-Five years. Five long years. That’s how long it took us to get HALO back.-
Five long years, indeed!
Greetings! I am 343 Guil-... nevermind. Portaleer here! Hello, friends new and old! Thursday was a very special day for XBOX, the Halo franchise, and its community! After approximately five years of dust and echoes, 343 Industries’ silence was shattered with our long anticipated Halo 5 sequel taking front stage and center at the XBOX2020 Games Showcase in full force. After these five agonizingly long years of anticipation, and a mouth-watering nine minutes of juicy campaign gameplay reveal, the wait is finally over.
The next great chapter of Halo is finally upon us. Without further ado, let’s jump in- plenty of details to dissect and discuss.
- Halo Infinite-
Right away, our eyes are beheld with Halo Infinite’s title screen, dawning (or dusking, no?) the great expanse of Halo ring Installation 07: Zeta Halo, our new setting for Chief’s latest story. Along with the presence of captivating Halo vocals making my hairs raise on end and a shiver ripple up my spine, the most obvious and eye-catching thing on screen to anyone is the center active portal encompassing Halo’s title. These are confirmed now to be one of the many seemingly old and eroded ring structures present on Halo’s surface. They first appeared in Infinite’s initial announcement trailer reveal at E3 2018, pictured below.
- A Galaxy at War-
It’s May 28th, 2560- a little over two years since the events of Halo 5: Guardians. Humanity has lost their war presumably against the collective of galactic law-imposing oppression from the Created along with other forces, and their vehicles of such enforcement, the Guardians. It appears the UNSC has sustained heavy casualties close to the likes of which we’ve never seen before, save for Reach. What has always been humanity being beaten back, this time, seems like we’re utterly driven to the brink of extinction. Now’s a good time to stick together with what little we have left and not run if we can help it but fight.
-A Familiar Face-
Speaking of sticking together, we see the return of Chief’s rescuer (the pilot from last year’s “Discover Hope” cutscene, dubbed “Bro Hammer” by the community) standing with Chief and observing a holo-projection of the damaged Halo ring.
Upon the opening cutscene, Chief and Pilot are scrambling to hold on and remain in control of the pelican just as an enemy AA cannon (Anti-Air cannon) opens fire lobbing two shots at the rapidly descending drop ship falling toward Halo’s surface, a throwback not unlike situations of Halo past.
Here we find the pilot erupting in a moment of frustration and sense of hopelessness, but not before our calm and collected hero quells his anger upon speaking some sense into him. With literally one word, actually. Pilot wants to go home, and I don’t blame him, but the reality of the situation is that he and Chief are caught up in a predicament out of their control. After a small exchange of game-plan to possibly recover a slipspace drive from a nearby downed Condor, Chief requests Pilot stay behind, ensuring his safety as he scouts ahead seeking to neutralize the AA guns that brought them down.
-A Whole New World-
New horizons. Literally. As Chief exits the pelican, we’re quickly slipped back into the helmet and boots of our John 117 once again and the sense of nostalgia the world emanates forth hits hard. The nod to Halo: CE is clear, and to revisit that feeling renewed after nearly 20 years feels fantastically refreshing. Mind you, this is the first time since Halo 3 that we’re returning to a Halo ring in a core FPS entry to the series. The incredible scope and scale and vistas of the Halo ring make it quickly apparent what kind of lengths 343 Industries has gone to, all but confirming our long suspicions of an open-world Halo campaign environment.
Regardless of whether or not the new Slipspace Engine is built for a literal “open world” in a similar vein to Skyrim or Destiny, what’s undeniable is that this world is going to be BIG. Free-roam on epic proportions never before seen in Halo, exceeding even that of Halo 4 and Halo 5 combined.
Take a gander at the new pause/menu map screen. Yes, Halo is bringing us a world/vicinity map and navigation screen, and not only a map screen, but a selection of brand new tabs and mechanics coming to Halo which together further prove a revolutionary step in Halo Infinite’s incredibly scaled environment. These tabs include of course the interactive "TacMap" topographical layout displayed below (an evolution of Halo 3: ODST’s), an “Upgrades” tab, suggesting an RPG or leveling approach element to the game, and last but certainly not least, “Database”.
Halo fans have been clamoring for a database for years. We can only hope it will properly consist of all manner of discovered wildlife creatures, items, places, characters, etc, making for a robust bestiarium and encyclopedia accessible to Chief on the fly.
Like any Halo title before it, Infinite includes the familiar core Covenant classic conglomeration of Grunts, Jackals, and Elites. All of which are thrown at you without hesitation to engage the player straight back into familiar Covey-shooting, Grunt-popping glory, accompanied by a new pistol variant, the "MK50 Sidekick" and Chief’s already depicted weapon of choice in the above screenshot- the Assault Rifle.
Shortly after clearing the immediate area of Covenant (or ex-Covenant rather for years now) Chief scoops up a brand new automatic tactical rifle, the "VK7B Commando". Yes, it does sport quite a presence. Leading up to the next moment we find the triumphant return of classic grenades, including Spike grenades, and portable equipment, such as the beloved fan-favorite deployable cover/shield.
Bigger is better...
This includes but is not limited to a certain piece of gear/device mounted on Chief’s left wrist which fans have been suspicious of leading up to the Campaign Gameplay Reveal.
When brainstorming with the question of keeping up on modern movement and evasion after seemingly disposing of thrusters from Halo 5, 343 had a void to fill. Feast your eyes on Chief's hookshot- I mean grappling hook. With it, you can pull surrounding items to you, and Chief can just as well pull himself to heavier objects too, including foes. It cleverly doubles as both a practical tool to cover considerable distances quickly and potentially a weapon of sorts (more on that in a moment).
What I thought to be a rather corny inclusion to Chief's arsenal is anything but. The now confirmed "Grappleshot" is not to be underestimated and will earn a respectable place among Chief's vast array of tools and weapons.
With that established, all of sprint, slide, and clamber have remained as base movement.
Please do not freak out. While this is a relief for many, and also “bad” for many, 343 has already stated that considerations will be made between Campaign and Multiplayer to properly tweak and accommodate both modes, respectively. Let’s be real, that sounds reasonable enough to me.
speaking of movement and moving items, Just wait until you see what this thing
Traditionally, we’d want to strategically time and shoot these to take out enemies, so isn’t grappling hold of one probably a really dangerous idea?
Remember how I just mentioned the Grappleshot being treated as a "weapon"? Well, kind of. It can be used to pull small explosives to you like this one. Yes. Chief can literally hurl a picked up fusion coil at the opposition, going out with a good ol’ blue plasma blaze of glory.
-The Disdained, the Defected, the Banished-
Also no stranger to the Halo franchise are the Jiralhanae, or more commonly known as Brutes. These aren’t just any Brutes, they are Brutes of the ex-communicated, ex-Covenant mercenary faction known as The Banished. Previously introduced in the events and story of Halo Wars 2 in 2017, The Banished are made out in prominence to be involved with the most recent onslaught against humanity. As far as Chief is concerned, the Banished must be stopped at all costs and are responsible for the downed Pelican. And yes, as a last-standing Brute, 343’s first-ever FPS Brutes will berzerk toward you, just like old times.
-Weapons, Weapons, and Even More Weapons-
Seen here is Chief hands-on with a brand new addition to the sandbox. Introducing the Banished “Ravager”- a rifle which fires serial rounds of what appears to be red-hot superheated Banished plasma.
Introducing the “Pulse Carbine”. Obviously a relative model to our beloved classic, the Covenant Carbine, this cousin model fires multiple-round bursts appearing pretty similarly in function to the Promethean Bolt Shot but with what I would expect to be added range and precision, naturally, as a rifle. A Banished "BR" equivalent, perhaps.
This little revolving chamber and action-clad piece of Banished goodness is another cousin model, seemingly related to the Mauler. The “Mangler” appears to be a small shotgun/pistol crossover, possibly even a replacement for the Mauler but I wouldn’t make any such assumptions just yet. Even so, The Mangler, for all intents and purposes is our Banished counterpart of this beloved Halo 3 sidearm.
Next up is the "CQS48 Bulldog", a brand new UNSC shotgun variant to which Chief uses to clear the surrounded AA cannon of all nearby hostiles. Shot after shot, the lawn beneath the cannon is mowed as Grunt, Jackal, Brute, and Elite, fall silently straight to their feet.
That might've rhymed...
-A Newfound Nemesis-
As the close of our action-packed, modern blended with nostalgia-fueled campaign demonstration draws near, Chief ascends the gravity lift into the hull of one of the three AA cannons where he activates a control panel. Before his eyes, a deep crimson projection of a Banished Brute emerges from a holo-projection table, almost welcoming and anticipating Chief’s arrival. The warmongering and blood-thirsting Brute proclaims the UNSC’s already months-long defeat and absolute Banished domination over control of Halo. The War chief, “Escharum” spits in hate that our people are scattered and broken and finished, and that nothing will remain of our human infamy as “The Harbinger” (???- Alright, now I'm genuinely intrigued) and the Banished share the same goal. He declares a welcomed encounter to meet with our green hero in battle.
John 117 is told to "fight hard and die well" as the story of their battle will outlive them both, becoming the stuff of legends.
The screen closes, advertising the title’s ever-so-close release window and availability across multiple platforms. There’s a lot to take in from roughly nine minutes of gameplay but it's left us thirsting for more, and now it’s finally yours to absorb after so much time since Halo 5. Our big sequel is upon us and I’m incredibly excited about what’s in store for us as Halo fans, and we are still in the infancy of introduced content next to the sheer ambition and Halo delivery that awaits. This game looks to merge the best of both worlds of classic and Modern Halo together in an effort to create both a healthy, and fair balance for the community to offer the quintessential Halo experience.
Halo: Infinite stands poised to usher in a great installment to the franchise with an already historied setting from extended universe canon, serving as a Pandora’s Box of rich storytelling potential.
I hope you enjoyed this in-depth breakdown and review of our glimpse of Halo: Infinite, and I look forward to sharing what appears to be a promising future and new chapter for this franchise with you- the community.
Until next time, Portaleer out.