Halo, as a franchise, has been in a particularly strange place for some time now. After the highs of the initial trilogy (and maybe Reach) followed by the lows of lackluster later entries, fans of the series have been clambering for a return to form for Spartan-117. More specifically, the multiplayer side of things has gone through some changes that have not been particularly well-received, making the games not really feel ‘Halo’ enough to keep veteran players interested and even new entrants entertained.
With Halo Infinite being delayed from its initial 2020 release, many were questioning whether the game was in complete turmoil, simply to be thrown onto the same pile as 4 and 5 upon launch, not to be booted up again after a few short matches. However, it’s amazing what an extra year of development can do. Now, Halo Infinite Multiplayer has been released ahead of the December 2021 window, albeit in a ‘beta’ version, which not only shows the confidence 343 has post-flight tests, but also in its community to help shape the game in the coming months.
This review will be focusing on just that. The current state of Halo Infinite Multiplayer up to the ‘real’ launch date so you can decide whether it’s worth sinking your teeth into on December 8, 2021 or to leave it to cook that bit longer and get the Halo multiplayer experience you’ve been waiting years for.
Prepare for battle, the way you want
With Halo Infinite, 343 has taken the idea to split matches into three core categories – Quick Play, Big Team Battle, and Ranked. This simple, yet effective system allows you to queue up for matches you actually want to play and have specific player pools for each. This isn’t revolutionary, both Halo and games, in general, have been doing this for years, but it’s something that does the job and does it well.
When it comes to the modes on offer within the categories, you’re getting the arena classics – Slayer, Oddball and Capture the Flag, as well as new addition Stronghold, in which you capture zones to gain points. Each, in our opinion, are fun to play on the whole and offer enough variation to keep things fresh. What is slightly annoying though, is that you’re unable to select/deselect the specific modes within Quick Play, meaning you could get three CTF matches in a row and if you’re not a fan, it could turn you off quite quickly. 343 has probably taken this route to keep a healthy player base in the long run though which we can’t really argue against.
Ranked, as you would expect, uses a win/loss point system allowing you to partake in some especially competitive Battle Rifle combat, providing that extra level of challenge. You will need to play a bunch of initial matches to determine your entry rank, which ranges from Bronze to Diamond, and once you’re in, you’ll have to work your way up to the fabled Onyx status. It is an uphill battle, especially if you flopped in your placement matches, but getting to the tippy top of the mountain is something that will go down in your gaming history.
Big Team Battle is well, Big Team Battle, what more do I need to say. Big maps, a bunch of players, and some good old-fashioned Warthog fun, all done on large, expansive maps. It’s just enjoyable overall, and takes the edge off after getting sweaty in competitive Stronghold.
One interesting introduction for Infinite Multiplayer is Fracture events, an opportunity to jump into some mindless fun while also gaining some cosmetic rewards. These will only last a specified amount of time but will return at multiple points throughout the year thus giving opportunities to those that missed them the first time around to get in on some exclusive rewards. The first of these was Tenrai, accompanied by some Samurai-themed armor for you to enjoy as well as a whole new mode called Fiesta. This is essentially a weapon randomizer that swaps out your loadout every time you respawn, making for some interesting shenanigans to ensue. Fiesta is certainly a change of pace and gives you the opportunity to try out weapons that are usually on a timed spawn in both Quick Play and Ranked games.
While the modes new and old have made their way into Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer, there’s a distinct lack of custom maps that have been a main staple since Forge was introduced. This means no Duck Hunt with your best pals on launch and with Forge potentially being delayed until May 2022, you may be waiting some time until you’re walking into those fan-made death traps. This is a real shame as the creativity of the player base is something that kept Halo 3 going for so long, and to not have it in the Infinite Multiplayer the release window is just a little disappointing.
Trigger fingers at the ready…
For those of you who were skeptical about 343 Industries getting the actual Halo feel back into the franchise, worry no more. The fights do feel absolutely fantastic. Between the grenade throwing and the return of the classic Noob Combo, you will be right at home if you’ve played any online Halo matches before.
The weapons themselves can sometimes come across a little weak if you’re comparing it to faster FPS titles but in all honesty, the TTK (Time To Kill) is something that is a welcomed relief. You have the opportunity to do a little jiggling, trying to bob and weave through the sea of MA40 bullets being sprayed in your direction, as well as forming strategic plays utilizing both your secondary weapon and any equipment you have picked up.
The sheer number of weapons available on maps is a welcomed change, ranging from the classic rocket launcher (named the M41 SPNKR this time round) to the shotgun/pistol hybrid Mangler (which is criminally underrated by the way), you don’t just have to use the assault rifle/sidearm combo that you get given on spawn to do work.
Touching on equipment, there’s a decent variety on offer both as major power-ups and ones to simply get you out of sticky situations. Active Camo and Overshield are obviously the two go-tos for bamboozling enemies but the Grappleshot, in our eyes, might just be the best introduction to Halo multiplayer to date. It allows you to make interesting plays while also using it as a faster travelling mechanism to get across maps without vehicles.
Even though I’m mainly talking about the gunplay here, the one thing I can’t gloss over is the introduction of non-equipment sprinting, one aspect that Halo games of old simply left out. While you die-hard fans of the franchise might think it’s blasphemous that sprinting has been included in Infinite, I’m sorry to say that it just feels right. It allows you to traverse the maps quicker, create new shooting angles, and allow for better overall team positioning. Simply put, it’s extremely hard to now boot up the Master Chief collection and go back to the Halo 3 walking pace, it just doesn’t have the same effect it once did.
A Spartan’s playground
Due to the variety of modes, there are, of course, maps big and small in Halo Infinite. But, no matter the size, each of these feel like they have had real love put into them.
While the gunplay is obviously tremendous, the maps are a big player in the one-on-one fights themselves and how the matches flow, so getting this right is an integral part of the multiplayer experience. Recharge, in particular, is such a cleverly designed arena that caters to all modes so well. It has just enough cover to allow one-on-one fights to take place uninterrupted, and the right amount of distance between each Stronghold zone to never feel like there’s a side advantage.
These kinds of small intricacies, that you don’t particularly pay attention to at first, seem to crop up more and more as you enter more matches and almost create a skill gap once you learn just how much attention to detail has gone into craft each play space.
The large open vistas of the Big Team Battle maps like Fragmentation and Highpower are quite clearly gorgeous in design but really show off how Halo Infinite can seamlessly transition from the tight confines of more tactical spaces to a more open-world, battle royale-esque arena. The chance of donning a Warthog with your teammates and riding into battle just doesn’t get old and when you pair that with the particularly phenomenal map design, it becomes quite an addiction.
Let’s talk customization…
With Halo Infinite Multiplayer, 343 has certainly highlighted the fact that you will have hundreds of options at your disposal for not only Spartan customization but also for weapons, vehicles, and even your AI. Initially, personalization is few and far between, which is to be expected, until you actually play a bunch of matches unlocking different options as you go.
Now, let’s get into Microtransactions. The dreaded word that has hand fisted its way into the industry. Well, as Halo Infinite Multiplayer is completely free to play, some cash needs to be clawed back in other areas. To this effect, 343 has followed the Fortnite Battle Pass model that so many other games of this ilk have also done. This includes a free and paid tier in which can be levelled to receive cosmetics, XP boosts, and more. You’re also able to simply purchase both XP boosts and Battle Pass levels for real cash if you’re feeling eager. Moreover, there’s a ‘store’ in which you can purchase specific cosmetics that don’t appear elsewhere in the Battle Pass system.
Right out the gate, most players were complaining about Battle Pass progression as it was simply too slow. You could go 10 multiplayer matches and maybe gain 2 Battle Pass levels which in this day in age, is just not quick enough. Since then, 343 has taken the feedback on the chin and applied some tweaks that certainly make the Battle Pass levelling less painful. This will continually be chopped and changed to find the sweet spot but all we can say is that it is on the right path.
I certainly don’t think the cosmetic side of things is a cash grab from 343 and with the changes being made to XP gains, you will be able to get to the all-important level 100 sooner than you might think. However, the free tier of the Battle Pass is a bit plain and probably not worth your time grinding the levels to ultimately be dissatisfied with the outcome.
If I had to give you one word to describe what Halo Infinite Multiplayer is, it would have to be magical. It just feels like Halo in its purest form. The maps are stellar, the weapons, new and old, feel sensational, and the actual fights themselves hit the sweet spot between a twitchy shooter and a more tactical affair.
Considering I’ve been experiencing it in its ‘beta’ form, it’s so polished. Yes, there are complaints about battle pass progression (which are constantly being worked on regardless) but the overall experience far surpasses the likes of Call of Duty Vanguard and Battlefield 2042, which don’t forget, are paid releases, with probably fewer bugs and issues than both games combined. While specific mode selection is missing and custom maps are not a thing yet, this really only adds to the longevity of Infinite Multiplayer and isn’t something that is necessarily needed on launch.
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