A lot has been riding on Halo Infinite for the Xbox brand. It seems every fan and cynic has been waiting to see if it will disappoint, or if the guy in green will prove himself worthy as the Xbox mascot. While Master Chief’s continued story remains to be told, we’ve gotten a peek at multiplayer in the form of 4v4 player vs bot matches on a single map, and a handful of weapon drills where you can try out guns to see what clicks, or what we’ll need some target practice with. The verdict? Well, keeping in mind that this is a technical-specific preview where we’ve only had the opportunity to play on one map, I’d say Halo Infinite multiplayer seems to be in tip-top shape meaning Halo looks ready to reclaim its place as one of the best multiplayer shooters ever made. I cannot get enough.
Booting up the tech preview on my Xbox Series X, the main battlefield on day one starts with the Live Fire map. It’s small, with three lanes and an underground path through the center for close-quarter shotgun kills, grenade spamming, or bank shot kills with the new Heatwave. Weapon choices include the Commando and plasma weapons scattered about. Power weapons also spawn on a timer with favorites like the sniper rifle and Skewer spawning in their set locations on the field for players to fight over once they’ve arrived. There are also power-ups to grab right off the bat, like an over shield, that steers combat toward each of the aforementioned lanes as players and bots try to get a leg up.
Most of the weapons feel great.
I love that these coveted items pop up immediately, as it gives you a strategic choice and offers teams the chance to carefully plan out what the most valuable piece of gear is and whether it’s worth sending the crew after. For now, I find myself running toward the over shield because let’s be honest, I’ll probably need it the most.
Most of the weapons feel great. The new pistol and AR combo is the perfect starting set with the pistol offering powerful mid-range damage with a narrow scope, and the AR keeping those bots at bay as you feather the trigger to sustain that damage per second into their robotic brain. This is a great combo.
On the other end of the spectrum, the new Commando — aka DMR replacement — initially caught me off guard as woefully underpowered compared to its predecessors. With some dedicated time, I found that holding down the trigger gave you a reasonable time-to-kill with the weapon. That said, I can do some decent work with my pistol, making the Commando less of desirable as the go-to gun it seems designed to be. There’s also a new covenant weapon, the Pulse Carbine, which fires burst rounds that track toward the part of the body you’re aiming at. It’s fun to use, even if it feels a bit like cheating.
The Heatwave isn’t the standout I had expected from the trailer.
The new Heatwave can ricochet off walls and performs like an okay Grenade Launcher, but not the standout I had expected from the trailer. Personally, I preferred to go with the Bulldog, which acts more like a traditional shotgun paired with the fire rate comparable to Halo 3’s Mauler. And, of course, the Skewer is easy to use if you can aim, but each shot counts as you’ll be vulnerable during its very long reload animation, but it’s a one hit kill so that’s expected.
Halo Infinite’s technical preview gave a glimpse of a very easy to pick up and go experience as you’re jumping into it with the default control scheme. The basics are mapped where you’d expect and are otherwise easy enough to change. Targeting, meanwhile, seems to be dialed in just right with option to tweak later on. And one small note on movement: the slide is fun to use as it’ll get you out of sticky situations a little bit faster when you scoot along the ground on your butt like you’re at a slip-n-slide party.
The Weapon Drills — another feature made available for the technical preview — is a great place to work on your aim (and, between us, I probably need to spend more time there). The range has 3 tiers of bots: one stands still, one moves from side to side, and one moves sporadically across the battlefield. No matter your skill level, this is the best spot to get your feet wet.
I had a difficult time choosing my personal favorite AI personality.
After picking up the weapon you’ve decided to become a god with, you’ll set out to kill as many bots as quickly as you possibly can with point multipliers for things like kills in quick succession or consistent headshots. You’re then graded on a 3-star Angry Birds-like scale, which I wish was a little more challenging. (Or maybe I’m just a badass… Yeah, let’s go with that.) Regardless, the mode is a great way to practice with different weapons so you can sprint on the map to the weapon you’ve become the most skilled with.
All of these modes are accompanied by an A.I. of your choice, each of which have personalities that range from sarcastic to serious and are charming in their own way. Lumu, Butlr, Circ, and Fret are available in the technical preview. I had a difficult time choosing my personal favorite, but I imagine there’s an AI personality for every player. Circ, for instance, is a positive yet maniacal AI who will cheer the team on to “be the best little slayer we can be.” The commanding and serious AI Butl demands you “earn more kills than your opponents to win.” Fret comes off like an enthusiastic new recruit, and will sarcastically say things like “initializing boastful laughter” then robotically laughing at your slain enemies. I love that there are AI options to choose from, because it helps set the tone for the kind of PvP match you want to have and does a good job of accenting your own mood/personality. You can choose between a slice of humor or an all-in commander type who I’m sure the more serious out there will appreciate.
As is common with preview builds, the Halo Infinite technical preview isn’t without its hiccups. The worst I experienced was a jittery image when messing around with the shooting range and an audio bug that caused game audio to behave strangely when I was trying to turn off in-game chat (it’s set to open mic by default and, lemme tell you, y’all need to turn your TVs down). The best hiccup, however, was a weapon duplication glitch that allowed two players to obtain a power weapon if they pick it up at the same time. And, yes, 343 is aware of that last one.
Halo Infinite’s armor customization is fairly light in this build.
I was looking forward to experiencing Halo Infinite’s armor customization, but it was fairly light in this build as far as options went, and also failed to add a prosthetic limb to the correct arm on my Spartan. There’s also a battle pass system where you can unlock a few items, but most of what 343 has added here includes visor colors and a few options for things like knee and shoulder pads.
One thing I really liked seeing was the addition of lore to some of the weapons and armor. Highlighting the “lore” menu option didn’t seem to be functioning as intended, but the few bits and pieces that were there give you an idea of where 343 is going with this new feature. I’ll be excited to learn more about Halo Infinite as I unlock iconic sets with a tale told alongside them.
The Halo Infinite website and companion app, are all but unplayable at the time I’m writing this as 343 is likely getting hammered with server requests. I’ll report back once I can see the PC version, test out how it plays on the other Xbox platforms, and what these additional features contribute to the overall preview experience.
Although this is our first look at Halo Infinite, it felt good to be back. Movement and pacing felt more reminiscent of Halo 4 than Halo 5, but this is also a new Halo multiplayer experience in its own right that has clearly been iterated on by the team over and over again. The result is something you won’t want to miss, particularly as Halo Infinite multiplayer will be free when the game comes to PC and all Xbox consoles this Holiday season. I’ll see you on the battlefield, Spartans.
Destin Legarie is a Director of Content Strategy at IGN. He likes taking bird photos in his spare time when he’s not doing Performance Reviews for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter if you want, but he may be busy playing Halo for the next few days.
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