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Halo Infinite’s multiplayer just finished its second “preview test flight” this past weekend, and it’s been able to successfully showcase how this modern-day reimagining of the game that popularized online multiplayer shooters will be able to contend with the current competition. It’s not the full picture quite yet – the test flight was limited to Slayer, Capture the Flag, and strongholds for the modes Bot Arena and Social Arena, Weapon Drills, and Training Mode – but Infinite’s multiplayer easily shines at the top with updated movement, familiar power weapons/items, and classic game modes. The gunplay alone feels highly satisfying thanks to the way that each weapon I’ve used so far has its own personality and playstyle to it. Not to mention the return of calculating grenade throws, as the “‘nade around corners” strategy is alive and well once again. In short, this weekend was a blast.
One of my biggest concerns was how Halo Infinite would be able to court new players in addition to pleasing Halo veterans who have a lot of set-in-stone ideas of how Halo should play. As someone who plays a lot of multiplayer shooters but only recently got into Halo: Master Chief Collection, I was basically going into Infinite’s test flight as a new Spartan. But to my surprise, Infinite does a stand-up job of onboarding new players with its Academy mode, in which you can try out different weapon drills or jump into a Training session with bots with customizable match settings. Training mode allows you to try out different power items you may not have been able to get hold of in PvP matches, and it also helps you learn the map as you go around it at your own pace. You can also queue for PvP matches against bots if you want to test your Training ground skills before facing other players.
Speaking of which, the bot AI system in Halo Infinite is honestly the best I’ve ever seen implemented in an FPS game. Microsoft says that Infinite’s bots have been programmed based off of actual player data from playtests and previous Halo games, and it shows. In the first test flight, where players only faced off against bots for a majority of the test, the AI opponents were set at increasing difficulties every day; especially at the highest difficulty setting, Spartan, the remarkably player-like AI would sometimes get the best of me using conventional and power weapons consistently. After seeing what 343 Industries has done in programming player-like bots, I wish more FPS developers would put in a similarly impressive effort to build training modes.
Once other humans joined the fray, I found that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer’s second test flight showcased the best parts of Halo as a first-person shooter. The movement feels great thanks to the sprint and slide mechanics, making Infinite feel faster than previous games. While the slide isn’t a speed booster like it is in Apex Legends, Infinite’s slide allows you to move between cover faster and opens up more aggressive playstyles. I used the slide as I was running at targets to throw their aim off, firing my weapon the entire time. The pacing of matches feels like the perfect length at 12 minutes, especially when you’re in a game of Capture The Flag and your team wants to get that one last flag steal before time runs out.
Weapon Meta Shifts
Having played both test flight weekends so far, one immediately noticeable change that was implemented for the second was a slight adjustment to the default MA40 Assault Rifle – it seems to have had its damage and range reduced. That’s a smart move, since the first test flight’s stronger AR was so viable that you didn’t have to play with the other weapons as much. I was a little disappointed with the nerf at first, but once I started using more weapons, I began to forget that I started with the AR. Not to mention the power weapons – extremely strong firearms that spawn after a set timer – add more gunplay options when you want to switch out your primary weapon.
This tech preview’s most reliable weapon, MK50 Sidekick pistol (which you happen to spawn with), really shone throughout the weekend. It outputs far more damage than the AR and was handy for finishing off long-distance kills if I ran out of primary ammo, and naturally it also worked at close range. My favorite weapons were initially the BR75 Battle Rifle and VK78 Commando for the sheer damage output they have. The BR is especially strong considering the three-round burst with very low recoil and distance falloff. Having a different set of weapons every other match was refreshing, too, since it forced me to get used to handling different guns and kept gunplay from getting stale. But by the end of the weekend, I do have to admit the Skewer – one of the aforementioned power weapons – was my absolute favorite because of the way it rewards accuracy and has such powerful rounds.
However, the Gravity Hammer, another power weapon, seemed a little too strong in this tech preview; I felt almost guilty at how much I loved absolutely smashing enemies in melee. I found I was able to hit enemies from a comically long distance and kill them in one hit while still keeping a big chunk of the Hammer’s charge left in the bank for more attacks. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the number of swings you can take get reduced in the next test, since power weapons like the Sniper Rifle and Skewer have very limited rounds (around four or five).
Another noticeable tweak is that the time-to-kill felt a little bit longer in this tech preview than the first, and that adjustment took some time to get used to. With this being a tech preview and Halo Infinite’s multiplayer being planned as a free-to-play live-service game, I understand the need for constant adjustments, but the extended TTK this time around made a few fights frustrating when an enemy just wouldn’t die even after I’d unloaded an entire magazine of my AR into them. Hopefully the pendulum swings back at least a bit for the next test.
Every IGN Halo Review
However, in learning from my deaths, I found that the grenade meta was absolutely rewarding when figuring out the timing. Being able to calculate how close an enemy was and time my ‘nade throws to bounce right into their face around a corner was incredibly satisfying. And in classic Halo fashion, sticking enemies with plasma grenades is especially fun because you know they have nowhere to go.
The map designs feel pretty well-balanced, though that’s kind of a given considering the ones I’ve played in the test flights have been symmetrical. But there’s more to it than that: each map has well-placed weapon spawn locations and grenade restock stations, and getting to the power weapons and items when they drop is a battle unto itself, which makes matches even more exciting. My favorite maps were Bazaar, with its outdoor market setting; Recharge, the indoor map with the industrial look; and Live Fire, which impressed me with how it felt bigger than it looked because of the space available to run around in. Each map had natural-feeling platforms to jump on and across to get from one level of the map to the other, and the flow of each one felt incredibly smooth. I always had a few options to move from one side of the map to the other, and the new Grappleshot power item allows for even more movement options.
While the Grappleshot isn’t as smooth as Pathfinder’s grapple in Apex Legends, or even the Grapple Hook from Titanfall 2, it serves a similar purpose. I personally used it as a quick disengage from close-range fights to heal up, then grapple back in to finish the fight. I also really appreciated the fact that you can grapple enemies and catch them off guard.
Halo Infinite Multiplayer Test Flight
The Drop Wall and Active Camo weren’t my favorite equipment drops, but that’s purely based off of my aggressive playstyle. I much prefer running into fights in front of my team and playing more in enemies’ faces, so the Drop Wall didn’t do much for me since it deploys in one spot. The Active Camo, meanwhile, requires you to walk to activate it, and that’s just too slow for me. However, I did come to love the Repulsor, which reflects projectiles back at enemies while also pushing them back from you. Using the Repulsor to throw enemies off the map was probably not what it was intended to be used for, but it’s incredibly fun to mess around with equipment and weapon combos like that. Being given that creative freedom is important, and Infinite does a great job of allowing you to have fun while slaying.
Halo Infinite shows its strength in being played as a team game, especially in the Capture the Flag and Strongholds modes. If even one person isn’t cooperating with the group in CTF it’s extremely easy to get overrun, and I love that there’s that added feature of everyone being important to teamwork. Even in Arena Slayer, which is essentially just team deathmatch, communication on who’s grabbing the power weapons and equipment makes a huge difference in winning the match… or not. This felt different from games like Call of Duty where teams are filled with more people and winning a Team Deathmatch isn’t that important since people like to focus on their own stats. Halo having smaller teams of four Spartans felt like a much more intimate and focused game, even on team deathmatch. Each kill mattered and each weapon pick-up that denied the enemy more firepower was absolutely crucial.
But communicating in matches isn’t always easy, because while Infinite’s ping system isn’t terrible, it’s not the best either – pings didn’t always work the way I expected them to. For instance, one time I was standing over a sniper spawn while trying to mark a spot where I had seen the enemy run across the map, but my ping kept marking the sniper gun behind me as opposed to what was in front of me. With modern FPS games showcasing how much better the quality of life is with a proper ping system, Infinite definitely needs to adjust those settings to better improve the non-verbal communication system for launch – which is now just two months away!
Given that this is a technical preview, it’s completely unsurprising that I encountered a few technical issues over the weekend. Playing on PC with an RTX 2080 GPU, I’d start to experience stuttering after a few matches, and if I didn’t quit out and restart the frames would get so bad that it’d cost me multiple fights. It was incredibly frustrating to deal with, especially when I was in Capture the Flag game modes where every enemy kill and teammate staying alive counted. Turning down in game settings didn’t seem to help – the only remedy was a reboot. Infinite also did not like when I’d alt-tab out to check Discord or even open a website. My teammate on the Xbox Series X also noted some technical issues and stuttering that could only be reset by closing Infinite and rebooting it. But again, this is exactly the kind of feedback Microsoft is hoping to get from a technical preview, and there’s still time for plenty of optimization before launch.
Halo Infinite Controller and Xbox Series X — One Night Live Gamescom 2021
My overall experience with this early slice of Infinite’s free-to-play multiplayer was very positive, and between the matchmaking times going live all I could think about was playing more. It’s got snappy pacing in its matches, the gunplay is some of the best I’ve ever played, and between my reaction as a new player and that of IGN’s resident Halo old-timers, Infinite’s multiplayer really does seem to be shaping up to be just about everything you could want from a modern-day Halo game.
There’s another Halo Infinite test flight scheduled for this coming this Thursday through Sunday, and I’ll continue to slay away at every opportunity leading up to launch and the full review. If you’d like to join in the fun, check out the details for how to get into test flights and any upcoming betas that pop up.
Stella is a Video Producer, Host, and Editor at IGN. Her gameplay focus is on competitive FPS games and she is also a shoutcaster/host on Apex Legends tournaments outside of IGN. You can follow her on Twitter @ParallaxStella.