Halo Infinite – PC Review

Halo Infinite – PC Review

It’s late 2021 and the monolith returns, destined to be delayed no further. On December 8th, 343 Industries and Xbox Game Studios released Halo Infinite to nail-biting fan-ticipation. Would it, or could it possibly live up to the spire-high bar set by its predecessors? Read on and let’s review together.

For context, I’ve been a longtime Halo fan since its Bungie-based inception back in 2001. I remember the dreamy-eyed wonder I felt upon first experiencing the Chief in all his glory on a phat-ass box TV. Completely enamored, all I could think was, “what is this? Now, 20 years later with much anticipation, I’m humbled to review Halo’s sixth mainline entry.

How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Halo Infinite through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 3080 10GB, 32GB Ram, with an i9-11900KF. For full transparency: this content was reviewed using a Game Pass copy of the game.

Graphical Fidelity

First up with regards to visuals, generally speaking, Infinite looks mighty fine, indeed. Smoke, particle, and lighting effects look fantastic alongside a dynamic and natural feeling shading system. Seeing light reflect and refract off of your guns and the environment looks beautiful at just the right moments. As the menu doesn’t explicitly state the use of Ray-Tracing, which is disappointing, it does bring us to a future point being: currently missing content/functionality.

But we’re not done talking about looks yet, with regards to scale alone, this is the largest Halo game on offer. For the most part (with the exception of map borders) if you can see it, you can go there. The Zeta ring is littered in and constructed with hexagonal shapes scattered everywhere from structures to walls and floors. It’s something a little new, but they’re literally everywhere too – as common as dirt.

Enemy models and animations look great, much improved from the mushy preview counterparts. But, okay, WOW!, Microsoft’s Mo-cap and facial animations look top-tier. As they should with that Halo budget, but commendable nonetheless.

Performance, however, was initially another story altogether (Multiplayer not withstanding, [oh, content “spoiler”]). Unfortunately, since the disastrous gameplay preview, while improved, draw distances are still not far enough to avert the endless pop-ins. This isn’t quite the story in close and confined spaces, but in the open world, it really shows.

Additionally, I was quite surprised how badly the campaign first ran before tweaking the video settings. What specifically fixed my issue was capping the framerate at 72, but chopping monitor capability in half isn’t awesome. Outside that, I noticed little to no screen tearing, and those issues aside, no hitching – only butter-smooth gameplay from then on with near max settings.

Before I keep gushing about superficial aspects, I’ll lastly point a finger to the glorious explosions and shield animations. Lookin’ fine, Chief.

Characters & Story

Avoiding spoilers, Infinite welcomes players (taking the role once again of the Master Chief) to the Zeta ring, currently occupied by the ‘Banished’. This is a story that resumes the narrative structure of previous Halo titles – oftentimes starting after the shift of an unspecified period of time. Infinite assumes you have a prior investment in the Halo universe and leaves plenty open to inference or future revelations. I personally enjoy this narrative delivery, as when executed well it allows the plot to progress both forward and unfold revealingly, adding context to previous events such as Halo Wars 2, or Halo 5.

That being said, newcomers to the franchise or light fans won’t know what the hell is going on. To be fair, for the casual audience, this isn’t much of an issue anyways as long as the core gameplay loop holds up to retain attention.

‘Echo 216’ as he’s referred to is decent if a little… underworked addition to the Halo repertoire of characters. A bit of a nervous wreck, I found him more annoying than endearing at times. The guy just couldn’t pull his shit together and it was occasionally grating, constantly “nononononono-ing”. It was cute at first, then not so much. After his character has a bit more room to grow and familiarize themselves with the Chief (thus the player), he grows on you. But I just wish It didn’t take so damn long.

Therein lies one of the problems with Infinite, being its pacing. Now, this is completely controllable by the player but, with how the game encourages simultaneous exploration, players may forget what’s happened story-wise by the next mission. I was a little disappointed with some of the story missions, while there were a few Halo – see; badass – moments, it was missing…something. I think that something is to do with the grounded structure of Infinite tied to the Zeta ring. My favorite part in Infinite (no spoilers) is a high octane, adrenaline spiked moment involving air-time and a pelican, and it’s just hard to create these moments walking into each mission on foot. This makes it difficult for Infinite‘s story to whisk you away to Cairo Station, the ruins of Earth, or high orbit for those wild sci-fi set pieces Halo is known for. That’s not to say they didn’t find a way, merely, it occasionally missed the grandeur of the Bungie titles.

I can’t not talk about the new AI as shown in the trailers. I can’t say much due to spoilers, but I was resistant at first due to the re-treading of old grounds, but I’m not anymore. The characterization is fresh and, I believe, definitely welcome to the Halo universe. She’s magnetic and accompanies this iteration of Chief well.

Speaking of, this game’s Chief feels and acts like a f*****g bull and it’s glorious. Yet, he feels humanized coupled to a story more heartwarming than I think Halo has ever attempted previously. Finally in this segment, and I think the reason I like this entry so much (in a bittersweet way) is there are no Didact and no Flood. I’m sad that we don’t get to see the Flood this time, but I personally detested the Didact and that direction of Halo.

This feels like a true return to form for the franchise, in my opinion. This is John’s story, and no amount of shoving Locke down our throats could change that. This story is a more focused and personal tale, leaving the franchise open to further progression down this ‘Saga’. As is everything post-2010, the nostalgia bait is heavy with Chief repeating a few of his classic one-liners, forced or not. Things just started to feel a little too self-aware for my tastes. Infinite is sitting on the fence between being a love letter to old fans, and a bleach-sterilized mass-appeal market plug. I guess they tried to be both? Right, moving on.

Finally, I can’t help but shake the teeny feeling, Disney peppiness that lingered with me after the credits rolled. Man, I miss that M rating. Even some of the baddies spew cliché evil villain stuff.

Content & Length

So, Halo: Infinite is broken up into two segments: the Campaign and the earlier (to tide people over) released Multiplayer. This once again brings us to the point of missing features as there are a few things missing here. Forge mode is yet to be included, as has co-op. 343 has promised there will be a continued stream of content updates, however, from the perspective of someone who may have paid full price at launch, I can understand the potential disappointment. I also miss firefight, but that’s just a gripe.

Infinite should take approximately 10-18 hours to beat, and, playing on Heroic, it took me 16, playing fairly but not entirely completionist (all sidequests and map markers, not collectables). There are four difficulties – Easy, Normal, Heroic, and the hard-as-nails-as-ever Legendary. This variety of challenges felt both varied and fair, with the included “Skulls” Modifiers that have become a Halo games staple.

Excuse My Terrible Phone Quality

There is something truly fascinating regarding this being the largest Halo world ever, accompanied by the shortest feeling story, tied together with open-world filler. Fundamentally, it works but is a touch rough around the edges. A refinement of this formula would do 343 well, and I wonder if they still intend Infinite to be a continually evolving experience. I sure hope they commit to those pre-release promises. In the meantime, with greater difficulties to return to and plenty of collectables to…collect, more hours can certainly be sunk into this game – especially with the Multiplayer suites.

You Know, I’m Something of a Spartan Myself

While I’m not much of a PvP guy, I did dip my toes, ankles, and knees in here. I’ve gotta admit the balanced, calculated, and tactical chess match that is Halo’s multiplayer still feels as sharp as ever. That’s the damage output, netcode, hitboxes, all that jazz.

The game modes were weak on launch, without even a slayer playlist. Big Team Battle was incredibly underwhelming and the most fun I had was with Fiesta – a timed event,…until it wasn’t. Now, there is a pattern of 343 trying to genuinely fix things, until the priorities seem slanted towards the seasonal events which pull cash and sell cat ears. Nice try Microsoft, ol’ buddy ol’ pal. In my personal opinion, the cosmetic direction the content introduces is just… not Halo. I miss the days of Reach customization, but yeah, yeah. Shut up old man, we know: paid cosmetic = bad, in-game unlockable cosmetic = good. It just feels like such a downgrade from 12 years ago, but I digress.

Before moving on from this section, I just want to highlight a few specific points. I thoroughly enjoyed the weapons in this title along with their variants. With the exception of the pulse carbine which just feels weird. I understand what they were aiming for – a plasma rifle/carbine/ burst weapon mushed together, but due to the shot delay that requires tracking just to work, it just feels out of place. Same a bit with the plasma pistol, as if aside from the charge shot it doesn’t really have a role.

Alternatively, this might be my favorite iteration of the Battle Rifle, period. It just feels so good. And the new assault rife dubbed the MA40 is crisp and effective at most ranges with quality recoil control. Sadly, there is no Fuel Rod, SMG, Carbine… It’s quite a list missing. The new shotgun sucks though. Please bring back the pump. That being said, with some new weapons, and 343 updating newer ones and old classics later, this won’t be all we see. Fingers crossed. There are also some minor alterations to existing weapons, such as the DMR being reverted into the Commando, which I quite enjoyed the handle of.

Missing/Altered Armaments Courtesy of Reddit

But wait, Billy Mays, there’s more. Remember how cool Scarabs were? Not here. Want flyable Pelicans, or any two-seat airborne vehicle? Naw. Maybe I’m being persnickety, but I thought a franchise should build on its content and features, not strip them away. I miss the chaotic and massive Human-Covenant warzones. There are some big battles here, but nothing like the days of old. I drawback to my earlier fascination, with this being simultaneously the largest objectively, yet smallest feeling entry, subjectively. The scale of conflict just doesn’t feel there, though we see and hear the remnants of it. Offsetting this though, are some creative, and some not so creative bosses.

Oh, and I still hold a grudge for downgrading Halo‘s rating from M to Teen. The purging of Halo‘s near-bloodless battlefields doesn’t go unnoticed. All of that wrapped in a bow though considering what was provided at launch, alongside the content on offer as of writing is solid enough. I just wish it were more of a complete package. Drip feed is better than starving.

Controls & Gameplay

Next up we have controls. These settings (on PC) were accompanied with extensive room for tweaking on both Mouse & Keyboard and Controller. Sensitivities, Accelerations, Dead zones, button remapping: this is a AAA experience in the best of ways. Everything appeared rationally mapped right out of the gate. Controllers worked perfectly as expected.

Now, the most important section for a Halo game. How does it play? Pretty damn nice, if I do say so myself. With the removal of every Spartan being equipped with “Thrusters” naturally to their suits and this ability being nerfed and delegated to a consumable ability, combat has changed from 5. Gone are the days of shoulder charging, hovering, and ground-slamming, as if we didn’t notice the direct Destiny-rip. Whereas Chief can still sprint, you’re now outfitted with the handy (out-of-ideas) dandy grappling hook. On cooldown in Campaign, alongside the other abilities and with charges in MP, these abilities (some new, some old) shake up and turn the tides of combat in the form of scans, thrusters, shields, grappling hooks, etc.

Most of this equipment feels polished with a wide array of uses yet to be uncovered. From using the repulsor to bounce back grenades, heighten jumps, or regularly push enemies, there’s a multitude of strategies to employ. And while the hook does feel nice (I mean, real nice) it’s no Titanfall, and felt occasionally underutilized within its map & level design.

I also noticed the ADS (Aim Down Sights) mechanics had been slightly changed, with the zoom-in effect being a digital “helmet” zoom, rather than using a sight as sharply designed as in 5. This was incredibly disappointing, as the ADS effect is literally just a zoomed-in reticle. Another downgrade, for shame. Complaints aside, the gunplay is so, so, so smooth. Some of the weapons are simply effective classics. However, others feel like redesigned monsters. Take the Mauler for example; this once hand-held shotgun is now a slug throwing headshot beast.

The core gameplay loop of Infinite is that of a standard Halo game, taped to an open world. This works well enough, but do not come into this experience expecting anything more than “kill objectives”. Rarely, if ever, will goals shift from murdering everything and using a button/switch. Honestly, though, that’s fine for Halo as long as the gameplay is good enough to be retentive. And in my opinion, it is. Halo has always been an action-packed shoot-em-up non-stop adventure. I wouldn’t want to put that on hold for stealth sections, timetraps, and puzzles. Much like DOOM, all that is often required is kickass gunplay and activities to partake in. (Good story helps too). This is the best feeling Halo I’ve ever played, and that’s a testament.

Sound Design & Cinematics

The sound design and musical composition of Infinite is near flawless to my ears. I love the shield sounds, the rifle shots, the grunt one-liners. It’s all so perfect.

BUT, and I hate that there’s a but. But, much of the music sounds… the same? I love it, don’t get me wrong. But, it feels like we’ve been jamming to the same two-to-four tracks for 20 years now, and while I dig some nostalgia, I was also hoping for some fresh contributions. Give me something new to kill my eardrums with, that’s all I ask.

That aside, everything else sounds like genuine Halo, and that’s all I ask for. There’s a certain authenticity required to nail that Halo vibe, and they got it down. It just sounds right.

Cinematics are certainly one of 343’s strong points. To be honest, they’ve always seemed fans of form over function, but it really paid off here. These are some of the best and most immersive cinematics I’ve seen. Well done. Not only are these some of the most talented voice acting performances I’ve heard, but they also sync to the part and it comes together beautifully.

A++ in this section, truly commendable work. That shield audio still gives me chills.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, as of the time of writing, Infinite does not currently contain any form of co-op (online or couch) or forge mode. 343 has stated these will be patched in with future updates. Additionally, missions are not replayable through a mission select, so, to re-experience these, players must restart their campaign progress. Ouch. Plenty of features and content I feel have been stripped from the Halo experience and that had left me feeling disappointed once the honeymoon period wore off.

That being said, the accumulated merits of Infinite as a product should not be taken lightly. This IS a solid Halo experience for what it is. It just might not be what we all hoped. I hoped for grandeur, massive battles, and a scale unseen to match the open world. What I got was something more personal, something that wanted to lean in and whisper instead of drowning us with visual and audio stimuli. And why did Infinite choose to whisper? To make us listen.

In my humble opinion, this is without a doubt the best Halo experience that 343 has conceived thus far. I found this a far more enjoyable experience to 4 and/or 5, harkening back to the golden days – or at least closer to them. I think Halo: Infinite deserves a 7.8/10. While a part of me thinks it might deserve more, I can’t disregard the launch of an incomplete product being sold for full price. All things considered, I’m almost surprised 343 pulled it off. Kudos, this could have been a messy trainwreck.

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What did you think of Halo: Infinite? Let us know in the comments and if you liked this review, you can check out our Tales of Arise Review, If you’d like.


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Polished, Yet Incomplete
  • 7.8/10
    Score - 7.8/10
7.8/10

Overview

+ Shooting Feels Great + Visually Impressive – Feels Short – Performance Woes

PC Review Reviews