Stop me if you've heard this one before: In Halo Infinite, you play as the Spartan super-soldier Master Chief who must defeat a dastardly group of aliens (somehow, the Banished returned!) Playing through the game's first few missions is like plowing through an abridged Halo campaign, for better or worse. It starts off with Master Chief drifting in space, where he's miraculously rescued by a human soldier. In short order, he was back in action taking down feisty grubs, plowing helmet-first into increasingly bigger firefights and going toe-to-toe with angry looking space ape. Been there, plasma grenaded that.
Twenty years since Halo: Combat Evolved, Master Chief is still "finishing the fight". Made infamous by Halo 2's premature cliffhanger ending, the line is uttered with zero irony at Halo Infinite's conclusion: it's become the catchphrase for a series that is travelling in circles, always defaulting to something like the original fable of a craggy supersoldier fighting alien zealots for control of universe-ending Forerunner relics. Infinite takes place on yet another gorgeous ringworld, where Master Chief teams up with a nervy pilot and a chirpy new AI buddy to battle a renegade group called the Banished. It's the same old story with the same rousing musical motifs, but the geography has changed: main missions are now threaded through a lush open expanse comparable to that of a Far Cry game, where you'll tackle sidequests such as hostage rescue, and claim bases that let you fast-travel and rearm. The extra space amplifies Halo's existing brilliance as a martial playground, defined less by reflexes and accuracy than giddy improvisation, but it's not quite enough to make this backward-glancing game unmissable.
Master Chief stands tall on the planet Zeta Halo. Master Chief stands tall on the planet Zeta Halo. It's been a while since Halo had its time in the spotlight. After taking the reins from the original developer Bungie, 343 Industries is now in charge of the Halo series. In 2012, Halo 4 was lauded for its campaign, while criticized for some of its multiplayer components (such as the Spartan Ops game mode and its Call of Duty influence).
Halo Infinite is both great and terrible, a real study in contrasts. It's a serious leap forward for the series, and in a way that feels like developer 343 Industries is finally putting its own stamp on the series that Bungie created and stuck with through 2010's Halo: Reach. But it remains hopelessly rooted in the past for vast stretches of Master Chief's latest adventure, and not in a good way. That also says nothing of the technical mess of bugs and missing features currently weighing the whole production down. Yet for all of that unevenness, I really have loved the time I've spent with Infinite.
Overwatch is one of the best games of the year. It's got a massive fandom, even in surprising places. It's fantastic, but if you're not a hardcore gamer, the prospect of investing your time in a big, multiplayer shooter--especially one with as many players as Overwatch--is overwhelming. Frankly, you might be wondering: Where do I start? Fortunately, WIRED is here to help.