Many years ago, when I was a much younger, thinner lad I moved out of home and went to live with friends. We’d spend all our time drinking and playing video games. One night, some friends from out of town came over for a party and brought their Xbox with them along with a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved.
I know that night was raucous. I know somebody fell through the roof and landed hard on the concrete. I know that people got exceptionally drunk and passed out wherever they were and I know there was vomiting, but I don’t really remember any of it because I spent the entire night playing Halo.
The next day, I was still playing it and the controller had to be pried from my hands when our friends had to leave. That was the first and last time I ever played Halo. I had plenty of opportunities but never really had the time since. Gaming, as a pastime has grown increasingly demanding on time and with more games being released than ever before, over the years, I just sort of missed out on Halo.
I fondly remember those 12 or so hours I had with Master Chief, not to mention the cramping pains in my hands from that god awful controller. Picking up Halo Infinite some 20-years later, I was delighted that my nostalgic remembrances of the game held up and that it felt modern, fast-paced and action-packed.
Halo Infinite Preview
Coming into the sixth Halo game with little to no knowledge of the story and lore, I worried I was going to get lost in the weeds. Thankfully, 343 Industries has worked to make Halo Infinite a “spiritual reboot.” What this means is that Halo Infinite is positioned as a mystery story. Master Chief, rescued from the crushing cold of space travels to the nearby Zeta Halo in the wake of the Banished’s victory over humanity and the Spartans many months prior.
On the back foot, missing time and without any knowledge of what’s happened, Master Chief sets out to find out what exactly has happened, save any survivors he encounters and, most importantly of all, look for any signs of Cortana. The latter point is one that’s going to mean more to Halo veterans off the bat, but story beats and cutscenes do a brilliant job of quickly filling in the gaps for newbies.
Arriving on Zeta Halo, Master Chief secures an outpost and begins expanding his influence outwards, capturing forward-operating bases (FOBs) and exploring Forerunner installations for any clues that might assist. Initially, entirely on his own, Chief is joined by a human Pelican pilot and a brand-new AI known as The Weapon. Even in the early stages of Halo Infinite, the weapon is clearly an incredibly important and valuable character. Once on-board Chief’s armour, The Weapon provides helpful hints and tips and provides a way for players to interact with elements of the Halo, beyond shooting them. The Weapon is also a great foil for Chief, she’s quirky, fun and upbeat and delivers some much-needed lightheartedness and humour to the story. Her exact nature and role are hinted at early on but who and what she remains a mystery throughout.
Whether she’s even fully aligned with Master Chief is debatable but she’s so likable and endearing that you’ll forget to be suspicious more often than not.
Once you’ve completed the first couple of missions and made it to Zeta Halo, you’ll be presented with a quasi-open world in which you’re able to go wherever you like, within the confines of your current region. You see, the Zeta Halo has been split thanks to the war with the Banished and large sections of it have come apart at the seams. Initially, this is an artificial way to prevent players from reaching areas they’re not supposed to be in yet, but over time, as you unlock fast travel and FOBs, you’re able to zip between locations with ease.
As a (semi) open-world game, there are plenty of map-markers and activities for players to travel to. As you unlock FOBs, more of these markers will appear and at times, Halo Infinite’s map gives a Ubisoft title a run for its money. The golden path is always clear, however, and as Halo Infinite is not an RPG, you’re not restricted by skipping content. Players are always able to move on to the next main mission without worrying that they’ll be underpowered or levelled. That being said, Chief’s arsenal of gadgets, swiped from the corpses of fallen Spartans, can be upgraded with collectible Spartan Cores. Many are located at large points of interest though just as many can be found on their lonesome throughout the Zeta Halo.
Should you not upgrade your gadgets, you’ll probably be fine, but you’ll also be doing yourself a disservice as they change Halo Infinite’s gameplay, only for the better.
The first and best of these gadgets is the Grappleshot. Fireable with RB, as are all gadgets, the Grappleshot shoots a retractable wire that attaches to walls, enemies, weapons and the like and interacts with them. When Chief hooks a wall, the ground, a vehicle or an enemy, he’ll be flung towards it. When he hooks a weapon or a smaller explosive crate, they’ll be dragged to him. For traversal, the Grappleshot is indispensable. It’s so good for getting around that I can’t imagine playing without it, so when I inevitably go back to the Master Chief collection, I know I’m going to sorely miss it.
When upgraded, the Grappleshot becomes even better. At its highest level, its cooldown is greatly reduced and you’re able to perform an explosive, electric shock-inducing punch when you launch at enemies. It’s bloody awesome. When not using it on enemies, you can use the upgraded Grappleshot to scale any mountain, wall or building on the Zeta Halo. Chief’s upwards momentum carries him such that you’re able to easily fling yourself upwards like an armoured Spider-man.
Other gadgets available to Chief are Thrusters which give him the ability to dash, a Drop Shield and a motion-detector. They each have their uses, but for my money, the Grappleshot is just too good not to use. And seeing as though you can only have one equipped at a time, the lesser utility of the other three relegates them to sometimes status.
This week, I was fortunate enough to be included in a group interview with several members of 343 Industries working on Halo Infinite. I asked the team if there were activities in Halo Infinite besides shooting bad guys and they kind of laughed at me, which is fair, in hindsight. 343 Industries told me that Halo is a combat game, it’s a Halo game and it’s about being the universes best soldier. The combat is the core of the experience and 343 wants that to be so good, players don’t need anything else.
Let me tell you, 343 has succeeded.
Foolish or not, my question was designed to understand the ethos of the mechanics behind Halo Infinite. And when combat is front and centre, it needs to shine. In Halo Infinite every combat encounter is different. Even when it’s the same number and types of enemies in the same location, the battle will go differently. This is thanks to the number of tools in Chief’s arsenal. He can still only carry two weapons at a time and the types and variety of weapons aren’t huge, however, the way players can go about fighting is nearly…Infinite.
You’ve got long-range weapons, melee weapons, shotguns, machine guns, pistols, grenades, ground-based vehicles, flying vehicles, the Grappleshot, a cloaking device attached to the thrusters and so on. How players approach an encounter in Halo Infinite is completely at their discretion and the freedom to play however you want is frankly awesome. And it’s not just weapons and gadgets that change how you approach combat. The topography of Zeta Halo plays a huge role too. You can tackle the enemy from the high ground, or sneak underneath through hidden tunnels. You can fly overhead and drop bombs or drive-in in your ghost and calmly wipe the Banished out. It’s because of this range of options that combat never gets old and why 343 Industries is confident in not including other types of content.
In addition to the ability to tackle combat however you like, the final cherry on top is that playing Halo Infinite feels fucking fantastic. Being the Master Chief makes you feel like the interplanetary badass he is and zipping around the battlefield punching the absolute custard out of aliens is a joy that’s too pure for this world. The pure, unbridled joy I’ve felt while playing Halo Infinite is almost beyond comparison and I am so very keen to see how this story ends.
So far, Halo Infinite seems like the ultimate showcase for 343 Industries and Xbox for the Xbox Series X and the Halo franchise. It feels as though it’s going to be a slam dunk for fans and newcomers alike and I have barely been able to tear myself away from it since I’ve had access.
It’s not too long until everyone gets their hands on Halo Infinite and trust me, it’s going to be worth the wait.
Halo Infinite was previewed on Xbox Series X using a digital code provided by Microsoft.