First Impressions: Halo Infinite’s Campaign
For eagle-eyed readers, you will no doubt notice that I posted a What’s Good About on the Multiplayer of Halo Infinite three weeks ago. Long and short of it: It Slaps, and on top of that it gave me hope for the single-player campaign being possibly awesome. Well, it dropped yesterday afternoon and I played up until the end of the introduction of the open-world elements and I can safely say this: It makes a damn good first impression. Let’s talk about it.
The first thing that grabbed me about Halo Infinite is that how it uses the traditional Halo mission structure to ease the player into the new open-world format and how well it works for the most part. The Campaign starts with the UNSC infinity getting attacked by The Banished, The primary antagonists from Halo Wars 2 and everyone’s favorite Spartan, John-117 getting thoroughly trounced by Atriox, the Banished’s leader. After some time passes, Chief is recovered by an unnamed pilot going by the callsign of Echo-216. After getting woken back up, he makes his way to a Banished Ship, takes it down, navigates the inside of Installation 07 and finds the AI known as The Weapon, and touches down on the damaged Zeta Halo where the Banished and UNSC have been vying for control, with the Banished having mostly won by the time you arrive. All of this is throughout 2 missions and expertly establishes the gameplay tone for what feels like is going to be the entire game.
This is good because it takes a lot of Infinite’s gameplay and recontextualizes it into how it would work vs the AI. The Banished have set themselves apart from the Covenant and The Storm so far by feeling more like mercenaries than religious zealots. They still use Halo’s tried and true combat AI but remixes it enough to keep you on your toes. Especially with the use of new weapons, reimagined weapons, and reworked equipment. You start with the standard assault rifle and pistol (which is an actual sidearm this time, but I digress), and get access to a bunch of standard plasma weapon staples like the plasma pistol, energy sword, and stick grenades; but you also get reworked stuff like the Commando, a full auto precision rifle replacing the DMR, and a Plasma Carbine that works on a pulse firing mode, and my personal favorite: the Mangler: a shotgun pistol much like Halo 3’s Mauler, but manages to feel much punchier in comparison.
All of this ties into a piece of gear that I didn’t know made me want an open-world Halo game in this vein until today: The Grappleshot. The Grappleshot is just Halo speaks for a grappling hook and while it can be used to the obvious tactic of getting around the environment faster, it’s also been balanced with combat applications in mind. You can zip towards enemies and give ’em the old one-two punch, grab weapons that enemies drop for a quick swap out, get to a higher vantage point to deal with those pesky Jackal Snipers, and my personal favorite implementation of the Grapple shot thus far: Yanking Plasma Coils towards you so you can yeet them at your enemies. And these are just some of the examples I can think of off the top of my head in regards to some of the emergent gameplay that this one piece of equipment brings to the table. It’s honestly kind of amazing. This can lead to some hilarious moments like a semi-damaged plasma coil just flying all over the place and just hitting a group of Banished and blowing up, killing them all, or straight up highjacking enemy vehicles. It’s as wonderfully silly as it sounds.
And this also brings us to the structure of the open world. It’s Less of an Open world and more a bunch of really big areas that are all sectioned off and slowly unlocked as time goes on if the way the map is segmented is anything to go by when I first looked at it. I appreciate this approach as it makes it much easier to still get these instances of Open world chicanery and not have to give up a lot of what makes Halo…Halo if that makes any sense? There are FOBs or Forward Operating Bases that can be taken off of the Banished’s network and can function as resupply points and fast travel nodes on the make to make it getting around quicker. They are also your main source of Valor Points, a special currency that can be used to unlock new weapons for use in story missions, new weapon variants that have different abilities, and new vehicles to use if you get bored of the standard Mongoose. I’ve only played one of those open-world missions so far and it involved taking out a Banished scrapyard/mining facility and it was a good example of how the emergent nonsense of an open-world game can mesh with and even enhance Halo refined-to-mechanical-precision “30 Second Loop” and “Golden Triangle” (The trifecta of Guns, Melee, and Grenades).
While I’m not sure if it’ll make the list this year because of how dang late it was when it came out, had the campaign for Halo Infinite dropped earlier in the year, it most likely would have. But I’m also glad they took their time with it because Sweet Christmas, this is some quality stuff so far. I’m seeing it through to the end because it’s Halo and I love me a good Halo Campaign, this feels like Halo in a way that Halo hasn’t since the switch over from Bungie to 343 happened. And that’s promising as hell.