Halo Infinite campaign: Thoughts and impressions

I thought I’d do something different with this review for Halo Infinite. I thought I’d write what someone else thought of the game as they played it as well. My 22-year-old son Mitchell, who I think has helped with reviews on this site over the past few years, has played all the Halo games so has a good idea on what to expect and what they deliver. Together, we give our thoughts on the latest Halo game from Xbox.

Thanks to Xbox PR in Australia for the game code for Halo Infinite. The game was played on an Xbox Series X console and an Alienware M15 R6 gaming laptop.


Somewhere between Halo Reach and Halo Infinite, I feel the Halo series lost its way.

While I’ve played all the Halo games, personally, I’ve always found myself gravitating towards the Gears of War series, to be honest. That said, Halo ODST and Reach (both games not featuring the Master Chief, interestingly) are my standout Halo titles.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t finished Halo Infinite yet and I’m struggling to complete it. It’s competent enough, and I feel that developer 343 Industries have looked back at what made the original Halo Combat Evolved good, but it just feels to samey so far. It seems a lot closer aligned to Bungie’s Halo games, though, which is a good thing.

The game opens with Master Chief battling Atriox, the leader of an army of Covenant forces called the Banished that has broken away from the Covenant. The Banished both fear and despise the Master Chief. Following the fight, the Master Chief is assumed dead but is rescued by a friendly UNSC pilot and must gather the splintered UNSC forces, collect a new AI known as the “Weapon”, and stop the Banished activating the Zeta Halo. The game takes place around 18 months after the ending of Halo 5.

It’s during the very first mission – an infiltration onto a Banished frigate – that you’re introduced to the new grappling hook mechanic and it’s a great addition to the Master Chief’s arsenal. The hook can not only be used to propel Master Chief towards to high vantage points but can be cleverly used to pull him towards an enemy, delivering a bone-crushing melee punch on landing.

Or he can use the grapple to grab a just-out-of-reach explosive cannister (which are Halo Infinite’s equivalent of the explosive barrel trope found in video games since almost the dawn of time) that can then be thrown towards enemies, exploding on contact. It can even be used to pick up weapons left scattered around.

Importantly, the grappling hook brings a level of verticality to the Halo games that hasn’t really been a thing previously. It proved invaluable on numerous occasions when I’d miss timed a jump and I would have surely plummeted to my death had I not been able to use the grapple to attach to a wall at the very last moment, pulling the Chief to safety.

The opening two levels are full of tight corridors, corners and plenty of cover and the weapons pack a punch, and Chief will face off against familiar but different enemies in the Banished: Brutes, grunts, jackals, elites.

It’s once you reach the surface that the open world element reveals itself, with the Master Chief able to go off the beaten path if he wants to explore and capture Banished bases, before tackling the main mission again. Think freedom to go exploring for a little bit but not the dearth of content you’ll find in series like Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed.

The narrative is handled well but I felt Infinite falters with the open-world aspect: It lets you tackle a variety of side missions if you want but ultimately they don’t fundamentally add anything to the main story.

I liberated the odd Banished controlled base, provided UNSC marines to support me and supplies, but ultimately, I just felt there was no real necessity to deviate from the main story arc as for the most part the diversions are bases with the same objectives to complete.

The battlefield banter from grunts is amusing – stop every now and then and just listen to the banter – and enemy AI it a challenge at times, especially from the higher skilled Elite Covenant. With Infinite, I think 343 Industries has really found its stride with Halo but the game just lags in the middle section with a lack of variety of mission types. Bosses – at least those I’ve faced anyway – all take place in tight boxy environments, which just aren’t fun.

With some video games, I think about missions and how I could tackle them when I’m not playing the game. I’m not getting this with Halo Infinite: I’m not strategising on how I can defeat an enemy or tackle a problem. I don’t want to play it continuously to completion like like Guardians of The Galaxy did. Halo Infinite just isn’t wowing me.

My son Mitchell, who’s a far better Halo player than I will ever be, reckons game play is up there with Reach and ODST – his two favourite Halo titles – but he, too, agrees that the open-world aspect doesn’t add much to the game. He thinks it falls flat a bit and felt there there was no real incentive to deviate from the main mission.

He felt the that the opening missions were far too easy in terms of a challenge then later some missions were the opposite, with the game at times throwing almost endless waves of enemies onto the battlefield, making things hectic. He also would have liked to have seen more variety in the missions.

Look, Halo Infinite is a solid Halo game with a nice narrative, which is what fans will want, but for me, it just hasn’t “wowed” me like other games I’ve played this year have and won’t remain with me for long.

“The Weapon” from Halo Infinite’s story campaign.

Xbox Series X: raw power fused with familiar Xbox DNA

Thanks to Xbox ANZ, I’ve had an Xbox Series X for the past couple of weeks to put it through its paces. Here are my thoughts, for what their worth, on Xbox’s vision for next-generation gaming.

In a handful of hours – less than six, if we’re counting – the Xbox Series X and it’s smaller sibling the Xbox Series S will launch in New Zealand and Australia.

Come the stroke of midnight on November 10, Australasian gamers will be able to get their hands on the new generation of gaming machines. Sony’s PlayStation 5 launches in New Zealand and Australia two days later on November 12. Without a doubt, it’s definitely an exciting time to be a console gamer.

Much has been made of the Xbox Series X’s design: Yes, it kind of looks like a fridge. Yes, it looks like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but in all honesty, it’s no bulker than the original Xbox’s footprint, which was a hearty boy for sure, and it was actually more compact than I was expecting. It is hefty, though.

Unsurprisingly, given the consoles roots, it reminds me more of a PC than previous consoles thanks to its mini-tower design. I have it sitting vertically next to my Samsung Series 8 4K TV and it doesn’t look out of place, thanks to its minimalist design.

Out of the box, set up is incredibly simple using the Xbox smartphone app. The console updated itself (so you’ll need an active internet account for setup) as I was entering my existing Xbox account sign-in details. From booting up the console to the Xbox logo splash screen was around 14 seconds, with the boot screen often appearing about the same time I’d managed to select the right source on my TV. Using the consoles instant on feature, the boot up was less than 5 seconds.

There was a console update and there was also a firmware update for the controller. It was all remarkably stress-free and within a few minutes I was staring at a familiar-looking Xbox dashboard.

Without any games installed, the high-speed SSD had around 800Gb free and with five games installed, I still had 6725Gb of space to play with. For me, that’s plenty of space but you can expand the storage space when you need it using proprietary storage solutions which slots into the rear of the machine.

Powered up, the Series X actually ran quieter than I was expecting, too, especially given how much hardware is crammed into its tight form factor. It’s designed so that all the heat created by the console is drawn upwards, exiting via a massive 130mm exhaust fan at the top (which has a neat green effect that shifts as you move your perspective when you’re looking at it. It’s hard to describe). The engineering clearly works as when I put my hand over the massive air exhaust at the top, I felt the gentlest of breezes, even when the console was under load.

In a nod to Digital Foundry and it’s technical analysis, I used an infra-red temperature reader that I bought for one of my son’s science projects many moons ago to check the console temperature: At idle, the front was sitting at around 20deg Celsius while the grilled top above the exhaust fan sat at about 25.6deg. Under load – a solid session of Gears Tactics – the exhaust recorded a temperature of 45deg. It was warm but not hot.

See the green colour? It’s applied so that it appears to move as you change your view.

The XSX comes with one controller and it looks like … well, an Xbox controller: That’s not a criticism it’s just an observation. It’s roughly the same size as an Xbox 360 controller (minus the battery compartment on the bottom, of course) but smaller than the original Xbox’s duke controller.

I always have liked the design of the Xbox controllers and the XBX’s feels familiar and comfortable to hold. It also has a nice textured back. The controller is an evolution of all the Xbox controllers before it: The triggers feel more refined as do the shoulder buttons. There’s also a dedicated screen capture button on the face, which is nice touch.

The only technical issues I encountered was after a few days the console decided it didn’t like the HDMI connection on my TV that I’d selected and turned itself off a few seconds after booting up. Changing to another HDMI port, which the TV automatically identified as an Xbox, seemed to sort the issue out.

It’s all about the software, baby

Microsoft kindly supplied a handful of game codes and while some of them weren’t optimised for the Xbox Series X yet, I tested out Ori & The Will of the Wisps, Gears of War 5, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Gears Tactics, The Touryst, and Red Dead Redemption to test the backwards compatibility functionality. I would have loved to have tested out Assassin’s Creed Valhalla but the supplied game code, while pre-loading the game, wouldn’t unlock the game until until November 10, the consoles launch day which was kind of frustrating.

As time of writing, games that had been optimised for Xbox Series X were Gears of War 5, The Touryst, Gears Tactics, Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves. Games that would be optimised at or before launch included Watch Dogs Legions, Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Dirt 5, Destiny 2 and Tetris Effect Connected.

Gears Tactics looks great and plays great on Xbox Series X.

Gears of War 5 already looked great on Xbox One but it looks even better on Xbox Series X and performs a lot better, too. Colours are more vibrant, textures are much higher resolution, especially on a 4K TV. The frame rate is much more stable, too. Gears Tactics, too, plays extremely well and is a nice addition to the Xbox family. If you haven’t played it, I recommend it highly.

Ori looks gorgeous, too, even in its unoptimised state, as does The Touryst (allowing up to 120FPS, I understand), but Like A Dragon looks, well, like the Yakuza games did on PlayStation: Nice but not ground breaking.

It’s a shame, though, that Halo Infinite wasn’t ready for the console’s launch (Master Chief is still plastered across the back of the console’s box) as I feel the Xbox Series X really does need a strong console-selling first-party game at launch – and Halo would have been that game.

And how was the Backwards Compatibility mode? It’s good and while disappointingly, Batman Arkham City isn’t one of the compatible games, Red Dead Redemption is, requiring a 7.4Gb update, and it looks remarkably superior to the original 360 format that I played it on: Visuals are much, much sharper with higher resolution textures and much faster transitions between game play and cut scenes.

BC is a great option if you have a large Xbox 360 library and no longer have your Xbox 360 or Xbox One console but for me, I want a new console to bring me new games and new experiences: Not play old games but with better frame rates.

The verdict

To me, hardware aside, the Xbox Series X is more a refinement of what came before, not an evolution: The dashboard is a refined version of that of the Xbox One (to this day, I believe the most impressive Xbox dashboard was from the original Xbox: That was truly innovative) and the controller is a refinement of previous controllers. Not bad things in themselves but I was expecting a little more innovation in those areas.

The Xbox 360 controller on the left, the Xbox Series X controller on the right. You can see refinements in the D-pad, buttons and sticks but the shape remains relatively the same.

I feel Xbox have played it a little safe in terms of UI and controller design, here, but in terms of raw power, the XSX is a winner and I really look forward to seeing what the future holds – and what developers can do with the power under the hood.

I’ve also heard older hardware like the Xbox One series are starting to creak under more graphically intensive titles so it seems the timing is right for a new generation of more powerful console, but – and there’s always a but – I feel all this power is being squandered at the moment without some strong first-party games to really showcase what the hardware it is truly capable of. Those games will come, of course, with time.

For the time being, though, the Xbox Series X has laid robust foundations for the future. Now, Xbox needs to build on those foundations in the months and years to come.