What’s Good About Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer
I like Halo a lot. From the first time I played the PC release of Halo Combat Evolved that my brother got his hands on when he was in high school to spending waaaaaay more time playing Halo 3’s multiplayer than I reasonably should have in high school (to the point where I basically had to repeat a semester, whoops) to playing a fuckload of Halo Reach with friends when I was in college; Halo’s brand of first-person shooting chicanery has been a constant in my life, almost to the same degree that Mega Man and fighting games have now that I think about it. The point is, I like Halo and while 343’s take on the multiplayer was good so far, it just didn’t hit the same way. The less said of 5’s single-player campaign, the better; but I’m getting off track because Infinite gives me a lot of hope for the multiplayer component of Halo going forward.
The reason I bring this up is that the 20th anniversary of the release of both the original Xbox and Halo Combat Evolved was on Monday (Sweet Christmas, it’s been two decades); and as an anniversary present/early birthday present to me/industry power move, Microsoft and 343 Industries released Halo Infinite’s multiplayer in its entirety three weeks before the game was supposed to come out. I was gonna write about the full release of Gunfire Reborn out of Early Access this week, but fuck it. We’re taking a trip through Halo Infinite’s multiplayer.
There are a lot of changes that Microsoft and 343 are making to get as many people into the ecosystem as possible. The first among them is that the multiplayer component of Halo infinite is completely free to play. No need for Game Pass or Xbox Live is required to get in, just download it off of the Xbox Marketplace or Steam and you are ready to start. It’s a bold strategy that I want to see how it pans out because while I’m the kind of guy that will gladly cough up the scratch for Halo’s Single Player campaigns, the general player base usually buys Halo for the multiplayer, the absolute weirdos. It also has a different take on the now ubiquitous Battle Pass concept: it doesn’t expire and you can choose what seasonal content you want to grind for at your own pace, which is awesome. Less awesome is that the leveling path is really dang slow and only done by completing weekly challenges. However, at the time of writing, 343 is aware of these issues and it’s making the grind less of a hassle. You can also buy cosmetics piecemeal or in bundles. While I’m not a fan, I’ll accept it as the cost of doing business.
That’s enough about changes to monetization and business models, it’s time to discuss the actual shootbangs themselves. There have been changes made to the general feel of both the weapons and movement and while Infinite feels like it continues the Halo 5 trend of bringing Halo into the modern era gameplay-wise, it still manages to feel distinctly Halo. It’s one of those things that’s inherently difficult to describe because you don’t know what it’s like until you play it. The main weapon changes are that the Assault Rifle doesn’t feel like a noob trap anymore, the Sidekick pistol being a pretty good sidearm, though a far cry from the Magnum in Halo CE, the Commando rifle serving as a fully automatic version of the Designated Marksman Rifle and the Bulldog being an automatic shotgun. These changes are welcome because it gives them more of a refined identity in terms of both the minute-to-minute combat loops as workhorses, get-off-me tools, and ambush weapons respectively. The main standouts are hands down the Jiralhanae themed Banished Weapons.
While I know that they are going to be used as a means of introducing some variety to the single-player campaign, these weapons take cues from the Banished’s red plasma energy and alien ballistics aesthetics to make for some truly explosive additions to the arsenal this time. From utility-based armaments like the Disruptor to fantastic close-range options like the slug firing Mangler and reworked three-shot burst firing Plasma Carbine, to the Long Range Stalker Rifle and Shock Rifle, and my personal favorites of the Banished weapons: The energy grenade launcher known as the Ravager and the Skewer, a Harpoon launcher that serves as a replacement to the Spartan Laser as the requisite “I‘ll be a LIVING GOD!” weapon. All have their uses and all are fucking awesome. And then there are the returning UNSC weapons that include series staples like the Aforementioned Assault Rifle, the Battle Rifle, the Sniper Rifle, and the SPNKR Rocket Launcher and the newer Forerunner weapons like the Heatwave, which is basically a Fusion Rifle from the Destiny games and with projectile travel time, the Cindershot which fires Forerunner energy grenades, and The Sentinel Beam, which is just a straight-up death ray.
The use of these weapons is placed around the maps in predetermined weapon lockers and Power weapons spawn points and control of these weapons are key to victory. In a carryover from Halo 5, these weapons all have their spawn timers shown on the map for all players to see, making it more accessible to track and keeping things on an even playing field. The maps all range from mid to large size with the latter making use of several vehicles, such as the iconic Warthog, the Mongoose (the Warthog’s lesser well known little brother who’s pretty cool), the Scorpion, a new airship called the Wasp, the Ghost and the Banshee, the Chopper, and the Wraith. The latter of these are all reserved for Big Team Battle. Speaking of, the playlists are split down the middle between both the smaller 4v4 playlists which include Slayer, Capture the Flag, Countdown (which is Halo’s take on Destiny’s Control PvP mode), and Oddball. I and my friend group have so far stuck with the smaller 4v4 playlist if only because it’s easier for us to coordinate with one another and we feel like we can get out strategies quicker. And this helps because there are what feels like no loading times when playing because there’s just that deep of a player pool at the time of writing. This is a good sign because Halo Infinite between these weapon changes, map designs, and the inclusion of crossplay all add up to make it the most fun I’ve had with Halo’s multiplayer since Halo Reach and as someone who’s longed to have something similar to that in his life, it feels amazing. How Amazing? When the MP first dropped, we all scrapped our plans to download it and play. After a bit of a rocky start, we found our groove and started dominating. It was like we never left, so much so that when we started getting into the groove of it we let three hours in total pass us by. It takes a special kind of game to do that to me these days, and this is feeling like it is.
All I can say is this at the moment: even though I’ve only played it for a few days, Halo Infinite is hands down the most satisfying multiplayer experience outside of fighting games I’ve had all year. While I may still be up in the air as to whether or not the single-player campaign will be any good (although the signs are promising), yeah the multiplayer gets a big ol’ thumbs up from me. It’s nice to have Halo back in my life in some way.