's Games of the Year: Halo Infinite

When the Xbox Series X|S launched at the end of 2020, it did so without the benefit of a new Halo game. That wasn't Microsoft's intention, of course; Halo Infinite was originally meant to debut alongside the next-gen console. However, negative feedback in the months leading up to the system's launch convinced developer 343 Industries to delay the game to add more polish. More than a year later, Halo Infinite was finally released -- and proved worth the wait. Not only did the developer deliver an excellent Halo game, but 343 Industries also managed to drop one of the very best titles of 2021.

While Halo Infinite finally arrived in the hands of players in 2021, the game's journey remained a strange one. The multiplayer portion was released in November, in celebration of the Halo franchise's 20th anniversary, and the campaign was held until just a few weeks were left in the year. Meanwhile, some features, such as campaign co-op, are being held until later this year. It's hard to remember any other game releasing like this, but the fractured release schedule hasn't had a negative impact on the game's perception. If anything, it shows that 343 Industries is only willing to release content for the game when it feels the time is right. It's also a testament to the acclaim that Halo Infinite has received, considering that it's still missing features players have come to expect from the series.

Halo Infinite's campaign opens with Master Chief left for dead in space following a confrontation with Atriox, the leader of the Banished, and the game's primary antagonist. Seeing a hero in that moment of weakness is an old storytelling trope, but it's an effective one, immediately establishing the threat the villain poses. While some games take a while to get going, Halo Infinite immediately feels like a blockbuster film, throwing players right into the action against the forces of the Banished, slowing things down just enough to clue players into the story. Master Chief is found floating in space by Fernando Esparza, one of the very few allies he has in this journey. Esparza's concerns about the stakes provide some necessary comic relief and play well off the Chief's overly serious (yet constantly optimistic) nature.

(Photo: 343 Industries)

While the next-gen era has been in full swing for more than a year now, there haven't been a whole lot of games that have really pushed the Xbox Series X hardware to its limits. Alongside Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite is one of the few exceptions, offering the best-looking Halo game ever, and one of the most graphically impressive games on the market. From the detail on Master Chief's armor to the gorgeous locales of Zeta Halo, everything looks stunning. Graphics aren't everything, but for Xbox fans that have been desperate to see what their console can do, Halo Infinite is an excellent showpiece.

One of the complaints leveled at Halo Infinite over the last few months is that the multiplayer doesn't do enough to push the series forward; notably, Nickmercs called it the "same old s**t." However, most fans seem to disagree with the streamer's assessment that that's a bad thing. Some would argue they weren't looking for a drastic reinvention of the formula, preferring instead a next-gen offering authentic to the classic Halo experience. While there have been some missteps for the series over the years, Halo has never felt like a franchise in desperate need of a reinvention. Halo Infinite proves that there's still quite a bit of strength in the multiplayer component, and making that element free-to-play for users on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC was a great way to ensure that lobbies remain full.


In a year filled with strong games, Halo Infinite is easily one of 2021's very best. 343 Industries had quite a bit to prove, and fans were understandably concerned following the long delay. Fortunately, it seems that extra time provided the developer with the opportunity to create a game that ranks with the best in the Halo franchise. From its compelling narrative to its stunning graphics and awesome gameplay, Halo Infinite was everything Halo fans had been hoping to see. With more content set to release throughout 2022, it's a safe bet the game will continue to enthrall audiences for quite some time.