“I thought that I could do this on my own, but I forgot that the whole point of all this, the entire reason that I chose you in the first place, as that we were supposed to be a team. Perfectly suited. Perfectly matched. Perfectly… perfect. In these final moments, I know what my last mission is. I need to make sure you two learn from my mistakes. Become stronger because of them. I chose well, Master Chief. I really did. Now it’s up to you.” –Cortana
Upon exiting the portal the Weapon created, Master Chief and the Weapon end up at a location called the Repository, a Forerunner installation filled with fragments of Cortana. The Weapon begins to worry that she has the same weaknesses as Cortana and asks to be deleted, but Master Chief refuses, indicating there’s still a job to do and that he wants to be able to trust her. After fighting their way out of the Repository and returning to Zeta Halo’s surface, Master Chief boards a Scorpion tank and blasts his way to Escharum’s House of Reckoning, where Esparza is being held. Upon entering the House of Reckoning, Escharum deploys his troops to test the Master Chief’s mettle, and expresses that he is impressed after Master Chief survives each trial. Eventually, Master Chief reaches Jega ‘Rdomnai and fights him in a close-quarters battle, eventually killing him and reaching Esparza. Escharum finally appears to confront the Master Chief, demanding that he be given a memorable fight. While Escharum is a tough foe, Master Chief beats him, and in his dying moments, Escharum implores Master Chief to let the others know that he died well, with honour. Esparza is surprised to see Master Chief treating his foe with respect, but Master Chief replies that Escharum had been a soldier, fighting for what he figured was right. After Esparza secures a Pelican, he brings Master Chief to the Silent Auditorium. Fighting through the Silent Auditorium, Master Chief finally confronts the Harbinger of Truth. While he is able to kill her, he cannot prevent the Harbinger from sending one final message to an unknown recipient before she dies. In the aftermath, Master Chief and the Weapon learn that Atriox had captured Cortana, but she refused to help Atriox and damaged Zeta Halo to prevent him from using the ring as a weapon. It turns out Cortana had also prevented the Weapon’s deletion: in a final recorded message, Cortana implores Master Chief to work with the Weapon before they part ways. The Silent Auditorium begins to collapse, but Master Chief and the Weapon are able to escape and reunite with Esparza, while the Weapon decides she’s got a new name for herself. In a post credits scene, Atriox prepares to unleash the Endless. Halo Infinite‘s ending leaves the story open to future development, especially since the Endless pose a hitherto unparalleled threat to the universe, but for the present, with Halo Infinite‘s campaign in the books, there remains quite a bit to unpack, especially in Cortana’s final words to Master Chief, which marked the first since Valkyria Chronicles, some six years earlier, that a game brought on the waterworks, speaking to the strength of its emotional impact.
The biggest surprise in Halo Infinite was ultimately in how the game was able to resolve Master Chief and Cortana’s story: Halo 4 had left players with the impression that Cortana had “died” after stopping the Ur-Didact, and then returned in Halo 5: Guardians to wreck havoc on the galaxy, leaving the UNSC Infinity and Master Chief to an unknown fate. However, in writing Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Industries also left themselves against the wall. In choosing to have the threat of Cortana sorted out off-screen and allowing the Banished to rise far enough to destroy the UNSC Infinity, 343 Industries was able to give the series a soft reset and return Halo Infinite back to its roots. Nowhere else is this more apparent than with the dynamic between Master Chief and Cortana: throughout the whole of Halo Infinite, although Master Chief remains utterly devoted to his duty of protecting humanity, guilt over his failures continue to haunt him, limiting is willingness to trust the Weapon as an ally. Indeed, the way Cortana addresses Master Chief in her final recording, and Master Chief’s lingering regret both gave the impression that Master Chief and Cortana’s bond surpassed even those of lovers; the pair are separate halves of a whole, capable of great feats together. Thus, when Cortana was met with her fate, Master Chief becomes consumed with guilt at having failed his promise to Cortana, and it is only in the end, when Cortana is able to convey her thoughts freely, that Master Chief comes to an understanding with what happened. What happened in the aftermath of Halo 5: Guardians felt distinctly like a breakup in all but name, and Cortana’s choice of language, with its possessive tones, speaks strongly to these powerful bonds. It is unsurprising that in Halo 5: Guardians, Master Chief pushed himself forward on missions to blunt the pain of loss, and here in Halo Infinite, Master Chief is unwilling to trust the Weapon precisely because she is a reminder of what was lost. However, with Cortana’s final remarks, Master Chief is able to find peace in Cortana’s fate and ultimately, accept the Weapon as a partner. The analogues to a love story are numerous, and Halo Infinite does indeed feel like a tale of how one gets past their first love; although it is an immensely difficult journey, sharing experiences and making the most of the present, as well as accepting one’s past, appears to be integral in helping one to pick themselves back up. Cortana’s final recording was an immensely intense experience, reminding Master Chief that there’s always a way forward, but only if he is open to taking such a path. Hearing this from Cortana settles any lingering doubts he might’ve had about the Weapon, and in the end, Master Chief is able to move on past his regrets and guilt. Halo Infinite unexpectedly speaks to the idea that when healing from heartbreak, the process can take an exceedingly long time, but one should take as much time as they need, and moreover, one failure is not the end, so long as one is willing to keep their eyes and heart open. These are a fitting message for Valentine’s Day, and an encouraging thought all around.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Altogether, it took twenty four hours to beat Halo Infinite on normal difficulty from start to finish, spaced out over two months. Halo Infinite definitely brings back memories of Halo: Combat Evolved in its execution, featuring a smaller group of Marines, a crashed UNSC ship, and an ancient enemy even more terrifying than the visible foes that Master Chief must fend off. However, unlike the Covenant, which accidentally unleashed the Flood, the Banished deliberately seek out the Endless. The Endless are said to be even more horrifying than the Flood, but beyond their resilience to the Halo array, not much more is known about them.
- Because there is so much that remains unexplored with the Endless, and with the revelation that Atroix is still alive, Halo Infinite does suggest that there is going to be more to the story than meets the eye. Halo Infinite combines the mood and aesthetic of Halo: Combat Evolved with the finesse and polish of Halo 2, urgency of Halo 3 and armour abilities that appeared in Halo: Reach to create an end result that is decisively Halo. Outside of the open world elements, Halo Infinite‘s interior missions were evocative of those in Halo: Combat Evolved – Forerunner structures are intricately designed, but in the end, are repetitive, labyrinthine corridors.
- Engaging combat sequences serve to break things up, and this is where Halo Infinite truly excels. Gunplay here capitalises on some two decades of improvement to provide weapons that handle well and feel powerful. Most of the weapons in Halo Infinite are useful and have their own applications. The Sentinel Beam, in particular, is given a considerable update, and on missions where it is common, is able to make short work of Banished and Forerunner foes alike.
- While I had fully intended to run the remainder of the game with the battle rifle, practically meant that I ultimately would carry the Commando as my weapon of choice – ammunition was surprisingly common for this weapon, and while it is an automatic, it is quite effective at range, being able to pick off Grunts and Jackals alike with a single headshot. One weapon that I missed was the Spartan Laser; this weapon spoke to the UNSC’s increasing effectiveness as the Human-Covenant War ended, and I imagine that this choice was meant to show how all of the confidence surrounding humanity by the time of Halo 4 was gone by Halo Infinite‘s events.
- Daylight streams into a Forerunner corridor here as I moved deeper into the Repository. The aesthetic bring to mind the palatial, but empty feeling that some of the large homes in the fancier neighbourhoods north of my area have. The average house built in the 1980s was around 1700 square feet, but nowadays, the average house is around 2700 square feet, and upwards of a third of newly-built houses are 3000 square feet. I’ve not found any explanation for why this is, but some speculate that the size of one’s home is a status symbol, representing more space with which to store one’s possessions.
- The larger houses would be a pleasant place to entertain guests and host parties, but outside of these events, they’d feel about as unoccupied as Zeta Halo’s cavernous interiors. I’ve always been more practically-minded: the larger houses are quite enviable (having a private library and reading nook would be nice), but said homes also command a higher property tax and have a larger utility bill. Further to this, there’d be more bathrooms to clean every week, more rooms to dust, and more floors to vacuum. Additional space also increases clutter. For these reasons, I have long preferred a homer that is sized appropriately to what I need.
- My preferences differ greatly than most folks, who prefer their detached single-family homes with a large yard: in a survey, it was found that up to eighty-five percent of those polled were willing to endure a longer commute for their dream home. A look at discussions closer to home finds that the reason why is privacy and freedom. Condos are more densely packed, subject to condo fees, and offer far less options for customisation later down the line. Space is reduced, preventing people from having backyard barbeques or affording their children a private place to play ball.
- However, condos also have their own benefits. When operating under a responsible and effective homeowners association and board, condos are secure, well-maintained and foster a sense of community. In my case, I have no qualms with ponying up for the HOA fees because it means my sidewalks are taken care of in winter, and my lawns are dealt with during the summer. I have access to a private gym, and I am within both walking and transit range of an incredible range of restaurants and stores. In the end, different things work for different people because of differing priorities, so I won’t presume to judge others on their choices – my choices work well enough for me, while other choices will suit others better.
- The cavernous interiors of Zeta Halo have led me on a bit of a tangent, but now that we’re back out to the surface for a brief but intense mission, I’ll return my focus over to the mission at hand. The road to the House of Reckoning is one filled with enemies, and here, I stepped back out into the sunset. After watching other play-throughs of the game, I think that for these missions, the time of day is deliberately set to convey a specific message: that the endgame is near. Halo 4 had cleverly named its first and final missions “Dawn” and “Midnight”, respectively. This symbolised the missions’ place in the story. For “Dawn”, it also referred to the Forward Unto Dawn frigate that formed the level’s map, while in “Midnight”, the choice of name mirrors the idea that this is the time when disaster strikes (per the Doomsday Clock).
- On my own play-through, I ended up picking off the Banished forces before coming across a Scorpion Tank. Suddenly, armed with the might of a 90 mm cannon, the Banished become fodder to be mercilessly blasted apart. Scorpions in Halo have traditionally used a high explosive armour piercing round that deals massive damage to vehicles (two to three shots will wipe a Wraith out) and also imparts blast damage, making it a universally powerful weapon against infantry and armour alike. Although the Scorpion is a ludicrously powerful weapon capable of levelling entire Banished units in moments, a slow rate of fire means that engaging foes from afar is the best way to run this tank: at close range, the turret’s angle of depression and low rotational rate allows enemies to evade the powerful 90 mm rounds.
- Having operated Scorpions since my Halo: Combat Evolved days, I’ve seen the tank evolve over time. The original Scorpion was quite powerful, but eclipsed by its Halo 2 equivalent, which has both a higher rate of fire for its main cannon and a more accurate co-axial machine gun. From Halo 3 onward, drivers no longer have access to a machine gun, requiring a passenger to operate the turret instead – this was done to balance the vehicle out, but it also makes campaigns a little more tricky if one is going it alone.
- Halo Infinite continues to follow tradition by having the Scorpion remain spectacularly lethal at long ranges, and so, I chose to drive slowly through the valley, hitting things from afar to ensure the tank wouldn’t sustain too much damage. While players can always call in Scorpions from forward operating bases, Halo tradition dictates that there be at least one mission where Master Chief is given a tank and truly allowed to deliver a serious onslaught against his foes. This mission screamed Halo, being every bit as enjoyable as using the Scorpion to blast my way across the bridge in New Mombasa.
- There’s an achievement called “Bring Shiela Home Safely” that entails taking the Scorpion tank from the beginning of the mission, across the bridge right up to the House of Reckoning’s garage, in one piece. To complete this achievement, the tank cannot take so much damage that it explodes, and it must be taken into the garage. Once Master Chief reaches the entrance to the House of Reckoning, I reckon is time to be a force that is reckoned with. Owing to the House of Reckoning’s name, I anticipated that I’d be in for a difficult fight ahead.
- Inside the House of Reckoning, I find a battle rifle and immediately switched back over to it. The “trials” that Escharum has planned out for Master Chief entail sending waves of enemies after him, and while these waves start out easy, the difficulty ramps up. The presence of heavier weapons like the Hydra missile launcher and rocket launcher speaks to the kinds of foes Master Chief ends up facing: Brutes and Hunters are brought to the table, and they can be trickier to defeat without the right weapons. However, even in a bind, use of Master Chief’s armour abilities can prove quite effective: I’ve killed Hunters by using the thrusters to get behind them, melee the armour off their backs and dumping a magazine into the exposed flesh.
- All of the foes earlier, as challenging as they were, don’t hold a candle compared to what’s upcoming: Elite blademaster Jega ‘Rdomnai is a cut above even the infamous Serpent Hunters. After entering this trailer and opening a hologram detailing Esparza’s family, Jega ‘Rdomnai will strike. Jega ‘Rdomnai is the Spartan Killer who’d been responsible for the deaths of several Spartans on Zeta Halo, and in combat, he makes extensive use of active camouflage in conjunction with a Blood Blade, a souped up energy sword that allows for faster lunges.
- The close quarters inside the trailer, coupled with Jega ‘Rdomnai’s weapon preferences and cloak, makes for a difficult fight. I ended up falling back on the tried-and-true plasma-ballistics combination to bring him down, using the pulse carbine to wear down his shields, and then strike the unshielded Jega ‘Rdomnai with the battle rifle. The fight is thrilling because Jega ‘Rdomnai remains cloaked for most of the battle, leading to suspenseful moments where one must keep moving lest they be ambushed. There are shock coils that can be used to stun-lock Jega ‘Rdomnai, and during my fight, I made use of the threat sensor to get a bead on his location.
- Defeating Jega ‘Rdomnai allows Master Chief to loot the Blood Blade from his corpse, and in practise, this should be a fearsome weapon that makes short work of foes on the receiving end. However, after Jega ‘Rdomnai, the only foe left in the House of Reckoning is Escharum, whose armour is so tough that the Blood Blade won’t even scratch him. Escharum himself is a remarkably durable opponent, and the first phase of the fight simply entails hammering him until he brings up his shields. Using the rocket launcher and the various coils in the environment is the most efficient way of getting this done.
- When Escharum sustains enough damage, he will activate energy shields that transfer all damage dealt towards Esparza. When the shields activate, they generate a prodigious amount of heat, and the power relays will become exposed. Destroying these will bring Escharum’s shields down momentarily, allowing Master Chief to keep attacking his foe. I have found that using the drop wall here is effective, as it prevents Master Chief from being damaged while attacking the relays. The sheer amount of health that Escharum has is staggering, and fortunately, there are weapons scattered around the arena that will be helpful.
- Escharum will maintain his distance during the first two phases of the fight, preferring to use a scrap cannon to attack. However, once he’s down to a certain amount of health, he switches over to the Diminisher of Hope. This weapon is absolutely brutal and can one-shot Master Chief, so here, using the grapple shot and thrusters to keep distance is essential. Heavier weapons like the turrets won’t be too useful, although one can, in theory, deal some damage with close range weapons like the shotgun or Blood Blade before using their equipment to return to a safe distance.
- When my ammunition reserves began running dry, I would end up switching over to the weapons found on racks scattered throughout the arena. There isn’t any one weapon that works better on Escharum than another, so the only strategy here is to keep one’s distance and, per the old suggestion from DOOM, shoot Escharum until he falls. The Shock Rifle, for instance, does some damage but won’t stun Escharum, and similarly, the grapple shot’s electrified stun has no effect on him.
- In a poetic bit of symbolism, I ended up defeating Escharum using the Blood Blade: I’d dropped it earlier for a longer range weapon, but as the weapons became depleted, I ended up picking up the Blood Blade in a rush to switch over to another weapon. Although using a melee weapon is probably the last resort anyone should take whilst fighting Escharum, at this point in the fight, Escharum had been damaged enough so that a few swings was enough to finish him. In the aftermath, Escharum asks Master Chief to tell his allies that he’d died honourably after fighting well. Esparza is shocked that Master Chief treats Escharum with respect, but Master Chief sees himself in Escharum, fighting to uphold what he believes is right.
- This sort of thing is what makes Halo Infinite so enjoyable; Escharum is an honourable foe whose presence simply encouraged players to face him in battle. After beating Escharum, Master Chief will gain access to the Diminisher of Hope. I had wished to use it against the Harbinger of Truth, but realities forced me to drop the weapon in favour of something with more ammunition left; a pair of Serpent Hunters will fight Master Chief, and I ended up expending the Diminisher of Hope’s energy reserves to beat them.
- With most of the foes now eliminated, the Harbinger of Truth is the only enemy left to defeat. Halo Infinite gives players a small respite here, and as the Master Chief passes through the Silent Auditorium to seek out his last target, Halo Infinite fills in the gaps in the story, explaining that the UNSC ultimately caught up to Cortana and prepared her for deletion. Seeing what had happened, Cortana consented to this, but before deletion routine finished, Cortana sabotaged Zeta Halo to prevent the Banished from using the Ring, then overrode the Weapon’s deletion protocols, knowing that Master Chief was at his best when working with someone like her.
- I found 343 Industries’ choice interesting, acting as a clean and elegant way to bring Cortana’s actions from Halo 5: Guardians to a resolution and open the floor for a new story, while at the same time, detailing the journey that Master Chief takes to come to terms with his grief and regret. Although Halo Infinite is certainly not a love story, the way things are portrayed means one cannot help but liken this to a story about overcoming a breakup or rejection. This unexpected piece to Halo Infinite made an already-enjoyable came even more profound and meaningful.
- Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is my least favourite holiday of the year: the holiday was originally to pay respect to St. Valentine, whose exact story remains a mystery. What is known is that he was killed. The association of St. Valentine with romance comes in the middle ages, with poet Geoffrey Chaucer marking the date as a time to find a partner. For me, this time of year had long been characterised by exams, and I vividly remember one Valentine’s Day many years back. I had a physics midterm that evening, and although I performed very well on said exam, it had been a miserable evening all around.
- While I’ve not a solution regarding the depression and feelings of emptiness that come about at this time of year even now, I have found that focusing on my work and responsibilities on Valentine’s Day allows me to get through what is, in effect, an ordinary day. For instance, this year, I fully intend to get my internet plan set up for the new place later today; in effect, I have a date with the local ISP, and the plan is to get set up with a gigabit connection to accommodate our usage patterns. Although for most users, 150 Mbps connection is more than enough, the reason why I’m going for a gigabit plan is because I will be working from home often enough: having the extra bandwidth will allow for simultaneous video calls and upload of large files.
- The fact that one of the local ISPs in my area provides fibre means that gigabit internet is affordable. With this in mind, I have heard of people who’ve gone against advice and picked up a Gigabit plan even though they’re the only person on the net, and the most intensive thing they do is stream to Twitch. Because Twitch recommends an upload speed of 6 Mbps to give viewers a decent experience, a gigabit connection would not confer any additional advantages and simply be a waste of money. Conversely, because a major part of my decision is the fact that I’m working from home extensively, having the extra bandwidth will prove useful (especially if I’m trying to do a video call at the same time that other users on the network are uploading 60 GB simulation files to their cloud storage). In a curious turn of events, I actually will be having a hearty steak for dinner tonight, fulfilling a years-long ambition to celebrate singleness with a steak on Valentine’s Day.
- After passing through the large door and entering a large chamber, I finally confront the Harbinger of Truth. The Harbinger of Truth has access to energy-based attacks and can teleport instantly, but once her shields are down, she’s particularly vulnerable to melee strikes: even a few solid blows from the stock of a battle rifle will be enough to take sizeable chunks of her health away. While she heads off to recharge, Banished will attempt to rush Master Chief. When this fight is compared with the Escharum fight, or Jega ‘Rdomnai, the Harbinger of Truth hasn’t the slightest bit of honour: both Jega ‘Rdomnai and Escharum fight Master Chief mano-a-mano.
- Despite the Harbinger of Truth’s abilities being quite formidable, once her shields are down, Master Chief can easily punch her lights out, bringing this boss fight to an end. Halo Infinite proved exceedingly satisfying and opens the floor to plenty of prospective new directions, while at the same time, wrapping up loose ends from Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. With Halo Infinite in the books, I may return to play through the game again with the default audio set to Japanese so I can listen to anime Weapon/Cortana speak, but for now, my next major gaming goals are to reach level sixty in Battlefield 2042, after which I’ll unlock the NTW-50, and make enough headway into Project Wingman so that I can write about my experiences after the first quarter, both before the month is out.
Halo Infinite is a fantastic example of how less is more, and its campaign marks a return to form, focusing purely on Master Chief and the Weapon as they work to stop Escharum and the Harbinger from unleashing the Endless. Without a massive UNSC presence, players once again feel as though they’re the last individual left to oppose the Banished. However, with the Weapon and Esparza, what initially appeared to be an insurmountable task begins to feel doable, something that can be done one step at a time. Halo Infinite‘s ending is quite open, and lingering questions remain about what happens to humanity, what the Endless are, and whether or not Master Chief will need to confront Atriox again (it is only appropriate to give Master Chief a second chance at fighting Atroix, especially after Atriox had casually manhandled him earlier). While Halo Infinite‘s story was immensely satisfying and offers closure regarding Cortana, it also opens the floor to a new story, one that merits exploration. This would demand a continuation, and with 343 Industries suggesting that they plan on supporting Halo Infinite for the next decade, this does lead to the question of how they could continue the story. However, 343 Industries may have already shown their hand in how Halo Infinite‘s story could continue through The Master Chief Collection: bringing classic Halo games to PC allowed 343 Industries to implement a launcher for different Halo games, and this approach could be utilised in Halo Infinite, where additional campaigns are add-ons to the core game. In this way, 343 Industries can easily add instalments to the campaign, allowing the story to continue, but at the same time, continue to support the core multiplayer experience and provide players with the best possible game that they can. The possibilities are about as endless as the hitherto-unseen Endless, and having now completed Halo Infinite‘s campaign, I am curious to see where 343 Industries intends to go over the next ten years with what has been a pivotal achievement for the Halo franchise; having evidently learnt from their experiences since developing Halo 4, 343 Industries have found their footing and delivered a Halo game worthy of both old and new fans alike. With my story over for the present, I will spend some time exploring the multiplayer in the future as time allows; although my reflexes and skill are not what they were during the apex of my time as a Halo 2 Vista player, Halo Infinite does offer the option of squaring off against AI bots in multiplayer, and this could prove to be an immensely relaxing way of unwinding and getting to visit the maps without getting my face kicked in by MLG pro players.