Halo Infinite multiplayer review – Greatness within reach

Last updated:

We’ve been putting the multiplayer beta of Halo Infinite through its paces since its surprisingly stealthy launch in mid-November. This early release comes with a caveat though. The player-driven and creative Forge Mode isn’t out yet, so we’re not quite seeing the full package just yet. But the verdict so far? It’s a fine return to form.

Halo’s gameplay has always had a lovely mix of tactics and mobility. Regenerating shields provide players with some durability, and with few weapons able to outright kill with one hit, firefights can often turn into a deadly dance. Players bob and weave to maximize their weapon’s strengths, while melee attacks, equipment abilities, grenades and vehicles mix up the formula and foil the unwary.

By ditching the overwhelming options of Halo 5: Guardians’ always-on Spartan Abilities and Halo 4’s customizable pre-match loadouts, Halo Infinite opts for a more traditional suite of equipment power-ups and a limited gear start that encourages players to roam the map to grab the gear they need and mix it up in the field. In tightening up choices at the start, Infinite has chosen to reinforce the classic fundamentals of the Halo PVP formula: a scramble for gear followed by the deadly dance of dueling Spartans.

In tightening up choices, Halo Infinite has chosen to reinforce the classic fundamentals of the Halo PVP formula: a scramble for gear followed by the deadly dance of dueling Spartans

That’s not to say that nothing’s changed, what with significant changes to weapons like the plasma carbine and the UNSC shotgun, and the addition of wholly new toys like the Grapple Shot and a plethora of weapons from the Covenant splinter-faction known as the Banished, many of which feature the new shock damage type which can shut down vehicles and spread lingering damage over time.

Halo Infinite review

Halo Infinite game modes – Quick Play, Big Team Battles, Ranked & Academy

There are a number of ways for players to mix it up in battle in Halo Infinite’s multiplayer. Slayer battles focus on getting the most kills in, 50 in standard matches, or 100 in Big Team Battles. More objective based modes include traditional Capture the Flag, as well as one-flag CTF, while area control modes like Strongholds and the riotous Oddball encourage a more strategic mindset to the firefights.

Queueing up for Quick Play puts you into 4v4 battles, with the full range of weapons and vehicles in each map and mode, while Ranked Arena changes up the formula with more competitively balanced maps and modes, as well as a starting loadout that features the Battle Rifle and a disabled motion tracker, rewarding precise shooting and Spartans that can coordinate well in tight arena battles.

Big Team Battles lean into the opposite end of the spectrum, featuring sprawling maps, vehicles and 12v12 skirmishes that provide bigger, wilder battles, along with game modes like Total Control and Stockpile that take advantage of the bigger player counts.

An oft ignored but tremendously useful mode is the Academy, which runs players through a short training course with the intense and encouraging Spartan commander Agryna, as well as options for weapon drills and configurable training matches against bots. The weapon drills in particular are great for learning the ins and outs and hidden tricks of each tool in your arsenal, and the bot training mode can be customized for difficulty and loadout so you can practice with specific combos of weapons and gear against moving targets.

All in all, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for casual games against bots, big team battles, or competitive firefights in ranked, and we’d love to see more as the multiplayer module matures.

Halo Infinite review

Halo Infinite Gunplay and Equipment

Halo Infinite is no exception to the rule that shooters live and die by their gunplay and their equipment options. Shield durability and the ability to carry limited weapons and equipment forces players to adapt to what they can find in the field, encouraging movement and lightning fast mental calculus of the kind of tactics that your field-improvised kit favors. 

Most of the weapons you can find in the field feel satisfying to use and characterful. Each pistol, rifle, and grenade launcher comes with their own perks and unique behaviors that fit a tactical niche, while extremely limited power weapons like the heavy sniper rifles and energy sword break the one-hit kill limitation to terrifying short term effect. Old standbys like the UNSC battle rifle are joined by new toys with new tricks, like the Banished shock rifle, which can deliver pinpoint shots that can arc shock damage to nearby enemies at point of impact. 

(For a closer look at these weapons, check out our guide to the best weapons in Halo Infinite multiplayer.)

The other part of the formula is the change to equipment abilities.  The always-on Spartan Abilities of Halo Guardians have been walked back to a more traditional power up formula that lets you pick up equipment to gain a small but meaningful tactical boost. Players can scavenge familiar tools like drop shields, overshields and active camouflage as well as new items like the Repulsor and the magnificent Grapple Shot. The latter two give Spartans a range of offensive and defensive utility options by knocking back explosives, or pulling them up towards new parts of the map or unsuspecting beatdown targets.

Halo Infinite review

Halo Infinite customization and progression

Customizing your Spartan’s appearance has been a series hallmark ever since Reach opened the floodgates to tweaking every minute aspect of your Spartan’s Mjolnir armor, and sadly, here’s where Infinite falls flat. Customizations are gated by your player level, which you can slowly grind by fulfilling daily and weekly challenges, but even then, progression is downright glacial unless you’re willing to put in a lot of time. Even those who pay for the premium Battle Pass aren’t exempt from this.

The Battle Pass features plenty of ‘dead levels’ that deliver little of what players might actually want and make progression feel even slower than it already is.

The current Battle Pass, “Season 1: Heroes of Reach” is themed around Halo: Reach’s Noble Team, with the promise of unlocking an armor core and a ton of cool customizations. Unfortunately, plenty of ‘dead levels’ provide only consumable challenge swaps or XP boost items which are quite unsatisfying and deliver little of what players might actually want, making progression feel even slower than it already is.

343 Industries has responded to dissatisfaction with progression with some tweaks to daily challenges, and promise more changes over the coming weeks and months, but ultimately this is the weakest parts of Infinite’s formula.

When you do get to unlock some cool options, customization starts getting good, letting you play with the armor and body customization stock options. From the get go, players can give their Spartan varying degrees of arm and leg prostheses, voice patterns, and body types. A small note is that I appreciate how voice patterns are given alphanumeric designations rather than explicitly gendered. Players can also customize UNSC weapons with colored skins, charms, and logos, as well as a suite of AI companions/announcer voices, from the regal BUTLR to the chipper CIRC and nervous FRET.

Halo Infinite review

Halo Infinite’s missing mode, The Forge

The Forge mode is one of the big question marks for Halo Infinite multiplayer. While a series highlight for many, its absence here is felt. It won’t be around till 2022, but when it does players should be able to exercise their creativity and deliver their own spin on familiar maps and game modes. Without Forge mode, it does kind of feel like we’re only seeing half of the show when it comes to the potential for variety that could be had in Infinite’s multiplayer.

Verdict

Two weeks in and we already love Halo’s debut entry into free-to-play multiplayer. It’s unfortunate that while there are a rich selection of customizations, progression currently happens at a snail’s pace, even when you pay to get on the premium track. Still, the gunplay, mobility, and varied game modes come together to deliver a well-polished arena shooter.

Whether you just want to plink some bots, engage in riotous big team battles or flex your competitive side, Halo Infinite has something for every shooter fan. The move to free-to-play means everyone is welcome, for even those unwilling to sink sixty American quid (or their local equivalent) can get a taste of the action.

Halo Infinite stats
Halo Infinite Multiplayer
ABOUT THE SCORE
A wonderful, memorable experience. Any flaws in this game are easily outshined by moments of excellence.
PROS
Halo multiplayer’s deadly dance returns and feels as great as ever
Abilities and equipment have a high skill ceiling while remaing accessible
New weapons gel nicely with familiar favorites
CONS
Armor customizations promise much, but unlock little unless you’re willing to pay or play
No Forge mode means that a series staple is absent and that absence is deeply felt
8
EXCELLENT