The legacy of Halo is tied into that of Xbox as both a console series and a brand, so with Microsoft celebrating Xbox’s 20th anniversary this year, now seems like the perfect time to revisit the world of Master Chief.
To keep it simple, these modes are smartly organised into a handful of playlists, so you can jump in and have a good idea of what you'll play, with some variety thrown in.
The maps on offer keep the variety going, ranging from close quarters storage facilities to classic open air team battle arenas, across 10 brand new stages. While there's no word on returning maps just yet, with the multiplayer game aiming for a free-to-play experience, it seems likely we could see some familiar locations as the seasons wear on – its first continues until May, but generally the team is aiming for three-month runs.
Already we've seen some classic Halo moments punctuated with unexpected encounters, suggesting 343 has got the balance right here in creating an experience that feels new but still honours the traditions of the series.
The campaign is in many ways more of a departure, straying from the linear path (and consistent back-tracking) and giving you open areas to explore around the Zeta Halo – a terraformed giant ring in space – and gradually rebuild the UNSC after a crushing defeat.
Halo is steeped in lore, as any series would be after two decades, but Infinite manages to keep the complexities of the story to a minimum to keep it accessible to newcomers.
Floating in space, Master Chief is picked up by an equally stranded pilot and, after checking whether you invert your controls or not, begrudgingly helps you to start reuniting the scattered remains of the UNSC to fight the Banished, a sect of series baddies, the Covenant, who not only won the battle, but are mining the Zeta Halo for secrets the Chief must uncover, with a little help from a new AI, which isn't Cortana, though she's certainly still involved here.
Infinite is filled with the sort of experiences Halo players have been waiting for.
The world itself is reassuringly familiar for returning players, with everything from the HUD and user interface, the signature musical theme, and the rest of the soundtrack, immersing you immediately. Even for veterans though, the story still has the right level of intrigue to pull you through, but you can definitely ignore it and just treat it as a series of enemy encounters if you prefer.
The open-world aspect adds base building elements, breaking up the more linear narrative missions with side quests. Disappointingly, these generally amount to killing a few Banished to claim an area of the map, but, over time, straying from the beaten path grants you special weapons and vehicles at bases across the map as you steadily accumulate Valour points.
Explore further and you can also uncover cosmetic suit options and Spartan Cores, upgrade points to beef up a selection of suit abilities, cherry-picked from the best of games past, including a threat detector, deployable shield and thruster, all of which can also be used in multiplayer as limited pick-up.
The most important power though, and the one you get from the beginning of the game, is the grappling hook, which is a big help with the Zeta Halo’s rocky terrain. You can even employ in combat too, pulling you towards enemies for a killing blow – though you'd think between a Grunt and a 7-foot Spartan, the Grunt would be the one going for a ride.
The most fun moments are grabbing a spare weapon from a rack on your way past, though it requires a fair amount of accuracy and patience, which you may not have the luxury of with a Brute charging at you or a Hunter pummeling you with plasma cannon.
In all Halo Infinite is filled with the sort of experiences Halo players have been waiting for. Where past games have stumbled over both the game's legacy and even its main character, Chief is borderline quippy at times as he interacts with this unstable world, and the Infinite thrives in challenging you to explore him just as much as you do the world.
While there's a few missing elements, what's here is greater than the sum of its parts and gives an experience which you can only find with Xbox – making it a no-brainer for the Game Pass crowd and well worth a go for anyone else.