The first extended previews of Halo Infinite‘s campaign reveal that the game not only embraces a kind of open-world format but seemingly…borrows a few ideas from the Far Cry series and other notable modern open-world games.
While the various Halo Infinite previews that have been published by multiple outlets are only based on a few hours with the game’s upcoming campaign, they all suggest that it seems like the bulk of that campaign will see Master Chief navigate Zeta Halo’s fairly open environment. While there are still campaign-like missions spread throughout that environment, Infinite players will be afforded an unprecedented degree of freedom (at least so far as the Halo series goes) when it comes to picking your next objective, acquiring upgrades, and generally deciding where you’re going to go next.
Before you start thinking, “Grand Theft Halo,” it’s important to realize that most Halo Infinite campaign previews suggest that Zeta Halo is not nearly as big as the maps in many modern open-world titles. It’s not clear exactly how big the final map will be (or if we’ll eventually leave Zeta Halo sometime later in the campaign), but it sounds like Infinite‘s world size is closer to Arkham City than Skyrim.
It also turns out that one of the side activities you’ll find in that world involve taking out “Forward Operating Bases” operated by the Banished. Taking over those locations not only allows the UNSC to establish bases on Zeta Halo (which grants you additional fast travel locations and equipment drop-off points), but they’ll sometimes reward you with incredible new items and upgrades. They’re basically the Halo Infinite equivalent of Outposts from the Far Cry franchise.
We’re going to have a lot to say about Halo Infinite‘s open-world design and the ways it emulates elements of the Far Cry series (and other Ubisoft open-world games), but it has to be said that 343’s decision to borrow the Outpost concept from the Far Cry franchise (and some other open-world titles) feels absolutely brilliant.
It sounds like Infinite‘s FOBs are packed with elite enemy forces that will not give up those locations without a fight. The decision to attack one should not be made lightly. You’re going to have to form a plan of attack to have any chance to survive, and whether or not you’re successful is going to depend on how good (and how well-equipped) you are.
There’s been a lot of talk about the various ways that Halo Infinite pays tribute to the original Halo, but many of the tributes we’ve heard about so far feel skin deep to a degree (such as certain visual callbacks). What I love about the FOB concept is that it carries on the spirit of the “Combat Evolved” element of the first Halo game that we sometimes overlook when we talk about that Xbox classic.
Part of the reason why the original Halo was so brilliant and revolutionary is that it used advanced enemy A.I. to force you to stop and think about how you were going to approach nearly every battle against the Covenant. That was especially true of the game’s “big battle” moments, which typically took place in more open spaces and allowed you a little more freedom in terms of whittling down any opposing forces. As the Halo franchise continued, it just gradually lost that sense of strategic accomplishment you got from the best Halo: CE battles. There were attempts to recreate those moments in later Halo games, but many of them (the ones made by 343 in particular) simply struggled to find ways to upgrade that 2001 concept for more modern eras.
With Infinite‘s FOB locations, it really feels like 343 is trying to revive the spirit of those battles without copying and pasting them. Yes, Outposts in the Far Cry series have suffered from diminishing returns over the years that sometimes make them feel like a chore, but that’s also because the Far Cry series has reached this point of gameplay complacency that makes everything you do in those games feel like an obligation rather than an accomplishment. The idea of having these danger zones on an open-world map that requires you to think strategically and execute a battle plan perfectly is still a great one, especially when it advances one of the fundamental concepts that once made the Halo series the revolutionary FPS franchise it very much is.
We’ll see if Infinite‘s FOB objectives live up to their potential, but after a few recent efforts that could best be described as familiar and listless, there is something exciting about 343 exploring ways to revive the spirit of Halo‘s best ideas without simply trying to copy Bungie’s playbook.