After playing well over 300 matches of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer through my Christmas break, a Covid scare followed by an actual Covid infection, and a 10 day isolation period has left me with a feeling of nostalgia. Halo is back in its most traditional form with some modern sensibilities and missteps.
The combat and well-crafted maps create an almost perfect multiplayer to rival Battlefield and Call of Duty, but its frankly confusing battle pass system and lack of additional content for longevity of the game as a whole lessens the overall quality. There is a battle for the soul of this multiplayer that is felt in its design but there is a hope that it’s in the right direction.
Halo has always had a hold on the multiplayer space since its first game. The combat was slower with interesting map design littered with fun weapons to grab and use on your opponents in a sea of different game modes to choose from. Every encounter didn’t depend on who was the first to shoot but rather who could out maneuver the other and Infinite carries this tradition with an utmost precision that I haven’t seen since Halo Reach. This is most notable in the use of suit powers that can be found on each map and changed for each game mode.
The suit powers are the same that were introduced in Reach but instead of them being instantly equipped to your character they are placed placed across the map to allow a more dynamic and fluid sense of play allowing you to choose which one you want to use for each match. This added feature creates better moment to moment combat for enemy encounters as well as a more engaging pace of strategy. You can use the repulsor power to shove someone across the map from you, the hook to grab an opponent on a vehicle, or active camouflage to hide and surprise enemies. The change of match can happen at any moment just depending on how you choose to play and that even extends to movement.
The second biggest improvement comes from that actual movement in the game. Taking cues from more modern games in the multiplayer space like Apex Legends and Call of Duty, Infinite crafts a quicker and more fluid sense of pace in the way you move on the map. Running, jumping and sliding across the map feels easier and more natural than previous entries that is in concert with the map design. Game maps feel more varied in style and with plenty of unique and different ways to traverse. Smaller and more intimate maps include a large sense of verticality for repeat play. Discovering different passages and chokehold spots feel impressive and exciting in the moment to moment gameplay of a Capture the Flag or Odd Ball match. The multiplayer exceeds in its gameplay to create a tense and fun experience in ways I didn’t expect, so why does the act of playing long term feel like a chore?
The battle pass itself doesn’t bother me. I enjoy the feeling of leveling up in a game that rewards game time and experience ever since I got my first prestige in Call of Duty. Halo’s battle pass follows the tradition of more recent games in the multiplayer eco system like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty but with a more ethical use of it. The rewards for each level are purely cosmetic with double exp boost and challenge swaps. Instead of rewarding the player with stronger guns to outclass their opponents through sheer time and/or money, Halo keeps everyone at the same plateau through combat but awards those who want it through how they look in game and for ten dollars that is not a bad deal, it becomes that bad deal when the ability to level up feels sluggish and unrewarding at times.
The most common complaint since the game’s release has been its use of experience points for each match. In other multiplayers, you are rewarded experience points for not only playing and finishing the match but how well you do in the match. Whether that means you are the highest points, kill rate, or best team player, those points are rewarded on top of your match experience and can make the feeling of leveling up feel faster and exciting. Halo on the other hand doesn’t reward any other additional points outside of playing the match. For example, I played a match of Capture the Flag in which I was the highest defender of my flag on my team but at the end of the match I still only got about 200 points. This lack of reward for the way I play the game mode can often feel lackluster on its own unless I choose to tackle the weekly challenges.
The weekly challenges are additional points you can get by doing tasks in the game matches. They can range from getting a cumulative of 3000 points in Team Slayer to using a sticky grenade on an enemy. They are often fun to do but can also be difficult to accomplish when it is something very unique that can take away from the match mode you’re in. 343 Studios has been listening to the player base and has introduces a experience point scale that descends from 300 to 50 depending on how many matches you’ve played that day as challenge swaps for the more difficult weekly challenges to be switched with another but those changes feel more like band-aids than cure-alls.
At the end of the day, 343 Studios has crafted a beautiful and strong foundation for a multiplayer that can stand toe to toe with the other heavy hitters in the space. I just hope that the foundation they made will only be cultivated to make a multiplayer that stays with us longer than one year.