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  • Post published:07/12/2021
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UPDATE: I’ve published more Halo Infinite campaign screenshots here.


After lurching into uncomfortable territory in the two most recent installments of the series, Halo and Master Chief are back, and in fine form. I’ve only just started the Halo Infinite campaign, but two things are immediately obvious: the controls are perfect, a rarity for first-person shooters, and the story is a welcome and overdue throwback to the events of the first three Halo titles. Welcome home, John.

This is an important turnaround as the Halo games got less and less interesting over time. That is, the first three main titles in the series—remember, there are several offshoots too—are classics, and I played, and replayed, each again and again. But with the last two games, Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, Microsoft’s gaming studios lost the script, and I didn’t get very far into either despite multiple attempts. The magic just wasn’t there.

Halo is also important for having essentially created the multiplayer matchmaking functionality that we now take for granted since it’s built into Xbox Live itself. It’s not the first great console shooter per se, but it really is because its single-player and multiplayer components were both instant classics, elevating both story and gameplay. In the great evolution of shooters that started DOOM and Quake, Halo is the next major milestone before Call of Duty and then battle royale titles like Fortnite.

So Halo is important, but that’s been increasingly true for historic reasons in recent years as those newer games, and newer game styles, took over. In many ways, Halo is like James Bond or perhaps Star Wars more obviously, an ongoing success that exists primarily out of nostalgia for a past when it alone dominated. But like those movie franchises, Halo can evolve to make more sense in a changing world while keeping what was special about it in the first place. And that’s exactly what Halo Infinite delivers. Finally.

From a storyline perspective, Halo is a bit complex. The first three games and the Halo 3: ODST offshoot, which was also excellent, tell the story of the war between mankind and the Covenant, an alien race that worships the Halo rings, a set of weapons created by a long-dead race called the Forerunners. The protagonist is a cyborg super warrior named Master Chief, previously named John, and he’s aided in his fight by Cortana, an AI-based virtual companion. Long story short, the Forerunners created the Halo rings, among other things, to defeat the Flood, a replicating parasite that infects all living organisms, and the weaponized part of the rings doesn’t directly destroy the Flood, it destroys their food source: all life in the universe. So you can see the problem.

I had to look up what happened in Halo 4 and 5 because I never finished those titles, but I’m not surprised to discover it doesn’t go well. In Halo 4, Cortana starts succumbing to an AI malfunction called “the rampancy,” which made her more like Siri and less like Google Assistant; in this story, AI assistants like Cortana are typically deactivated after 7 years to avoid this issue. But in Halo 5, Cortana goes insane, kills Windows phone, and then betrays mankind. The game apparently ends with Cortana and an army of Created Ais arriving on Earth to enslave mankind. Queue the cliffhanger.

The beginning of Halo Infinite basically ignores this cliffhanger, though it will be addressed soon enough, of course, and John, sorry, Master Chief will be reunited with an updated version of Cortana that Microsoft wasn’t brave enough to name Alexa. But before that can happen, we need to be reintroduced to Master Chief, who is once again the one and only protagonist, and to the world of Halo and its gameplay mechanics. This is done simply enough by having a random space freighter come across his nearly lifeless body floating in space—similar to the opening of the mostly-terrible Alien 3 movie—recharging his suit, and getting you back into the fight. Mankind’s savior is back.

The opening bits where you test movement and whatnot closely mimic the first Halo games, as does the initial mission in which you single-handedly defeat all of the aliens in the area. And that’s for the best, honestly, as it brings you back to what you loved about the early games. The graphics and gameplay are, for lack of a better term, perfect, and the actual controls are so tight, so polished, and so, sorry, perfect, that someone should invent an award for this category and hand it to 343 Industries immediately. I have never felt this at home in a shooter this quickly.

Aside from the polish, there is only one major addition to the repertoire here, and it’s huge: Master Chief now has a grappling hook that lets you rappel to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible, and it really helps open up the world. And deliver a fun new kind of attack, too. It’s a terrific addition.

And that’s where I’m at. I can’t wait to visit the new Halo ring and reexplore that environment, and I’m curious to see how the game rectifies the ridiculous ending of Halo 5 and brings Master Chief and Cortana back together. But I can say this already: Rarely has a single-player game held my attention like this, especially in recent years, and it’s been many years, sorry, since I’ve cared about Halo at all, let alone this much. But it’s clear that the additional year made Halo Infinite something special, a perfect combination of the familiar and the new. I can’t wait to keep playing.

Tagged with Halo, Halo Infinite

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