I’ve played every mainline Halo title, with the exception of Halo 5, and have always been bothered by one thing: The Grunts. They are are a cannon fodder enemy type that is meant to fill in ranks and give players something they can mow down without much thought when not facing off against tougher enemies like Elites. In the early days of the series, they were a perfectly fine enemy that was fun to melee attack. They made goofy sounds when attacked, which injected a bit of levity into an otherwise melodramatic series.
It wasn’t long before the developers doubled down on that joke, making them more explicitly comedic with one-liners. Grunt humor has always been hit-or-miss, but Halo Infinite takes the hackiness to an overbearing level at the expense of the game’s tone.
Around the time of Halo 3, Grunts started talking — a lot. They would shout and flail around at the mere sight of Master Chief, wailing various quips in their squeaky voices. They’d run away, begging for their lives, while players chased them down with machine guns, grenades, and rocket launchers. Or they might prime some grenades themselves and charge at you in a suicide attempt, yelling something like “I want a hug!”
That’s been buffed up more for Halo Infinite, but the comedy wears thin fast. Like a Marvel movie, Grunts just can’t stop throwing out quippy lines that start to grate the longer the journey goes on (at least Marvel movies are over in under three hours).
The overreliance on comedic relief goes against the tone of the series. Halo is about space genocide, religious extremists, war, and other heavy concepts. Laughs have always helped lighten the mood, but Infinite takes it so far that it puts me in a moral conundrum. Grunts are the equivalent of toddlers on the battlefield, and I’m ripping them apart like nothing. It just feels wrong, considering the wider context of the series.
The groan-worthy Grunt jokes speak to a wider issue with Infinite. Rather than focus on what makes this a unique universe, of which there’s plenty to explore, developer 343 Industries stuffs the game full of lame one-liners that feel they were plucked from a Borderlands game (which I don’t find very funny either, for the record).
What’s frustrating is that there was a way to do this without completely flipping the series’ tone. There is a specific skull in the series called IWHBYD (I Would Have Been Your Daddy) that makes NPCs say rare or unique dialogue. Had they been reserved for that modifier instead of dropped in the default experience, Grunt lines would have been more of a subversive surprise.
As weird as it sounds, the quippy humor makes Halo Infinite feel lifeless. It comes off like a desperate attempt to inject personality into the game, but just ends up falling flat. The game may as well have the classic Grunt Birthday Party skull on by default, too, so that confetti and cheers pop out when you shoot a Grunt in the head. The constant jokes would be more at home in that absurd reality than they are here.
I’m in the minority, it seems. Many players seem to love Infinite‘s talkative Grunts, but I just can’t see them for anything but a hacky attempt at humor that’s trying to cover up a lack of personality. They spout the kind of jokes I would have loved in middle school, but both I and Halo have grown up. It makes me wish Grunts weren’t in the game at all, or would at least shut up every once in a while.