EGM’s Best of 2021: #3 Halo Infinite
At this point, we’re all a little tired of lengthy writeups about “the way things are now.” We could probably sit here and waste a few paragraphs’ worth of your life talking about these trying times, and game delays, and hardware shortages. But we’re tired. You’re probably tired. Let’s just agree to jettison all that for a year and get to the good stuff.
We’ve finally mad it to the top three slots on our countdown of the year’s best. Check back throughout the next week to see the rest of our choices—including our Game of the Year—and our editors’ personal picks.
Playing Halo Infinite is like constantly experiencing the standout moments of a gameplay trailer, except that you’re actually in control of the action. It’s very rare that a developer fully delivers on what it’s promising its players—that the marketing–driven image you had of a game in your head before it launches is exactly what you experience when you finally get to play it, but that’s pretty much how Halo Infinite feels.
A lot of that is thanks to the Grappleshot. When putting players in the big green boots of Master Chief, it’s vital to make them feel like the “demon” that Elites believe him to be, and that’s what the Grappleshot does. It lets players control the battlefield like never before, whether it’s quickly getting cover or a height advantage, grabbing explosive barrels and discarded weapons from a distance, or harpooning enemies and zipping towards them for a devastating final blow.
What is absolutely wild about the Grappleshot is that it’s the kind of gameplay mechanic that feels so natural, so vital to the identity and soul of the experience, that it’s hard to imagine that Halo never had it before. It would be like if The Coalition only added a chainsaw bayonet to a gun in Gears 6. Any Halo experience without it, past or present, feels just slightly lesser when you don’t have access to a fully upgraded Grappleshot.
Of course, the Grappleshot is only one of the ways that developer 343 Industries has finally clawed its way out from under the memory of Bungie and claimed the Halo franchise as its own. Blowing up the previous moments in Halo that felt a little more open and creating an entire world in Zeta Halo, then punctuating it with more dramatic, linear moments, feels as obvious as the Grappleshot, as does letting players call in a Scorpion whenever they please and blasting the Banished to smithereens. Unlike other open-world developers, 343 doesn’t treat Zeta Halo like an obligation but as an opportunity for its players to create absolute mayhem.
That’s not even to mention the game’s multiplayer, which made the bold move of going free-to-play. Back in its Xbox 360 heyday, Halo felt like the multiplayer series, even more than the multiplatform Call of Duty. Now, everyone can experience that Halo magic, especially because 343 has found a nice balance between what its players want and how it envisions the way the series should play.
Appropriately, Halo Infinite feels like a video game Ouroboros, with the future of the series eating the tail of its past, or something like that. Old-school Halo fans are happy that it feels like Halo again; new fans are happy that they don’t have to know too much about the series’ convoluted lore to follow the relatively straightforward surface narrative. Perhaps the biggest achievement that Infinite boasts is that it lets players sprint and no one really seems to have much of an opinion about that fact either way. If that doesn’t mean 343 is doing good work, then I don’t know what does.
Michael Goroff has written and edited for EGM since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter @gogogoroff.