The first official Halo Infinite beta test finally went live last weekend, and I spent a lot of time playing it. I was able to match against plenty of bots of varying difficulty levels during the test, and I also played quite a few matches against other players when 343 Industries briefly turned on PvP, too. I tried out lots of weapon drills in the Academy training mode as well, and was also able to extensively play on all three of the maps included in the technical preview's matchmaking.
In my initial Halo Infinite hands-on impressions, I said that Halo Infinite feels like the return to form that the franchise needs. I still feel that way, but after spending several days thinking about the experience and talking about it with my friends, there are also some things about the experience that I think could be a lot better. Here's an overview of three things that I liked about our first taste of Halo Infinite gameplay, as well as three things that I think need to change or improve.
Liked: The multiplayer sandbox
Without a doubt, I think the single best thing about the beta test was the game's sandbox. Nearly every weapon felt great to use and served a specific role in combat scenarios, which is a design direction that harkens back to the formula that put Halo on the map in the first place. The core of Halo has always been about exploring the map with your teammates and finding unique and interesting weapons to use against your opponents, and Halo Infinite nails that philosophy — especially when you're able to pair weapons like this together for creative new combos and strategies. One of my favorite things to do during the test was to rip someone's shields apart with plasma bolts from a Pulse Carbine and then finish them off with a snappy headshot from the VK78 Commando or the Battle Rifle.
I also love that Halo Infinite is bringing equipment from Halo 3 back, and so far, my experience with these pickups has been positive. The star of the show is obviously the Grappleshot, which players can use to pull themselves to parts of the map, pull weapons and pickups to them, perform flashy trickshots, and more. However, I also liked the Drop Wall cover shield and the location-revealing Threat Sensor too, as both of them changed the flow of engagements in interesting ways. I'm very excited to try out other kinds of Halo Infinite equipment in the future.
Didn't like: No friendly fire or collision
Something that I definitely didn't like about the Halo Infinite beta gameplay was the absence of friendly fire and collision with teammates. I feel that the overall experience was way too grenade spammy, and I believe the reason why is because when friendly fire is off, you don't have to be careful about your grenade throws. You can toss them as fast and as wildly as you want, whereas in previous Halo games, you always had to make sure you weren't going to accidentally blow up your teammates. I have a feeling that the developers disabled friendly fire in Halo Infinite so that rude teammates can't teamkill you to steal your weapons, but that problem is easily solved with an auto-kicker (a feature that has commonly been present in Halo multiplayer).
I also don't like collision with your teammates being disabled since it allows players to be a lot less considerate of their positioning. In other Halo games, everyone cramming into one area and bumping into each other was a positioning mistake that the other team could skillfully punish with grenades or explosive weapons. In Halo Infinite, players can escape that danger by simply walking through each other, which is goofy.
Liked: The movement mechanics
Another highlight of the beta for me were the movement mechanics, which I thought did a good job of enhancing the gameplay without feeling too impactful or overpowered. In recent Halo games, the incredible mobility and power of their movement mechanics often "drowned out" the impact of their weapon and vehicle sandboxes, which many Halo fans strongly disliked. In Halo Infinite, the speed of sprinting has been lowered and Halo 5's Spartan Charge and Ground Pound abilities have been removed, with only ledge clambering and sliding remaining.
These movement mechanics feel great to use and ensure that Halo Infinite feels more fluid than the Halo games of yesteryear, but at the end of the day, they take a backseat to the influence of weapons and equipment. I love this, as it ensures that the sandbox will still be what the gameplay experience revolves around. Fluid movement augments Halo Infinite instead of driving it, which is how things should be.
Didn't like: Spartan Chatter
Another thing I didn't like about the gameplay was that the Spartan Chatter system felt much worse than its Halo 5 version. In Halo 5, your allies' Spartans would automatically make basic callouts to one another during gameplay that helped make players aware of important pieces of information such as the arrival of a power weapon or the last known location of an enemy. In Halo Infinite, this system returns, but it's much less useful since the callouts the Spartans make are often way too generalized.
When Spartans say that an enemy is "over there" or "over yonder" (ugh), it doesn't provide players with useful information. Instead, it just pollutes the game's soundscape and makes it harder to listen for more useful audio cues. There are some good callouts, such as "Enemy underneath me," but overall this system either needs to be improved or removed.
Liked: Bots and the Academy
Something that surprised me during the technical preview was just how impressive Halo Infinite's bots are. Compared to the mindless and easily exploitable bots typically found in other shooter games, Halo Infinite's bots have a sharp mind and even sharper aim. Players still routinely beat them by a wide margin during the test, but they definitely put up more of a fight than bots usually do. I like that the harder difficulty bots in particular force players to actually try in order to win, which makes them an excellent tool for practicing.
I also loved the Academy mode's weapon drills, which give players a chance to hone their skills with every weapon in the game. For example, I initially struggled to control the kick of the VK78 Commando rifle when I got my hands on it for the first time, but I was able to adjust myself to its recoil by running multiple weapon drills with it. The ability to practice your aim with Halo Infinite's weapons in a stress-free environment like this is awesome, and since Halo Infinite's free-to-play status will no doubt bring in thousands of new players, I believe that the Academy training mode is exactly what the franchise needs.
Didn't like: The Needler
The Needler is arguably one of Halo's most iconic weapons, as its distinctive, unique appearance and bizarre method of killing makes it stand out from Halo's other firearms. Embedding a punch of pink needles into someone's body and then watching them explode is wacky and cool, which is why it's extremely disappointing that using the Needler in Halo Infinite is a lackluster experience. Due to how small and dull they are, it's almost impossible to tell whether or not your needles are actually hitting the person you're shooting at during combat. This makes deciding whether you should back off or keep firing to see whether you can supercombine your opponent very frustrating.
The Needler can also be troublesome to play against as well. Because the needles are small and difficult to see, it's incredibly tough to tell whether or not they're hitting you. And when both the shooter and the victim can't tell whether the Needler's attacks are landing or not, the entire combat situation becomes confusing and annoying. Moving forward, the Needler and its ammunition definitely need a visual effect rework so that it's not such a frustrating weapon. It's the only gun out of all of the Halo Infinite weapons that I didn't like using during the test, so hopefully the developers make some changes to it before Halo Infinite's launch.
What do you think? Were you able to play the first Halo Infinite beta test? Do you agree with my likes and dislikes? Let me know. For more on Halo Infinite beta, don't miss our coverage of the Halo Infinite beta schedule. Also, check out our guide to Halo Infinite preorders if you're looking to get your copy of the game ahead of its Holiday 2021 launch (keep in mind that the multiplayer will be a standalone free-to-play experience). Ultimately, we're hoping that Halo Infinite ends up being one of the best Xbox games ever, and we can't to get our hands on the game when it launches.
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