I could talk about what makes “Halo Infinite” terrific but not exceptional for an entire day, but while you’re in the middle of it, the flaws that constitute that distinction are impossible to notice because it’s just so much fun. I found myself giggling with murderous glee after wiping out an enemy team on my own; laughing as I casually chucked a fusion coil and accidentally splattered an unseen player, and roaring support for an ally as they successfully held the line long enough for our team to secure an objective and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Playing “Halo Infinite” is a joyous experience, and what more can you ask for in a free-to-play online multiplayer shooter?
But, as already said, “Halo Infinite” is not without issues. The game’s challenge-based progression system, in particular, is unsatisfying and locks the game’s coolest-looking cosmetics locked behind dozens of hours of an unfulfilling slog. But 343 Industries has nailed it on the head with “Halo Infinite”, which feels great. Firearms pack a powerful punch, and your Spartan moves fluidly. And, while not every map seems like it’ll go down in Halo’s hall of fame as an all-time favorite at launch, there’s a welcome variety to them, allowing the seven currently available game types to play out in drastically different ways depending on whatever map you’re playing on.
The multiplayer in “Halo Infinite” is based on a Spartan training regimen, similar to Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. Spartan Commander Agryna leaves you behind at a secure facility entrusted with training the next generation of Spartan IVs, with both Master Chief and the UNSC Infinity recorded as missing in action and the threat of Cortana still present. It is up to you to put in the effort and develop stronger in order to be ready for the upcoming battle.
The multiplayer is reminiscent of classic Halo, but it has been altered to better suit the modern FPS player base, which prefers shooters that emphasize good gunplay with seamless movement and quick-to-deploy abilities. With the longer time-to-kill rate in today’s shooter climate, “Halo Infinite” leans into the series’ typical rhythm of firefights. It’s a dance that will seem familiar to long-time fans, but it also feels entirely new in today’s shooter context. Even if the perfect weapon (or simply having massively greater numbers) can terminate a fight quickly, most don’t because of each Spartan’s rechargeable shield, which breaks combat into two distinct parts.
When you’re shielded, you can take more risks and use weapons that take longer to pay off (like the Plasma Pistol, which can be charged to fire a more powerful shot), but once it’s gone, you’re vulnerable, and the need to take more evasive maneuvers (or pull out a faster-hitting weapon, like the fully automatic MA40 Assault Rifle, to outpace your opponent’s shots) increases. Your shield will recharge if you survive long enough, returning you to the initial phase.
Due to the fact that all players are bound by these restrictions, conflicts are usually more about how you choose to use your weapon than about what weapon you have. A charged Plasma Pistol shot will demolish an opponent’s shields faster than the MA40, but if a player with the MA40 can move side to side quickly enough to avoid the Plasma Pistol’s loose lock-on, they can land enough hits to break that shield first, and the MA40 tears through unshielded targets much faster. Halo has always been a skill game that rewards players for battling smartly and figuring out how to best destroy an opponent, and “Halo Infinite” continues that tradition.
Every piece of equipment is valuable in some way, and the majority of them are useful in varied ways from one mode to the next. Repulsor, for example, which blasts out a shockwave that knocks everything in front of you back, is wonderful for tossing vehicles over cliffs in Big Team Battle but can also save your life in Ranked Arena from a surprise grenade. Short cooldowns, limited uses, and the requirement to collect each piece of equipment prevent each piece of equipment from being spammed continuously, ensuring that skillful usage of weaponry remains a crucial component of Halo’s in-match meta.
The movement mechanics in “Halo Infinite” work well with the game’s weaponry and equipment, enabling players to play quickly and aggressively. The ability to slide after running is particularly impressive, as it allows you to move exactly far enough and fast enough to turn tight corners swiftly for both offense and defense. When it comes to evading bullets, it seems as important as strafing or jumping, and timing a jump to go into a long slide to swing around a corner and surprise your opponent by firing them from a lower angle than they expected is satisfying.
The ping system is the only one of the new-school shooter mechanics that makes its way into “Halo Infinite” that fails miserably. Halo’s primary formula was not designed with a ping system in mind, and “Halo Infinite” does not change that. The ping itself isn’t very useful; while it does, thankfully, inform squadmates of the number of adversaries there, it doesn’t provide context when pinging a position on the map. It can be difficult to tell whether a teammate is telling you to go to a position, defend a spot, or attack a spot because of this. Putting the ping on a controller’s D-pad also makes it difficult to apply the mechanism in the middle of a battle.
When you’re ready to combat, “Halo Infinite’s” multiplayer offers four different playlists to choose from. Bot Bootcamp features a variety of 4v4 modes, all of which are placed in a PvE environment, allowing newcomers to test and improve their skills before entering the world of online matching. The two casual online multiplayer playlists in “Halo Infinite” are Quick Play and Big Team Battle. The first covers the game’s many 4v4 game modes, while the second is 12v12. Finally, Ranked Arena offers competitive adaptations of Bot Bootcamp and Quick Play, forcing you to compete against other players of similar skill levels in order to advance in rank.
Because “Halo Infinite’s” multiplayer is still in open beta, not all modes are available. For example, there is no elimination. Total Control, Stockpile, Oddball, Strongholds, Capture the Flag, One Flag CTF, and Slayer are the seven game modes available at launch. Except for Slayer, all of Halo Infinite’s modes are objective-based, meaning that getting the most kills isn’t the only way to win.
The difficulty of achieving these goals varies depending on whatever map you’re playing on and which playlist you’re queueing into. Smaller maps are included in Bot Bootcamp, Quick Play, and Ranked Arena, the majority of which include twisting passageways that emphasize staying hyper-aware of your immediate surroundings and being ready to burst off in fierce firefights. Big Team Battle takes place on much larger maps, all of which encourage smart player rotation—being a good shot is still important, but knowing how to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible is even more important, as you may be spawned a long sprint away from the objective that requires you.
It’s a well-rounded map collection. Highpower, because of how ridiculously overpowered the Wasp is on that map, and Behemoth, because its wide-open layout and inclusion of vehicles isn’t a great fit for the 4v4 playlists, are two that make me moan in aggravation whenever they crop up. Overall, “Halo Infinite” has started out with a diverse set of enjoyable arenas. Bazaar and Recharge are my two favorites, with huge open central spaces for those courageous enough for a frantic shootout, and numerous levels of passageways and rooms for those wishing for a longer but generally safer journey across the map. Fragmentation is also a lot of fun—you can’t go wrong with a Halo level that features two bases spanning a lengthy canyon.
“Halo Infinite” expands on the franchise’s arsenal of weapons, offering a variety of new weapons to annihilate, melt, zap, and crush your foes. The basic premise stays the same: alien weapons destroy Spartan shields while human weaponry rips through the meaty areas that aren’t covered. This time, though, there are a few more pleasurable aspects to keep in mind. A headshot with the Shock Rifle, for example, will disintegrate a victim, but a beam into a Spartan’s chest might enable the electricity-based rounds to arc to more targets, injuring adjacent adversaries. The weapon’s bullets can also stymie vehicles, causing Warthogs to stall or Banshees to plummet from the skies. The majority of “Halo Infinite’s” new weapons are built similarly, with secondary effects or fire modes that, when utilized strategically, produce rewarding outcomes.
The Energy Sword and M41 SPNKR are back, bringing the overall number of firearms, melee weapons, and grenade types to twenty. The sound design for these weapons is fantastic—even if you can’t see an enemy, you can tell what weapon they’re using by the sound they make. Each gun’s shot and the appearance of each grenade are visually unique (less so for human weapons), which aids in identifying what you’re up against if a louder sound obscures your foe’s weapon’s signature noises.
This all helps to ensure that firefights are won by talent rather than luck. Visual and aural clues can tune you into what your opponent is utilizing against you in the short seconds that a fight lasts, determining how you can respond to beat them. It wouldn’t be a Halo game without a little bit of luck (or funny tragedy), and that’s present as well. I’ve won combat, exhaled a sigh of relief, and then been crushed by a destroyed Wasp that descended from the sky. These aren’t the typical fatalities of humorous misfortune, and in most cases, the better player (or just the one who learned how to use the surroundings to their advantage) will emerge victoriously.
However, with the exception of Slayer, obtaining kills isn’t always the most crucial goal in a game. Even if Slayer is all you desire, you’re out of luck right now. At launch, “Halo Infinite” does not have any playlists dedicated to specific game types. Instead, 343 Industries has placed all of “Halo Infinite’s” modes and maps into each of the game’s four multiplayer playlists, and you’ll be tossed into one of them at random depending on which playlist you choose. Going into Quick Play, for example, might put you in Slayer on Bazaar one match and One Flag CTF on Launch Site the next. There is currently no way to customize what you exactly want to look for beyond whether you want to play 4v4, 12v12, or 4v4 rated outside of going into Custom Games and creating your own playlist.
I can see why it appeals to you. Without this format, I doubt my friends and I would have played or even tried many modes other than Slayer on a regular basis. Infinite’s Oddball, Capture the Flag, One Flag CTF, Total Control, and Strongholds modes, on the other hand, have grown on us. Every player receives a decent dosage of each mode thanks to the current playlist arrangement. If you’ve never played Halo before, Infinite is a continuous sample platter that will give you a taste of what’s available and help you discover new favorites.
However, there is a drawback to this. You’ll note that I didn’t mention how much my buddies and I enjoyed Stockpile. We don’t like Stockpile, therefore that’s why. We don’t want to play Stockpile any longer. Carrying each battery across the map is time-consuming, causing combat to pause while players carry a battery a few feet, chuck it forward, and die. The technique is then repeated by the next player on the team to transfer the battery a little further. It’s essentially a slower version of Capture the Flag, and because teams must capture five batteries to win a round, it might feel like games drag on for much too long.
When players are sprinting around and shooting instead of slowly wandering around with glowing batteries and being shot to death in seconds, “Halo Infinite” is just a better game. However, there is no way to exclude Stockpile from the list. We could just stick to Bot Bootcamp, Quick Play, and Ranked Arena, but that’s not a good option because we still want to play Total Control, Big Team Battle’s other exclusive mode. There’s no getting around it: “Halo Infinite’s” lack of playlist curation means you’ll occasionally be forced into modes you don’t want to play, which may be annoying, especially if you don’t have a lot of free time and just want to play what you want to play. A sample platter is a terrific way to start an evening, but you’ll eventually want to summon the waiter and place an order for your favorite dish.
It doesn’t help matters that in-game progression is solely dependent on completing daily and weekly objectives, with numerous weekly tasks requiring players to play certain modes. Completing challenges to kill an opposing flag carrier, for example, is only possible if you’re in a Capture the Flag or One Flag CTF mode. You can queue for Quick Play in the hopes of landing a match in any mode, but you may be placed in a series of Slayer and Oddball matchups first.
Because there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to kill someone who steals your flag (except by camping the flag’s spawn point), or that your team’s flag will be stolen, you may find yourself having to queue again and again to be put into the mode you need to play in order to progress through the battle pass. It’s especially aggravating if the matches you’re playing in the meanwhile aren’t helping you advance in the game. At the very least, 343 Industries has added a daily challenge in which completing a battle gets you some XP, ensuring that no match is a complete wash.
However, because completing a daily challenge only earns you 50 XP and you need 1000 XP to level up in the battle pass, progression is still heavily dependent on weekly challenges, which offer rewards ranging from 200 to 400 XP.
So, as much fun as “Halo Infinite” is to play—and doing well may be a reward in and of itself, especially if you have buddies to pump you up after a fantastic match—skillfully playing objectives and simply being a good teammate isn’t rewarded through the advancement system. Though the longer-term repercussions aren’t appropriate for a review (there’s no way of knowing whether weekly challenges will eventually push players to play more selfishly and prioritize their personal growth over assuring victory), the immediate consequences are worth examining. As it stands, earning anything in “Halo Infinite” is rather laborious, unless you want to spend real money on battle pass levels or cosmetics from the in-game store, which isn’t a particularly appealing option.
Despite these flaws, I keep returning to the idea that “Halo Infinite” is simply enjoyable to play, with rewards or no incentives. The online multiplayer in “Halo Infinite” takes everything that makes Halo great and increases it with the faster speed and abilities of more modern shooters. The ping system isn’t great, and tying all in-game progression to daily and weekly tasks creates an unrewarding structure. However, the sound design is excellent, the maps are well-designed, the weapons have satisfying kinetic energy, and the game rewards competence. “Halo Infinite’s” multiplayer is already a wonderful free game, even though it’s still in open beta.