Halo Infinite: Campaign Hands-on Preview
To say that Halo Infinite’s road to launch has been rocky would be a bit of an understatement. From a much-maligned trailer to a 12-month delay, Xbox’s biggest brand has been through the wringer to get to this point. But thanks to a couple of well-received test flights the general feeling has been warming, there is hope again the Halo will once again rise to the top of the console shooter pile. But there is still one question hanging over the game, one that will make or brake the entire experience. That question is centred around the the campaign and how it is going to move the lore of Halo forward without upsetting the rabid fan base.
Well thanks to Microsoft, I now have a much firmer idea of what Halo Infinite will present with its story mode. I have been lucky enough to play through the first four hours or so of the game and it has given me a firm idea of what’s instore and let me tell you, things are looking pretty darn good. I am going to avoid all story beats here, so don’t be worried about spoilers, just know that the game picks up 18 months after the end of Halo 5’s sub-par campaign and through small slices, flash backs and exposition begins to fill in what happened after Cortana ascended to computer god hood.
Things kick off in, what is now the typical Halo fashion, fighting baddies on a spaceship. I was immediately thinking of the original Halo game, drawing parallels between the two and let me tell you that is a good thing. In fact the entire time I was playing I was constantly feeling that Infinite, in many ways, is something of a remake of the original title. There are some similar story beats including a strong sense of mystery and an almost palatable desire from the developers to make players feel the wonder that came with the original title. It creates the very real sensation that despite 20 years of Halo history behind me, I was almost playing the franchise for the first time again.
But don’t let this feeling confuse you, by no means is this a simple rehash of old ideas and gameplay. Despite the game giving the feeling of the first title, it has a host of new features that really change the way encounters are approached in-game. The first thing that immediately mixes things up is the grappling hook. This simple addition creates a battlefield that is much more vertical and mobile. Using the hook in conjunction with melee attacks is as satisfying as it sounds and it also allows players to both find height advantage and escape sticky situations quickly and efficiently. It is a wonderful addition to 117’s arsenal and mixes things up more than I thought was possible from the trailers. I can tell right now that there are going to be some amazing videos floating round the internet of top class players using the grappling hook in spectacular ways.
The second major change to things is the open-world portions of the game. These sections allow for exploration and the completion of side missions. Things like taking over bases, freeing human captives or taking out key targets are on offer and while they aren’t anything new for the genre, they are new for Halo and offer a nice respite between the tight, scripted missions that the franchise is known for. It really allows for some time to breath and the exploration pays off in wonderful ways, especially for people that like to dive deep into lore. There is a mystery here after all and everything you find in the world helps to make that mystery become just a little clearer.
I think it is fair to say that the biggest disappointment from the original reveal was the game’s graphics. This was supposed to be a cutting edge title and sadly it looked anything but. Well I am pleased to say it is a much better looking experience thanks to the delay. The environments are stunning, the enemies and character models are wonderfully detailed and the cinematics are top notch. While it isn’t the best looking game on the Series X (Forza Horizon 5 owns that spot) it is pretty close and it is exciting to see a game like this look so good this early in the new generation of consoles.
If I have learned one thing from my time with Halo Infinite it is that the Master Chief is back and back in a big way. The story has me hooked, the gameplay is both fresh yet comfortable and the world is a wonder to explore. This is really looking like the game that Halo fans have been looking for since 343 Studios took over the reins and only a monumental misfire could derail the game from here. One thing I know for sure is that I need more of this game and I can’t wait to fight my way to its conclusion.
Thankfully there is not much longer to wait.