**Spoilers alert – I will be mentioning some key plot points so back away now if you haven’t completed the Halo Infinite campaign.
I felt the game dragged out in certain points and ammo was a pain like previous Halo games, but the open world exploration was a great addition to the series.
Back in 2019, before Covid took over the world, I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the E3 Gre3n Carpet which was a special live screening of the Microsoft/Xbox E3 2019 showcase. You’re breathtaking! We were in a local cinema here in Perth, Western Australia at 4am in the morning and when the trailer for Halo Infinite dropped, I was enthralled. We saw a lone unknown pilot of a Pelican transport come across Master Chief floating in space. He manages to revive him but how did Master Chief get into that situation in the first place?
In Halo 5: Guardians, Master Chief chases down Cortana, his AI companion who suffered a heart wrenching death at the end of Halo 4. After hearing Cortana’s voice during an early mission in Halo 5, Master Chief goes AWOL with Blue Team to find her. Master Chief eventually discovers Cortana has gone rogue, uncovering plans to use the Guardians to shut down everything from Earth to the outer colonies. Cortana traps him and Blue Team in stasis but thankfully they’re rescued by Spartan Locke and Fireteam Osiris.
In the end, Master Chief is reunited with the Arbiter and Catherine Halsey, the scientist who created both Cortana and the Spartan program. Meanwhile on the UNSC Infinity, Cortana finds them and Lasky orders the ship to make a series of subspace jumps in an attempt to flee until they can find a way to fight back. In the legendary ending of Halo 5: Guardians, we see a Halo ring orbiting a planet and we now know that is Zeta Halo, the main location for Halo Infinite.
Being a game reviewer, we get the unique and privileged opportunity to play games before the worldwide release, and Halo Infinite was one of my most anticipated game releases of 2021. You can read about my first impressions here, but loading it up for the first time, I had this feeling of elation and realisation that I was playing something big. Despite 343 communicating well that there was no co-op, I still missed being able to play this story out with my best mates who we played the previous games in co-op together. Well the answer to Master Chief’s predicament comes straight away from the opening scene where he is brutally defeated by new protagonist Atriox and left floating in space. The pilot finds him, gets him back to operational status and Master Chief is straight into combat mode. Pilot: “You have one bullet against an entire army.” Master Chief: “It’s enough.”
Master Chief discovers he is holding an AI chip and upon inserting it into his helmet it reads, Weapon Containment Device. He sees an encrypted message of unknown origin emanating from Zeta Halo which we find out is an AI known only as The Weapon, but looks just like Cortana. Whilst looking and sounding the same, albeit with a much more chirpier voice and mannerisms, The Weapon was originally tasked with posing as a security system on Zeta Halo. She was programmed to delete the rogue Cortana and then delete herself, however the Weapon discovered that Cortana had already been deleted by an unknown source and she herself was spared.
We don’t know much about the pilot, and it turns out we don’t even learn his name until right near the end of the game – Fernando Esparza. He isn’t a soldier at all; he was just a volunteer contractor for the UNSC and was on the Infinity when the Banished attacked. I loved the relationship between the pilot and Master Chief, particularly when we had to rescue him from the clutches of Atriox’s second in command, Escharum. Escharum was Atriox’s old mentor and lead a group of deadly Spartan killers who we need to take down throughout Halo Infinite.
Prior to these major boss fights, we would come across the bodies of downed Spartan soldiers and, aside from learning new abilities such as the amazing grappling hook, it’s here where the voice acting of Steve Downes is on point. He doesn’t need to say much, if anything at all, but his arm on the fallen soldier’s soldier, the music and the slow zoom into his helmet tells the story and you feel the emotion, particularly when there’s mention of Cortana. The Weapon’s voice acting is great too by Jen Taylor, being slightly more upbeat than previous Cortana’s and particularly with some good one liner’s, clicking her fingers as she blows up a security gate or disables electronic security at various locations.
As the story unravels, we hear whispers from Cortana which are just the Weapon says are data fragments left behind. We’re not sure what they mean at first, but slowly we feel Cortana almost expressing guilt for what she’s done to Master Chief given their past relationship, and the ultimate consequences for the universe due to her actions. Eventually we discover the Weapon is an exact copy of Cortana, which is something that I had suspected from first meeting her. However from the Weapon’s point of view, she panics wondering if she herself will go rogue just like Cortana did.
We get a few revelations near the end of the Halo Infinite story. The Weapon discovers that it was Cortana herself that saved her from deletion and Cortana believes The Weapon has tonnes of potential, passing the mantle of looking out for Master Chief before fading away for good. Atriox mentions in a cutscene that he was to be seceeded by two lieutenants. We know one was Escharum but having defeated him, we do not know who else we may come across meaning there will be more story to come for Master Chief and Cortana 2.0. In saying that, The Weapon said she’s chosen a name for herself but doesn’t reveal it to us.
The credits rolled and I hung in there for the full bloody 22 minutes in fear of skipping any end credits scene. I was glad when we finally did get a scene teasing a new adversary. I only played the game on normal difficulty and struggled with getting killed a lot in some parts of the game. However, a quick YouTube search shows finishing the game on legendary difficulty gives us a bit more of a glimpse into the future of story elements. Atriox, who I assumed was dead, is seen freeing the Endless from their Cylixes. Interesting!
We are then put back onto Zeta Halo where we can finish off capturing any outposts, collecting POI’s we missed and rescuing any leftover squads at your own pace. As the story was over, it felt a bit strange and meaningless taking over the remaining POI’s as surely the enemy would know they’ve been vanquished. What would have been a good mechanic was the remaining enemies left on Zeta Halo could have tried to retake previously vanquished POI’s where it would give you a reason to set up some proper defenses like turrets or deploying UNSC squads to defend each site. That would give you some good extension to the single player gameplay loop rather than pushing us to multiplayer.
Given 343 Industries has stated this will be the last Halo game for many years and based on the end of Halo Infinite indicating there’s more to Master Chief and Cortana 2.0’s story, I wonder how we’ll be able to play that out. I know that the multiplayer scene and it’s season’s will give longevity to the game. I can only assume that we may get story DLC perhaps. If they could provide some semi-regular story chapters like how The Coalition did Gears 5: Hivebusters, that could be a good thing to look forward to. Regardless, I am hungry for more Master Chief story so will patiently await for more news.
Overall, I gave the campaign an 8.5/10. The events of Halo Infinite certainly round out the key story elements of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians for me. I loved the emotional hits that Master Chief takes, which has been a mainstay from across the series, and glad that Cortana redeemed herself with the Weapon taking up the mantle. I felt the game dragged out in certain points and ammo was a pain like previous Halo games, but the open world exploration was a great addition to the series. The main missions played out like classic Halo levels and the graphics and performance playing on PC were outstanding. Capturing POI’s on Zeta Halo was good fun, but once I got on the path of finishing the story, I skipped the rest of the POI’s and didn’t bother collecting all the spartan cores or armour skins. I was glad to have the ability to mop up those once I completed the story but felt there could be more pushback from the enemy who just lost their leader, like a new game+ difficulty step-up or something along those lines. I’m looking forward to when co-op story mode is added so I can take my mates through this fantastic campaign.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Xbox ANZ. Halo Infinite is out now on Steam and Xbox, with co-op campaign and the Forge coming sometime in 2022.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis