Since 2001, the first-person shooter Halo franchise has soldiered on through thick and thin and given gamers the opportunity to slip into the heavy armor and impenetrable helmet of a hero named Master Chief. And after a few years of gaming furlough, he’s back in Halo Infinite.
Through the various games we never saw Master Chief’s face, but we did learn about his past, how he came to be the super-soldier he is and the history behind the massive warring conflicts on hand.
For those new to the game series and its dense mythos, it essentially spells out a sci-fi creation (and destruction) story that spans back 15 million years, setting up the origin of humanity and other cosmic species. Those races eventually came into conflict with each other and a corrosive, parasitic life form that consumed everything it touched called the Flood. And in the midst of this sprawling, overwhelming struggle, the Halo Arrays were constructed: giant rings that could destroy all life in the galaxy. And so, the Halo Wars—battles to control said weapons—began.
Halo Infinite, is something of a reboot to the long-running series. It doesn’t start everything over, but it does give Master Chief a fresh start after the previous games had taken the franchise down a path of bitter betrayal and the near obliteration of humanity.
Things begin here with humanity’s (and Master Chief’s) defeat at the hands of a massive bestial race called The Banished—space pirates exiled from a religious cult-like group that plagued the series before. The Chief is found floating in space by a stranded human spaceship pilot and revived. And of course, he leaps into action once more and slips into the Zeta Halo, a massive but badly damaged alien space station that’s also one of those apocalyptic weapons.
The goal? To set out on a series of fairly open-world quests and—with the help of his pilot friend and a new AI female helper known as the Weapon—systematically clear levels and rip apart the Banished forces and leaders from the inside out.
This game introduces a number of new tools and weapons to the series, such as a new “Grappleshot” grappling hook that help the heavily armored Chief leap around and catapult up to higher vantage points with comparable ease. And along with these new futuristic weapons, gamers gain the Threat Sensor, another invaluable tool to highlight enemies who would otherwise be invisible.
It’s the seamless flow between story cutscenes and campaign battles, however, that makes the gameplay of this new title feel much improved. Master Chief battles hordes of enemies and bosses—who come packing a much more intelligent-feeling AI of their own—and makes incremental emotional connections with his helpmates with equal aplomb.
Halo Infinite also offers some online competitive multiplayer modes. In fact, players can obtain these multiplayer online contests separately and for free for both PC and Xbox play. They include a variety of team contests where teams of four to 12 players battle each other for short, designated periods in an effort to capture zones or flags, gather items and take on opposing teams in point battles.
Halo Infinite, like all the Halo games before it, is the story of a hero stepping up against all odds. Master Chief never backs down and is willing to sacrifice everything for what he sees as the greater good. “We protect humanity, whatever the cost,” he tells his unnamed pilot savior when that guy wants to run for whatever human safehold might still exist.
This game also asks players to consider the question, “If you knew how you were going to die, how would you live your life differently?” That question pertains to the second chance that Master Chief is experiencing, but it raises a solid moral question for gamers. How are we living our lives? What do we sacrifice for? What might you change if your time was almost up?
Master Chief also makes it clear that mistakes are a part of life. “We all fail. We all make mistakes,” he tells his emotionally wounded pilot friend. “That’s what makes us human.” The game raises questions about what it takes to establish trusting relationships, too.
On top of that, Infinite is designed to sharpen gamer’s decision-making and strategy skills. There are a number of ways to approach each mission and outthink or out-maneuver the AI-controlled foes you face. And that’s especially true if facing a human combatant in multiplayer contests.
Of course, we are talking about a shooter game. There’s quite a bit of action/adventure in the mix and interaction with Master Chief’s AI friends, but frenetic trigger pulling with a wide range of rapid-fire and explosive weapons, and bashing foes with heavy objects and blades, is a constant. Enemies die, cry out and sometimes emit small puffs of red when hit.
Torture also plays into the action. The Banished kidnap Master Chief’s pilot at one point and suspend him in a forcefield-like torture device as a way to lure Master Chief into a trap. The human victim cries out in agonizing pain, but there are no obvious wounds.
Foul language wise, there’s not much to report other than one or two uses of “a–” and the word “p–sed.”
Halo games have lasted as long as they have and gained such a loyal following because they tend to be immersive and fun. The mechanics are easy to grasp and the challenge is stiff, without being too tough. That’s all particularly true with this new game. And in fact, there seemed to be a lot more thoughtful non-trigger-pulling moments to enjoy with Halo Infinite.
But parents considering this game for younger players should keep in mind that it’s still a shooter, and the debate about the impact of violent games still rages on.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.