Halo Infinite’s Campaign Opening Is Awful

Halo Infinite’s Campaign Opening Is Awful
I'd usually try to open with an eye-catching screenshot. Infinite's opening offers no such opportunities. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)

For a game sold on its wide open spaces, player freedom, and great big sticky-up hexagons, Halo Infinite’s opening couple of hours couldn’t be much less representative. The approximately 1,127 km of the same blue-grey corridors and chambers that gate access to the open-world game, feel as though someone remembered The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s opening sewers and thought, “I wish that could have lasted a billion times longer.”

At the start of Halo Infinite, John Masterchief is floating in space, having been beaten in a space battle. You might think, like me, that this was something that happened in a previous Halo that you didn’t play or forgot, being briskly recapped to bring you up to speed. You would be wrong. This is in fact a calamitous attempt at a cold open, that succeeds only in alienating about 90% of its potential Game Pass-driven audience.

It is the most bizarre and troublingly oblivious decision by 343, that they thought that everyone playing would remember the climactic events of Halo 5 — released six years ago — in such detail that they’d recognise they weren’t supposed to know what was happening here. There’s some guy we don’t know, who talks to Master Chief about a war we don’t remember, with an enemy that only previously appeared in…Halo Wars 2. It’s like being trolled.

But forget all that! Because it matters not a jot, when there’s a featureless blue-grey spaceship to trudge along.

This is a screenshot from a game made in 2021, and not 1821 as you thought. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)This is a screenshot from a game made in 2021, and not 1821 as you thought. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)

Yes, I know, this is nothing new. Games have, since three-dimensional corridors were possible, thought it a good idea to begin with the most linear tunnels imaginable. Heck, this is practically a tradition for Halo itself. But oh my goodness, if every other game developer ran in front of a bus, would your studio do that too? Can we all just stop this now?

I think I know the idea behind this. It’s about creating that moment, when you step out from the bleak darkness of an enclosed space, and blink-blink-blink at all that sunlight and bucolic green. But this is an effect that can be achieved with just five or ten minutes of corridors, not two miserable hours. Let alone the absolutely batshit logic of opening your game in a deliberately boring way.

Of course, the game had already worked pretty damned hard to ensure I wasn’t in a good mood. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in discovering yesterday that Infinite’s campaign was comically locked behind downloads. It went live at 6pm in the UK, and I was delighted that I’d be able to set it updating, put my boy to bed, and then come down to play. There’s a tiny window in my life for extra-curricular game playing, and for once it looked like it would work out. Except, of course, no.

The update to the previously downloaded multiplayer build was only 2.71GB, and I was confused and delighted! They must have previously included it, and just locked out access! Even on Microsoft’s crappy servers, that wouldn’t be an issue.

It was only on sitting down to play that I learned you can only actually download the campaign by starting it in-game. Because…no, I’ve got nothing. Another 18GB, which sucks, but on gigabit internet shouldn’t have been the end of the world. Except, yeah, those crappy servers. It trickled in at around 20Mbps, taking well over an hour. I can only imagine how bad that must have been for people on regular broadband.

After those tiresome delays, I really wasn’t in the mood for a game that decided it had better play all the cool bits for me, occasionally offering me the sop of walking in a straight line, before wresting the controls back from me to do something fun, like fly through space.

I included this screenshot because it has an attempt at some colour. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)I included this screenshot because it has an attempt at some colour. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)

“I could do that,” I suggested to the uninterested screen. “I could have pressed that button.” “I could have jumped across that wreck.” “I could have enjoyed zooming toward that platform.” But no, no John, you sit there like a good boy and wait until there’s a straight line to walk in.

I cannot fathom why this is now so normal in AAA gaming. So much so that playing Returnal for the first time today, I was completely blown away by a game not doing this shit. It just let me play! ME! I had to pinch myself. The rest of the time, these openings seem like some sort of price we’re forced to pay before we’re allowed to get to the game itself. It’s like the entire industry is run by your mum, who won’t let you have any dessert until you’ve choked down an entire plateful of mulchy veg.

It’d have been better if Infinite’s first couple of corridor-imprisoned hours were any good. But they’re just defyingly dreadful. The repetition is like a ten minute Ground(wart)hog Day, as you’re forced to trudge through the same dismal target range combat against the same two enemy types, for room after room after room. Just when you think, surely, surely it won’t do it again, that this door HAS to be the one that will end this fucking shit, nope, you hear the distant wretched grunts jibber-jabber the same “jokes” for a fourteenth time.

I'm not kidding, these were the most interesting screenshots I could manage. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)I’m not kidding, these were the most interesting screenshots I could manage. (Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku)

Here’s an idea, video games! Be good at the start. I know this is a radical concept, but if you’ve made something properly great, just have that proper greatness be available at the beginning. Because, you know, we’re paying here. There’s no plausible reason to make anyone slog through this crap, even if by the end of the campaign they’ll likely have forgotten it. (Hell, the reviewers all did.)

Stop taking the controls away all the time. If you’ve got something cool to show, think of a cool way to let the player play it. And stop punishing us with mediocrity as if that’s somehow going to make the rest of the game feel better. It just puts a bitter taste in the player’s mouth, that colours the first few hours with the game proper. A game proper I’ve yet to play, in the case of Halo Infinite, because it wasted my brief window to play last night with its absolutely bullshit opening.

Comments

    • It’s mostly reasonable criticism. Not sure why people are so defensive here, unless you all grew up on this game and don’t like it being trashed?

        • So basically that’s a yes?

          Burnside could come in here and say the sky is blue- now he’s about the most unreasonable person to ever grace these comments.. but being burnside doesn’t automatically make everything he says wrong. We left tribes behind hundreds of years ago mate.

    • Also it downloaded in 30 minutes on NBN, maybe get off dial up.

      Or learn to Xbox and close your game so it downloads at full speed.

  • I really liked the opening levels, the level design allowed a lot of different ways to engage the enemy and move around.
    The story though, from my recollection, doesnt fit with Halo 5’s and feels more like a sequel to Halo Wars 2. I last remember Cortana escaping with a large number of UNSC AI pledging loyalty to her. I’m not sure if that focus comes back later in the game but for now it feels like The Rise of Skywalker level retconning.

  • I remember falling down on the way back to the Pelican, but i didnt die. I had to look around and grapple my way back up. Which was a cool thing to do. and when you finally hit that story spot, i felt so much nostalgia, a culmination of playing this franchise, the quotes and whispers from every other game playing thru and around my head. It was pretty magical to be honest. I dont mind that some parts have to be filled in, I love going back in my downtime and reading up on things. A great example was Halo Reach, i got the collectors edition and it had a little notebook of all the things Halsey wrote about and ideas and it was super refreshing to get away from all the shooting and just learn some of the backstory. Then when Halo 4 came around and doing Spartan Op’s. Halo 5 focusing on Cortana and theyre strained relationship and how far they would go for each other. Seeing the Team Blue comeback together after only ever hearing about them in videos like Halo Legends. Theres the games, but if your a big fan of Halo your gunna go right thru all this stuff and learn so much more about the story. and even if you only play the games like a normal person would, i bet they have snuck in a sneaky wikipedia search here and there on some topic that fascinated them. Why John? Why is he so lucky? However back to the intro of the game, while it encourages you to keep running forward, dont be scared to turn your camera to the side and see whats going on.

  • This is a dumb take that only further proves the toxicity within the Halo community. You didn’t like the linear opening or the corridors, big woop, but it’s “absolutely bullshit”, really? The author needs to take a chill pill.

  • This is one of the worst articles I’ve ever read. One big child having a cry because you can’t instantly download a measly 18gb.

    The whole thing should actually read like this: “I’m impatient, addicted to games, I had a terrible day, couldn’t play my alien shooty bang bang game, because of time allocation and the fact there are tutorial/scene setting missions.”

    Oh damn, your extremely high expectations weren’t met… grow up, this is an extremely first world problem -telling Devs how to make their games when you probably couldn’t even code a kitchen timer app.

  • Halo 1 and 2 both had closed in first levels, I’m guessing deliberately, so the first open areas are more impactful reveals. I’m not sure how plopping you in the open world from the start would have been better?

  • Someone’s cranky!
    The download issues were annoying, but I really enjoyed the opening levels when I actually got to playing last night. I haven’t really played much Halo before, so I was expecting the storyline stuff to go over my head. It made more sense than I anticipated.

    Shooting stuff was fun, and the levels looked cool. One bad guy yelled “Try to Spartan your way out of that, you dead idiot!” when I died, which made me laugh. Honestly, what more do you want? It’s a Halo game, not a Bioware game.

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