Halo Infinite (2021) – game review

Outside, space, freedom, breath: a futuristic cathedral in the middle of a forested valley, the rising sun, the sky on fire after the explosion of a star freighter. In the middle, order, logic and symmetry – often called the aesthetics of fools, work flawlessly in video games: sterile rooms on a hexagonal plan, corridors with a ruler, cold halogen lights. “It all looks like …” – we hear a sigh, and the miniature hologram woman sighs excitedly – “… just like I expected.” And this is a sentence that characterizes the latest installment of the “Halo” series so well that it should be on the box with the game.

The action begins some time after the events of “Halo 5: Guardians”. Cortana, the artificial intelligence that started as a fountain of empathy and ended up as a cross between Skynet and Jordan Peterson, turned the universe into a great fire and disappeared without a trace. And her concerned guardian, John-117 aka Master Chief, drifts through space after a close encounter with the gorilla-like leader of the Exiled faction. Salvation comes just in time, as on the nearby Halo Zeta ring, the Exiles are already preparing another chryya that will reorganize the balance of forces in space – and if you take their word for it, these will be the last such fireworks. To work, soldiers!

In the first part of the game, Cortana, made of ones and zeros, became the hero’s conscience surprisingly. While the super-soldier remained a majestic symbol of the imperative of action (to emphasize the subtlety of this metaphor, hidden in a three-meter-long military armor), it represented logic, reason and morality. In “Halo Infinite” this theme returns, although the absent Cortana is replaced by the playful and resolute Weapon (the veteran of the series Jen Taylor is fantastic in this role, especially when her heroine loses her childish naivety in the course of the action). For the Master Chief’s emotional re-education to be complete, concerned screenwriters throw him a golden-hearted Latin American pilot. None of him Han Solo, but he does his job in the text, and the dynamics of the relationship between the three heroes remains the beating heart of the story (although the Master Chief’s bottle helmet and golden visor are artifacts of the rank of Mario’s mustache and Lara Croft shorts, it is surprising how often the hero remains a mirror , in which much more interesting characters are viewed). If you expect melodramatic ecstasies and an easily digestible story about a ghost in the machine, you’ve come to the right address. But “Halo” is mostly deafening action. And on a larger scale than before.

In my review, I compared the previous part of the game to Bond’s “Quantum of Solace” – a short and ultra-intense ride without a handlebars, a slightly rotten bridge between the more important parts of the saga. No wonder that “Infinite” is structurally similar to “Skyfall” – in theory a sequel, in practice something like a reboot, a loop that allows us to skip all revolutions and controversial ideas and go back to the starting point. It is enough to put your foot on the green meadows, look at the sky cut with a metal ring and listen to the first few bars of the familiar score by Martin O’Donell and Michel Salvatore, so that the whole “one” flashes before your eyes. And as you can easily guess, this is both a blessing and a curse of the new production. On the one hand, thanks to the convention chosen for white bones, the call of adventure can be heard again – the world encourages exploration, and the chorales on the soundtrack remind us of the Daniken origin of the entire series. On the other hand, when it comes to exploration, it can be different with the dramaturgy – returning to the past, we also return to the familiar thatched roofs. Read: to stadium-sized rooms bathed in blue light, separated by corridors the length of a runway. The clearest attempt at discounting modern trends is, of course, the open world – the large map is dotted with outposts to be conquered, besieged marines to be saved, and optional bosses to be eliminated. I will not argue with a similar artistic strategy. The aforementioned elements remain so non-invasive that they do not take the joy of the action-packed campaign. They also offer so many slapstick strikes, reckless evacuations, and daring raids that you can apply the brake every now and then.

Of course, all this is irrelevant, as the quality of “Halo” is measured primarily by the fun of emptying consecutive magazines and the choreographic finesse with which we move on the battlefield. Although the Master Chief is equipped with useful gadgets (from a portable energy shield and motion sensor to a discount rocket boost), the only thing that really matters is the line with the hook. It is thanks to her (and the considerable verticality of the levels) that each duel turns into “John Wick” staged in the Bolshoi Theater, and the kinetic energy of subsequent clashes sometimes bursts the screen. Interestingly, the arenas now feature “exploding barrels” that we can throw at enemies, and the ammunition has been collected in charging stations and divided into three types: plasma, kinetic and electric. Although we use the latter to paralyze enemies, and the first one works well with energy armor, I will insist that it is rather cosmetic novelties. When it gets really hot – and hell is just around the corner in this game – the best gun is the one we have at hand.

The multiplayer mode available for free (also outside of Game Pass), which has already become a tradition of the series, is basically an autonomous production. And probably it would be appropriate to judge it on different principles. After spending a dozen or so hours in a cauldron with spiders, I can only reflect that this is the existential opposite of all “Battlefields” in this world. I would also risk saying that the cleanliness and simplicity of the multiplayer modes are an invaluable virtue these days. Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, Domination, grab something, hold something – nihil novi sub sole, but how is it done! Small, but architecturally interesting maps, teams of four and standardized equipment make each match a test of reflexes, accuracy and orientation in the field, as well as communication with the team – it is especially visible in the ranking struggles, where at higher levels one headset in the team can do difference (unfortunately, the toxic community is still doing great and confirms the decades-old stereotypes of players as basement incels). There is also a 24-person mode with vehicles waiting for daredevils, and the only thing I could fault before Christmas is the gratification system. Obtaining new items of equipment is plowing on fallow (although some can be found in the campaign), and instead of a rainbow festival of death and destruction, we have a procession of depressed, gray-haired Master Chiefs.

In Halo Anniversary, released ten years ago, a remake of the first game and at the same time an unspoiled adventure with the 343 Industries studio series, we watched one of the most beautiful shortcuts of the technological evolution of video games in history. It was enough to press a button at any time of the game to instantly land in the past: in a world made of shapeless lumps, on grass resembling disassembled spinach, under a gray, pixelated sky. After another ten years, such a button would come in handy again – both artistically and technically, the game is a feast for the eyes. It is not without significance that “Halo” started its pop culture run as a harbinger of a new era in the shooter genre and the technological tour de force of the first Xbox. And who knows, maybe that’s why, despite the fluctuations in fashions and trends, it has survived for so long – with each new installment, we wonder how much better all these energy swords, hairy faces and abrasions on the Master Chief’s armor can look like. In the title, the creators promise the endlessness of this experience, and well – if it remains so enjoyable and filling, I don’t mind orbiting in an eternal loop. Master Chief is not complaining. Who are we to discuss with him.

About Steven Mark

Fan of video games and new technologies, I am editor in this environment for several years already. I like to share my passion through news, tests and other files. I also love wrestling and Marvel Comics.

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