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Is Infinite… canon? (Gaming)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 10:20 (199 days ago)

I want to hear about it from you guys here. I haven't played it. I want to believe.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 10:26 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I want to hear about it from you guys here. I haven't played it. I want to believe.

It's my favorite Halo, purely because it actually delivers on what I thought the promise of the OG halo was, an awesome shooter set in a wide open world.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by cheapLEY @, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 10:39 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I like it. The actual shooting and movement and the part where you play is the best Halo has ever felt, full stop.

The story is fine. I like how they handled most of it, but I have mixed feelings on the ending.

I need to play more to really evaluate the open world. I don’t think it’s super additive, but after doing the first island, I ignored the open world and mainlined the campaign missions. Maybe there’s good stuff there that I didn’t see, but I wasn’t impressed by what I did experience. It just wasn’t compelling or particularly fun to navigate, and it most seemed like there wasn’t much to justify its existence.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by bluerunner @, Music City, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 11:32 (199 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I need to play more to really evaluate the open world. I don’t think it’s super additive, but after doing the first island, I ignored the open world and mainlined the campaign missions. Maybe there’s good stuff there that I didn’t see, but I wasn’t impressed by what I did experience. It just wasn’t compelling or particularly fun to navigate, and it most seemed like there wasn’t much to justify its existence.

My only complaint is that there needs to be more variety. I would like things like randomly roaming high value targets and "enemies are moving against each other" moments.

Rolling around with my death squad of heavily armed marines is fun, even if it does make some open world stuff trivial. But if I want harder I can just leave them at the FOB. The squad size seems to be limited to 5 marines, but I wonder how that will work with coop. Ten marines with volatile skewers and arcane sentinel beams would steamroll everything.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by cheapLEY @, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 11:57 (199 days ago) @ bluerunner

I need to play more to really evaluate the open world. I don’t think it’s super additive, but after doing the first island, I ignored the open world and mainlined the campaign missions. Maybe there’s good stuff there that I didn’t see, but I wasn’t impressed by what I did experience. It just wasn’t compelling or particularly fun to navigate, and it most seemed like there wasn’t much to justify its existence.


My only complaint is that there needs to be more variety. I would like things like randomly roaming high value targets and "enemies are moving against each other" moments.

Rolling around with my death squad of heavily armed marines is fun, even if it does make some open world stuff trivial. But if I want harder I can just leave them at the FOB. The squad size seems to be limited to 5 marines, but I wonder how that will work with coop. Ten marines with volatile skewers and arcane sentinel beams would steamroll everything.

For me it’s just that the open world never paid off. I never got the Scorpion crossing the bridge in New Mombasa moment, nothing even close to the Halo 3 Scarab battles, not even anything remotely as engaging as the level Halo. There’s so much potential and room to have those encounters, but they just don’t do anything with it.

Maybe the players can force those moments to happen, but I honestly doubt anything in Infinite really comes close to any of those.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by Vortech @, A Fourth Wheel, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 12:16 (199 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I haven't played it but this was my assumption when I heard about the open world thing. To me Halo is defined by the way they were able to take an interactive medium and still provide narrative scripting in the experience. Really that's the miracle of Halo for me.

Well in terms of campaign, anyhow. I'm very interested in Infinite's multiplayer, but I still have not booted the game, so I guess not as excited as I think I am?

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Forgot to mention:

by cheapLEY @, Sunday, January 23, 2022, 08:07 (198 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I legitimately hate how the open world works. It feels like GTA 3. You can’t actually explore until you reach the point where the game opens up the next section. There are invisible barriers separating sections. The really dumb thing is they don’t even go away after you have everything unlocked—you either have to be in a flying vehicle (which deactivates the barriers), or cross at the preset bridges.

It’s legitimately the worst way to design and open world. The best open worlds are ones where you can freely explore and end up in areas you are definitely not upgraded enough for.

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Forgot to mention:

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, January 23, 2022, 09:11 (198 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I legitimately hate how the open world works. It feels like GTA 3. You can’t actually explore until you reach the point where the game opens up the next section. There are invisible barriers separating sections. The really dumb thing is they don’t even go away after you have everything unlocked—you either have to be in a flying vehicle (which deactivates the barriers), or cross at the preset bridges.

It’s legitimately the worst way to design and open world. The best open worlds are ones where you can freely explore and end up in areas you are definitely not upgraded enough for.

Yes. See: Breath of the Wild.

Open world is pretty hard to get right, and you can't just transpose an action FPS game onto it without though and modification.

Forgot to mention:

by EffortlessFury @, Sunday, January 23, 2022, 10:17 (198 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I will say that I think BotW is a bit overrated. It's open world design definitely has some unique ideas but there are also some serious flaws for people who aren't enthralled by its pros. This isn't a defense of Infinite's structure, just specifically a comment on BotW; I don't think BotW is the gold standard.

Is Infinite… canon?

by EffortlessFury @, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 13:05 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I greatly enjoyed it. I like the open world enough that I've nearly 100%'d every activity and collectible. However, others' observations that it's not particularly dense or meaningful are generally well-founded, and the game never really does big set piece moments. That said, taking into consideration the troubled dev cycle and COVID, I'd say it was a solid first attempt, and I ultimately still had fun. Future single player content definitely needs to refine the concept.

Narratively I'm almost entirely satisfied. It also suffers from not having as much depth as it could've, and I suspect cuts also affected this area as much as it did the open world mechanics. I don't have a problem with how stripped back the narrative was compared to previous titles as I view this as an opportunity to relayer the foundations.

I'd say it's definitely worth a Game Pass trial (or even a regular month at $10) and your time, if for no other reason than to evaluate it yourself.

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Is Infinite… canon?

by Revenant1988 ⌂ @, How do I forum?, Saturday, January 22, 2022, 18:03 (199 days ago) @ Cody Miller

It's a ton of fun!

The story is OK (which is pretty high praise for 343 at this point) and I think they did the best they could with the metaphorical corner they painted themselves into with H5.

The enemies look\sound great and are fun to shoot at. They finally got the art style right on all of them. The weapon sandbox is good overall, vehicles could use some work in areas. The grapple ability is just so much fun, everywhere, all the time. Fun for the sake of fun. I could throw fusion coils at enemies all day.

The world is really fun to explore and full of tons of details and easter eggs. I love the atmosphere when it turns from day to night (pro tip, lower the default brightness settings and see what I mean!). The biome does get repetitive after a bit. Replay value is yet to be seen, but I think it will get better once they get the actual missions to be selectable to play on the fly.

One thing I've always really enjoyed in all of Bungie's Halos, is changing up how I play an encounter just for the no-strings attached fun that it is (that might be "what if I tried this encounter without using X weapons, or only went on foot?*) and the FOBs & Banished facilities would be PERFECT for that kind of replay... but I can't do that unless I start up a whole new campaign. The game does suffer because of this. Remember, these aren't the missions, but the little mini-missions you can do in the open world. I'd love to see a game mechanic where the Banished actively try to take back a FOB that I captured, that would be pretty cool.

Whatever plans they have for expanding campaign\open world consider me interested!

MP is fun too (with blemishes of course) but topic for another time.

---------------------


*True story, replayed H2 campaign on MCC a few months ago and on the Delta Halo mission (the one with "kicking ass in outerspace, wish you were here" line) I decided to skip taking the warthog. In all the time I've played, I never did that before. Doing so, when I came to the area where you need to extend the bridge (a wraith is on one side and you get a scorpion drop) I went on foot around the perimeter and found some dead ODSTs and a sniper rifle that I never knew were there. Blew my mind, 18 years later!

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by ManKitten, The Stugotz is strong in me., Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 06:19 (195 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I'm obviously the minority here then. I was/am pretty disappointed on most aspects of the campaign.

The story was "meh" to me. The goals of the antagonist were shallow and there didn't seem to be any stakes.

Missions seemed stale and repetitive. They built a beautiful open world, then used it for the missions of "go here and blow this up. Now go here and blow this up." The multiple boss battles were annoying to me. If you didn't have the right weapons, it was just a bunch of constantly running away and pecking away at the bosses life meter. You either won, or died and started over gradually increasing with each attempt.

I never used a warthog. I got it one early on and it seemed to tip over with the slightest bump. It was more frustrating than anything.

There is no campaign co-op yet. There is no mission replay yet. If you want to replay a campaign mission, you have to start a new campaign, and run the whole thing in order.

After one week, I had beaten the campaign and found all of the open world collectibles (that were available outside of campaign missions.)

One of the most fun vehicles is the hornet. It's fun to fly around shooting bad guys...wait...nope, two random banshees just spawned next to you and grief you until your hornet is destroyed.

It definitely seems like they got the campaign portion of the game to a point of "ok...it's at least playable. We can release it and add/patch things as we go."

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 10:23 (195 days ago) @ ManKitten

I haven't touched a Halo game since… 2015 when Halo 5 came out, as I played the campaign once. I think my eyes will be as fresh as most.

I'm ready to believe, but just want to see what's there to offer.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by narcogen ⌂ @, Andover, Massachusetts, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 06:51 (194 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I haven't touched a Halo game since… 2015 when Halo 5 came out, as I played the campaign once. I think my eyes will be as fresh as most.

I'm ready to believe, but just want to see what's there to offer.

Same here.

Cautiously optimistic. Waiting for the co-op.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 09:16 (194 days ago) @ narcogen

I haven't touched a Halo game since… 2015 when Halo 5 came out, as I played the campaign once. I think my eyes will be as fresh as most.

I'm ready to believe, but just want to see what's there to offer.


Same here.

Cautiously optimistic. Waiting for the co-op.

Waiting for an Xbox to borrow lol

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by narcogen ⌂ @, Andover, Massachusetts, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 09:48 (194 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I haven't touched a Halo game since… 2015 when Halo 5 came out, as I played the campaign once. I think my eyes will be as fresh as most.

I'm ready to believe, but just want to see what's there to offer.


Same here.

Cautiously optimistic. Waiting for the co-op.


Waiting for an Xbox to borrow lol

Wait, are they only launching co-op on console?

Because I literally don't have access to an Xbox anymore.

I assumed co-op would just be in the Steam version when the mode launches.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 09:58 (194 days ago) @ narcogen

I haven't touched a Halo game since… 2015 when Halo 5 came out, as I played the campaign once. I think my eyes will be as fresh as most.

I'm ready to believe, but just want to see what's there to offer.


Same here.

Cautiously optimistic. Waiting for the co-op.


Waiting for an Xbox to borrow lol


Wait, are they only launching co-op on console?

Because I literally don't have access to an Xbox anymore.

I assumed co-op would just be in the Steam version when the mode launches.

I don't know. But I can't exactly run windows on an M1 Macbook Pro.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 07:20 (194 days ago) @ ManKitten

I'm obviously the minority here then. I was/am pretty disappointed on most aspects of the campaign.

I dunno, I think there'll be more people agreeing with you than expected. This was pretty major change from past Halo campaigns.

The story was "meh" to me. The goals of the antagonist were shallow and there didn't seem to be any stakes.

The goals of the antagonist were solid and straightforward for a Halo. Not saying it was great, just it met my expectations and gave me a solid thread to follow while other _mysterious_ stuff happened in the periphery.

Missions seemed stale and repetitive. They built a beautiful open world, then used it for the missions of "go here and blow this up. Now go here and blow this up."

They felt like forerunner/brute themed palate cleansers that balanced out my joyriding.

The multiple boss battles were annoying to me. If you didn't have the right weapons, it was just a bunch of constantly running away and pecking away at the bosses life meter. You either won, or died and started over gradually increasing with each attempt.

As far as FPS boss fights go, I thought they worked well because they caused me to get creative with all of the equipment and it was one of the rare situations where I was frantically pulling weapons off the rack and trying to make the most of them.

I never used a warthog. I got it one early on and it seemed to tip over with the slightest bump. It was more frustrating than anything.

This where I just feel like my experience differs from you so strongly. I spent MOST of my time in the game in a warthog (unless I was indoors). I mastered getting my warthog full of laser wielding clowns into the most unlikely places and it just was hilarious. I felt like I was on a proper adventure, gearing up at an outpost, getting a crew together and heading out to raise hell. That general feeling is something Halos of the past hinted at but this one delivered.

You've got some valid points, I just think this game _resonated_ with me in a special way.

...rolls a grenade into the room...

by EffortlessFury @, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 16:03 (194 days ago) @ kidtsunami

This where I just feel like my experience differs from you so strongly. I spent MOST of my time in the game in a warthog (unless I was indoors). I mastered getting my warthog full of laser wielding clowns into the most unlikely places and it just was hilarious. I felt like I was on a proper adventure, gearing up at an outpost, getting a crew together and heading out to raise hell. That general feeling is something Halos of the past hinted at but this one delivered.

You've got some valid points, I just think this game _resonated_ with me in a special way.

While I think it's fair to say that the core narrative was a bit thin on character portrayals (particularly Banished characters) and quite thin on plot, I imagine it would've been denser in both regards if 2/3rds of the game hadn't been cut. That said, I felt like the story telling was my favorite since Halo 2 and the gameplay is going to be uniquely appealing. If you can find the fun, it's fun. If you can't find fun that works for you, it's not. I think they can improve on that so it's a better experience for everyone across the board, but it definitely fulfilled some of the promise that Halo has never been able to fulfill, if those aspects interested you.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by cheapLEY @, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 17:37 (194 days ago) @ EffortlessFury

I find myself wishing it had been paced differently somehow.

After doing almost everything I could on the first island, I mainlined the campaign missions and did basically nothing else in the open world. I think I would have resented being forced to have campaign progress gated behind clearing out FOBs or something, but not doing the open world stuff definitely left the campaign missions all feeling pretty much the same. I really found myself missing the variety of environments and art present in most of the other Halo games. Integrating the overworld a bit more may have helped that. But it’s probably not an easy challenge to make it feel integrated without also making it feel tedious. Like I said, it would have felt really bad to have to do random open world objectives between missions or something.

I can see the potential here, and I hope they find good ways to capitalize and expand on it. But I think I will always just prefer the galaxy spanning adventures of the previous Halo games. Not having to have the world be a big cohesive space allows for so much more potential in the spaces we can visit and play in (given the same amount of dev time and resources—they could have had more variety in a world like we got, but it would have probably been a massive amount of more work). I just find myself thinking about Halo 2 or 3, or even Halo 5 and all their varied design and wishing we had something more like that.

I still intend on doing another play through and doing more open world activities, but I’m not sure when that will happen.

...rolls a grenade into the room...

by EffortlessFury @, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 19:59 (194 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I find myself wishing it had been paced differently somehow.

After doing almost everything I could on the first island, I mainlined the campaign missions and did basically nothing else in the open world. I think I would have resented being forced to have campaign progress gated behind clearing out FOBs or something, but not doing the open world stuff definitely left the campaign missions all feeling pretty much the same. I really found myself missing the variety of environments and art present in most of the other Halo games. Integrating the overworld a bit more may have helped that. But it’s probably not an easy challenge to make it feel integrated without also making it feel tedious. Like I said, it would have felt really bad to have to do random open world objectives between missions or something.

And see I really enjoyed going off the beaten path to do everything on a whim. It's definitely pulling from BotW there (and at least it's not "korok seed" type stuff) and IIRC I heard that was an intentional part of the design.

I can see the potential here, and I hope they find good ways to capitalize and expand on it. But I think I will always just prefer the galaxy spanning adventures of the previous Halo games. Not having to have the world be a big cohesive space allows for so much more potential in the spaces we can visit and play in (given the same amount of dev time and resources—they could have had more variety in a world like we got, but it would have probably been a massive amount of more work). I just find myself thinking about Halo 2 or 3, or even Halo 5 and all their varied design and wishing we had something more like that.

While I totally understand the loss felt by reducing the variety of locations in each game, there's another side to that where having so many locations in one game means each location can feel a bit more artificial, as you're being funneled through very specific areas semi-linearly. I like how a larger, persistent space makes the ring feel more like a real place. Yes, that does mean variety goes down if they only ever introduce one biome at a time, but theoretically in the long run there'll be a variety of larger sized biomes to explore, and I'd prefer that to only getting to explore unique spaces for 15-20 minutes and then they're gone.

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...rolls a grenade into the room...

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Friday, January 28, 2022, 02:35 (193 days ago) @ EffortlessFury

Would've loved to see a place I can go to up on the skybox, though...

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+1 on UNSC Enterprise

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Thursday, January 27, 2022, 19:43 (194 days ago) @ kidtsunami

- No text -

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It’s… a very strange game.

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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It’s… a very strange game.

by cheapLEY @, Friday, February 11, 2022, 12:11 (179 days ago) @ CruelLEGACEY

That’s a very good summary that I completely agree with.

I’d like to hear some more of your thoughts on the story, because I still haven’t worked out exactly how I feel about it. I didn’t hate the pilot as much as everyone else seems to have, mostly because I felt absolutely nothing about him.

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It’s… a very strange game.

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Friday, February 11, 2022, 12:40 (179 days ago) @ cheapLEY

That’s a very good summary that I completely agree with.

I’d like to hear some more of your thoughts on the story, because I still haven’t worked out exactly how I feel about it. I didn’t hate the pilot as much as everyone else seems to have, mostly because I felt absolutely nothing about him.

Just post spoiler alerts when you do. I'll be playing through at the end of the month, and would like all my opinions to be unbiased. I'll read em after of course.

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Everyone else???

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Friday, February 11, 2022, 14:45 (179 days ago) @ cheapLEY

I didn’t hate the pilot as much as everyone else seems to have, mostly because I felt absolutely nothing about him.

Y'all are absolutely insane. This dude is the best!

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Story thoughts (FULL OF HALO INFINITE SPOILERS)

by CruelLEGACEY @, Toronto, Friday, February 11, 2022, 15:00 (179 days ago) @ cheapLEY
edited by CruelLEGACEY, Friday, February 11, 2022, 15:11

That’s a very good summary that I completely agree with.

I’d like to hear some more of your thoughts on the story, because I still haven’t worked out exactly how I feel about it. I didn’t hate the pilot as much as everyone else seems to have, mostly because I felt absolutely nothing about him.

I should start by saying that in general, I’m pretty darn sick of the whole “soft reboot” story model. By “soft reboot” I’m talking about stories like The Force Awakens or Ghost Busters Afterlife or Matrix Resurrection where they are technically a continuation of the franchise, but simultaneously a recycling of the same basic plot of the original. In other words, remakes disguised as sequels. I get why they exist and I don’t think they’re inherently bad, but it’s just so overdone at this point I’m burned out on it.

All that to say, I was tilted slightly against the direction of Halo Infinite’s basic story right from the start, because it is very clearly a soft reboot, although only in the broad sense. That’s not really a “fault”, just a personal preference of mine.

That said, I’m fine with the basic overall plot of Infinite. I think it’s fine. I found it to be very safe, and a retreading of the same concepts we’ve already dealt with earlier in the franchise, but that’s fine. When it comes to video game stories, I care most of all about how they work to direct and inform the gameplay experience. Do I always know where I am, where I’m going, and why I’m doing it? Do I have a clear understanding of the relevant motivations and stakes? That sort of thing, I LOVE when video game stories go above and beyond those more functional factors, but as long as those bases are covered, I’m happy with it.

In that regard, I think Infinite’s story works… mostly. There are some strange technical choices that really derail my investment in the character motivations. Not a lot of them, but they’re major enough that it sucked the wind out of the story’s emotional push for me. The first big thing was the encounter with Atriox right near the start. He did the same dumbass thing that Saturday morning cartoon villains have been doing for decades, where he has the hero totally beaten and could have killed him a dozen different ways, but for no justifiable reason he lets him live. I mean, it’s such a cliche that Austin Powers was making fun of it 20 years ago. These are the kinds of small details that seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but I’m at the very start of this new game and I’m already rolling my eyes at what a dumbass the big bad villain is, and how cliche this encounter between him and chief is. The immersion is already damaged for me, because I just can’t believe that the leader of such a powerful and threatening force would be so stupid.

But whatever, that happens, and now at the very least we have a dynamic in place where this dude kicked Chief’s ass and we really want to get some payback. So I’m thinking “hey, that’s cool, we’ve established a villain and I’m really looking forward to hunting him down and getting some payback. Awesome”. Aaaaaaaand then just a tiny bit later we learn that Atriox died “off camera” and one of his henchmen is running the show now. And now Eacharum is talking shit at us and I have no idea who he is or what he’s like, and I can only assume he’s not as much of a badass as Atriox was because he wasn’t in charge while Atriox was still alive. So just like that, the emotional drive which had been established just a few minutes earlier is wiped away, and I’m left not really caring about the new villain. Like yeah, I know he’s bad, and I know I’ll fight him and beat him eventually, but there’s just no emotional weight behind it for me. And yeah I know things with Atriox aren’t that simple and they’re building towards future stuff, but I’m talking about the story that we have right now in this game. IMO undercutting the cohesion of the story that’s happening right now in service of stories that are coming down the road is… not ideal.

From here, the plot of the game is a perfectly serviceable series of “gotta go here to do X and then here to get Y” kind of thing. The more important factor for the middle bulk of the game is the characters. As I alluded to before, there really only are 3 characters of note for most of the game, and their chemistry just didn’t work for me most of the time. Chief was fine IMO. I do find it slightly cringy any time they try to “humanize” him, because I find they go just a bit too far. The reason i latched on to Chief in Halo CE and got attached to him was because he was cool, calm, and confident to such a comical extreme, it was absurd. When you’re in the escape pod after fleeing the Pillar of Autumn and it’s hurtling towards the surface of the first Halo ring and the descent/landing gear is all malfunctioning and the pilot is screaming and Chief just casually says “we’ll be fine” without even sitting down… and then he just walks away from the crash like it was nothing! Those moments are hilarious and ridiculous and badass to a comical extreme. But that’s who chief is. He’s invincible, and he fucking knows it. And Johnson knew it, and Keys knew it, and every marine that ever saw him knew it. I understand they’re trying to explore what it’s like for chief to face failure, but I just don’t buy into the sudden long, sorrow-filled moments of silence as he looks down at a dead Spartan or thinks about Cortana. It’s too much. And then there’s the Pilot’s non-stop “you’re crazy chief! This is nuts! I won’t do this! You’re going to get us both killed!”. It made me think of Avengers Infinity War, where Thor gets his ass kicked at the start of the movie, then goes and gets himself a new weapon and returns to earth right in the middle of the battle at Wakanda. Bruce sees him and instantly yells “you guys are so screwed now!” THAT is the kind of triumphant reaction that a hero’s presence should illicit from others. Can you imagine if Thor showed up and Banner just started saying “Thor you’ve gotta get out of here, this is suicide man! What are you doing?!?”. Now imagine that’s all Banner said for the next 12 hours! Man, I fucking hate the pilot, lol. I just don’t know what they were going for with him. It’s not even a question of him being too much over time… I remember like 2 years ago, when we got that first trailer which was just a portion of the early cutscene between Chief and the Pilot, I said to Claude “oh great, just what Chief needs… a fucking annoying sidekick” lol. He’s just instantly and eternally annoying to me, to the point where I was reeeeally hoping the story would take a darker turn and actually kill him off, rather than just threatening it.

I found the weapon to be off-putting a lot of the time as well. I never hated her the way I hated the Pilot. Sometimes I even liked her. But I just don’t like the way they decided to portray her “youth” like a kind of ditsy stupidity. Not a big deal, but given who she’s functionally replacing, it’s hard not to miss Cortana circa Halo 1-3. She was just such a perfect balance of clear-headed insight with little hints of curiosity and a slightly mischievous, dry sense of humour. (Side note, I LOVE the way the Weapon looks. I mean, I’d rather put up a poster of Halo 4 Cortana in my high school locker, but The Weapon is my favourite “next gen” representation of an AI hologram in any of 343’s Halo games. She looks the way my brain imagined Halo CE Cortana would look “in real life”).

I know I’m harping on a lot about these character relationships, but they’re just such a huge part of our time with the game, I find it to be pretty important. But there’s another technical storytelling choice that I found a bit odd. I’m not sure how I feel about the way “mystery” and “discovery” were handled in this game. Specifically, we the player spend much of the game wanting to learn things that Chief actually knows already. When he finally reveals these details, he’s revealing them to us as much as anything. It makes me relate more with other characters (specifically The Weapon) over the Chief. I almost feel like Chief isn’t actually the main character of this game, in a technical sense. It’s more The Weapon’s story. In a vacuum, I’m good with that. She’s more interesting than chief is to me anyway. But there’s a strange disconnect that I kept feeling because the mysteries I was trying to figure out were not what Chief was working to figure out.

As far as the ending goes, it felt to me like something was missing. I don’t really understand how Cortana went from being the biggest threat in the galaxy at the end of Halo 5 to bring so vulnerable that Atriox was a genuine threat to her. I’m sure it’s covered in one of the novels, but as someone who is just going from Halo 5 to Infinite, it felt like a retcon. Like “we need this to happen to get the plot where we want it to be” rather than a natural and believable progression of the characters and situation. Same with Cortana’s change of heart. It just didn’t feel natural or justified to me. Who knows, could just be me missing something. I will say I had another little “eye roll” moment at the end when they ask the Weapon what her name should be, and she looks at chief and asks “would it be ok?” or something like that and he nods and says “you get to choose your name”, so she turns to the camera and says “alright… well I know exactly what I want my name to be” (or something to that effect) and the Pilot just laughs and says “great!” and then goes and sits in his chair, when his reaction should have been “ok… well, what is it?”. But the dialogue wasn’t actually written like characters talking to each other, it was characters talking to the audience. Again, very Saturday morning cartoon, which I’m totally fine with, it the whole game is going for that tone. But they seem to be going for a heavier, more mature tone and feel with this game… I just don’t think the writing lines up with the mood that’s being presented. I’d love to see them pick a direction and lean into it. If they’re going to go all earnest and serious, the script needs to follow suit. If they want to go more cartoonish and cheesy (which I’d actually prefer) they need to lean into the cheese with a bit of a grin and a wink to the audience, like Halo 1-3 did.

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Warning: Long. Some spoilers, some BTS

by Quirel, Friday, February 11, 2022, 23:48 (178 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Is Infinite canon?

*drums fingers on his desk*

From a story point of view, I think that Infinite is a very poor story with decent presentation. If I had to put numbers to it, I'd say that Infinite's story is a 5/10 with a *very* wide standard of deviation. Some moments are top notch, and other moments are pure cringe, and it feels like a third of a game stretched out into two thirds or maybe even four fifths of a game.

Because it pretty much is.

Keep in mind that some of this is speculation, but it's no secret that Infinite's development got rebooted in 2018 or so. And one of the recent Halo novels, which was released in 2020, is about Blue Team scrambling around on Reach, fighting the Banished, defending colonists and searching the ruins of CASTLE Base for something that is hinted to be the spare clone brains that Halsey mentioned in her journal. That clone brain was obviously used to make the Weapon. In a perfect world, this probably would have been the first third or the first half of Infinite, with the Banished boarding of the Infinity taking place halfway through the game.

I don't know if a complete Halo: Infinite would have been a good story, but IMO it would have been a *better* story because there'd be less of the Weapon and the Pilot. Or at least there would be more to the story than those two.

The problem with the Weapon and the Pilot isn't that they're bad characters. There's not anything inherently bad about them like there was with Captain Del Rio*. The problem is that... well, imagine if Halo: Combat Evolved deleted Captain Keyes and Sergeant Johnson from existence. That just leaves Cortana and Foehammer, and this hypothetical game fills the void with their personal drama. Foehammer was fine the way she was presented in the original game, but there would be nothing wrong with adding lines of her being apprehensive about being stranded on Halo, and lamenting that she lost everyone she cared about on Reach.** But when you fill level after level with that plotline in pursuit of a more character-driven story, the result is a bland, one-note mess.

There really needed to be a Sergeant Johnson and a Captain Keyes in this game. Or, in the interests of branching out and not telling the same story all over again, give us an Ellen Anders or a Colonel Quartich or some other character archetypes to play with. Give me a hardass major who'll fight the Banished with sticks, a rock, and a private if that's all he has. Give me a fresh-faced lieutenant who's sorry to have missed the Human-Covenant War.

Lasky and Halsey and (I think) Locke and Blue team make an appearance in the data pads, but they have zero presence in the story. And there is an additional Spartan character in the multiplayer and tutorials, but she's a bad reaction to Sarah Palmer. She's so kind and motherly, she doesn't feel like an officer. I realize that Sarah Palmer was criticized for being a brash asshole, but completely reversing the formula doesn't work.***

As for the villains... meh. It's standard 343i writing. Once is an example, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. The main villain sits in his throne room for the whole game, throwing taunts and legions of mooks at you.

As far as villainry in Halo goes, I think that the gold standard for writing and presentation is going to be Halo 2 and Halo 3, because the main villain had clear goals and he took clear steps to achieving those goals

-Recover the Sacred Icon
-Sideline the Elites
-Fire the rings
-Ascend to godhood

The Prophet of Truth taunted us exactly once, because he had bigger things to worry about. Every other time we communicated with the Hierarchs, it was a natural and organic part of the story. IE, it happened because the Master Chief was crashing their party.

Escharum's plan is simple:

-Goad the Chief into fighting him in hand to hand combat.
-Go out in a blaze of glory.
-That's it.

OK. That's a little harsh. Escharum's beef with the Master Chief is really what the campaign is built around, but he does have other goals. An honest assessment of Escharum's goals are:

-Repair the Halo ring.
-Wipe out the remnants of the UNSC, or at least prevent the survivors from stopping him.
-Take revenge for Doisac by firing Zeta Halo at Earth, using that nifty cone-shaped Halo blast effect mentioned in the Forerunner novels.
-Fight the Chief and go out in a blaze of glory.

The problem is, the presentation of the goals is pretty lackluster. There's statues where Atriox boasts that the Banished won because they are strong, and they are strong because they are strong, and they don't need the Covenant or gods. Escharum has holograms where he boasts about how the Banished are strong and they are honoring Atriox by following the will of Atriox, and Zeta Halo is going to be used against Earth.

The Banished are so much better when you learn that Cortana apocalypse'd Doisac. The Brute homeworld is gone. The whole reason why the Banished are beating their chests like a legion of howler monkeys is because they came from behind and ganked Cortana****. The reason why they're repairing Zeta Halo and going after Earth is because Earth created smart AI and unleashed Cortana on the galaxy. Frankly, I'd be pissed too.

But this is left until a late-game reveal. Seriously, if you learn that Doisac is gone and you haven't already grabbed all the upgrades you want, you're kind of screwed, because you're locked into the endgame. But because this reveal is so late in the game, Atriox and Escharum and the Banished have nothing of substance to talk about. But they'll talk anyway, and they'll do it over and over and over, because Halo Infinite is a third of a game stretched out into a full game. That's the tragedy of this game. There's the bones of a good story in there, but because of development issues, it's buried under a lot of padding.

Note that I think this is a quantum improvement over Halo 4 and 5, which were just plain bad stories.

Infinite has a lot of strengths, and if 343i can keep an even keel, I think that they'll start producing some very good games. For one thing, the Covenant races are back as primary antagonists. Brutes, Elites, Grunts and Jackals have potential to be compelling villains (Or allies) in a way that undead Forerunner killbots don't.

Likewise, Marines are back in a way that they weren't in Halo 4 and Halo 5. Not only that, but the UNSC and the Banished have that familiar look to them, even though the Banished are their own faction with distinct technology.

I guess Infinite's biggest strength is that it feels like a Halo game made by a different company than Bungie, rather than a different game developer using the Halo brand to do its own thing. It reminds me of Halo Wars in a way. That's why I'm looking forward to seeing where 343i goes next.

Infinite's biggest weakness is vagueness and pacing. The pacing is largely because of how much story content was cut, but... well, I think if 343i had written Halo 3, the first half would have gone like this:

Master Chief: What's going on?
Miranda Keyes: Truth's here, on Earth. We don't know why, but whatever it is, it's bad.

One mission later:
Miranda Keyes: We just got word! Truth is here, in Africa!
Master Chief: What's he doing?
Miranda Keyes: Good question.

One mission later:
Master Chief: Where are all those ships going?
Miranda Keyes: Truth is digging something up.
Master Chief: Digging up what?
Miranda Keyes: Something big. And ancient.

Later that same mission:
Master Chief: OK, I've plugged into the Covenant battlenet. What are the Covenant saying?
Miranda Keyes: Oh, no! This could be the Ark! Truth might be trying to fire the rings!

Yet another mission later:
Truth: *Opens the portal*
Miranda Keyes: Now I understand. This wasn't the Ark, it was a portal to the Ark. Let's go!

Halo 3 pulls off the same bait-and-switch with the portal under Voi, but it does it in two steps: First the exposition in Crow's Nest that sets up the excavation and hints that it's the Ark, and then the actual opening of the portal.

Infinite has a problem with pacing caused by all the padding needed to turn the Zeta Halo levels into a full game, but it's still frustrating to plug the Weapon into a terminal only to hear that the Banished are up to something, or that the data she found feels old and somehow lonely. It's trying to push a mystery too far, and it's a trend in all the 343i games so far.

Halo 4 was a slowly unravelling mystery as to what Requiem was and what was calling in the UNSC Infinity. Halo 5 was a slowly unravelling mystery (but not the one that was advertised!) as to what Cortana was up to, how she survived, who are the Guardians, why is the Warden Eternal, when is the Warden Eternal?

Infinite tried to make a mystery out of why the Banished wanted to sterilize Earth, and what happened with Cortana, and what the Harbinger is after. This led to encounter after encounter with the Banished talking circumspectly about what happened to Atriox, and Cortana and the Forerunner monitor referring to the Endless with oblique references.

Halo games have mystery and mystique, but they don't have to be built around a mystery. Take Halo 2, for example. There's no mystery as to what the Covenant are doing and why. They're hunting for the Index so they can fire the Halo array, and the Master Chief is trying to stop them. The fun in the story comes from the detours (The battle of Earth, the Heretics on the gas mine) and the curveballs that the story throws at you. Truth betrays the Elites and replaces them with Brutes, triggering a civil war! The Flood is coordinated by a central intelligence, and that intelligence can negotiate!

The same can be said of Halo 3. There were mysteries, but those mysteries were not key to understanding the central plot. Hell, forget Halo entirely and look at the greatest action-adventure film ever made. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark tells you everything you need to know about what the Ark is and why the Nazis want it in the first ten minutes of the film. The rest is a race to the key to the Ark's location, and then a serially escalating battle over possession of the Ark of the Covenant.

And I'd like to see stories like that told with Halo.

If you've read through this entire mess, thank you. All the points above aside, I am fairly positive about what 343i has done with Infinite, and I hope the team is healthy enough to deliver many more campaigns. Here's to a decade of smooth sailing.

[image]

*Existing solely as a hate sink and an obstacle to the MC is a bad foundation for a character, especially when Del Rio was right about everything, and yet the game still acted as if he was wrong.
**OK, maybe there would be tonal issues, as Foehammer sounds pretty cheerful in the games. Being wary of Halo and lamenting her lost ones would make her character more determined and grim, which would clash with the delivery of some of her lines.
***I think you could have handed Palmer to a different writer, and she would have been much better received by the fans. There's an early draft of Halo 4 where she is first seen leading a fireteam out of a Pelican into combat in search of Lasky. I have no idea why that was scrapped, because it was actually pretty good. First impressions matter, and and meeting her as she leads troops and kicks ass would have been infinitely better than finding her hiding behind a blast door without her helmet. Not sure what could have been done about Spartan Ops, though.
****Somehow? Probably with help from the Harbinger, but this is left frustratingly vague. And now that I type this out, I realize that the Harbinger was dug up after the Banished had control of Zeta Halo, so... *Shrug*

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