Halo Infinite has one barn-storming new feature in its campaign mode: the fact that it’s technically an ‘open world’ game. That’s arguably an earth-shattering revelation for a series that has up until now been a pretty traditionally-structured shooter, and so it’s rightfully grabbed the headlines. But the truth about Halo Infinite is this: it’s less revelatory than you might think. In fact, it’s more of an evolution than a revolution.
That’s not a bad thing, however. Infinite feels like a coming-of-age for Halo studio 343 Industries, a developer created with the sole task of continuing the Master Chief’s adventures that has nevertheless struggled to step out of the shadow of Halo’s creators. Infinite feels like a resolutely introspective game, examining the Halo series at large and then working to reuse, reference, and refine every element that makes this franchise tick for a new generation. In many ways, it feels appropriately cyclical – the titular Halo is a ring, and the game at large works to bring the entire series full circle. That doesn’t just involve bringing it back to the original, but also includes touching base with everything that has come since.
Halo Infinite’s open world, for instance, owes less to the slew of open world adventures on the market now and more to the original Halo’s most-beloved level, The Silent Cartographer. The fourth mission of the original game, it is the archetypal Halo experience. You start out on a beach, with a vehicle and Marine buddies. You use that vehicle to tear through semi-open environments before reaching an installation that you enter and explore. Firefights across open nature are instantly replaced by claustrophobic corridors. This is the structure of Halo Infinite – except a huge chunk of the game takes place within this framework, not just one level.