Halo Infinite isn’t that far away and you won’t have to wait much longer to finally get your hands on one of the most anticipated Xbox exclusives. I’ve been previewing the campaign for the better part of a week and I’ve been able to spend several hours exploring the first four campaign missions of 343 Industries’ biggest Halo campaign ever.
The opening to Halo Infinite immediately sets the tone for the game and picks up with things not going so well for Master Chief. It isn’t long before our hero is sent to fight the odds, and we see the failure and demise of the USNC before being thrown into the void by the Banished. Without diving into spoilers, I found myself immediately pulled into the scenario and by the time I finished my time with the campaign knew that I couldn’t wait to get more of the story come December.
It is clear within minutes of starting my preview period that the extra time 343 Industries took by delaying the game from its Xbox Series launch period was worth the wait. Try to compare the initial reveal to what players are getting on December 8 and you can see the game looks and feels much different. And it should as the stakes have never been higher given how much power the Covenant has gained and what they are capable of.
Halo Infinite smartly paces the campaign
As a casual Halo fan who has played most games in the series, I was pulled in from the start and the game sunk its grappling hook right into me. I was at the mercy of the story, something I never felt myself to be drawn to, given I preferred the multiplayer to the campaign. What I’m happy to see when the full game launches is if there is a delicate balance the developer needs to find to pull in existing players again but at the same time be able to pull in newcomers. For those unfamiliar with the series, I’m not sure Halo Infinite would be the right entry point given how much of the game’s legacy is being pulled front and centre with the story.
Each Halo campaign I’ve played usually does a good job at pointing you to the next objective and the story structure works well thanks to good pacing — Halo Infinite’s pace continues this trend but now adds a wonderful sense of exploration the series needed. Instead of the open-world structure we’re grown accustomed to seeing in games, Infinite decidedly chooses to divide Zeta Halo into sections packed with activities, enemies, and discoverable items to discover. To unlock new areas, you’ll need to complete the story before moving into the next area and the change works exceedingly well for the series.
Master Chief’s been through several cryo sleeps in the past, only to be awoken when he was needed. Halo Infinite instead pulls him into contrition with The Banished (a splinter cell that broke away from the Covenant). Early on, Master Chief’s main antagonists Atriox and Escharum are introduced and we know the plans for Zeta Halo, but it’s unclear just what the leaders of the Banished plan to do with one of the rings in the Halo Array.
I had gone in expecting a traditional open-world but what I discovered is Halo Infinite includes classic Halo mixed with larger, sandbox segments packed with things to do. Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) will seem familiar if you’ve ever played a Far Cry game, giving players access to the game’s vehicles, weapons, and more. The Banished have claimed the bases after overpowering the UNSC. Once reclaimed, the bases will act as fast-travel points and grant Valor, a currency used to upgrade weapons and vehicles. Both Valor and saving UNSC marines are optional and given that you can recruit soldiers to head out into Zeta Halo, it seems like it can be worthwhile to enlist support to combat the Banished given the more Valor you have, the better your arsenal and support are.
The developers have added targets that you’ll find spread out across Zeta Halo. In my time with the preview, I came across Okro’ Vagaduun, a Banished blademaster who appears on Master Chief’s TacMap. If you end up besting him, you can use his weapon and add it to the arsenal available at the FOBs on Zeta Halo. I’m expecting we’ll see tons of these bosses in the full game and are exciting encounters you’ll come across in your journey to pushing back the Banished.
Okro’ Vagadunn took me a few tries to defeat but that was due to me overthinking the encounter. I had gone in with a carbine rifle and Needler, trying to predict his cloaked movements. Upon discovery of an energy sword available near his location, I made quick work of him with three swift strikes of the blade. You’re then given the blueprint to his custom energy blade which can be equipped at the FOBs around the map.
Halo Infinite’s open-world is a sandbox bursting with activities
We’re introduced to a new AI codenamed “The Weapon” that accompanies you across Zeta Halo. This new A.I. seems to possess the same personality as Cortana from Halo: Combat Evolved but is extremely curious to know why the UNSC is after her predecessor, given how she responds “the rogue AI known as Cortana is gone. She’s been deleted.” This mystery is a core component of the campaign and it looks to be tied to the conflict with the Banished.
As much as I enjoy playing a game’s campaign, I find the side activities to be equally as important. Halo Infinite never pushes you to continue playing the story and you can take your time to clean up the Banished. Not all enemies are there to serve a purpose to the narrative either and coming across a patrol usually leads to fun encounters for the player. It’s also pretty near I can jump into the Wasp and freely move about Zeta Prime.
A big shakeup this time is the Spartan Cores, new, optional upgrades used to improve your armour. The system is similar to the one in Halo 3 or Halo Reach, adding light RPG elements to the gameplay. From what I gathered during preview is there are required upgrades that you’ll gain regardless of what you do. Each Spartan Core can be used to upgrade the grappleshot, shield, threat sensor, drop wall, and thruster.
There are also tons of collectibles including UNSC audio logs, armour for multiplayer and Skulls. Audio logs flesh out the story and help the player piece together what happened and Skulls have been around since Halo: Combat Evolved serving as gameplay modifiers.
Spending several hours with Halo Infinite has shifted my outlook for next month. I think the extra time given to the studio was the best thing that could have happened and I’m eager to see the rest of the game given the series’ new direction. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what the game is offering in addition to the stellar combat the series is known for. While the earliest sections have pulled me in, I’m keen to see how the developers plan on ending things, given the stakes and the core relationship between Master Chief and Cortana. By adding exploration and the choice to upgrade into the mix, HaloInfinite offers one of the most exciting games for the series in years.
[This impression article is based on a preview build offered by the publisher]