342i hosted their second technical preview for Halo Infinite’s multiplayer this past weekend, opening it up this time to everyone on Xbox, with the addition of “Big Team Battle”—a favourite amongst Halo fans. With a few to-be-expected technical hiccups, the tech preview went down a storm and proved to suggest that Halo, once again, has the goods to be king.
Here’s what we thought of the latest snapshot for Halo Infinite’s multiplayer:
In the halcyon days of early Halo the sci-fi shooter revolutionised its genre, The plethora of weapons has long been a staple of the franchise and so it is generally going to be the first thing looked at for any subsequent title. Since taking the helm from Bungie, 343i have put an onus on making their gunplay feel that bit more visceral with harder impacts and dialled up audio. Though Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians had their detractors the gunplay for each of these is one thing that could not be disparaged.
Halo Infinite thankfully looks to be continuing that trend with some immensely satisfying firing action. With Infinite taking Master Chief up against a Brute clan it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the brutal, scythe like weaponry of the bestial clan. The tech preview contained a whole bunch of new weapons including a one shot “sniper” called the Skewer, a new launcher weapon called the Ravager that is not too unlike the covenant’s fuel rod cannon, as well as a shotgun straight out of Dead Space, and a few more.
All the new weapons seem like an excellent additions, and the new look of Halo’s classic magnum and DMR are also worthy entrants. The pistol now fires at a rapid rate making it slightly unruly at range, though still has the satisfying impact to it that fans have always loved. The DMR has also been replaced by the Commando with the key difference being that the Commando can fire automatically and at a far higher rate—again, making it slightly unruly if fired uncontrollably, but deadly if used right. The trusty AR and Br also return of course, supped up with 343i’s dialled up audio and impact.
All the gunplay feels excellent, perhaps even the best of any Halo title. Of the entire tech preview this was probably the most impressive aspect.
Equipment—The Game Changer
343i have shown a keen interest in speeding its multiplayer up more and more, and making an onus out of competitive esports play. To that end Infinite looks able to produce. For Halo 5 they tried out thruster packs and speedier movement to capture that high intensive esports action. This time around they have opted for somewhere between that and Halo: Reach’s armour abilities.
Now your Spartan’s come equipped with a special equipment slot that allow for unique moves if certain pickups are found around the map. The clear standouts for these are undoubtedly the “grappleshot” and the “repulsor”. With the grappleshot you can sling your way around maps with Spidey-like dexterity, whipping yourself around corners, zipping onto high vantage points, launching yourself over walls, plucking weapons out from distance, or even grapple lunging toward your very enemies by latching onto them. The possibilities are excellent with this simple device, and any multiplayer game usually begins in a hunt to be the first one to grab this item. It is incredibly fun even just to move around with the grappleshot, never mind the sickly satisfaction you’ll get from grapple punching an opponent, or hijacking a flying banshee right out of the air. It is wonderful.
The repulsor, meanwhile, allows you to unleash a sonic shockwave from yourself. This can send back enemies, vehicles, items, and flags alike flying away from you, or if you are extra skilful you can even send yourself flying into the air. I have no doubt that once the community gets to grip with the repulsor we will begin to see some ridiculous plays involving launching yourself halfway across the map or sending your own opponent into the air like a clay pigeon to be shot down. I only had success with throwing enemies away coming in for a melee attack, but even that was more than enough for me to enjoy (plus I was also, somewhat embarrassingly, thrown off the edge of a map by another enemy with one).
The equipment on show for this tech preview adds a whole new dimension to the play, but thankfully so far none of it seems too unbalanced either, or throws map designs off course. In fact it is quite clear just walking around some of the maps that 343i have very carefully designed certain routes or chokepoints with these items in mind. I have high hopes for what we can get with more time with the equipment and more maps with which to grapple around on.
Chaotic Nonsense of the Very Best Kind
A few other talking points: having played on Series X the graphics are looking in far better shape than they did on that first demo video. In classic Halo style there is plenty of colour to be had with weapon projectiles flying around, or players lighting up when you shoot them (even down to the specific body part that you hit lighting up now, which is a nice addition). No complaints on this front.
A few technical hiccups were to be expected of course since this is still an early build, however the most common of these seemed to be players getting kicked out of servers both before and during matches. This was clearly a server wide occurrence going by just how many games had half a lobby changeover with people leaving and others joining. I would assume that is just a symptom of the way 343i were carrying out this test with limited servers, however.
The menu system needs some work. At the moment it is a little clunky. Finding certain things takes a few too many menus to find and information is not always instantly obvious. For example when others join your fireteam there is very little clear indication that they are there, both for them and you, and you can’t do much to interact with their player cards. The battle pass menu is also spread out all over the place (it took our party until the very end of the preview to even realise that we had xp boosters, since they are hidden away under the battle pass menu for some reason) and quite honestly I am not sure what I was ever unlocking. It is also a tad annoying to be a party leader since you cannot then customize your character or check settings without exiting matchmaking search.
Some positives again: Big team battle is excellent. The small-scale 4v4 arena play is brilliant in its own right, but big team battle is where Halo Infinite really shone for me. The map available was huge but not so insurmountable that you feel like you are walking around with very little happening. There is also the slight MOBA-like inclusion of locked armoury rooms at each side of the map that allowed players to take a little bit of time and risk to try get some additional power weapons by hacking a closed door. 24 players in all out warfare was suitably chaotic with banshee’s taking to the air amid Spartan’s slingshotting themselves to the sky, warthogs careening through enemy cliffs and canyons, scorpion tanks sending everyone for dead, and the lone mongoose rider trail blazing through death and destruction. It’s Halo alright, in all its unfiltered, physics breaking, chaotic nonsense. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
There are plenty of reasons to still be hesitant on the release of Halo Infinite next month, but this latest tech preview will go some way to eschewing your mind of any worries regarding campaign issues, delayed forge, broken co-op and the rest of it. For one simple, brief, yet beautiful moment, Halo is back again, baby.