We've been playing Halo Infinite's multiplayer since launch and have now set a rating.
It's that surgically accurate feeling when I aim with Battle Rifle 75, the intensity of jumping over half a track sitting behind the levers of a Ghost, the pressure of jumping from a high mountain and blowing up an entire team with perfect SP4NKR rocket, and that exaggerated madness when I and the co-players wide-load in front of the opponent's flag for a quick jolt before they even realise what's happened.
That's exactly what makes Halo and this has been the cornerstone ever since Halo: Combat Evolved was released. I dare say that I was one of the first in Sweden to play it when it happened, and it led to a hopefully lifelong love story. Since then, the battles have expanded, gained more features and the basically sleepy Halo tempo has been cranked up
But after Bungie handed over the series to 343 Industries, it hasn't quite managed to hit the right one. Halo 4 had problems with both campaign and multiplayer where many - not without points - thought the inspiration from Call of Duty was too great. This while Halo 5: Guardians had a somewhat flawed campaign but a consistently good multiplayer, which many, however, thought retained too little of the Halo basics through a much higher tempo.
How the campaign is in Halo Infinite we will talk about in a separate review before the premiere, but for now, we only get to tell you about the multiplayer part. Early on, 343 Industries announced that Halo Infinite would be a soft reboot. A kind of reboot. Most people probably assumed that it was about single-player, but the fact is that I also think they meant multiplayer. This is the closest we've come to Halo 3 since... Halo 3.
In practice, this means that 343 Industries has finally got rid of non-purpose weapons that lacked a real purpose, made courses that are really suitable for the modes of play, and significantly slowed down. The latter is important because it gives that little unique Halo feeling that you have been shot hard where the opponent got really nice hits, but I still live and have the chance for a comeback. It simply takes time to kill a Spartan warrior and it is important to lie on with weapons and grenades to sink your enemy, and often an injured opponent gets so close that it becomes hand gestures that determine the outcome of a duel.
At the moment there is the opportunity to play four against four, as well as Big Team Battle which is now twelve against twelve. A Free For All list is missing, which will certainly be fixed in time, but still worth knowing. Both lists consist of slumbering modes of play, which means that you cannot choose to run, for example, team Slayer alone at the moment. This is also something that will certainly come in time, but the limitation is a negative.
Leaving aside the restriction, 343 Industries has, fortunately, bet on safe cards among the modes of play so everyone is really good. This basically means variants of flag catching, Oddball, Strongholds, Total Control, and of course, Slayer. The one that stands out the most is the newcomer Stockpile where it is important to transport a kind of battery to its own base. However, they are a lot of them and it is important to be quick and prevent the opponent from getting over any. It is also possible to steal the opponents' batteries if they manage to install some. This too is a very fun way of playing that encourages teamwork and a lot of shooting.
The pace is slightly lower here than in Halo 5: Guardians in particular and the sprint doesn't feel quite as fast. The grappling hook that is so important in the campaign is in multiplayer decimated into an item to pick up, and the battles thus feel quite exactly like Halo should feel. The battles quickly become incredibly intense along with the well-designed courses that offer well-balanced choke points where the battles always get extra hot. My personal favorite is Bazaar with its Halo 2-inspired design and layout suitable for virtually any style of play, while in Big Team Battle I really like the spiritual Valhalla replacement (Halo 3 track) Fragmentation. It has everything it takes for truly classic Halo battles with vehicles, rockets, snipers, secrets to fight for, and good and squiggly for melee combat. The courses are also so small that it never takes long to get in the hot air. Most often, the war is waiting for you behind the next corner when you spawn, which is a nice break from the competitors.
The first Halo Infinite event is also underway, namely Fracture: Tenrai. Here you can unlock samurai-like armor parts in a playlist of slumbering weapons. It will thus be a good entry point to learn all the intricacies of the game because during a normal match you will have had to try most of them. However, I also want to strike a blow for the training mode on offer, where you can set everything up and train against bots. Although I myself know about everything worth knowing about the Halo series, I appreciated being able to test-fire all the weapons in peace and quiet.
The setting possibilities in Halo Infinite are absolutely magnificent. There are subpages to the undersides and I myself have chosen to play with a different setup than Halo's classic Red vs Blue. I had a hard time seeing the red opponents sometimes when the characters were wearing blue armor. Fortunately, there are plenty of options, not least a much redder and clearer colour - or the pineapple yellow I chose that makes my enemies shine like beacons along the tracks.
The single biggest news in Halo Infinite's multiplayer, however, is that it's free-to-play this time around. You can download and play for free on both PC and Xbox without any kind of subscription. That in itself has brought with it a number of things like a huge user base, but also an economy based on seasonal passes and microtransactions. While fortunately, it's not pay-to-win, it feels a bit unusual to see a store so heavily integrated into a Halo game. In the end, I'm still positive that it's free-to-play, and I think it will benefit Halo in the long run.
That said, there's still a clear minus for me with Halo Infinite's multiplayer, and that's the XP system. It has already been heavily criticised and brought about a change for the better, but how quickly you level up is still not tied to your basic performance, but to a number of challenges that are rotated every day and week. For example, it could be about killing five enemies with a Mangler, in itself a reasonable thing. But it can have the consequence that your teammates can run around with a Mangler, which is a melee weapon, even on the larger tracks in search of these five slain opponents. This behavior has cost me the match on a couple of occasions, like the sniper who neglected to take over areas of Total Control in pursuit of a Killing Spree, which was one of the challenges that day. Since he or she was just camping in the home base and filing on this, we became one smaller trying to keep the bases in pursuit of the win. This really needs to be reviewed. It got better after the update which means that we now get XP after every game played, but more change is needed.
Another minus I would like to highlight is the melee attacks. Although they work better than much else, it is a worse system here than in previous parts of the series and something 343 Industries would need to look at urgently. It's possible to go through each other in Halo Infinite, which between turns leads to opponents punching you in the face from the front being able to have it recorded as a neck blow - and that's equal to instant death. With proper collision programming, this should not happen.
Speaking of Mangler, it's one of several new weapons in the game. A kind of brutal hand cannon with good pressure in it and which is also downright devastating to fight with. There are several newcomers, while other weapons have been reviewed and feel new. My favorite of the additions is the VK78 Commando. It reminds me of the DMR, which always felt like a worse variant of the Battle Rifle. However, the VK78 has automatic fire, making it useful both from a distance and in close combat. However, it has a merciless recoil to balance up. My favorite is Skewer. A kind of Brute sniper/rocket launcher that design-wise brings to mind retro lancer from the Gears of War series. It only shoots one shot and reloads horribly slowly. However, if you meet, it's almost always good night, whether your goal is a person or a vehicle. I would also like to pay tribute to the MK50 Sidekick, which continues the Halo tradition of guns that are actually to be reckoned with and are insanely deadly even from afar.
Multiplayer in Halo Infinite is, in short, a joy to play right now and the knowledge that it will be even better with more content as I dare to say that this will be the game I spend the most time with in 2022. 343 Industries has succeeded in the feat of making Halo Infinite feel new and fresh so more people can discover the series while backing the band in the way older fans wanted. Although I would have liked a better level system and a separate playlist for Team Slayer, there are trifles in this context. Halo Infinite's multiplayer is simply a game that offers all that makes Halo so wonderful, better packaged than ever before.
Halo Infinite multiplayer is officially still called a beta and will be formally released on December 8. If something important changes in connection with this, we will of course update the text and any rating.
9 / 10
Incredibly good gameplay, superior net code, superb tracks, well-balanced weapons, first-class setup options, fun game modes, very stylish, free to download and play.
Ill-considered XP setup, lacks separate Slayer list.