One of the highlights of the Xbox 20th Anniversary stream was the news of Halo Infinite‘s free to play multiplayer would arrive earlier than the planned December launch date of the campaign. Slotting it between both Call of Duty Vanguard and Battlefield 2042 was an inspired move and it seems to have worked because from impressions so far show it in a much better state than it’s competitors. It’s been good seeing the old champ back in the ring and doing so well. 🙂
Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer doesn’t stray too far away from it’s roots and considering just how influential that was it’s still not a bad place to start. Players team up against each other in a number of objective based modes like Control or Capture the Flag or straight out deathmatch (Slayer) and for those wanting a bigger scale there’s Big Team Battle which throws even more players together (up to 24) in larger maps and lets chaos ensue. At first glance it’s not all that different to other shooters but with a higher “time to kill” players are forced to be more creative with what tools they use in a fight. This leads to a greater reliance on using a combination of guns, grenades and melee to score which opens up all manner of play styles in a firefight. Through the tutorial (a great addition to the franchise) the reasoning for the multiplayer is to train a new generation of Spartan soldiers and seeing as it’s treated as a competition, it takes itself a lot less seriously than it’s modern military counterparts. Having a shooting range and the ability to set up bot matches too (seen in the previews) creates a lot of opportunities for both new and old players to work on their skills in a friendlier environment and looking at it now I think it’s a great addition considering the quirks to all of Halo Infinite‘s weapons.
One aspect about Halo I’ve always appreciated over the other games is that multiplayer puts everyone on an even level from the start with most modes having players armed with an assault rifle and pistol by default. For many that may be all you need but other weapons available on the maps are what adds variety to encounters and win games. For example there’s the Bulldog shotgun that’s perfect for “getting up close” but if you want to take that further there’s the plasma sword and gravity hammer with it’s huge splash damage but limited uses. For range there’s the classic sniper rifle which is still effective but if aiming isn’t your skill you can try the Hydra which has an optional ability to lock on to enemies and fire guided projectiles. And if all else fails there’s the Skewer… if you can hit anything with that spike thrower it’s as good as dead… including vehicles. Having weapons in a game that are not tiered by players unlocking features and attachments is a nice change and means anyone who picks them up has a fair change to cause damage. It still takes practice to use them well and skilled players are usually going to beat lesser ones if wielding the same but it feels like chance has a much more influence in deciding outcomes. Even the best players can’t feel entirely safe and that’s how it should be.
Another highlight so far has been the map design. In the big team battle maps the ones I’ve played so far feel like they are channeling Halo 3‘s Valhalla but in a much more dense environment. There’s little in terms of big, flat, open areas devoid of landmarks so you always have something to take cover behind or use to sneak up on an opponent. The arena maps feel like classic Halo with designs that encourage facing off and mastering the layout to get a better position. One thing worst mentioning is how much better 343 is in their designs when it comes to the simple matter of player respawns. When you die it helps to restart somewhere that lets you regain your bearings enough to return to the fight however in comparison Vanguard has a lot of fundamental problems here because cheaters are already finding ways to camp spawns for cheap kills. Halo got this figured out years ago and it shows. It’s not all perfect – there could still be some balance work on maps to offer more counters against aircraft – but it’s still in a much better place to build on compared to the rest. Then there’s the battle pass which is very clearly a work in progress. It’s nice to have all the characters from Halo: Reach as part of the pass but it’s hard to know if people will recognize them among the rest of the games Spartans. The flaming head you can earn near the end of the pass is an iconic Halo custom item which plenty will identify but the grind early on made that seem impossible to attain. Thankfully tweaks to awards have improved the rate of leveling up the pass but at a time when passes on other games offer action heroes and comic book characters Halo‘s Spartans can look a little plain in comparison.
With barely a day to go now until the campaign arrives I’ve no doubt I’ll still be playing Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer when it officially exits “beta”. Forge mode (for creating custom maps and modes) is still a few months away which is disappointing but there is still a lot here to enjoy and if the team at 343 are able to provide a steady stream on content during that time I think there will be plenty of happy players. Dealing with hackers will likely be one of the big tasks they will have to confront too and if they can handle it well there’s a fair chance of players from other games jumping over and sticking around. I hope it works out that way because the game has been a refreshing change from my regular rotation of shooters and I hope to keep it as part of my games to play for a long time!
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is out now for Xbox and PC.