The Halo franchise has a storied history of delivering remarkable, one-of-a-kind multiplayer experiences. Since the debut of Halo: Combat Evolved over 20 years ago, players around the world have celebrated this beloved series' unique gameplay elements. Long-time fans like myself often regale the glory days of old when we'd cram 16 sweaty dudes in a basement to play Capture the Flag or Slayer via System Link on the original Xbox. But much like most of those sweaty dudes, Halo has grown and evolved over the years.
Thanks to a recent shadow drop of Halo Infinite's multiplayer on Xbox's 20th anniversary, fans are now in the midst of a brand-new era of Spartan combat. However, meeting the expectations and hopes of legacy players while introducing modern mechanics to a new audience has always been a treacherous balancing act for this first-person shooter franchise. 343 Industries inherited an enormous amount of pressure when it was chosen to continue Master Chief's journey following Bungie's exit, and some fans have argued that this team has failed to properly honor Halo's legacy.
Halo Infinite serves as a spiritual reboot of the series and aims to offer a fresh starting point for new and old players alike, ditching a numerical sequel moniker and incorporating an adjective to describe the possibilities of the franchise's future.
While we are still relatively early in our Spartan Journey, and there are undoubtedly some significant changes I'd like to see incorporated, I can confidently say Halo Infinite multiplayer is the best-playing and best-looking Halo multiplayer experience so far. At this point, there is no questioning the raw talent and genuine passion of 343 Industries.
Bottom line: Halo Infinite multiplayer delivers the most impressive Halo sandbox we've ever seen with gorgeous stages, satisfying gunplay, and perfect moment-to-moment action. It's an absolutely stellar accomplishment from the team at 343 Industries.
- The ultimate Halo sandbox
- Tight, satisfying gunplay
- Stunningly well-designed stages
- Loads of memorable moments
- Player progression still needs work
- Limited maps, modes, and playlist options
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a free-to-play download of the game on Xbox Series X.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: What's good
Whether it's splattering Covenant forces in campaign or back smacking fellow Spartans in multiplayer, Halo has always excelled when it comes to stellar sandbox gameplay. Halo Infinite's multiplayer expands on player freedom in monumental ways thanks to the addition of a few endlessly satisfying pieces of equipment and 343 Industries' brand-new Slipspace Engine. The physics-first Halo shenanigans I know and love are present and pronounced during every moment of gameplay. This compelling flexibility made duking it out in the game's suite of multiplayer modes endlessly satisfying.
|Publisher||Xbox Game Studios|
|Xbox version||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S|
|Play time||20+ hours|
|Xbox Game Pass||Yes|
|Launch price||Free to play|
From picking up plasma canisters and throwing them at fleeing Warthogs to using your Grappleshot to hijack an enemy Banshee, Halo Infinite's multiplayer offers more tools and ways to play than ever before. Standout gadgets like the Repulsor, which explodes with a concussive blast of force upon use, introduce creative options for players. In addition to launching enemy vehicles straight off the map, the Repulsor can also be used as a way to boost a Spartan's jump or even deflect grenades. The Grappleshot, on the other hand, allows me to fulfill my Spider-Man web-slinging fantasies by giving me the power to launch myself around maps in a way no previous Halo title allowed.
This incredible sandbox is only further enhanced by the tightest and most satisfying gunplay of any Halo game. Every gun in this carefully crafted arsenal has been meticulously designed or gratifyingly fine-tuned. As a long-time Halo player, it's been exciting relearning some of my favorite weapons. The iconic and oft-ignored Assault Rifle now feels devastating and legitimately viable for multiplayer engagements. The new starter Sidekick pistol is a welcome companion on the battlefield. Even historically gimmicky weapons like the Needler or Plasma Pistol are now terrifying in the right hands.
Accompanying an assortment of bona fide classic pieces of firepower are a host of exhilarating state-of-the-art Spartan weapons. Beastly tools of destruction like the Skewer will make quick and dirty work of any vehicles unfortunate enough to get caught in its path. In contrast, slightly unconventional guns like the Ravager launch flaming balls of magma at enemy players. Thanks to some incredibly tight controls, detailed and rewarding hit feedback, and expansive training options like Weapon Drills, it's been a blast experimenting with the dozens of weapons on offer.
From sprawling Big Team Battle maps like Blood Gulch to compact death traps like Ivory Tower, Halo has long been synonymous with top-tier multiplayer map design. Halo Infinite's multiplayer proudly continues this legacy by presenting 10 stunningly designed new maps for players to enjoy. Thanks to some updated lighting and crisp new textures, the environments look genuinely gorgeous. Witnessing the headlights of a Warthog reflect off the sleek stone walls in Deadlock or plasma explosions shimmer on the surface of puddles demonstrates just how seriously 343 Industries is taking the graphical presentation of Halo Infinite.
The more time I spent with the maps of Halo Infinite's multiplayer, the more I found myself fascinated by their fluidity. Each and every level has a distinct traversal loop, and no matter how you're traversing, there's a consistent and captivating flow to the maps. More expansive locations like Fragmentation obviously encourage vehicles, but unlike some previous Halo maps, it never feels like a slog navigating on foot. Strategic chokepoints and cleverly engineered paths ensure a constant level of action and engagement for all players. Several of these maps instantly rank with many of the greatest of all time.
In the first-person shooter space, we often hear about "Battlefield moments." In fact, the latest advertising campaign for Battlefield 2042 even leveraged this endearing fan-created phrase. While there's no denying the magical feeling of driving a jeep into a helicopter, I'd argue that Halo Infinite multiplayer has managed to deliver more memorable moments in a short time than I've experienced in my entire history with the Battlefield series. I'm officially petitioning that we normalize the term "Halo moments" as the industry standard for extraordinary multiplayer gaming happenings.
There is simply no other video game that copies the feeling of getting on the back of a Mongoose with a Gravity Hammer, performing drive-by smashes of enemy players or vehicles. I remember a Capture the Flag match where our squad grabbed a detachable turret and stood on top of a vehicle as we drove around the map. Watching my teammate hover above our Mongoose murdering several Spartans was nothing short of beautiful. Even easily repeatable moments like Grapplejacking the pilot of a Wasp stick with you. When it comes to moment-to-moment gameplay, Halo Infinite multiplayer is the new king.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: What's not good
My list of complaints about Halo Infinite multiplayer is relatively short, but there are a few glaring issues that are significantly impacting my enjoyment of the game. The first and most egregious lies with player progression and the current Battle Pass. As it stands, Halo Infinite multiplayer doesn't feel nearly as rewarding as other titles in the free-to-play space. A few rapid adjustments from 343 Industries following pushback from the community has helped guide the progression system closer to the promises of keeping their Battle Pass from feeling like a second job. However, climbing through the 100 tiers is still packed with arbitrary hurdles. I've put in 58 hours so far and gained 40 levels. Considering Season One lasts until May 2022, dedicated players should be able to make their way through, but I'm still not thrilled with the system as a whole.
While there is undoubtedly an enticing collection of cosmetic items to achieve as you climb your way through the ranks, you and your fellow Spartan will look incredibly similar for quite some time. Initially, all progress was tied directly to challenges, which meant you'd play several matches without gaining any notable progress. Thankfully, 343 Industries rolled out a series of tweaks to progression that now reward a solid amount of XP for your first seven matches in a day. Unfortunately, this just hasn't done enough to expand the breadth of player variety in my multiplayer matches. I understand that as time goes on and the game evolves, this likely won't be as much of an issue. Still, with player customization and expression at the core of the experience, I found this particularly disappointing.
It's also worth mentioning how limited the overall content package is for launch as well. With 10 maps and a handful of modes, you'll see everything Halo Infinite multiplayer has to offer within a few hours. You could highlight how this eases new players into Halo and gives them time to properly learn the fundamentals, but ultimately, I think the core loop will come from mastering maps and learning the intricacies of various weapons. I'm a massive fan of both of these elements, but this might be a lighter launch than many legacy players anticipated.
While I initially appreciated the generally rapid matchmaking provided by limiting the options for the modes you can queue into in Halo Infinite multiplayer, I quickly became frustrated that I couldn't jump straight into the modes I felt like playing. Quick, casual modes like Team Slayer are sandwiched between objective modes like Oddball and Total Control. To get an enjoyable Capture the Flag match in, I had to suffer through several rounds of hard losses in Stockpile. Again, I understand why decisions like this are made to improve matchmaking times, but the lack of options led to rounds I found less enjoyable because I simply wasn't in the mood to play specific modes. 343 Industries has promised improved playlist options before the end of the year, but for launch, you'll be stuck with rather meager matchmaking choices.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: Should you play it?
Despite some complaints regarding a lacking sense of rewarding player progression, limited options for matchmaking, and a slim selection of launch content, I'm still having a tremendous amount of fun with Halo Infinite. 343 Industries deserves an enormous amount of praise for what they've achieved with this shooter. Not only has this team delivered an unquestionably powerful return to form for the series, but it's successfully released a large-scale multiplayer title without a host of detrimental launch issues. There's something special to be said about that, given how counterparts like Battlefield 2042 and Call of Duty: Vanguard shipped this year.
With the most flexible sandbox in series history, fluid and responsive gunplay, legendary map design, and the draw of endless Halo moments, it's hard not to love Halo Infinite multiplayer if you're a fan of the genre. It's been a long time since I've had a game take up so much constant real estate in my head. Even after several weeks and dozens of hours of playtime, I can't wait to jump online and get some rounds in with the squad later tonight. Halo Infinite multiplayer is easily one of the best shooters on Xbox or PC right now, and thanks to it being free to play, anybody can jump in and smash some Warthogs with a Gravity Hammer.
Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.