Do or die. Following the debacle last June that is precisely what Halo Infinite seemed to be for 343 Industries. Should this massive studio retain the rights to Xbox's premier icon, Master Chief, and the sci-fi series that has slipped from the ranks of true greatness over the past few years? Judging by what has been served up in Halo Infinite, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
There's no denying that after Craig the Brute burst onto the scene, the community's faith in 343 Industries handling Halo was at an all-time low, but that was 18 months ago, 18 months worth of time well-spent refining and building an experience that should serve as a prime and capable medium to host the next five plus years of Halo, at the least. Any fan of the series or the shooter genre in general probably has a favourite Halo title, but it seems to be a pretty unanimous take that Halo Infinite is a great and worthy successor to the timeless series that has survived, nay defined, 20 years of Xbox.
Split predominantly at the moment in time into the campaign and the multiplayer modes, Halo Infinite looked to shake up expectations by stepping away from the typical linear cinematic storyline, in favour of a more open world, where the player has more freedom in the way they approach the core narrative. Set on the Zeta Halo ring, the goal of the campaign was to use Master Chief's excellence in combat to unleash a hail fire of lead at the Banished enemy faction who is occupying the alien cosmic instalment, to instead instil a range of UNSC command points to recapture the huge ancient tool. As part of this revamped design, 343 provided a range of open world tropes, including enemy bases to crack open, Spartan Cores to find to improve the Chief's armour, and various other unique and interesting locations to explore for a splash of extra narrative, to all in all make for a gameplay experience quite unlike anything we've ever seen before in a Halo title.
While the campaign is a major point of interest, it's the multiplayer that fans have been arguably awaiting for more. What 343 has served up is a fresh and modern take on the series' iconic gameplay, which pays homage to its roots but evolves it significantly with gameplay mechanics and systems that situates it as a top-of-the-line FPS of today.
The assault rifle and its truly incredible chittering firing tone is back and as satisfying to use as ever, and so is the devastating rocket launcher, and the thunderous sniper rifle. But the list of weapons is updated with deadly new gear, such as the flashy, yet destructive Cindershot or even the newer take on a sidearm that sees the Magnum benched in favour of the Sidekick. And all of this is accompanied by a batch of new abilities that allow Spartans to traverse the battlefield and engage in combat in all new methods, with the fantastic Grappleshot being the prime headliner.
Yes, it isn't perfect. The progression is abhorrent, lengthy, and impossible to really love, despite some improvements, and the list of available game modes and ways to queue a match is as limited as it could really be. And, this isn't helped by an armour customisation system that offers a fraction of the freedom that 2010's Halo: Reach did. Oh, and the fact that we're going to have to wait for months before co-op campaign and Forge is added definitely stings. But considering where this title seemed to be 18 months ago, the game that 343 Industries has served up today is not just a remarkable improvement, but it's one of the best games that 2021 has brought to the table.
The remarkable part about the success of this game also can be boiled down to 343 and their willingness to listen and learn. Over the past few months, there have been multiple technical previews to ensure launch went as smoothly as possible: and it did. There has been a massive amount of feedback from fans who just want the best from this game: and 343 are listening and providing resolutions and plans. This is all without mentioning that Halo Infinite launched its multiplayer three weeks early, as a free-to-play mode, downloadable on Xbox consoles and PC (even via Steam), with the campaign also arriving on time on December 8, as part of Xbox Game Pass for subscribers. It's a scheme that as a fan you struggle to see ways to lose faith in this developer or this game, despite its current shortcomings, and the dips that the series has seen ever since Bungie left the franchise after Reach.
At a time where the AAA shooter market looked to be at a low following the disappointing release of Battlefield 2042 and the seemingly forgotten Call of Duty: Vanguard, 343 Industries did not lay an egg. They unleashed a game that will be remembered for its ability to reinstall faith in this spectacular series, and for how we now have the utmost confidence that Chief and his legacy is in good hands with Xbox Game Studios' 343 Industries.