Halo Infinite review: Flawless cowboy

Halo Infinite is 343 Industries' third entry in the franchise and the team manages to deliver one of the best Halo experiences to date.

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Halo Infinite is a crowning achievement for 343 Industries. The game manages to utilize elements from Halo 4 and Halo 5, namely the story beats and improved movement, while also digging deep into its roots to offer up an experience that feels like it belongs among the original series. Not only does the multiplayer feel like a return to form, the campaign, with its rich mysteries and tear-jerking story, stands tall as one of the best in the series. Halo Infinite is a return to greatness.

…And the Horse You Rode In On

halo infinite review
Halo Infinite offers a heartfelt story that deserves to be considered one of the best in the franchise.

To say I am a fan of the Halo franchise would be an understatement. From the launch of the original Xbox, I was standing in line at midnight for every Halo title in order to play the campaign as soon as possible. I devoured the novels and dove into the lore. Halo’s story, for me, is one of the most important parts of the experience. Halo Infinite manages to connect together 20 years of history while remaining laser-focused on the present, which includes new relationships, the oppressive threat of the Banished, and the mystery of Zeta Halo.

To draw a line between Halo Infinite and the previous titles, it evokes memories of Halo: Combat Evolved’s mysteries and sense of discovery as you explore a Halo ring. It utilizes similar voiceover storytelling seen in Halo 3 (albeit without the groan-inducing slowdown). And it’s got an emotional core that rivals Halo Reach.

halo infinite review conclusion final thoughts
The relationship between Master Chief, the Weapon, and the Pilot is beautifully told.

The narrative explores what it means to be a soldier, what it feels like to follow orders, or do what you think is right. There’s an undercurrent of growth and trust, of coming to terms with who Master Chief is, not just as a soldier, but as a person who has only known one thing in life: fighting.

While it does draw upon the history of the franchise, the past stories act as a foundation that also uplifts what 343 Industries has delivered; which is a masterful narrative that beautifully encapsulates the relationship between the characters. It’s a heartfelt story that had me choking back tears as the credits rolled.

To paint a clearer picture, Halo Infinite’s story follows Master Chief, a new AI called the Weapon, and the Pilot as they try to stop the Banished from controlling and using Zeta Halo. Beyond this, they must also pursue the Harbinger to stop whatever it is she’s doing, as well as work out the status of Cortana.

Fourth Floor: Tools, Guns, Keys to Super Weapons

halo infinite review open world game
After finishing the main story, there's plenty more to see and do in the campaign.

Though the story is the thread that will pull you through the game, Halo Infinite’s campaign is unique and offers more than just the narrative to keep you playing after the credits roll. The reason for this is that Halo Infinite is an open world game.

When it was first hinted that Halo Infinite would be an open world game, I was nervous, having grown weary of the genre and games that tout it as a selling point. However, I am pleased to report that it just works with Halo Infinite. Part of why it works is due to the fact it’s an entirely new direction the series has taken and it fits within the theme and mission parameters we’ve seen in previous titles.

halo infinite review halo combat evolved comparison
Halo Infinite manages to evoke similar emotions from the first time you step out onto the ring in Halo: Combat Evolved.

Take for instance the second mission of Halo: Combat Evolved, called Halo. This mission has the Chief trekking across the ring, searching through Forerunner structures, and saving groups of marines. Halo Infinite does this, but on a grander scale.

At one point in the campaign, I finished a mission and noticed a marker appear on my map about two kilometres away. I started driving off in a Warthog that I found flipped on the side of a path, took out a group of Banished as I crossed a bridge, and then bailed out to climb up a mountain that looked enticing.

The shift to an open world format works well for Halo.

As I used my grappleshot to pull myself up the rock, the Weapon (the AI that operates within Chief’s suit) notified me that there was a group of marines down the hill that could use my help. So I leapt from the top of the mountain, landed on the ground (shoutout to no fall damage) and fought alongside a squad – it was basically a scene straight out of the novels.

Moments like these repeated as I picked which icon on Halo Infinite’s map I wanted to track down next. Some of the icons hint at the location of a collectible (like a skull or multiplayer cosmetic item), a high value target that has a modified version of a weapon you can unlock (like a rocket launcher with a tracking module), or a Banished-controlled territory you can clear out and claim. Any time you complete one of these, you will earn a bit of Valor, an XP system that ranks up your Forward Operating Bases – a great addition to the franchise.

These Forward Operating Bases, or FOBs as they’re called in-game, are UNSC bases that are controlled by the Banished. Once you clear out those pesky foes, it will once again be a human-occupied base that you can use as a fast travel point, to call in any human-made vehicle, or even request weapons you’ve unlocked. As you earn Valor, the FOBs will improve, granting you access to bigger and better vehicles and weapons. The FOBs are also where you’ll find marines (who also gain improvements) that will jump into your Warthog for missions and adventuring.

Upgrading your equipment grants numerous improvements that make hunting down Spartan Cores worthwhile.

Another open world mechanic featured in Halo Infinite is an upgrade system. The Master Chief now has access to four types of equipment in the campaign. There’s the grappleshot that can pull you to distant locations or items to you, the portable shield known as the drop wall, thrusters that can move Chief laterally in the blink of an eye, and the threat detector which will highlight enemies within its sphere. By collecting Spartan Cores hidden around the world, you can improve these tools to offer better cooldowns or provide additional effects.

I personally had a blast swapping through these on the fly with a press of the D-pad. It’s exhilarating to use the grappleshot to pull a fusion coil to yourself, and then hurl it at a Grunt, only to hot-swap to the thruster to dodge out the way of a Jackal’s laser sight. The equipment manages to add to the iconic Halo dance of guns, grenades, and melee without feeling overwhelming or bogging down the flow of combat.

You're never too far from another gun and another entertaining fight.

As for the weapons, Halo Infinite introduces a wealth of new additions that each serve a distinct purpose. There’s the Commando that sits between the Assault Rifle and Battle Rifle in terms of rate-of-fire and range, the Skewer which can annihilate vehicles with a giant spike, and the Sidekick, one of the best Halo pistols in a long time. The game also separates these guns into damage-based categories, including kinetic, plasma, hardlight, and shock – all of which affect shields and flesh differently.

Though there are some clear winners, it’s never too disheartening to run out of ammo with your favorite weapon and be forced to scavenge the battlefield for a replacement. There are always plenty of weapon caches to find, so it becomes a flow of grabbing a weapon that suits your immediate needs (that might not always be the Battle Rifle) and using it until you want to try something else.

But while Halo has always been about nailing the combat and experiencing exciting, thirty seconds of fun in new ways, it’s also about the moments between the combat. These are reflective moments where you can catch your breath, hear some dialog, or just soak up the views.

halo infinite campaign review
It feels great to explore such a vast Halo ring.

There were times between the combat and the story where I would just walk off into the wild to see what I could find. I often found myself climbing up a mountain or to the top of a Forerunner structure, only to reach the pinnacle and be standing there in awe – and then the Halo theme song would kick in. The monks would start chanting and singing, creating an almost spiritual moment as I stared out over the sweeping terrain of the broken circle of Zeta Halo.

And yet, for all the enjoyment I gained from the campaign, there’s a negative that cannot be overlooked; Halo Infinite will not have co-op at launch. For those that love nothing more than to play through the campaign with a friend, it’s not possible on December 8. 343 Industries has promised this feature will arrive sometime after Season 1, which will be around May. Adding to this is that I couldn’t discern any way to replay story missions without starting a new campaign.

Despite these woes, Halo Infinite’s campaign is an outstanding addition to the series. It manages to cater to veterans while still offering enough hooks to reel in new players. As for the shift to an open world format, it feels like a natural progression and I’m pleased to say it works well for the franchise.

Into the Belly of the Beast

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Halo Infinite's multiplayer has its faults, but the itch to keep playing remains.

The build of Halo Infinite I received for review did not include a multiplayer component. The reason for this is that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer was released early, albeit in beta format, on November 15 as part of the Xbox 20th anniversary celebration.

From my understanding, the version of multiplayer available now, is the multiplayer that exists at launch. This double-edged blade means that the experience you and I have had now will remain the same at launch, provided no additional changes are made. The good side of this doubled-edged blade is that 343 Industries has been clear with its communication. The team has already provided messaging about additional multiplayer playlists and improvements to the progression rate of the Battle Pass (though issues still persist with its design, more on that below).

halo infinite multiplayer review
The combat in multiplayer feels like the perfect blend between Halo 3 with Halo 4 and 5's modern movement sprinkled on sparingly.

Given the above caveat, I want to express my deep desire to continue playing more Halo Infinite multiplayer. What has been delivered is the quintessential Halo multiplayer experience. The maps are immediately worthy of fan-favorite status. The Halo dance I mentioned above? That’s alive and well within this multiplayer arena.

Halo has always been about map knowledge and strategy, not twitch skills, and that shines through in Halo Infinite. The game flaunts its lengthy time-to-kill like a badge of honor – and rightly so. If you walk around a corner and get shot, there’s enough time for you to reposition and potentially turn the tides of that encounter. It’s a refreshing change to the astonishingly quick TTKs in other shooters.

While the maps that are present feel great, there is a clear lack of OG Halo map remakes. There’s no Lockout or Blood Gulch, nor a Battle Creek or Zanzibar. I can only hope that these maps make their way into the game in some form, whether it’s as a remake, spiritual successor, or to provide inspiration for something that works with the new movement on offer.

halo infinite multiplayer review
The limited number of multiplayer playlists at launch is a drawback, especially when you only want to play Slayer or have Challenges that require specific modes.

Another drawback to the multiplayer is the lack of multiplayer playlists. Halo: The Master Chief Collection features a plethora of options and modes for players to choose from, while Halo Infinite is limited to Quick Play, Bots, Big Team Battle, and Ranked Arena. Though there is promise of more playlists coming, it’s vexing that there are so few options. This is especially true when certain Challenges demand you play specific game modes, like Oddball, and yet you’ve got no control over whether you get to play that mode.

For what Halo Infinite gets wrong with its multiplayer, it gets so many things right. Outside of nailing the classic feel of Halo multiplayer that veterans will appreciate, it’s also approachable for new players. This thanks to the valuable addition of bots, a series first. There’s also the Academy, with its tutorial, weapon drills, and training mode, which provides even more ways to ease greenhorns into the fray.

100,000 Year War

halo infinite review battle pass thoughts
The linear progression of the Battle Pass is a step back from the MCC's free-form approach.

I can’t talk about Halo Infinite’s multiplayer without addressing its Battle Pass. Going from Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s Season Pass to Halo Infinite’s feels like a step backwards.

The team at 343 Industries worked hard to make MCC’s Season Pass system more approachable by allowing players to unlock rewards in any order, provided all 10 items are unlocked before progressing to the next 10. The system rewarded players with Season Points for playing games and completing challenges. It felt good to stockpile this currency and buy items you want from whichever season you wanted.

halo infinite multiplayer review challenges
The Challenges often require participation in certain multiplayer modes, which you can't specifically choose.

In Halo Infinite, gone is the ability to unlock whichever item you want within groups of 10. Now, players must move linearly through the Battle Pass to acquire rewards. In order to make progress, players must earn XP by either playing matches or completing Challenges. The problem with the latter is that Challenges are only for multiplayer – another step back from MCC’s campaign Challenges. This means players that prefer campaign can’t earn rewards in the Battle Pass unless they engage with the multiplayer. 

It’s disappointing that the system isn’t in a more user-friendly format at launch. However, Halo Infinite multiplayer is a live service, free-to-play game, and as such, will and has received changes. The team has already implemented changes to improve the game, and judging by the turnaround of MCC since its launch in 2014, it’s not outrageous to assume more improvements will come.

One positive of the Battle Pass that could act as an industry-changing moment is that those who purchase the premium version will not lose it when the season ends. Players can continue to unlock the rewards they paid for long after the season has finished and another one has started.

halo infinite customization limits
The Armor Core system gives players more loadouts to use, but restricts armor permutations to certain cores.

Whether the Battle Pass progression and implementation bothers you will depend entirely on your concern over the look of your Spartan and your interest in unlocking cosmetic items. But these problems extend beyond the Battle Pass and into the core customization options within Halo Infinite. There are fewer options than previous titles and the Armor Core system seems needlessly restrictive. Players are unable to have finer choice over the exact coloring of their Spartan nor can the armor permutations be easily mixed and matched. In an age where player expression and customization is king, Halo Infinite is lacking. However, for those that are more concerned about enjoying the gameplay, cosmetics are just an extra treat – but more treats is always better.

Reunion Tour

halo infinite review jen taylor voice acting
Jen Taylor does a phenomenal job in the Halo Infinite campaign.

Beyond the story, open world design, gameplay and multiplayer, Halo Infinite gets many other things right. For starters, the art style manages to harken back to the classic Halo visuals whilst still appearing modernized.

Despite pulling back the visuals to fall more in-line with games from the past, Halo Infinite is gorgeous. Running on the Xbox Series X, the level of detail and lighting was always superb, with the internal lighting of the Forerunner structures appearing vibrant while the light from the sun shifts and softens as the time of day changes.

halo infinite review postcard moments
Halo Infinite is visually impressive on the Xbox Series X.

I spent a lot of time standing in fields and on rocks, admiring the picturesque scenes. I couldn’t help but take screenshots of a small lake with some Forerunner artifacts jutting out of the ground, while the ring stretched up into the sky.

On the audio side of the discussion, the music in Halo Infinite is perfect. There were moments during combat that were punctuated by iconic Halo pieces that tickled the part of my brain that thrives on nostalgia.

While I touched on the narrative earlier, what really sells it are the performances by the talented voice actors. Steve Downes somehow makes Master Chief seem both robotic and human at the same time. Then there’s Jen Taylor, who does a phenomenal job at bringing to life the Weapon. How she delivers numerous lines throughout the campaign made my heart sing but also sent ice through my veins. It was incredible to hear the subtle differences she brought to her lines in the story – a true master.

Halo Infinite also has a wealth of user-friendly features including crossplay and cross-save between Steam, Windows Store, and Xbox consoles. There’s even keyboard and mouse compatibility for console users.

Final Run

Halo Infinite is a quintessential Halo experience. 343 Industries has managed to create a Halo that harkens back to the classics while still ensuring it feels modern without muddying the iconic feel that long-time Halo fans have come to love. For those that follow the narrative closely, the story that is told in Halo Infinite is heartfelt and emotive, and may just bring you to tears. Not only does Halo Infinite offer a return to greatness, it caps off important stories while introducing new and exciting mysteries. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to experience it in co-op at launch. And even though the multiplayer has some growing pains to work through, it remains an absolute treat to play, especially with a group of friends. Hats off to 343 Industries. The whole team should feel proud because Halo Infinite is an instant classic. Halo’s back, baby!


This review is based on an Xbox Series X code provided by the publisher. Halo Infinite is available on December 8 on Steam, Windows Store, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta). The multiplayer is free-to-play on available platforms now.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

Review for
Halo Infinite
9
Pros
  • The combat is iconic Halo
  • A brilliant story full of intrigue, mysteries, and emotion
  • Equipment blends well with the combat in campaign and multiplayer
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Nostalgic soundtrack
  • Exploring an open world Halo ring is a dream come true
  • Multiplayer is quintessential Halo arena fighting
  • Bots and the Academy are extremely valuable additions
  • Crossplay and cross-save for all platforms
Cons
  • No co-op campaign or Forge at launch
  • No original trilogy multiplayer map remakes
  • Limited multiplayer playlists
  • Limited customization options for multiplayer
  • No way to replay story missions
From The Chatty
  • reply
    December 6, 2021 12:01 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, Halo Infinite review: Flawless cowboy

    • reply
      December 6, 2021 1:10 AM

      Great review, good to hear the game is good. I agree on the multiplayer comments. The maps on ranked at least (I think there are 5 there) are really good.

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        December 6, 2021 4:29 AM

        Thank you! Yes, the maps that are on offer are excellent. I particularly love the small ones in Ranked (though Launch Site is a bit on the large size for 4v4 imo).

        I think equipment, specifically the grappleshot, don't play nicely with old school maps.

    • reply
      December 6, 2021 2:32 AM

      Can this also be the gee ral review thread?

      "Halo Infinite for Xbox Series X Reviews - Metacritic"
      https://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-series-x/halo-infinite

      I can't wait to play this game

    • reply
      December 6, 2021 2:48 AM

      Man, can’t wait till Wednesday!

    • reply
      December 6, 2021 2:52 AM

      Excellent review, can't wait to check it out

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        December 6, 2021 4:29 AM

        Thanks mate! I can't wait until people can get their hands on the campaign.

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      December 6, 2021 3:03 AM

      Is there cross save / progression between PC and XSX?

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        December 6, 2021 4:30 AM

        I've been able to play on PC and then switch to Xbox for multiplayer with no troubles. I assume it will be the same for campaign going from Xbox to Microsoft Store. I'm not how Steam plays into that though.

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          December 6, 2021 4:37 AM

          Excellent, I want to play on both so that would be great!

      • reply
        December 6, 2021 4:31 AM

        There is for multiplayer so will be for single.

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      December 6, 2021 4:40 AM

      Multiplayer question! Can I play split screen online MP with a guest account?

      My brother who doesn't have an Xbox / account is coming over this weekend and I'd love for us to be able to do split screen online multiplayer on XSX

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        December 6, 2021 4:55 AM

        No split screen yet. You'll probably best getting him to play on the XBOX and you play on the PC. You'd have to create an Xbox account for him, but as it's your home console it'll share all the Xbox Live and Gamepass.

        Of course if your PC and Xbox share the same screen then it won't work.

        • reply
          December 6, 2021 4:59 AM

          Wait so I can create a new account for him and have it somehow tied to my account for gamepass so we can both play together, without me having to get a second gamepass sub?

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            December 6, 2021 5:04 AM

            Your login lets you play on ANY Xbox or PC, and your HOME Xbox lets anyone play on it with your gamepass and live account. You can change what is you HOME Xbox in settings. So yes.

            With Halo though you don't need gamepass anyway, it's free for multiplayer, I don't even think you need Xbox live, but you can use the above method for any game really.

            • reply
              December 6, 2021 5:10 AM

              Sweet, thank you I'll try this

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      December 6, 2021 5:03 AM

      So excited to play Halo!

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      December 6, 2021 6:01 AM

      If only it were out today. Two days off and it comes out right about the time I'll be going to back to work!

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      December 6, 2021 7:42 AM

      Does anyone know if this game has damage falloff? If I'm able to land a pistol shot from across the map, is it the same damage as up close?

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      December 6, 2021 7:43 AM

      So glad they gave this another year to perfect. Can't wait to dive in!

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
      reply
      December 6, 2021 8:51 AM

      Awesome review Sam! Now I want to play through a Halo campaign for the first time ever!

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        December 6, 2021 2:57 PM

        Wow! Thanks mate. Have you really never played one? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the story as someone who hasn't played a Halo campaign before :)

    • reply
      December 6, 2021 9:14 AM

      [deleted]

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        December 6, 2021 3:35 PM

        I think DF's technical investigations are an important aspect of understanding and critiquing games. Though I doubt the findings will ultimately affect someone's enjoyment of Halo Infinite. At most, you might go "Huh, that's odd" before getting pulled back into the combat and story.

    • reply
      December 8, 2021 11:04 AM

      Same review score as Rocket Arena!

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