Halo Infinite (Review)

If there’s one thing that’s immediately clear about this game, it’s that it panders to its core community by focusing back on older, Bungie entries.  This is seemingly in their response to Halo 5, where the irony is that I genuinely loved Halo 5 for its more modern complexity on just about everything.  As a person who’s played all the main Halo entries, does Halo Infinite’s nostalgic aim work on me?


GAMEPLAY

Halo but is faster and tighter…

Starting with the good news is that the game controls like a far tighter version of its older entries.  The feel is distinctly Halo but is faster and tighter than older technology allowed in terms of controller precision and gameplay.  What the game does new is in the campaign: an attempt to bring this nostalgia into the modern designs of an open world.  It surprisingly succeeds, creating a Far Cry type of sandbox, albeit much smaller (more on content later).  It gives Master Chief the ultimate playground, further egging you on to explore with an also surprisingly fun grappling hook mechanic.  But the feel also succeeds in the area you probably care about more: multiplayer.  Since they’ve massively dialed back the complexity from Halo 5 (and mind you, I felt Halo 5’s multiplayer was rather stellar), there’s a balance in the words, “easy to pick up, hard to master”.  I can’t deny that the gameplay overall is both nostalgic but improved for the modern era.  Unfortunately, my experiences were marred by something outside of my control: poor netcode latency issues (aka “desync”).  It is likely because multiplayer is free-to-play that servers are getting overloaded, but if you run into anything like getting run over by a warthog that didn’t touch you, know that I feel you because it is incredibly frustrating and shows an underlying server latency issue that is not acceptable in 2021.  Hopefully by the time this review goes up, the issue begins alleviating itself along with some of the matchmaking issues.


CONTENT

…screams for your wallet in one way or another.

There’s a serious conundrum, here.  If you have Game Pass, then you’re golden.  If not, then the campaign costs $60 for what amounts to very little: I completed most open world activities in about 10 hours with only collectibles being left as the open world itself is rather small.  Since multiplayer is free, the real question is how the campaign will expand (as it clearly intends to) and at what cost.  As of right now, it’s clear the campaign should only be ventured by Game Pass subs.  In terms of multiplayer: there aren’t a lot of maps to match the number of modes (with only three for Big Team Battle!), and everything else is just cosmetics, most of which are heavily guarded by paywalls or Battle Pass.  The overall package just screams for your wallet in one way or another.


PRESENTATION

…built for last gen and then dialed up to 11.

If you’re on PC like I am, then there’s something that needs immediate addressing: cinematic stutters.  These stutters are clearly not my PC: it doesn’t matter whether I set the internal resolution to 1080p or full fat 4K, the stutters are present while my gameplay is smooth as butter.  The interesting part is that segues into the graphics: the game was built for last gen and then dialed up to 11, though ray tracing (which this game could seriously use) is supposed to be in the works.  Long story short, PC and Series X owners will be disappointed that Xbox’s biggest franchise doesn’t quite hit the graphical high marks it deserves, but Xbox One/potato PC owners are in for a fantastic looking game.  The plus side: this last gen graphical target is precisely why the game runs smooth as butter.  But remember that whole nostalgia pandering thing?  That goes right into near-perfect import of the absolutely campy physics of older Halo games.  Prepare for things to handle from a time before we had the power to properly calculate physics (like tires not even rolling at the correct speed), though this can often be a source of hilarity.  Moving onto the story is also something incredulously campy: the dialogue.  Fortunately, that’s balanced out by a deeper dive and a clear planting of lore seeds into where Halo is going (and undeniable looks into what Metroid Prime could be!), and the game does a decent job of filling in the blanks.


CONCLUSION

…gives me serious Metroid Prime levels of visual and lore satisfaction.

Was everything better in the old days?  Nope.  Is everything new terrible?  Nope.  Most moments the game manages to balance this out, but in other areas not so much.  Primarily, it exceeds in the gameplay arena by keeping the controls feeling old, yet new and taut.  It then faulters in (hopefully temporary) netcode issues, seriously missteps in the content arena for everyone NOT on Game Pass, and disappoints in graphics for current gen standards of Xbox’s biggest franchise.  The good news is that it feels so good and smooth to play and gives me serious Metroid Prime levels of visual and lore satisfaction.

I give Halo Infinite

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