Halo Infinite Multiplayer Review: "One Of The Best Shooters Of The Last 10 Years"
The 2010s saw Halo multiplayer go through an identity crisis of sorts. As a series, it had always focused on the key concept of control: control of the highly-contested power weapon spawn points, and subsequently, control of the main highways of play. It rewarded map and weapon familiarity, and players that mastered both could easily rise to the top. However, in recent years, the popularity of Call of Duty multiplayer has taken root and it moved away from what made it initially special. But after six years of development, a year's delay, and a new free-to-play model - it's back.
With Halo Infinite, 343 went back to the drawing board, seeking to refocus on the core of the Halo experience and refine what works. That's not to say there's no evolution here, as this entry integrates the use of equipment in a more thoughtful way, and the inclusion of a mantle manoeuvre has caused maps to be redesigned with more layered verticality. How does it stand against past entries though, and what effect has the free-to-play model had on the game?
- Wondering whether the single player is worth checking out? Read our Halo Infinite campaign review
When it comes to the action in-game, Halo Infinite absolutely rocks. The core Halo multiplayer experience has been identified, replicated, then built upon to create a strong foundation that should keep Infinite ticking over for years to come. This dedication is evident, from the more granular mechanical aspects of gameplay, to weapon and map design.
The identity is still richly visible even with the fresh coat of paint and added elements. Control of the power weapon spawns and central lanes of conflict is the name of the game, and the maps are designed with this in mind. They're never hidden away, with exception to a map like Recharge, which places the power weapon on the outskirts over a deadly jump, but it's still designed in a way to naturally funnel players into contesting it.
Depending on whether you're playing the 4v4 or 12v12 playlist, your experience will vary wildly. 4v4 will challenge your mechanical skill concerning aiming and movement more, while 12v12 is largely dependent on which team can organise the most successful Zerg rush at a given time. The latter is still certainly fun, as the chaotic battles lead to intense moments, but 4v4 is where Infinite's multiplayer really shines.
- You'll need our Halo Infinite multiplayer tips if you want to stand a chance in your first few matches
A Splash Of The New
One of Infinite's most stand-out aspects is the pace and flow once you're in-game. This is thanks to added elements like the slide, which you can use to boost yourself in tandem with sprinting, and a mantle that lets you climb around the environment more naturally. Consequently, the maps have been designed around the mantle, adding more layers of verticality players can you utilise to get to weapon spawns, run away from enemies, flank, and even play the objective. This is most obvious in maps like Bazaar and Recharge, which makes them two of the best so far.
The new equipment system is also of note. Infinite has a bunch of new ones and some returning from prior entries, and segments them similarly to power weapons and the other weapons you can find on the maps. Active Camo and Overshield occupy that 'power equipment' niche, while things like the Grapple Shot, Thruster, and Repulsor are more frequently found and have multiple uses.
Many of these changes, additions, and evolutions to the typical formula add a lot of dynamism to the experience, giving a wide berth of options to play with once you're in-game. This creates a seamless combination, where the game keeps that core Halo identity, but it's expanded with the newer elements.
- These are all of the best Halo Infinite weapons to dominate with
Unfortunately, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Going free-to-play has severely messed with the game's progression system, and given way to mechanics that encourage players to spend real money.
This is achieved through a few methods, principally the progression system, and how that ties to customisation. Like every free-to-play title, Halo Infinite employs the use of a battle pass - a tiered system that players can work through to earn armour pieces, colour palettes, nameplates, and more. The issue here is that everything is designed to make players spend as much money as possible to level up their battle pass - and the rewards throughout aren't even that impressive when you compare it to unlockable cosmetics in previous Halo games.
Earning XP via challenges is necessary to level up the battle pass, and many of these require you to play different modes: Slayer, Oddball, CTF, etc. The problem is that you can't actually queue for specific modes, as the only playlists available right now feature a mixture. This is a huge concern for players wanting to progress, as it creates artificial barriers that are most easily bypassed through purchasing the solution and not actually playing the game. You can change your challenges and hope for a non-mode specific offering with an item called a challenge swap, but again, this is behind a paywall.
Customisation is affected by these systematic changes too, locking simple colour palettes behind paywalls. There is also the advent of different armour cores, which is an outright step backwards from past entries that allowed to you to mix and match all your armour pieces to craft your own unique Spartan. No such luck here, you have to equip an armour core, and then unlock specific pieces for that core, many of which are locked away in the store.
There's always the argument that none of these elements affect gameplay in any way, so it's not a pay-to-win model, but when customisation is such a key element for dedicated players to show off on the battlefield, Infinite takes it a step too far.
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A Monument To Their Sins
Ultimately, Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a victim to its progression system, that stands in the way of the excellently refined core of the game. It's certain to be a mainstay for years as the developers work out the kinks and factor in the fan feedback. Their work still paid off though, because the gameplay of Halo Infinite is the best of any multiplayer shooter from recent memory. It's just sullied by the egregious implementation of artificial hurdles to that gameplay, which knocks a point or two off the score. Without this abhorrent progression? Halo Infinite would be one of the best multiplayer shooters of the last 10 years.
Reviewed on PC.