the Needler and Plasma Pistol from the Covenant side. But it’s the new weapons that have impressed me the most coming out of the armoury of the main villains, The Banished, like their weapon The Mangler, which will be compared to the original game hand-canon. It has a much slower firing speed, but it can stop most enemies in their tracks with just a couple of shots to the forehead.
Out of ammo? No problem, grapple a new gun
If you’ve been playing the multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite, you’ll feel warmed up and ready for the Chief’s solo mission, having already dabbled in most of the weapons and powers Master Chief will get access to during the campaign. The earliest gadget he gets is the grapple hook, which I have been having a blast with and proving the old school Adium that adding a grappling hook to any game will instantly improve it. You can, of course, use this to reach high places, but it’s when you’re using the grapple defensively, and offensively in one big battle sequence you’ll feel like the true badass that is the Master Chief. In one fight, I grappled up a ledge blasting a tough enemy in the face; as they dropped to the ground, I ran out of ammo, so I grappled a gun on the ground to me, and Master Chief instantly reloaded it and pulled the trigger. Taking too much damage, I leapt off the ledge and quickly spun around 90 degrees shooting my grapple around the side of a pillar, causing Master Chief to swing around it like Indian Jones. Landing behind the pillar, I melee an enemy in the face before taking a reprise for the shields to regenerate. I poke my head out and jump into the air, grappling the enemy in front of me; Chief is pulled in closer; the grapple is shocking them in place until I land into their body with a quick punch and Master Chief stands tall.
Taking a moment to enjoy the beautiful scenery and smell the flowers
That last part about the grapple shocking the enemy is an upgrade I purchased. Throughout the map, you can find caches that glow green that reward you with skill points, which you can use to upgrade Master Chief’s gadgets like the grapple hook or increase his overall shield.
There were a handful of boss fights during the Halo Infinite campaign, and although a couple of them stand out, one in a small arena felt drawn out and repetitive. My favourite battle took place in a tiny and cramped area but required you to combine quick reactions and use of Master Chief’s gadgets to survive an enemy that can nearly insta-kill you. However, none of the boss fights was ever as challenging or bombastic as the fights you had leading up to them. I died a lot in some of the later areas as mass amounts of enemies require quick thinking, sharp shooting and the awareness to nimbly and efficiently make your way around a room. There’s no time to stay back in cover either as guns run out of ammo fast, enemies will throw grenades, and some will rush to get in your face.
I’ve done a bunch of Googling since completing the campaign. From what I can gather, the requisite to playing this game is having played the former Halo games and the most recent spin-off Halo Wars 2, where 343 Industries and Microsoft introduced the Banished and their leader. I didn’t quite feel like I was playing Kingdom Hearts 3 without help, but I most certainly paused several times to Google a character, so I could understand if they had any significance. The main plot itself is convoluted and deep-seated in Halo lore, so I suggest watching a recap video on YouTube as I did.
However, the vital part of the narrative lies between Master Chief and his new AI companion, simply known as The Weapon. Early in the game, Master Chief collects The Weapon and sets off to trace Cortana’s final steps and whereabouts after she’d gone rogue in the previous game. This new AI is naive to the grim nature of Master Chief’s past and just how heavy the history between him and Cortana is. The Weapon merrily pops off one-liners and attempts to banter back and forth with Master Chief and, on more than one occasion, points out that Master Chief wouldn’t be able to succeed in his mission without her help. Chief is secluded, almost in a depressive hull, at least as dour as the stoic Master Chief can sound. His feelings for Cortana and what’s happened lingers in the air on more than one occasion as he gets awfully close to opening up to The Weapon. But he also carries a newfound distrust for his AI companion, and each time she enters a computer to help unlock a door, you get a sense he’s dreading the worst of each scenario.
Steal a ride in one foul swoop and turn the tides of battle – image captured by the author
As someone who might as well have come to Halo Infinite with no idea who Master Chief was, or his history with Cortana, it’s the relationship that he builds with The Weapon that adds a much-needed heart and centre to the, at times, significantly over the top narrative featuring monologues from nearly every baddie before their death. The relationship between The Weapon and Master Chief felt human and understandable.
These moments of emotion or action are backed by a sensational and epic Halo soundtrack from Gareth Coker, Curtis Schweitzer and Joel Corelitz. The music always elevates the moment from the opening cinematic rush to safety to the charge into the last fight. For days after finishing the campaign, I thought about the Halo theme kicking into gear as I pushed forth in a warthog to take down the final enemies base of operations. As a game with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support on Xbox and PC, it looks as good as it sounds. None of the memes you recall from a year ago mean anything now, it’s a beautiful world with detailed character models where the sounds of a Banshee flying overheard can rattle off your walls, and the boom of a shotgun is one of the best in any game in years.