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Review Roundup: 343 Industries’ Halo Infinite

Critics react to the return of the Master Chief.
Halo Infinite

It’s been over six years since we’ve had a new Halo game starring the Master Chief, that iconic (and taciturn) super soldier who saved humanity from alien hordes time and again… and helped launch Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. His last adventure — 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians — wasn’t even that much of one for the big guy, though; he spent most of the game’s campaign sidelined as players followed the exploits of some other Spartans.

Suffice to say, Halo fans have been chomping at the bit ever since 343 Industries officially announced Halo Infinite back in 2018. But the game’s production was bumpy to say the least, with multiple delays and staffing changes, and of course, COVID. And when 343 Industries released a gameplay demo in 2020, it was met with widespread criticism over the graphics and performance, which sent the developers scrambling to fix things.

But it’s December 2021 and Halo Infinite is finally here, in what could be considered the most pivotal release in Halo franchise history since Halo: Combat Evolved kicked things off back in 2001. So how are critics responding to the Master Chief’s return? Read on for a sampling of reviews.

Sam Barsanti, “Doesn’t reinvent the shooter genre, but it might reinvent Halo

It’s a very modern interpretation of what Halo can be, pulling from the kinds of games that are as big today as Halo was when it first launched. Rather that feeling like a Greatest Hits of modern video gaming, though, it still feels distinctly like Halo. Meanwhile, its potential to grow and change seems like it will have a much more lasting impact than any amount of bopping aliens in the head. Maybe “combat evolved” just means something new now.

Sam Byford, “It’s not so much a reinvention as simply a very good Halo campaign”

It’s clear that 343 is using Infinite as a soft reboot in an attempt to bring the series back to broader relevance, and it features the most radical changes to the core Halo design since the original game. At the same time, Infinite is almost explicitly a throwback to the series’ earlier days — it feels like it was designed to win back people turned off by the aesthetic and narrative left turns of 343’s Halo 4 and 5.

Nicole Carpenter, “Halo Infinite saves the series by finally doing something different”

Halo Infinite somehow feels entirely like Halo and entirely not, transplanting the franchise’s traditional linear narrative and mission structure into a semi-open world. It preserves the intensity of the series’ combat while also finding the magic in the act of exploration. Halo Infinite is carrying a heavy legacy on its shoulders, and it’s doing so with confidence.

Chris Carter, “Going to delight a lot of people who were tired of side stories of other Spartans”

I was incredibly worried at first that 343 wouldn’t be able to resist the siren’s song of other major publishers, but the restraint here is appreciated. This is an extremely 2021 Halo, and I think it’s going to win over both lapsed players and diehards.

Jessica Conditt, “I had high hopes for Infinite. Maybe too high.”

Even with the fresh toys and larger world, Infinite plays like a classic Halo game. The levels are repetitive and mazelike, and the story is packed with military stereotypes, sarcastic robots, women in skin-tight bodysuits and cheesy dialogue. There are a handful of cool new weapons, like the reticle-shifting Heatwave and the revolver-like Mangler, and the entire map is generously stocked with loose ammo and guns. It’s a blockbuster action movie in interactive form, and it has high-energy, entertaining moments, but these are largely overshadowed by the simplistic grind of it all.

Tom Hoggins, “A dazzling ballet of sci-fi action”

343 has been adept at this since it took over from Bungie nearly a decade ago. But the studio is yet to quite match Halo’s original creators for mission design. And this is what brings Halo Infinite back to earth, with not enough variety out in the world or in the more authored missions. Regardless of whether you are charging a Banished stronghold or following Halo’s heady sci-fi tale there isn’t much wavering from go here, shoot this’, with the odd bit of powering up X number of generators thrown in for good measure. Infinite largely gets away with it because going there and shooting that is such good fun, but there is a lack of spark elsewhere that holds the game back from being the bona fide classic 343 are so close to cracking.

Sam Machkovech, “Halo Infinite’s campaign finishes the fight — but arrives in tatters”

To be clear, I enjoyed my time with Halo Infinite’s campaign. That’s primarily because the game sees 343 finally nail its own Halo “voice,” one whose mechanics, gunplay, and physics feel more rooted in the series’ past than ever before. Meanwhile, 343 uses clever ideas to modernize and go beyond the foundation established by Bungie. And the game delivers story, dialogue, and sci-fi stakes where they count.

But there’s no way to review this title without complaining about the game’s launch state. Halo Infinite may reach new series heights, but its ambition tests the limits of the duct tape keeping the game together.

Ryan McCaffrey, “Powers up a 20-year-old series, by both returning to its roots and blazing new trails to build off of”

There’s a lot to do in this expansive playground, and completing its never-dull-or-overwhelming list of activities earns more combat options and, ultimately, more fun. It doesn’t quite recapture the environmental variety or memorable story of the original trilogy, but it’s still a thrilling return to form for one of gaming’s most beloved series, and for Master Chief himself.

Ari Notis, “Both a return to form and a revelatory evolution for 343 Industries”

In other words, the question isn’t if Halo Infinite is any good. It is. What’s most worth measuring here is twofold: Was it worth the wait? And does this mean Halo is really, truly back?

Corey Plante, “The masterpiece you’ve dreamt of for 20 years”

Halo Infinite is bigger and better than the franchise has ever been. And though some of the environments do feel a touch repetitive at times, as do the open-world tasks, the encounters have enough variety to keep things exciting. The linear campaign takes you through sprawling, lush canyons and grim Forerunner bases. Each of the boss encounters are totally unique, forcing you to shift your approach and utilize different pieces of Master Chief’s growing toolkit.

Jordan Ramée, “Halo Infinite transforms the series’ two-decade-old formula for the better”

Halo Infinite strives to transform what it means to be a Halo game, making Chief into a reluctant father figure for a young and naive AI and putting him into an open-world setting. It turns out that was a risk worth taking for the franchise, as Infinite is an incredible game. Certain story elements are on the weaker side and the amazing Grappleshot makes the rest of Chief’s equipment feel a bit lacking in comparison, but these are small shortcomings in what otherwise feels like the best Halo campaign in years and an excellent evolution of what Halo can be.

Mark Serrels, “Halo is pushing the boundaries for the first time in over a decade”

Halo 4 and 5 played loose and fast with the game’s legendary sandbox, but Halo Infinite treats it with more reverence. It’s almost nebulous to say, but Halo Infinite feels like Halo. The combat is stripped back and lean, but expanded in ways that make sense. The grappling hook is a huge part of that.

Above all it feels considered. And it’s buoyed by a delicate sense of pacing. If you tire of exploring Halo Infinite’s open world, laying waste to enemy camps and blowing up silos, story-driven missions provide the timely salve of more linear encounters, deep inside the world’s alien structures.

Halo Infinite will be released on December 8. Watch the trailer below.

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