We’re Coming In Hot!
Finally! The day that all Halo fans have been waiting for since the initial teaser trailer of the franchise’s newest game has arrived. In today’s reveal, Microsoft pulled back the curtain and allowed us to peek into the new campaign. It was a brief eight-minute demo but it sure has us excited at MHG. Let’s take a deep dive and discuss what we witnessed. In case you missed it, do not worry we have you covered!
There has been much speculation around Halo Infinite. After the cliff hanger that was the ending to Halo 5, how could there not be? Also, Halo 4 and Halo 5 both have had their critical reviews. Some of the criticism was aimed at the aesthetic look of Master Chief’s armor. 343 seems to be listening and has made moves to redirect their focus into creating a spiritual revival of the original Halo: Combat Evolved armor. This is evident in the “Step Inside Trailer”. It is quickly evident that nostalgia is part of the formula that 343 is leveraging this time around. However, while CE is a landmark game, truly one of my favorites, it is a classic and I think that anyone who is expecting gameplay that is exactly similar will be disappointed. We have the Master Chief Collection to appease our desires for nostalgia and the glory days. This game will play faster and with a more modern feel for eSports athletes.
Dress For Success
I love that our first impressions today of Infinite is the forging of Spartan 117’s armor. Once it is complete, we see that John’s retro look is back. The Master Chief is back! Still, this left me with questions. I highly doubt that the Chief and Cortana are reunited between Halo 5 and Infinite. I am quite sure that her monologue is being used for dramatic effect and story telling. Still, why is the Chief getting a new armor set? Is this one of his original armor sets or is it a new armor set? Is the UNSC at a point of desperation that he is having to revert to old tech? We do not really know what the context is, but it is very interesting and I really hope that this is not just promotional material but that it drives the story.
We have known for a while that Master Chief’s armor is definitely a throwback to the original trilogy. I keep hearing people describe the Chief’s armor to that of the original Halo, but the armor that I am seeing more closely resembles that of Halo 3. That is fine by me. I had a life sized cut out of the Master Chief in my college dorm room that my best friend gifted to me. By life sized, I mean that it was a seven foot tall cardboard cut out of the Chief. In other words, I love that this armor set is making a reappearance. I am super familiar with it. There are some differences but I don’t see any worth breaking down at this time. I should mention thought that many critiques of the last couple of games point out the huge difference in Halo 3’s and Halo 4’s armor. It did seem odd that our hero awoke from cryo in an armor set that was so different.
Where are we, Chief?
So what do we know? The legendary ending for Halo 5 gave us just a quick peek at a Halo ring with Cortana humming a somewhat unnerving and borderline maniacal tune. This ring was a completely intact ring-world. We have not seen a Halo ring in a Halo game since Halo 3 and it has been a long time since Halo 5. Evidence is building that this ring is most likely where what is left of the UNSC and the Master Chief will face off against the Banished. It also seems likely that humanity will lose a war against the Banished that damages the ring. This may even be the event that leaves the Master Chief floating in space in survival mode to be found by our bearded pilot friend. For those unfamiliar with the Banished, they were a splinter cell of Brutes that were encountered by Cpt. Cutter in the Halo Wars 2 game. I am excited to see the lore of the Master Chief and Cortana directly tied to the Halo Wars games. These had some great story telling and amazing cinematics.
It seems that when our bearded pilot friend discovered the Chief floating in space, he was in a damaged ship that is floating near what is left of a Halo ring. A section of the ring has been blown away. I assume that this is the same ring that we see at the end of Halo 5 upon completing a legendary difficulty playthrough. The rings are quite rare and well hidden throughout the galaxy. We do not yet know the events that bring the Chief to this place. While Cpt. Keyes did just so happen to stumble upon the first Halo ring, this should not be a common occurrence. Is Cortana working as a puppet master? Is she pulling the strings of the Banished and the UNSC to teach John a lesson, that the AI must take on the Mantle of Responsibility? It remains to be seen. We do know that the Banished had impeccable timing and struck the UNSC and humanity when they were at their weakest point. Remember that Cortana has led and AI revolution, forming the Created who desire to bare the Mantle of Responsibility. Which means, that the AI constructs want to rule humanity using Forerunner tech to extend their short lives of 7 years, to be immortal. Those that step out of line will be punished in this imperial reign of strength.
It remains to be seen who arrived at the newest Halo installation first, but it does not seem that their meeting is by coincidence. The brute chieftain, Escharum, in the campaign reveal trailer mentions his will to fight the Master Chief and to bring honor to Atriox through John’s defeat. Atroix was the brute chieftain who served as the antagonist in Halo Wars 2. So it seems that this brute is holding a grudge and wants revenge. Did he hunt the Master Chief here? Is Cortana on the ring? Is Cortana still corrupted? Will she show up to assist the Chief against the Banished and be restored with some Forerunner tech that is present on the ring? We do not know yet but this is all very intriguing.
The gameplay seems to be very quick! I suspect the demo is being played on normal difficulty since the enemies are quickly dispatched. The movements of Master Chief are very modern and reflexive. We see the usual sprint and slide that we are accustomed to seeing. Then we see a grappling hook! This equipment is used to reach higher elevation as well as to close the distance for a melee kill at another point. This is entirely new. I did read today that the grapple hook will not be a multiplayer ability by default, but it will be featured as equipment that can be obtained from the arena.
The Chief has gadgets that might even make the Dark Knight do a double-take. The chief also uses a deployable cover that seems to use Spartan tech. This is called a drop wall in Infinite. This version allows one-way damage to pass through. So the chief can fire out of the shield but the Brutes and their minions cannot fire through. He quickly deflects a Grunt’s grenade with one of these. We also see the Chief utilize a new map technology that is very detailed. This may also lend us to speculate about how this game is set up. The 3D detail of the terrain gives the world some depth. Many are speculating that the game is “open-world” because of this map.
I am somewhat more conservative in my thoughts on this. Yes, the game is titled Infinite. Yes, the map seems expansive and it is a game-changer. I am not ready to call this game open-world yet, but let us go deeper. The map shows several missions that appear to have difficulties next to them. This strongly suggests that the world is being developed in a way that encourages self-exploration, which would lead to more expansive maps and less linearity. This is much more intriguing to me than anything else in the demo. The map is gorgeous and I instantly thought back to the Halo 3: ODST spin-off which also featured a 3D map. It was the last Halo game to do so.
I believe that the game will be more in line with Destiny 2 or Gears 5, and possibly expanding on the concept of ODST. I would predict that you can explore the map at your own pace and even pick up missions in this world which scale in difficulty. However, to say that this is an open-world shooter seems overly ambitious. No game is truly infinite. If we look back at ODST where the Recruit searches for Buck and the rest of his squad we see the same game mechanics being used. However, games have become much larger since then. So I am very excited to see how this plays out in the core Halo game. Just do not be disappointed if people start criticizing the game for the lack of an open-world experience, similar to how Gears 5 was.
Guns, Guns, Guns
After the Chief assesses his position on the map, he begins his engagement with an assortment of new weapon types and they all seem impressive. The gunplay seems to be very strong and is displayed by some hard-hitting weapons, one of which seems to be a cross between a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) and an Assault Rifle. Then, all of a sudden, Brutes fall out of the sky in ODST pods. That does not bode well for the current situation of UNSC forces but it is quite a sight to see. The next gun that we see is a Ravager which is picked up off of one of these poor brute bastards. I would mention the Chief opts to keep the pistol in one of his two weapon slots. This is true-to-form for Halo and it will please many that a mainstay has returned. The Ravager seems to be a burst fire plasma launcher. It fires red plasma that appears to have some splash damage and knock-back.
The next gun that the Chief uses is the Pulse Carbine. This one is a beauty to behold. It fires like a burst fire carbine but appears to have been inspired by a plasma rifle. It does not seem to fire the bolts that a carbine does. It is more of a super quick plasma bolt that is discharged. The Chief goes to work with these weapons until he finds his new toy, the brute Mangler, and it looks a lot like the Mauler from Halo 3. However, it seems to be more of a revolver type magnum. Rather than working like a short-ranged shotgun similar to the Mauler, I would use this as the equivalent of the medium to short-range magnum that we love so well from Combat Evolved. It is slow-firing but hard-hitting.
Then there is the Bulldog. The Master Chief conducts his 5th Symphony with this one. He manages to get in close and personal while dancing around all sorts of enemies ranging from Elites, Grunts, and Brutes. He utilizes the grapple hook to close the distance when he is too far away for the Bulldog to be effective, or he quickly swaps to his Mangler for precision kills from a distance. At other times, he uses the grapple hook to pull explosive containers to him and hurl them at his foes. Then just to spice things up a bit, he grapples onto an elite and pummels him into the ground. I can not wait to get my hands on this game!
In summary, the game looks amazing. The panoramas are breathtaking and the ray-tracing technology is just stunning. I have plenty of questions and maybe reservations about how the story might play out, but I find it increasingly difficult to hide my enthusiasm to play in the new Halo sandbox. I just hope that the story is not as convoluted as Halo 5 and that we receive a great conclusion with a reunion with Cortana. It was mentioned today that, “Infinite will be all Master Chief all the time”. It appears that 343 will maximize our time with John to drive his story. We haven’t been able to do this since the original game. We have either played as the Arbiter or other Spartans in the sequels. I am eager to see what sort of character this Escharum turns out to be. I enjoyed the Nordic symbols on his armor and his allusion to hunting John, our Master Chief. This seems to be his last battle. Perhaps he feels that he will not outlive the Harbinger, whoever that is, but vows to eliminate the Chief before he is conquered. He mentions that the Harbinger and the Banished share the same goal, to control the Auditorium. I highly doubt that all of this is a battle over a room to throw down with Escharum. I am sure the Auditorium will be more than what it seems. Halo lore likes its symbolism, such as the Composer. I do not doubt that there will be some throw downs along the way though and hopefully many explosions. Blow it up!