The redemption of a company: ‘Halo Infinite’ Review

‘Halo Infinite’ box art.

(Courtesy of 343 Industries)

‘Halo Infinite’ box art.

     December 8 marked the release of a video game, not just any game, a continuation of one of the most beloved franchises in video game history ‘Halo Infinite.’

     As a slightly newer ‘Halo’ fan, one who only started playing after the release of 5, the series doesn’t hold quite as much nostalgic value as it does for many of you. However, these games, not 5, are some of my favorites ever.

     Before the release:

     The launch of ‘Infinite’s’ multiplayer has been a jumbled mess, but I’m not here to talk about multiplayer, mostly because I’m not very good as well as the fact that I have little interest in that type of game.

     Early reviews from YouTubers, such as Penguinz0, Gameranx, IGN, and more all seem to have different takes and ideas of which parts of the game work and don’t work.

     For example, Youtuber Penguinz0 had this to say about the open-world aspect of the game.

     “The open-world adds absolutely nothing to the game, at all.”

     While IGN reviewer, Ryan McCaffery had this to say.

     “And when you get out there in the open world, that’s when the ‘Halo 1’ feeling kicks in.”

     Other zones of disagreement stem from the quality of the story or characters, even though I could not find a single reviewer who likes the pilot.

     If you aren’t a hardcore ‘Halo’ fan you may not know that the original developer, Bungie, no longer develops ‘Halo.’ To keep the franchise alive, Microsoft tasked 343 Industries with taking up the mantle.

     343 Industries has been attempting to capture the essence of ‘Halo’ ever since. They have had multiple failed projects, such as the ‘Master Chief Collection,’ which was so riddled with bugs that it was almost unplayable, and not fixed for a considerable amount of time. 

     They also made ‘Halo’ games and remasters, which most fans did not enjoy, or did not think they belonged in the ‘Halo’ universe, the exception being the anniversary of ‘Halo 2.’

     With many fans being very disappointed with ‘Halo 4’ and ‘Halo 5,’ ‘Infinite’ is widely viewed as 343 Industries’ opportunity for redemption.

     Many reviewers had something to say about this.

     “It is a good game, it is significantly better than 4 and 5,” said Penguinz0.

     “The game is really fun, it makes a very, very strong first impression,” said Youtuber Gameranx, in his series “Before You Buy.”

     However, both YouTubers went on to say something along the lines of, it’s not the best ‘Halo’ game, but it’s not bad, and it’s a fun experience.

     Device compatibility: 

     I spent some time in a bot lobby testing graphics and performance, which led me to find out that a mid-tier system, such as an RX 5600 XT and a Ryzen 5 2600, can run high at a consistent 40-60 fps depending on the map and if you have apps running in the background.

     According to the games Steam page, the minimum specs required are an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or an Intel i5-4440, paired with an AMD RX 570 or its Nvidia counterpart, the GTX 1050 ti.

     Based on UserBenchmark’s comparison between the Ryzen 1600 and Ryzen 2600 is only a 5% improvement, it is a reasonable assumption that minimum specifications will get you approximately 30-40 FPS, depending on graphics settings, map, and background applications.

     On the GPU front, the GPU I used in my benchmark is 32 percent more efficient than the minimum RX 570. Meaning that users running the minimum GPUs can expect 20-35 FPS on larger maps.

     ‘Halo Infinite’ will be available for the Xbox One, One S, Series S, and Series X, Microsoft has assured gamers that the game will be playable on all consoles.

     However, the Series X is the only Xbox supporting 4K resolution for Infinite, the Series S will support 1080p, and 1440p. While either Xbox One will only support 1080p.

     Xbox has always valued 60 FPS so it is reasonable to assume that the campaign will run that FPS on all Xboxes if you are willing to tweak your graphics settings.

     Game environments:

     For the first 25 minutes of gameplay, you are introduced to ‘Halo Infinite’ controls, weapon handling, and your new enemy, ‘the Banished.’ 

     These introductions are made within a linear environment. Linear environments have been a part of the ‘Halo’ formula for 20 years, in fact up until infinite, all environments have been linear.

     A linear environment guides you, it uses environmental storytelling, and obstacles to guide the player from objective to objective.

     ‘Halo’ has always been amazing about implementing opportunities for creative problem solving within these linear environments and their combat encounters. ‘Halo Infinite’ is no exception to this, however, it does not improve upon the formula.

     The key factor setting ‘Halo’ apart from other games in the first-person shooter category, is that it is a sandbox-style game. 

     While in other games there will only be one or two ways to beat a level, ‘Halo’ allows you to fight your way. The enemies are smarter and placed on the map almost like chess pieces.

     Within the bounds of the linear environments, ‘Infinite’s’ sandbox is great but similar to previous ‘Halo’ games. However, as soon as you are released into the open world, the sandbox never fails to disappoint.

     Later in the open world, you will be able to call in a Pelican (carrier plane) to bring in vehicles such as a Warthog, Mongoose, and more.

     You can store weapons so you always have a choice. This combination allows for players to choose their approach, no two strategies will be the exact same.

     ‘Halo Infinite’ is the first game in the series to utilize an open world, and 343 Industries has used this as their main marketing focus.

     While the open-world is not a fully open-world game, 343 Industries handles the balance between story and side content well. Players are restricted to zones until they complete the mission unlocking the bridge to allow them into a new zone.

     While you are exploring you will encounter Banished propaganda towers, UNSC forward operating bases, and banished outposts to defeat. You can save captured marines who will help you out by co-piloting vehicles or fighting alongside you.

     343 Industries has allowed these side missions, collectibles, and exploration to aid the story missions without being too much and distracting from the main content.

     Art direction:

     One of the main complaints from fans about 343 Industries’ other projects has been the departure in art style. Older ‘Halo’ games use simple environments and complex enemies to help gameplay.

     Most of 343 Industries’ projects have done the opposite, making both the enemies and environments complex, making it harder to see enemies. 

     In ‘Halo: CE Anniversary Remaster’, 343 Industries changed dark levels to be lighter, removing the need for the flashlight, and by extension, the environmental storytelling the flashlight allowed developers to implement.

     Infinite, while still having more complex environments, the style remains true to the ‘Halo’ formula, drawing comparisons to the ring in ‘Halo 3’ while implementing a gold theme that goes with the story. 

     Main story missions (NO SPOILERS):

     A majority of the main story missions will take place in a linear environment, many consisting of pretty predictable puzzles, sandbox combat, and a boss battle.

     The puzzles in the campaign often include installing a power seed (battery), pressing a button, and/or shooting something. 

     The monotony can wear you down, but it is saved by the story and excellent combat. The sandbox combat is always fun with a variety of weapons available at all times and Infinites incredible game mechanics.

     Innovative game mechanics: 

     Aside from the open world, ‘Infinite’ introduced many influential mechanics such as gear, spartan cores, and sliding.

     The most popular gear is undoubtedly the grapple hook which innovates the way players interact with enemies, the environment, and weapons. 

     The grappling hook allows you to traverse environments easier but you can also use it to latch on to enemies and fly at them. You can grab weapons and explosives from afar.

     There is a healthy assortment of other gear that you can unlock. When exploring the world, you can find Spartan Cores to upgrade and unlock new gear.

     In games such as ‘Apex Legends’, ‘Titanfall’, and ‘Call of Duty’ the player can slide instead of crouch when sprinting, this allows for faster movement techniques in certain situations, and can make combat and exploration feel more fast-paced.

     343 Industries does a really good job at implementing the sliding feature into Infinite. It aids the movement process but doesn’t change the classic method we all know and love.

     Continuing a legacy of a great soundtrack:

     ‘Halo’ has long been known for its music; the Gregorian Chant in the main theme is one of the most popular compositions on the internet.

     The pairing between the music, mood, and gameplay has been a strength since ‘Halo: CE’, twenty years ago. Each piece in the ‘Halo’ franchise has a different emotion that is suited to any mission or environment.

     ‘Halo Infinite’ continues the greatness but doesn’t expand on the idea or improve the experience, but it’s still incredible.

     My only complaint:

     After playing approximately 50% of the campaign, the main complaint I have is that quite a few environments are repeated, for example, a large majority of the indoor missions are within a Banished ship or a Forerunner structure with borrowed assets and similar level design.

     The game does combat this with the varied combat, music, and story, but sometimes it is hard to ignore.

     When you first enter these structures you can’t help but admire the art direction and graphics, but after the third or fourth time, it feels less impressive. It’s a shame because of how genuinely beautiful the environments are and how much work went into them.

     Final assessment:

     343 Industries has pulled off something impressive with this game. I am confident that returning ‘Halo’ fans will enjoy the new gameplay and story while new players will appreciate the open world and combat.

     I truly enjoy the story and can’t stop myself from wanting to find out more about the characters, and factions.

     They have truly captured the essence of a ‘Halo’ game. However, I wouldn’t say that it even makes the top three ‘Halo’ games, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

     If you’re looking for a fresh experience, and you have $60 to spend, I firmly recommend ‘Halo Infinite’.