Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom’s Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye towards helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry, where we talk about Bioshock.
Almost a year after launch, I have rather mixed feelings about Halo Infinite’s campaign. On the one hand, the transition from linear levels to an open world is exactly the kind of change the franchise needed. It’s fun and engaging to play, which is more than some games can claim.
On the other hands, the campaign still lacks a number of major features, remaining essentially unfinished to this day. That state is likely to persist indefinitely, now that the long-promised split-screen co-op mode is officially dead.
What really grinds my gears is that the game arrived without the option to replay individual missions, unless you started a brand new save file. After finishing the campaign and doing a bunch of the side missions, what reason did I have to go back to Zeta Halo?
Halo: The Rubicon Protocol
Turns out, I just needed to read the newly released prequel novel, Halo: The Rubicon Protocol. Written by Kelly Gay and published by Simon and Schuster, the novel focuses on the six-month gap between Halo Infinite’s opening cutscene and the rest of the game.
The Rubicon Protocol has brought Halo infinite back to the front of my mind over the past couple of weeks. That’s prompted me to go back and kick off a brand new campaign playthrough.
The Rubicon Protocol is mostly an original story, and it doesn’t do much to answer Halo Infinite’s leftover mysteries. But the book does offer some context into what happened while Master Chief was stranded in space. Readers can learn what the UNSC was up to over those months, and what the Banished were actually trying to accomplish.
I know a lot about Halo, but I’m hardly an encyclopedia. The entire time I was reading, my mind was whirring trying to work out exactly how the book and the game managed to fit together. Some things were obvious, such as the fact that Infinite’s UNSC-centric audio logs are lifted from the book word-for-word.
Other parts are still confusing, and I’m hoping that a replay will shed some light on this situation. In particular, I wonder about the revelation that Zeta Halo moved to a different location two days after the Chief was tossed into space. The game never mentioned this. And bizarrely, it seemed to have no impact on Master Chief and Fernando, the pilot landing on the ring, after all those months adrift.
A deeper understanding of both plots could be helpful, should 343 Industries ever release some sort of sequel, be it a brand new game or some sort of DLC. However, I have a sinking feeling that I may need to wait for a future book to shed some light on the whole debacle.
Another Halo Infinite playthrough
Still there’s more to Halo Infinite than micro-analyzing canon and trying to make sense of Halo’s increasingly convoluted expanded universe.
This new playthrough will involve a 100% collectible run. Since the missions are a one-and-done deal, you need to grab everything in a single trip through each level. Leave anything behind, and you need to start over from the very beginning. It’s a bit like playing with the Iron Skull from previous titles, but for the entire game.
Frankly, I didn’t have the time or patience to manage this the first time around. It’s not for lack of trying, but some of the hidden content is better at hiding than the man on the grassy knoll. Honestly, I had better things to do.
Perhaps most importantly, I’m looking forward to being able to freely roam around Zeta Halo once more, and take advantage of the Chief’s grappling hook. Whether it’s better than a jetpack is still up for debate, but is is definitely the best new mechanic Halo has introduced in over a decade.
Grappling in Halo Infinite is not nearly as fun as the joy of web-swinging through New York in Spider-Man on PS5, but it isn’t too far off. And Spider-Man doesn’t let you blow up sassy aliens who never stop talking smack. It’s about time some modders got around to fixing that, but until then, I’ll take what I can get.
So, here’s to my weekend of blowing alien brains out, making sense of the finer points of canon, swinging across ancient alien worlds and most likely boring my girlfriend to tears in the process.