343 Industries just had to get Halo Infinite right. After the disappointing Halo 5, the backlash after Infinite’s reveal, and the subsequent delay, it was important to get Xbox's flagship series back on track.
You’ve probably played the shadow-dropped multiplayer over the last few weeks, which, progression issues aside, has been deservedly well received, but the campaign is only just arriving.
The single-player stories have always been more important in Halo than in the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, which have abandoned them entirely at different points in recent years, and thankfully Infinite’s is well worth putting the multiplayer aside for.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a lot of fun because of how great it feels to play. Thankfully, exactly the same praise can be given to the campaign.
Nothing Beats Good Gameplay
The signature gameplay, which is weighty, quick, and so satisfying feels great throughout, whether you’re punching Grunts or spending a few minutes outsmarting a pair of Hunters.
Jumping is still a little floaty, but you’d expect that from Halo, and it suits the rest of Master Chief’s movement.
Traversing each of the traditional arenas, or Infinite's more open areas, is a big part of the combat. You're always having to combine smart positioning with movement that suits the weapon you’re using.
The weapons also play a huge part in how great Halo Infinite feels to play. From the classic battle rifles to plasma cannons and Needler, the weapons are so different that they change how you play, without you wanting to avoid any of them.
A paucity of ammo also forces you to mix it up. You’ll have your favourites you keep an eye out for, but sometimes you just have to pick up whatever is nearby.
It forces you to keep switching up how you approach situations, which ensures the combat stays fresh.
Sometimes that is diminished by inexplicable difficulty spikes, which interestingly come when overwhelmed by standard enemies rather than boss fights (which are generally quite simple throughout). Just about getting to safety when you’ve got a less powerful weapon and multiple enemies rushing you is brilliant, but the spikes certainly get frustrating from time to time.
The star of Halo Infinite's gameplay is the new Grappleshot, though, which makes the action significantly quicker and so much more complex and intense.
It soon becomes a vital part of Master Chief’s arsenal, not only as a means of escape but as a weapon, using to stun enemies as well as manoeuvre them into a position that makes you safer.
Without using it, Infinite’s campaign would be so much tougher, but it’s not just a necessity, it really improves the combat from start to finish.
The other gadgets you get, which include a proximity device that helps you track Elites and a deployable cover, have their uses, without ever matching the importance of the Grappleshot.
On higher difficulties, I'm sure switching between them all on the fly will be vital to survival, but the Grappleshot was the only gadget I found myself relying on through Infinite's campaign.
Open World Afterthought
The biggest new feature in Halo Infinite is the open-world, though, but it's not as game changing as you might expect.
While Zeta Halo is beautiful and packed with things to do, the open world feels somewhat like an afterthought.
While you can spend countless hours capturing enemy FOBs and searching for secrets, a fraction of the actual story missions take place in it.
For probably 75% of the story, you're in the lavish arenas and corridors that you'd expect from the Halo series. Infinite is a linear adventure, using the open-world to simply elongate sections of the campaign, rather than add depth to it.
It doesn't take advantage of the scale by asking you to go back and forth between key locations, learning the lay of the land, as many open world games do. Instead, Infinite uses its new-found scale to simply put you far away from the objective.
When you're spending up to an hour or two at a time away from the open world, it doesn't feel necessary to explore it once you get the chance to.
Even most of the missions that take part in it are linear, asking you to just go from once place to another to secure a base or find a character.
That's not to say the open-world diminishes the overall experience significantly, since it's great in and of itself - it just doesn't advance the series in the way you might expect. Halo Infinite is still a linear shooter, and I think it's better for it.
An Emotional, Engaging Story
The linearity also best serves Halo Infinite's story, which I became heavily invested in.
As someone who's played most of Halo series but never dived into the lore, the warring factions and heavy nods to previous games went over my head at times, but Infinite is mostly about a central trio attempting to bring peace.
And that central trio is excellent, grabbing your attention from the first minute to the last, with you really caring about them by the time the credits roll.
As a straight talking, seemingly emotionless character, Master Chief doesn't get enough credit for how great a protagonist he is. More so than I've experienced from Halo, the Chief is given real heart in Infinite, with his drive coming from much more than a desire to win the fight.
His two partners in Infinite are fantastic too, benefitting from some stellar voice work. The antagonists, while menacing, aren't quite so memorable, but that may be due to underwhelming boss fights than their role in the story.
It's best to avoid any explanation of the story and who's involved, but the central characters' journey is engaging and even a little emotional, and it benefits from the linearity, so mainlining the story missions is likely the way to get the most out of it.
You Already Know How Great the Multiplayer Is
The final aspect of Halo Infinite that simply can't be overlooked is the multiplayer. I won't spend much time on it since you've likely been playing it for weeks now, but it's excellent.
It manages to recapture joy of the older Halo games through simplicity and the aforementioned brilliant gameplay.
In a year when most of the first-person shooter big guns have released new iterations, it's a testament to Halo Infinite that it feels the best of any of them.
The action is perfectly paced, with you always feeling like you have an important role to play in the outcome of a match.
More than in any other recent shooter, you can feel yourself improving your positioning, movement, and shooting over time, to the point that it's tough to put down.
The slow progression is an issue (which is being worked upon) and not all the modern aspects work, such as the near pointless ping system, but Halo Infinite's multiplayer is simply fun to play.
It somehow avoids the feeling of frustration that comes with most shooters, which is magic in my eyes.
You're probably still struggling to put the multiplayer down since its release a few weeks ago, but it's worth stepping away to play Halo Infinite's campaign.
Even though the redundant open world aspect means it isn't quite the step forward for the series we expected, the story of three heroes on a mission is emotional and engaging and the gameplay is at its absolute all-time best.
RealSport Rating: 4.5 out of 5
We reviewed Halo Infinite on Xbox Series X and access was provided by Xbox.