There's a lot to love about the Halo Infinite campaign. The game's story is excellent, the open world is full of interesting locations and secrets to find, and the sandbox has plenty of diverse weapons, vehicles, and equipment pieces for the player to use in creative and exciting ways. After ruminating on the experience since I finished my second playthrough a few weeks ago, though, I've concluded that my favorite thing about Halo Infinite's campaign is its incredible enemy AI.
Halo campaigns have generally always had great enemies, but Halo Infinite completely raises the bar with the Banished. In fact, I believe that Halo Infinite's Banished troops constitute the best AI in Halo's 20-year history, even surpassing the legendary Covenant AI from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2. Between their vibrant personalities, their ruthless efficiency, and their incredibly high diversity, the Banished's soldiers represent the pinnacle of what enemy AI in Halo can be.
Full of character
Enemies in Halo are nothing if not expressive, and this is more apparent than ever in Halo Infinite. Each type of Banished unit is brimming with personality — for example, Grunts are initially overconfident and tend to colorfully insult you at first, but will usually flee in terror and beg for their lives after you take down their commanding officer or begin to mow them down. Jackals and Skirmishers attack excitedly, eager to kill you, claim their bounty, and get rich. Elites and Brutes both fight you enthusiastically; Elites see defeating the Master Chief as a stepping stone to glory, while Brutes simply wish to test themselves against a noteworthy opponent.
Had maybe my favorite minute of gameplay from the Halo Infinite Campaign today pic.twitter.com/FjksrnCk5PHad maybe my favorite minute of gameplay from the Halo Infinite Campaign today pic.twitter.com/FjksrnCk5P— Keith J Carberry (@KeithJCarberry) December 10, 2021December 10, 2021
These identities are conveyed through the Banished's voice lines, of which there are a seemingly incalculable number. Enemies bark at you and at each other frequently, and sometimes, they'll even have full-blown conversations with one another during the heat of combat. At one point in my gameplay, a Grunt began to run away, screeching "HELP ME!" to his comrades. His Elite leader, sighing, said, "He is right there, what is wrong with you?" while his Jackal ally angrily yelled, "Fight! Fight with Kig-Yar!" and screeched at the Grunt. The Elite then scolded the Jackal, saying, "You are not paid to shriek. Earn your bounty!"
These dynamic mid-combat conversations are not only amusing, but they also serve to make the Banished's troops seem like genuine living beings instead of the generic NPCs that they are. Knowing that each new combat encounter will likely feature a unique combination of context-driven voice lines is one of the main reasons fighting the Banished is endlessly entertaining.
Perfectly balanced difficulty
One of the biggest challenges that game developers encounter when designing enemy AI is the task of making enemy units smart and dynamic enough to challenge the player without making them overly difficult and frustrating to fight. Many games struggle to achieve this balance, resulting in an experience that's either way too easy or extremely punishing to the point where the gameplay feels unfair. Thankfully, the developers at 343 Industries have managed to strike the perfect balance in Halo Infinite.
The Banished as a whole fight very intelligently, as they'll almost always make decisions in response to your actions. For example, enemies will often try to throw grenades and flank you if you like to stay in cover, while they'll usually hold their ground and take defensive positions if you aggress towards them. Banished troops will also change tactics mid-fight, too; for example, an Elite and the Grunts he's leading will likely fall back to cover if you manage to pick off a Jackal Sniper that was pinning you down and allowing them to push towards you.
Enemies execute these strategies efficiently, but players can overcome the Banished's battle tactics by making use of their own. Halo Infinite isn't afraid to punish reckless play (unless you're on Easy difficulty), but players who know when and how to push, retreat, and make adequate use of cover will prevail. Halo Infinite's Equipment items like the Grappleshot and Drop Wall also give players improved agility, durability, and awareness — these temporary benefits are often very helpful in some of the game's tougher encounters. Overall, Halo Infinite's AI offer a balanced and fair challenge that I've greatly enjoyed overcoming.
Variety keeps things fresh
Finally, the fact that each individual enemy type in the Banished's army behaves in unique ways ensures that combat encounters never feel repetitive. For example, Brutes are generally aggressive and will attempt to rush the player down, while Elites are more defensive and often use their agility to sidestep attacks or weave in and out of cover. Hunters are initially very passive and prefer to turtle up while supporting other units with explosive attacks, but once one Hunter dies, the other becomes extremely aggressive. Skirmishers use their high speed to rapidly flank you, while Jackals stand their ground and assist other units by soaking up damage with their protective shields. The Grunts operate as a support unit, and their behavior changes depending on who's leading them; Brute-led Grunts tend to charge the player with their superior, while Elite-led Grunts are more tactical and often make use of cover.
These varied behaviors are predictable, but since no two encounters ever consist of the same types of enemies, combat always ends up feeling fresh and diverse. In one fight you might encounter Elites and Jackals that hold their ground while Skirmishers attempt to flank your position, while in another you could come across a group of charging Brutes and Grunts supported by a pair of Jackal Snipers. Your approach to these scenarios will be different because of the different behaviors of the enemies you're facing, and since Halo Infinite's AI spawn dynamically in the open world, the game constantly keeps you on your toes.
Each new battle in Halo Infinite feels like a puzzle thanks to the Banished's diverse array of enemy types and behaviors, and solving those puzzles by changing your tactics on the fly is incredibly satisfying. It's one of the most addicting gameplay loops I've experienced in a shooter in a long time, and I expect it will keep me playing the campaign for years to come.
Halo's enemy AI has always been great, but Halo Infinite's Banished troops are on a completely different level. Between their charming (and often comical) personalities, their well-balanced difficulty, and their diverse individual behaviors and unit compositions, the Banished are the new gold standard for AI in shooter games. Their excellence is one of the main reasons that Halo Infinite is one of the best Xbox games available, and I can't wait to start my third playthrough so I can do battle with them once again.
Master Chief's next adventure
A new Great Journey awaits
Halo Infinite's campaign has a great story, incredible gameplay, and breathtaking presentation. It's everything a Halo fan could want, and we can't recommend it enough.
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