By John Saavedra

Halo is back and so is the year 2001!

343 Industries faced mounting pressure as it worked on the next iteration of the Halo series. Fortunately, Halo Infinite delivers the fun and the nostalgia worthy of a 20th anniversary installment.

From start to finish, Master Chief’s new adventure on Zeta Halo is a love letter to Combat Evolved, down to the very setting, which is heavily influenced by the Silent Cartographer level from 2001.

Even the game’s opening will feel familiar: an explosive battle in space leaves the Chief with no choice but to crash land on a Halo ring and uncover its mysteries before it’s too late.

This time around, John-117 is fighting the Banished, a massive army led by the warrior race known as the Brutes who broke away from the original trilogy’s Covenant society.

Like the Covenant, the Banished want to use the new Halo ring for nefarious purposes and are also on a mission to kill the Master Chief once and for all.

Fortunately, Chief won’t have to face such massive odds alone. He has The Weapon, a new AI that’s very reminiscent of his old pal Cortana.

The surprisingly funny and upbeat companion is even voiced by legendary Cortana voice actress Jen Taylor!

Is that not enough of a nostalgia trip for you? Wait until you’re driving a Warthog or tank into enemy territory with a group of loud-mouth space marines.

Or blasting away Banished with the classic Assault Rifle or Needler. Or taking to the skies on a Banshee.

Halo Infinite’s much more open level design means there are more ways to tackle missions and complete objectives than in Halo 4 or 5. You’ll be reminded of the more wide open maps of Combat Evolved.

That’s not to say that Halo Infinite is missing innovation. The already fan-favorite grappling hook is a game-changer, adding verticality to the Halo experience and speeding the gameplay up.

It also explores the legend of Master Chief in new ways, dissecting his relationship with Cortana, even as he forms a new bond with The Weapon. There is some truly excellent writing here.

Overall, Halo Infinite is the return to form you’ve been waiting for. It looks back on the series’ treasured past while also turning the page toward the future. A happy 20th anniversary, indeed.