It’s… a very strange game. (Gaming)

by CruelLEGACEY @, Toronto, Friday, February 11, 2022, 10:45 (179 days ago) @ Cody Miller
edited by CruelLEGACEY, Friday, February 11, 2022, 10:56

The more I think about Halo Infinite, the more it confuses me. I would love to watch a hour-long BTS deep dive into its development, because I suspect there is quite a story to be told there. I’m not sure exactly where to start.

In some ways, it is exceptionally good and amazingly well polished. There are elements that feel like an incredible amount of time, care, and iteration went into really perfecting them. And at the same time, there are parts of the game that are so shockingly undercooked that it’s confusing to see these desperate elements in the same game.

One comparison I’d make is that it feels like The Library from Halo CE, but a whole game of that. I don’t think there is anything about the Library that is bad, per say. The combat encounters are fun and intense, the atmosphere is great, there’s a nice mix of tension building and explosive action. It’s just that there’s way too much and it’s all kind of the same so it just blurs together into a vague mush without enough unique highlight moments to justify its length.

Another, perhaps more accurate comparison I’d make is that Infinite feels to me like a AAA studio made a 2-3 hour proof of concept campaign with incredible production values, and then hit the copy/paste buttons to turn it into a 12-15 hour campaign. There’s so much and so little game there at the same time, if you get my meaning.

The feel of the combat is phenomenal IMO. Master Chief has never felt so fun to control for me. It all feels fluid and fast yet precise, nicely “modern” while still somehow feeling like “halo” the whole time. The grappling hook is a riot to use, and the various new mechanics involving it are excellent additions to the combat sandbox. I will say that I really don’t like most of the new weapons. Nearly all the covenant/banished weapons just don’t click with me in terms of looks or feel. But I really enjoy the human weapons. Not a harsh criticism, but a bit of a missed opportunity IMO.

The real problem for me comes down to the fact that the game gives you this amazing sandbox, and then has you facing the exact same kinds of encounter for 98% of the campaign. There’s shockingly little variety to the kinds of encounters you find yourself in. I look back at the first 3-4 hours of Halo 3, where you go from the Jungle to the more close quarters fighting in the UNSC base, to a sprawling warthog adventure across the plains, to an industrial complex with a mix of intense indoor swarms and epic outdoor anti-vehicular combat that climaxes in a mongoose fleet taking on a Scarab and it’s supporting aircraft. There’s like 5 times as much gameplay variety in that one portion of Halo 3 as there is in all of Infinite. The term “set piece” has a lot of negative connotations for some people, but I think the older Halo games delivered an incredible range of setpiece moments in the best possible sense of the term. Moments that stood out as unique or different in exciting and compelling ways, and begged to be replayed over and over. Infinite has very few of these moments… in fact, there are only 2 or 3 that come to mind when I look back at my campaign play through, and the rest of it is a monotonous blur. And those moments that do stand out are nowhere near as good as the 15-20 best moments from any of the original Halo games, IMO.

The open world is another big mixed bag. Now, I play a lot of open world games. So when I go into Halo Infinite, there is no “wow factor” to the novelty of having a huge open space to explore. If you’re a Halo fan who never plays open world games, this change might be more impactful to you. But for me, there’s nothing special or amazing about having an open world space to play in. More specifically, the open world in Infinite doesn’t feel as large as it technically is, because it’s all the same. It’s a very monotonous environment with the same small handful of structures and features replicated over and over, from one end to the next. On top of that, the mechanics of the open world are like a decade behind other open world games. Compared to any of the recent Assassin’s Creeds, Far Crys, heck, even GTA 4, the open world systems and mechanics feel incredibly hollow and sparse. Strangest of all is the fact that the open world does seem to have phenomenal potential for co-op fun, especially when you factor in the field bases where you can choose whatever vehicles and equipment you want and then head out into a mission. But, there’s no co-op, and no way to replay campaign missions other than starting a whole new campaign. We’ve been told these features are coming, but I just can’t understand how a Halo game shipped without these features. I remember how shocked many of us were when Destiny shipped with no theatre or forge modes… now basic elements like co-op and replayable missions are being treated like post-launch support.

And yet, despite all these criticisms, I still enjoyed playing through the campaign because the combat is so damn good, and the presentation is so fantastic. But once I hit the ~3 hour mark, I was very much ready for the game to add something or surprise me in some way or take a detour in another direction, and it just never does. And the more time that goes by without me playing it, the less desire I have to go back. The multiplayer is mechanically fun, but there are amazingly few maps or modes, and 343 completely shit the bed when it comes to the progression/unlocks features, so much so that the player population has already tanked.

Finally, I won’t get into the story much, but I’ll say that I enjoyed some elements of it, but overall it didn’t land for me. There are some technical storytelling reasons for this (which I won’t go into here), but above all else, the characters were a big miss for me. The vast majority of the game focuses on only 3 characters (including Chief)… I thought one of those characters was fine, one was a bit annoying, and the 3rd was so fucking unbearable that I wanted to blast him into space and out of the game within the first hour, and it never gets any better. So that made it really tough for me to get invested in what was happening.

Overall, I think it’s definitely worth playing. In part because there’s some genuinely great fun to be had, and in part because it’s just such a strange game :)

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