'Halo Infinite' Feels Rushed — And Sets a Dangerous Precedent For Unfinished Game Releases

Halo Infinite has been released in a fundamentally unfinished state and it sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the gaming industry to follow.

Before the launch of its single-player campaign, 343 Industries' shooter was already coming out in fragmented portions. Its multiplayer component debuted several weeks ahead of the story, and the developer eventually revealed that the iconic "Forge" mode won't be coming out until 2022.

This piecemeal distribution is not particularly satisfying, especially when you realize that several other expected features are just straight up missing. At the time of writing, you cannot replay missions without creating a brand-new save file and the co-op option is nowhere to be seen (with some outlets reporting that it won't be out until summer).

For a AAA product, it feels rather insubstantial and the game was just blatantly not ready to ship yet. Unfortunately, it had already been delayed by a year once before and Microsoft was obviously not keen to have it pushed back again, especially since it's one of their major blockbusters.

As such, the publisher made the decision to release Halo Infinite in dribs and drabs throughout Q4 of 2021, meaning that it never got the monumental launch that it deserved. When the online multiplayer came out, it was extremely fun, but it didn't necessarily feel like a complete experience.

Meanwhile, because most people had been playing the game for several weeks beforehand, the release of the story campaign was tantamount to getting a piece of downloadable content (DLC). There wasn't that sense of occasion or hype surrounding it, because Halo Infinite was technically already a month-old game by then.

'Halo Infinite' Has Been Let off the Hook

Halo Infinite Stalker Rifle
Image shows a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in "Halo Infinite". While fun, the game's story campaign is missing a lot of features. 343 Industries

Were it not for the fact that it debuted on Game Pass (and consumers didn't have to shell out $60 for it), the reception to Halo Infinite's disjointed release would likely have been more negative.

Just last year, Cyberpunk 2077 was totally eviscerated by professional reviewers and the general public alike for feeling like it had been rushed out the door to meet an unfeasible deadline. Yet everyone seems to be going much easier on the latest Halo offering.

For example, VG247 bestowed a gushing 5-star recommendation upon the title, writing: " There's plenty of game here [...] and as a foundation for future updates, both single and multiplayer, they don't come much better than this [It's] a slam dunk of a release; it's exactly what Halo needs to be now."

You have to wonder if that's strictly accurate though, because surely what Halo needs to be right now is finished. The issues of the missing co-op and mission select menu are just brushed aside as trivial nit-picks by VG247, without them really acknowledging that these are pretty gaping holes.

Likewise, Game Informer's Matt Miller allocated a 9.25 out of 10 score to the campaign, saying: "Like many, I'm sad that Halo Infinite doesn't offer cooperative multiplayer at launch, if only because it's been a bulwark of the series' identity. It's a disappointing omission, but I have to judge the game before me, not the features I wish might be there."

On paper, this is an admirable sentiment, as you should never condemn a piece of entertainment for not living up to a hypothetical version that you have built up in your own head. Yet it's totally justified to point out how badly the absence of co-op is felt here, as it's been a major part of Halo since the very beginning. This isn't about the game struggling to meet unrealistic fan expectations, but about how it is failing to deliver on things that it predecessors managed 20 years ago.

One of the reasons that the game is not being scrutinized as heavily as Cyberpunk 2077 is possibly because its issues are not related to stability and are more to do with it being incomplete. Yet just because it basically works doesn't mean that it was ready to launch or that it should be above reproach.

There are things fundamentally missing in Halo Infinite a and it's okay to admit that while still enjoying it. Games like Star Wars: Battlefront, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and even this year's Mario Golf: Super Rush were all derided for being released without expected content, and Halo should not be exempt from similar criticisms.

While this problem is softened to some extent by the fact that it debuted on Game Pass (and can be considered "free" for subscribers to download), it still ought to meet certain standards. The graphics aren't quite as polished as you would expect, the open world is comprised of vast stretched of nothingness, and the ability to play with friends is sorely missing.

'Halo Infinite's' Campaign Feels Empty and Lonely

VK78 Commando in Halo Infinite
Image shows an early campaign level from "Halo Infinite". The game can often feel barren and lonely due to its lack of a co-op mode. 343 Industries

Speaking of which, the most glaring omission here is surely the co-op mode.

Ever since Combat Evolved launched on the original Xbox, being able to connect an extra controller and play alongside somebody else has been one of the main selling points of the Halo franchise. As noted by prominent YouTuber Girlfriend Reviews, it can transform the self-serious campaigns into a giddy joy ride.

Every Halo enthusiast has fond memories of bickering with their friends over who gets to drive the warthog and who's calling shotgun, or of accidentally blowing each other up with poorly-timed frag grenades.

It's always been a chaotic experience but that's an inherent part of the appeal. That and the fact that you get to share all of the scripted narrative beats and emergent gameplay moments with another person. When you take that crucial option away, it just makes everything feel quite lonely.

Before we go any further, it is worth pointing out that the Halo Infinite campaign is generally still a good time on your own. The gunplay is very satisfying, the driving is typically great, and the grapple hook is a revelation that completely changes how you go about both traversal and combat.

There's also a lot of room to experiment with the mechanics and find unique ways of solving problems. If you just take a cursory browse through YouTube, you'll see that fans are uploading videos of really creative and funny ways to use the tools that the game gives you. For example, somebody has figured out that you can send a vehicle flying with a gravity hammer and then grapple onto it while it's airborne to cover huge distances.

Master Chief in Halo Infinite
Image shows Master Chief clearing out an enemy base in "Halo Infinite". The action can be very fun at times, even if it would be better with somebody else to share it with. 343 Industries

However, it's easy to imagine how much more enjoyable that kind of messing around would be if you had somebody to share it with. Instead, the closest thing to companionship you get in Halo Infinite are the vacant NPCs that occasionally follow you around, but they're sadly not the same.

Those friendly A.I. marines don't think outside the box or strategize with you. They just hop aboard vehicles sometimes and offer up their weapons for trading. That's the full extent of your interactions with them and (like with Back 4 Blood) it's no substitute for playing with a real person.

This issue is even more apparent when you are wandering from A to B in the massive open world. While there is a lot to do on the Zeta ring, there's also plenty of desolate empty space between objectives and you can't help but wonder if those journeys might be livened up a little by introducing a co-op partner. As it stands, it just feels as though you're wandering around a barren environment, without any of the personality that makes games like The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption so enthralling.

This point is summed up well by Otto Kartky of Digital Trends, who writes: "The game is drawing enthusiastic comparisons to Halo 3, with fans calling it a return to form. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that claim. [The] Zeta ring is visually unremarkable, outside of its graphics that still look like a release from 2019. It's filled with trees and cliffs, with smatterings of forerunner architecture, but fighting enemies on two opposite ends of its map doesn't feel any different."

The addition of co-op would make this drab world feel at least a bit more dynamic, because there's an element of unpredictability when you are playing with another person who could stab you in the back at any moment or do something silly without warning.

Halo Infinite Map
Image shows the map from "Halo Infintite". The game's open world is surprisingly empty in between its scattered objectives. 343 Industries

It Sets a Worrying Precedent

Again, Halo Infinite's campaign is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. This isn't a Battlefield 2042 situation, where that game had been so poorly designed that it's now beyond saving.

The team at 343 Industries can certainly fix the problems with Halo Infinite and indeed they are promising to do just that. Co-op and Forge are on the way in 2022, and a future update will restore the ability to replay missions at some point. It just needs a little more time in the oven, that's all.

Nevertheless, it still remains the case that this game was released in an unfinished state and that, despite this, it has been met with near-universal acclaim. In fact, it's currently sitting at an 87 score on MetaCritic.

This sets a dangerous precedent for the industry, as you can easily imagine this kind of thing being accepted as the new normal. You dread to think how publishers like Ubisoft or "The worst company in America", EA, will carry this legacy forward, given that they're already prone to carving up their releases into premium DLC packs and launching games with a litany of bugs.

For evidence of this, look no further than the entries in EA's Star Wars: Battlefront series, which repeatedly came out half-finished. If publishers learn anything from the success of Halo Infinite, it will be that they can rush games out of the door quicker than they already do, by dropping multiplayer and story campaigns separately on a routine basis. Or they might realize that they can cut corners by leaving out certain features and then patching them in later without anybody kicking up a fuss.

In the case of Halo Infinite, the fragmented release was just about acceptable because it's on Game Pass, but that won't necessarily be the case for other titles. It's as if the bare minimum for what a product needs to be in order to justify its asking price is gradually being eroded and that's not a good thing for consumers.

For that alone, Halo Infinite deserves some backlash, even if it is a fun time.

Halo Infinite Warthog
Image shows a warthog with A.I. marine riding shotgun in "Halo Infinite". While NPCs will accompany you on your journey, it's just not the same as being joined by a real person. 343 Industries