Halo Infinite

Halo, infinitely better than Far Cry 6.

Infinite had a fairly rocky road to release. Not just because of Covid – pretty much any game due out in 20-21 got clobbered by it, but when the most popular element of your hype is an indifferent looking enemy NPC the net took to calling ‘Craig’, you’re in trouble. The Halo series is famed for its marketing as much as the games, so if the marketing didn’t land, will the game? Halo Infinite is basically Far Cry in space. I’m listening.

Halo 4 saw Master Chief desperately trying to save his beloved Cortana from ‘rampancy’, a system shutdown designed to stop AI’s from developing a God complex. In Halo 5, MC spectacularly failed as it ended with Cortana dumping him, taking over the galaxy as Queen of the AIs and declaring war on humanity. Now that’s a breakup. We all assumed Halo 6 would be a final argument between the two, but instead, Infinite picks up sometime after all that happened, and it’s quickly apparent this is a reboot – we’ve got a new AI, a sidekick for comic relief, a rejuvenated MC, new villains to tangle with, and the mostly linear gameplay has been replaced with an open world. We find out what happened through flashbacks and audio logs – it’s like we skipped Halo 6; Infinite even starts how most Halo games end, with Master Chief lost in space.

Humanity is now at war with The Banished, a splinter group of Covenant. Along with ‘The Weapon’, a new-born AI designed to absorb Cortana then delete herself, MC heads to Halo Zeta, now a Banished stronghold, to save the humans there and find out what the Banished want with Zeta, and what happened to Cortana.

Zeta is a beautiful place to look at although it does feel very Far Cry. Its open woodland pockmarked by industrial areas and classic Halo Forerunner tech. There’s ‘Forward Operating Bases’ that have to be reclaimed, collectables, side-missions, assassinations and so on, and two-thirds of it are immediately open for exploration. Taking over a camp or killing a target raises human morale (XP) which unlocks troop support, loadout options and fast-travel spots. You can also recover dead Spartans to unlock armour upgrades, and those can be levelled up. The best by far is a Just Cause-style grappling gun, which allows you to scale the rocky area or pull weapons and ammo towards you. Getting it fully upgraded lets you chain leaps up sheer rockfaces and do mid-air grapple-punches which is so worth it.

Like all good free-roamers, there’s no overly urgent main mission guilt tripping us for going on a road trip. While MC’s mission is to uncover Cortana’s fate and stop Craig’s Banished, neither of those can be accomplished when the Banished have control of the ring, so we’re given the freedom to explore. About the only annoying thing is Halo’s continued commitment to only carrying two weapons. Who free-roams with two weapons?

But, the open world somewhat drains the series’ strongest point – the linear focus to save the universe. As an open world its a less intense experience than the focused push of previous Halo games. The backstory to Halo was always a mashup between Mass Effect and every other sci-fi game; long dead civilisations, precursors, universe-ruling plans, betrayal, twists, AIs who know better, extremists, sexy but unavailable sidekicks, gruff generals and only one man who can save the day - it was unwieldy and dense but for a FPS, Halo pulled off some epic backstory. It always had a sense of desperation but that’s missing here. And by relegating what we really wanted to experience – the AI war, MC v Cortana – to backstory, while reheating the Covenant yet again makes Infinite feel a bit light.

The Banished are led by Brutes, who I’ve just never got on with as lead bad guys. When they’re bellowing threats it just sounds like a granddad doing the Giant’s voice when telling Jack and the Beanstalk at bedtime. The Banished do seem really amused at their situation though, a lot of their reactions to fights is pun-laden and ironic, almost 4th wall breaking.

New girl Weapon does have some large shoes to fill, if Cortana wore shoes. As a new-born AI, her child-like innocence comes across as uncomfortable after Cortana’s sexy but unavailableness. Weapon is kinda like a teen, I almost expect her to call Master Chief Daddy… At least she’s in clothes… as is Cortana? In flashbacks she’s shown in a jumpsuit, like she’s about to subjugate the universe but first things first, the right clothes for the right job. How does an omnipresent super-AI get bashful?

Midway through, MC pisses Weapon off and she goes into proper petulance, which is fun and she does grow on you. She’s a fresh perspective on the Halo world, an intro character for new players. Even MC grows emotionally, a little. Infinite is really trying to shed the weight it’s picked up over the last 20 years and reset as an adventure driven experience.

Still, this is a shooter and the battles are spectacular. Grunts rush about panicking, Elites dodge infuriatingly, Brutes charge and Jackals snipe and shield. The locations, either inside the ring or rundown industrial areas explode with gunfire and mayhem. Often, for all its resetting, Infinite feels adorably retro. All the boss fights take place in conveniently closed off areas where you just blast away at a health bar, and a late boss actually has their shield powered by generators you have to take out four times before the final fight. And although we’re in an open-world, missions are strictly linear once you start one. So 2001.

Even if the ending undermines everything we witnessed Cortana doing, and you do feel a little cheated out of the true resolution to the ‘Reclaimer’ saga, Infinite works as a fun sci-fi open worlder. But do we need another open-world shooter? It would be good to have one constant linear shooter you could just dive into and pull the trigger. Least this has multiplayer so there’ll be none of the seasonal events and all the other pseudo-online guff that games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed are bloated with nowadays. Damn you Ubisoft.

Halo diehard fans are going to adore Infinite for opening up the universe, and by dropping most of the backstory and characters, it’s accessible to those who’ve never had the MC pleasure before. Win-win. You won’t be disappointed in what it is, only that it didn’t follow through on what we thought we’d be getting - a true final fight between bitter exes. Blame Craig.

Read the rest of FBT's Halo series playthroughs here