There’s something satisfying about the sights and sounds of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer. Jeff Steitzer’s iconic voice, the sound of your shield recharging, the clickity-clack of your Xbox controller. It soothes our souls, bringing me back to a time of innocence and wonder.
If you could call my college “a time of innocence,” that is. If anything, it was more along the lines of playing Halo 3 with friends in our living room and making a decision to chug energy drinks instead of sleeping before a Saturday morning shift at work.
Halo Infinite Is Back in Some Big Ways
With Halo Infinite, a lot of people are saying the franchise is back. It’s odd, considering that the Master Chief Collection has a healthy population. When you take into account, though, the fact that multiplayer gaming has seemed to move past the once untouchable franchise, you start to root for its return.
If 343 Industries can manage to stay out of their own way, there’s a strong chance that it’s indeed back like John Wick. The foundation is there: solid gameplay, fast-paced action, memorable moments with vehicles (when you see them, anyway).
The battle pass and progression system, though? That’s the definition of getting in your own way.
Many consider Halo Infinite’s multiplayer to be a beta in name only. When considering how the game plays, this is true. Infinite feels well designed, polished, and complete. The traditional Halo formula when it comes to gunplay is there. Know the map and use it to your advantage, artfully dodge while shooting, and be ready to melee to finish them off in close quarters.
Halo Infinite’s Weapons Are Fantastic — Most of the Time
More importantly, the weapons in your arsenal feel fantastic. For the most part, anyway. The assault rifle feels like a perfect weapon for casual matchmaking and its pairing with an absolutely fantastic sidearm pistol is a match made in heaven.
In terms of ranked play, you start with the battle rifle and it’s the best it has ever been in Halo.
Not every weapon is going to be a home run; the plasma pistol’s homing capabilities got nerfed and the shotgun definitely feels weaker than I remember.
A Useless Radar Function?
Speaking of nerfs, we need to talk about the radar: it’s borderline useless.
The radar function is permanently disabled during ranked play and honestly, it made me realize that it does more harm than good in casual matchmaking. Is it frustrating? Sure, but honestly I’m not bothered by it. This is in part due to how easy it is to pick up on enemy locations in Halo Infinite. It’s something I struggle with in games such as Warzone; I have no idea how other people are able to identify and locate enemies across the map.
With Halo, however, it’s different. Enemy Spartans pop, their movement is more audible, and the HUD does a better job indicating where I’m being shot from.
What Halo Infinite Does Best
Speaking of Warzone, there’s a feeling that gaming has passed Halo by. The FPS genre seems to be dominated today by battle royales and hero-based squad shooters. If you’re looking for fast-paced arena shooters, you have better options. The same can be said in regards to strategic shooters, objective-based shooters, so on and so forth. What has always made Halo great is the ability to combine all of these elements into an accessible and enjoyable package. That’s what Halo Infinite does best: remembers what made the franchise great and, instead of re-inventing the wheel, fine-tuning it.
Playing Halo Infinite feels great. The matches are fun, transporting me back to that time where I marathoned Halo 3 on Xbox Live in college. Whenever I’m not playing, I’m thinking about Halo. On PC and console (Xbox Series X), the game plays and runs smoothly. Control schemes, aside from a bug that disables controller aim assist on PC if you touch your mouse or keyboard, are smooth. Simply put, I love playing this game.
I don’t love, however, what I have to put up with playing the game.
There Are Some Minor Inconveniences
The first minor inconvenience I noticed involves playlists. If I want to spend my entire session playing Slayer, I can’t do that. I have to hope that it comes up in one of the available playlists (Casual, Big Team Battle, Ranked).
Free-for-all isn’t even an option. Yes, as the disclaimer at the end of this review in progress will indicate, we’re still technically in a multiplayer beta. Sure, you can make the argument too that it’s a design choice to get everyone in one queue for less downtime. It still, to be blunt, sucks.
Thankfully, I like all the available game modes between Slayer, Oddball, Capture the Flag, and Stronghold. Not everyone shares this sentiment, though, and it’s not fair to them.
One root cause of this could be the monetization that exists within Halo Infinite and its battle pass. There’s no secret that some objectives are far easier than others in certain game modes.
At the time of this writing, there’s a fiesta playlist available, allowing me to spawn with random weapons. If I’m needing kills with a specific weapon not available on certain maps, you better believe I’m queueing up fiesta. I did this last night, in fact, and was able to gain some easy XP in the process. Everyone isn’t going to have this luxury, however. The alternative to help with this progression process? Swipe your credit card.
This seems like a good time to segway into my biggest problem with the game.
The Biggest Issue Facing Halo Infinite Multiplayer
The battle pass and its monetization is hampering Halo Infinite.
Remember how I mentioned there was a fiesta playlist happening this week? There’s also a limited event for special armor taking place too. In order to complete it and gain that armor, you’ll need to make sure that you take place in future events; it’s impossible to finish it given the current progression system.
Inflated costs for unlocks, a slow drip of experience gained, and randomized objectives that pair poorly with weapon/vehicle requirements (I’ve seen a whopping one Scorpion in the 20+ hours I’ve played thus far) all lead to a very bad time.
Halo Infinite’s battle pass is french frying when it’s supposed to pizza.
Customization issues are further complicated by the difficulty in updating pieces of armor individually. Specifically, you can’t. I recall back in the day having specific colors for my shoulders, legs, chest, etc. That’s not entirely possible in Halo Infinite. In fact, the problem gets turned up to 11. There’s an armor kit for the Cloud 9 esports team that requires you to have it across the board. Armor, weapons, etc. You can’t pick and choose and, to be honest, there’s no valid reason why. If you’re wondering how you unlock this, by the way, you swipe your credit card.
It may seem like I’m being overly harsh regarding the issues with Halo Infinite, especially since they don’t affect gameplay. That being said, there’s little to no excuse for any of these problems to exist. The only logical reason for them is to generate more revenue and get more people to just buy credits with real money. Either that or you can buy products such as Rockstar Energy drinks or special Pringles flavors to unlock in-game rewards and bonus XP. This goes directly against 343 Industries’ single source stance. They said during showcase previews that they don’t want any confusion as to where rewards and progression come from. Again, this may seem minor, but it’s still a valid critique.
The worst part about all of this is that it was all easily avoidable. At its core, the gameplay of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is incredibly sound. It’s a blast to play. I want to go back and play it more after finishing up this review. The issues with monetization, battle pass, and playlists, however, are too much to simply shrug off. They’re in danger of alienating too many people from playing the game long-term.
We still have some time before the campaign launches on December 8th and we’ll update our thoughts after that. 343 Industries can still fix things to make the game more accessible in terms of unlocks and customizations. As of this moment, though, it’s an upsetting experience.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is an amazing experience in-game hampered by frustrating practices that surround it.
Important note: Halo Infinite is still technically in a multiplayer beta. The game itself, at least for this aspect, looks and feels like it’s complete. In addition, the multiplayer is a separate, free-to-play SKU compared to the campaign’s release on December 8th. We’ll update this multiplayer review after the 8th to address any changes, updates, or concerns.