Halo Infinite multiplayer review - An imperfect return to glory - Dexerto
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Halo Infinite multiplayer review – An imperfect return to glory

Published: 23/Nov/2021 15:40 Updated: 23/Nov/2021 15:41

by Lloyd Coombes

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Like an old friend, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer feels like a reunion years in the making – and it’s been worth every second.

343 Industries took the unusual step of dropping Halo Infinite’s multiplayer portion a few weeks ahead of the full game’s release in early December, meaning we’ve been playing for around a week.

While it’s “in beta” and plenty of things are subject to change, we felt it was time to give a review of what we have so far. While this review will be scored, we’ll also be reviewing the full game, including the campaign, at launch. Given that it feels Halo Infinite is ready for prime-time ahead of December 8, aside from a handful of balancing tweaks, we feel confident in saying one thing – Halo is back.

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Let me see your Halo

Halo Infinite screenshot showing Spartans fighting
343 Industries
Halo Infinite is a huge return to form – but can the campaign follow suit?

Of course, that’s a statement that’ll mean different things to different people. For some, like this writer, it conjures up images of late nights on Xbox Live, or sitting cross-legged in front of the TV with friends on each side back in the early 2000s. For others, it may mean very little – aside from the Master Chief Collection, Halo 5 was the only entry in the franchise to grace the entire last console generation.

That game had its issues, sure, but its multiplayer wasn’t one of them, and while we hold our breath to see what Halo Infinite’s less linear campaign looks like, it’s clear to see that 343 has grown in confidence in adversarial modes.

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From the floaty jumping to the scatter of the classic assault rifle, Halo Infinite feels closer to Halo than any game since Halo 3. Gone are Halo 4’s loadouts, as are Halo 5’s directional boosters. The result strips Halo down to its three core pillars; guns, grenades, and melee.

For newcomers, that’ll take some adjustment. Aiming down sights is possible, but not necessary, and it’s not unsurprising to fire an assault rifle clip at an enemy before finishing them off with a punch, rather than reloading and re-engaging. Those wondering about the franchise’s first day-and-date PC launch can rest easy, too – it’s just as fluid as it is on console.

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Spartans in Halo Infinite can sprint, too, but doing so means you can’t fire, while the fluid mantling of Halo 5 does return, making traversal a delight. You’ll need to move quickly, too, because Power weapons are back in vogue – and are crucial to controlling maps in Arena, or beating back an enemy encroaching on your objective in Big Team Battle.

Old dog, new trick shots

Halo Infinite Streets map
343 Industries
“Streets” is full of ambush opportunities

While contemporaries like Vanguard will let players equip a staggering array of attachments to weapons, Halo Infinite’s remain pure. Whether you’ve been playing for one hour or whether you’ve been playing for one hundred, your Battle Rifle remains a Battle Rifle, and your Plasma Pistol stays the same, too. It’s liberating to know that there’s no real meta, here, and each of the game’s weapons feels useful and satisfying in equal measure.

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The Needler’s homing barbs feel deadly as ever and no-scope Sniper Rifle shots hit differently in Halo from more twitchy shooters. New weapons are just as enjoyable to use, too, with the Heatwave sending projectiles bouncing around corners in close-quarters combat, and the Skewer rips through Spartans and vehicles alike.

That’s not all that’s new, either; Equipment returns, offering chances to turn a fight on its head. The Drop Wall can block grenades lobbed in your position, while the Repulsor can send them, and enemies, flying backward – an ideal counter for the Gravity Hammer.

Of course, much has been made of the Grappleshot and it’s clear to see why. After a brief practice period, it’s easy to fling yourself around corners, over obstacles, and onto enemy vehicles with Infinite’s grappling hook, and it’s clear it’ll open up plenty of traversal opportunities in the campaign.

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In short, Halo has never felt more responsive or tactically flexible.

Home is where the Heatwave is

Halo Infinite Big Team Battle map
343 Industries
Big Team Battle is still quintessential Halo

Gameplay is one thing, but multiplayer titles live or die based on the strength of their maps. Halo Infinite has launched with 10, each with its own unique appeal.

Streets, set in New Mombasa, is ideal for Oddball matches. It’s full of twisty corridors and sneaky flanking spots, while also offering three lanes that make it ideal for snipers.

Recharge is a great showcase for the Grappleshot, allowing for plenty of routes through the map and ways to take advantage of its multiple layers of verticality. Then there’s Bazaar, a classically ‘Halo’ map, with an area to skirmish in the middle with cover and high ground on each side.

Big Team Battle, Halo’s larger-scale mode which ups the player count has three larger maps to roam around in. Deadlock and High Power are great, but Fragmentation remains the standout. Not only does it bring back shades of Halo 3’s Valhalla, but its varied foliage and craggy rock formations make it ripe for ambushes.

As fun and as competitively pure as Arena is, Big Team Battle feels like the perfect way to showcase Halo’s appeal to newcomers. Tanks, Warthogs, and plenty more will roll through the map, while small groups of Spartans battle it out with the weapons they find.

In Capture The Flag, there’s something bizarrely wholesome about escorting the flag carrier to a waiting Warthog, then trying to draw enemy fire to ensure your comrade makes it back to base.

Teething issues

Halo Infinite orange Spartan
343 Industries
Halo Infinite needs more options for picking modes.

Sadly, there are some weaknesses in Halo Infinite’s Mjolnir armor. For one, menus are a tad sluggish, taking their sweet time to let you know when your friends are in the party – particularly on PC.

Secondly, an option to pick a mode would be a godsend. While I enjoy Oddball as much as the next Spartan, sometimes I just want to play Slayer, or CTF. At present, though, the only way to sort that is via a custom game.

Finally, much of the criticism aimed at Halo Infinite has been for the way it implements a Battle Pass. The good thing is that there are plenty of rewards, but progress feels glacial. While players get a modicum of XP completing challenges, match completion isn’t rewarding at all. Not only does that mean the rewards track grinds to a halt, but it also means there’s no incentive for people to stay in matches if they’re losing.

That’s caused issues in the game’s Ranked playlist, which routinely sees the losing squad drop players. Here’s hoping for a fix to either issue prior to December 8.

8/10

Despite those issues, though, I’ve been pulled to Halo Infinite every day since it launched. It doesn’t reward my time thanks to its wonky battle pass, and I often feel like it serves me the opposite match type to what I’d pick for myself. And yet, I find myself returning for the opportunity to hit that perfect Battle Rifle burst that brings an enemy down, or to stick a plasma grenade to an opponent’s vehicle.

While its shooter competition is fierce, it’s clear that Halo Infinite is off to a great start – and I can’t wait to see it grow.

Reviewed on Xbox Series X (with time spent on PC)