It’s finally here. Halo Infinite is releasing next week after years of speculation, hype, disappointment, confusion, and backlash. For better or worse, it’s coming, and we know a few things going into the release already as well as a few new things that 343 has been drip-feeding us to keep the excitement strong.
It’s been a wild few years with lots of ups and downs, but now that all the marketing chips are on the table, it’s time to talk about what I think of the upcoming title. Does it look like it will live up to the Halo legacy, or are we in for another Hao 5: Guardians situation?
A Mixed Start
Halo Infinite was first announced at E3 2018, and although it was a short teaser with no gameplay, it promised a return to a more legacy art style reminiscent of Bungie’s titles. It was an exciting moment, but after that, it was quiet for a long time.
In fact, we wouldn’t see any gameplay until the year it originally was supposed to release, 2020. By then, the fever pitch to see anything game-related was nearly unbearable for most Halo fans as this was the longest span of time between mainline Halo games in the series’ history. The reveal had to be big.
But what we got was one of the most disappointing gameplay reveals for an anticipated title of the past decade. The game clearly looked unfinished with some rough textures and animations. That had fans thinking that if this was what 343 was willing to show, what weren’t they showing? How could the game possibly be ready to release that year?
The reveal was almost universally criticized, and within a week 343 announced that it would be delayed. In that year, 343 stayed pretty quiet on the campaign side of things and preferred to trickle out some news about the multiplayer. I feel like they (or Microsoft) saw the campaign as a sore subject to discuss.
Over the summer, the multiplayer began to be shown, and a tech preview was planned for in several waves. People were hesitant, but the tech preview began to draw people back in as if the past year (and maybe even 343’s other botched launch attempts) hadn’t happened.
A Multiplayer to Be (Mostly) Proud of
I managed to play the tech preview in the second and third weeks it was available. I played against some bots and humans and experienced all the maps that they showcased. It felt so weirdly like Halo and yet new.
While I enjoyed 343’s multiplayer in 4 and 5, I found that they didn’t feel like the Halo multiplayer I enjoyed. They felt heavily influenced by the movement and pacing of modern shooters like Call of Duty, which is fine for some people. However, I enjoy the slightly slower and methodical approach to arena combat with an emphasis on the sandbox that Halo is known for.
While Infinite isn’t as slow as Halo 3 per se, it did have a heft to it, and by making the spartan abilities pick-ups rather than something that everyone starts with, it felt like something to fight over for map control. That seems to be the biggest thing about Infinite; it focuses on map control and encourages players to not necessarily stay in any one part of the map, or they risk losing weapons, vehicles, abilities, or objectives.
The newest addition to the big team battle highlights this focus on map control by having people fight over actual loot caves that they can use their very own AI companion hack and open for them.
The actual gunplay feels great, and the new weapons seem awesome as well. I honestly felt like almost every weapon I was holding was viable in a fight which isn’t something that you can say all that often in a Halo title.
As of the week of writing this, Microsoft has released the multiplayer beta for the game. While I’m not sure how much the overall content will change on the official release date, at the moment, I have to say I feel a little cheated. Since the actual gameplay is so good, a lack of maps, gametype search preferences, and incentive to keep playing (ranking system, worthwhile challenges) are all lacking.
These are minor things but I could already feel myself at the end of the first night wanting to go play Forza or another game where I felt like I was actively doing something. I play alone because of time, friends, responsibilities, etc. so my win ratio is about half and half.
Those extras help to make losses a little less frustrating when my team decided to not help me get the ball in Oddball. I already have a hard time becoming invested in multiplayer games but if you are going to remove many of the things that I could work toward then a game is going to lose me to a more engaging experience.
343i has announced that they will make changes to the rank system in time and the Battle Pass will also get tweaked but at the moment, it’s so disappointing to have something come so close to perfect and miss.
For Xbox’s 20th anniversary, 343 released the multiplayer early on top of all of this. At the moment, the gameplay is the best in the series but the lack of a stat tracker, progression system outside of skill-based matchmaking, lack of forge, lack of custom game options, buggy custom games, and some dishonest marketing regarding monetization have a lot of people upset. Most of this can be fixed but with the holidays it might take some time.
Just this week, I completed all the challenges, and then I was like, “now what?” I don’t like multiplayer much and without something to keep me playing like tracking my win streaks or even ranking up, I don’t have much reason to stick around. It’s possible I might drop the multiplayer but for completely different reasons than Halo 5, which is already a terrible disappointment. I’m hoping 343 gives me a reason to stay.
A Comeback for the Ages
Disclaimer: There are several creators who are posting the first few levels of the campaign early. I have decided to avoid all of this content to avoid spoilers. If you’d like more information about the gameplay check out Uber Nick’s gameplay.
The campaign remained quiet during all the tech preview multiplayer news. Whether that was to get people excited for another aspect of Halo without opening old wounds or 343 just didn’t see a reason to show it off, we may never know. However, before we were able to see it, the amount of news coming out from 343 that was leaving people upset was becoming quite the list.
At launch, there isn’t going to be a coop for the campaign or forge. Both of these I’m not too upset about, but I can see the ripple effect that Forge can have by being absent for too long. And I actually really appreciate that the coop is coming later. It’ll give me a reason to revisit the campaign and make it fresh again.
They also announced that things like ray tracing would be absent initially as well. These things have made people think that Infinite still isn’t ready to be released, and I can see why they might say that. It’s almost unbelievable that they tried to release the game last year.
There is also the precedent that is being set by allowing games to be released with so many missing features. However, on the other hand, Halo is one of the most feature-dense AAA games, and with the open-ish world design of the campaign, it might be reasonable to think the 343 didn’t have a great plan for coop (yet).
It’s a lot to juggle, but based on their continued efforts in the MCC and delivering more than I could have ever imagined, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment.
Finally, on October 25, 2021, we were blessed with six minutes of campaign footage, and I was pretty impressed with what is being done with the gameplay. First, we get to see more of Zeta Halo and how we’ll be able to explore it. Of course, you can find vehicles, but there are pelican drops that you can request a vehicle of your choice through.
That’s awesome and will surely make exploring much easier. I just hope that everything isn’t available right from the start and that it’s something we have to work up to, kind of like how we unlocked mongooses in ODST by collecting audio recordings but more in-depth, of course.
We also got a taste of some of the types of missions that Chief will embark on, such as infiltrating enemy bases and taking out contracts. They felt very reminiscent of Far Cry or even Just Cause (especially when you take that grappling hook into consideration). It seems like we are going to have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to tackling these missions, which seems perfect for Halo’s sandbox, especially the one that 343 is curating in this title.
We even got to see that there will be moments where we have to face off against minibosses much like in past Halos, but this time there are going to be more, and they might be even more viscous. There’s even an elite that is hunting the Chief down with duel-wielded plasma swords that looks so awesome.
The new enemies don’t stop there as we get a glimpse of a new variant called the skimmers, which feel like a cross between a jackal and a drone. Though we didn’t get to see them in combat, they look like they are tenacious and quick as they juggle what looks like an installation monitor. I’m imagining if the skirmishers could fly, they would be the skimmers.
The armor abilities got shown a little bit in the trailer, and it seemed like we will be able to carry four at a time which begs the question: What kind of wacky combinations can we pull off? People were doing some pretty crazy things in the multiplayer using only a grapple hook or repulsor by themselves; just wait until they can juggle four different things at once.
There is also quite a bit of speculation that armor lock is making a return for the enemies (and maybe the player?). Brute armor lock is possibly shown in two spots in the trailer as the animation and visuals look very much like armor lock in Reach, but this has yet to be confirmed.
For me, at least, I feel like there is still a lot of mystery in the upcoming story. I feel like there might be some retcons based on reports that 343 is considering this a soft reboot of the series, but we shall see.
There are still a couple of players out there, from the Banished to Cortana to the Didact (who is alive, according to the books). I also love how much the brute chieftain talks trash toward the Master Chief and Humanity. It feels so much more personal and grounded compared to the past few enemies.
How are all of these groups going to fare, and is there another group joining? The trailer showed some armored woman throwing Chief around like he was a rag doll, and I’m not sure how Chief can defeat someone who can fly and throw him with her mind.
But I like that at the moment. I just needed to see gameplay and a simple premise. Don’t try to spell it all out for me right now. Let me experience it in December.
IGN also had a little deep-dive into the campaign with an additional look at weapons and the story. The level of freedom looks about what I would hope for a Halo game. At the moment I have very little that actively worries me on the single-player side of things.
I have to say that I didn’t realize how much I needed reassurance about the campaign. I guess I was more worried than I had thought after seeing that initial reveal but I’m actually really looking forward to the final release now. After seeing the trailer, I feel pretty confident that I will enjoy Halo Infinite. However, only time will tell just how much I will enjoy it and whether it can finally take the place of Halo 3 in my heart.