Nostalgia can be a curse. Memory manipulation is a way to exaggerate the worth or quality of memories, past experiences and things that we love. It can sometimes be shocking to see the same people again. Speed Racer wasn’t a great cartoon series. No, your grade school crush wasn’t that impressed at your spelling test scores. Yes, Halo was and is the most popular first-person shooter videogame ever created. You will be fascinated by its mysterious alien setting, heroic soldier who faces off against all odds and the thrilling gameplay. This is the beginning of an incredible trilogy.
Halo 4 in 2012 was my last regular game with friends. We’d been playing Halo for years, in dimly lit school computer labs between classes, or via headsets once Halo 2 ushered in the era of the online multiplayer game in 2004. We listened to it throughout our lives, like walking-on music. The gang broke apart after a long-time friend and fireteam member, as well as a high school buddy, took his own suicide. The game wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t want to “finish the fight.” And turning on my Xbox to see his name now permanently offline was too painful to stomach.
Now it’s been 6 years since a new Halo game was released (2015’s Halo 5: Guardians), and in that time, A new kind of shooter was created. It removed the storyline, which made the game about characters and not you or your friends. This makes it cheaper to buy in-game items, making the games more affordable. Halo Infinite, a new shooter, is back and it tries to be hip by adding some innovative features.
Fortnite, Destiny and Apex Legends have all had amazing success with their developers, thanks to in-game purchases and season passes. Epic Games had enough money and leverage to launch a legal battle with Apple. However Halo has grown along with us, and knows what’s in our hearts. Set over a year after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Infinite puts you in the shoes of the iconic Master Chief—my old friend. It’s there in my corner, as I play with online friends, and it is clearly visible. My hero, the Chief, is trying to sell me stuff. I can’t say I’m not hurt by it.
In Halo Infinite the Chief, a Spartan super soldier named John-117, and his companions—a fellow stranded regular soldier and an artificially intelligent being in the likeness of his previous partner, Cortana—round out an unlikely trio attempting to stop the enemy from taking advantage of an ancient power and killing all humans. If the story sounds a little rough, that’s because it is. His AI buddy is expository to a fault, and functions as the game’s quick and dirty way of dealing with storytelling and worldbuilding for those who don’t remember what happened six years ago.
Your friendly neighbourhood super soldier is back on the battlefield, but gone are those iconic characters that give the Halo Universe its classic yet poetic character. There’s no Avery Johnson, the gruff black sergeant found in the first three Halo games. His replacement, known as The Pilot, is a cowardly marine expected to find courage through the Master Chief’s encouragement and successive victories against the enemy after his own crushing defeat during the opening of the game. Cortana is persona non grata. This was Cortana’s intelligent AI companion. She is replaced by a visually identical (but with clothing) version. But her childlike wonderment at all things really grates after just a few minutes.
The nearest Halo Infinite comes to charismatic figures is Escharum. He’s an antagonist who has Bond-style monologues and leads the main alien alliance you battle throughout the game. And while the Master Chief talks a bit more than he did in the past, it’s mostly in short platitudes, encouragement, and military orders.
The newest addition to its single player campaign is a new open world element, something familiar to anyone who’s played an adventure game in the last decade. It does its story no real favors, and lacks any sort of depth or urgency, aside from the slow progression element that unlocks more weapons, computer-controlled marines, and vehicles that drive like they’re on skis as you complete optional missions.
Even the newest and most important addition to his arsenal, a grapple hook that lets you rocket toward and swing around structures, mountains, and enemies like you’re some sort of gun-toting Spider-Man, is derivative, and not that intuitive to use.
I find it hard to believe that these elements were ever added to the original world. And what is it about today’s games (and gamers) that demand a certain homogeneity lest a title be panned for not delivering enough hours’ worth of playtime? Historically, Halo’s tight storylines and choreographed ebb and flow of combat and prose were always welcome. Here, in Halo Infinite, we’re told to make our own fun.
Halo Infinite shines when you blow up your friends. Four-person teams of fellow Spartan soldiers face off in various games (team firefights, capture the flag, a hot potato-style game called “Oddball”) and earn points toward progression through the optional season pass one buys to unlock the good gear. The variety of weapons means every fight can turn in the blink of an eye, and come-from-behind victories aren’t uncommon. It felt good to be back on the horse after taking out a couple of players using a strategically placed rocket launch and then turning around and nabbing a third player with a bomb. My Chief and I taking on the bad guys.
What makes Halo Infinite differ from today’s high-octane, fast-paced shooters is its sense of age. You can enjoy the excitement a lot more because it is slower than other shooters. In every firefight, there’s a real feeling of “hey, maybe I can actually win this one,” before you ultimately lose that one.
However, the customization options are limited by the same boring color palette. There are cooler alternatives if you spend some money and purchase the season pass. It has been noted that the initial set is too boring and limited in comparison to established, free-to play shooters offering costumes and accessories in many other colors.
At release, some mainstay Halo features like Forge and co-op will not be available. They are expected to come in the later seasons of Halo Infinite. Disappointing, but at least you didn’t pay $60 to be disappointed.
I’d hoped that logging back in to Halo would feel comforting, like a hug from my old friends, even the one who is gone. But it’s impossible to recapture the essence of something from the past. Only a game can recognize it has a history and make a fresh start. That’s what Halo Infinite does, at least for me. Yes, its story isn’t exactly a narrative masterpiece, the open world is pretty generic, and it’s frustrating to be hit up for money in a world where that once had no place. It wasn’t the cathartic closure to my friend’s death that I thought it might be—and I’m not sure anything will be. This is Halo at its best. With friends old and new, it’s a blast and a half, and victories snatched from the jaws of defeat feel as rewarding as they did so many years ago.
According to 343 Industries, the first steps of Halo Infinite are conservative. However, it is still just beginning and has an estimated shelf life of 10 years before the introduction Halo Infinite 2. That means years of iteration, upkeep, additional content—and microtransactions galore—await you should you wish to remain in the world of Halo. Halo has returned in major fashion for many people, including myself.