After back-to-back weekends of technical previews, we've put together some thoughts on 343 Industries upcoming shooter.
Now that the second weekend of back-to-back technical previews for Halo Infinite has come to a close, fans of the series have had a pretty lengthy chance to get hands-on with this anticipated shooter to test and trial a portion of the multiplayer experience ahead of the game's December 8 launch. I've been part of that group, and have spent the last two weekends dipping my toes into what Halo Infinite will be bringing to the table, and following a whole range of social arena and big team battle games, I have some thoughts on what 343 Industries has created.
But before I dive into the intricacies of my thoughts on Halo Infinite, I think it's worth mentioning that my overall perception of this game so far is pretty positive. While at my core, I'll always prefer Call of Duty's faster, more intense nature, Halo has been a massively impactful series in my life, and whether it was Halo 3, Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians or Halo: The Master Chief Collection, I've sunk a pretty considerable amount of time into the campaigns and multiplayers that Bungie and 343 has delivered. So, myself, like a lot of fans, have pretty high expectations for Infinite, expectations that have been met in places, and hopefully will be exceeded come a few tweaks at launch.
In general, the gunplay for Infinite feels pretty top notch. It's fluid, easy to handle, responsive, and provides plenty of methods to treat combat in a way that befits the scenario you find yourself in. Old-school fans of Halo will be in for a little shock however, as the gameplay is more modern, aligning with what we got in Halo 5 most recently, and has shed the retro arena shooter feeling that was ditched when 343 Industries took over the series. If anything, it's a step further on the gameplay of Halo 5, as Infinite introduces more ways to manoeuvre the battlefield with grappling hooks leading that charge. It's worth noting that sliding is back again, but it seems to have been added in an unusual way where it's such a slow movement that it feels sluggish and a little hindering.
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As for the weapons, at the moment I'm a little torn. The MA40 Assault Rifle (an absolute classic for the series) either feels too accurate, lasering anyone regardless of range, or the complete opposite, like it's firing 0.20g BB pellets at a hulking Spartan, barely even scratching the paint on their armour. Then on the other hand, the MK50 Sidekick sidearm is an absolutely lethal tool if you're on mouse and keyboard. It will literally out-trade most weapons on the field if you play your encounter correctly.
The other gear that is found on the battlefield seems to be generally more balanced. Heavy ordnance like the S7 Sniper and the M41 SPNKR rocket launcher can tear teams apart, and the shotguns, be it the CQ248 Bulldog or the Heatwave are often unmatched at close-range. Yet, with this being said, the melee weapons feel drastically under-tuned. The Gravity Hammer takes so long to swing that most weapons (with a melee sprinkled in there for good measure) will beat it out-right, and in fact, on that matter, the melee is once again an incredibly powerful system that when mastered will ensure you win countless match-ups with ease.
As for the maps, I've found during my experience playing alone and as part of a squad, that the smaller arena maps are well designed, easy to navigate, and are fantastic to handle when it comes to communicating with your team. Some modern shooters have maps designed in such a way that communicating with your team on enemy locations for example, takes hours of game knowledge to get a lock on. But Halo Infinite's maps are so simple and easy to grasp that this is simply not present, which makes for some great competitive experiences. The big team battle map on the other hand (of which we've only seen one) seems a little too tight and cramped to really let vehicles be the focus like they used to be. In fact, this map also feels a little too large for 12v12 combat, and will see you spending a lot of time respawning and running back to fights for a short burst of action before repeating the process all over again, most likely.
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The vehicles do feel pretty good on the other hand. They handle like Halo vehicles always have, and can be incredibly impactful in matches. While vehicles were far more of a feature over this past weekend's technical preview, I do think that 343 has a little more hidden behind the curtain here, because right now the main meat of these seem to be centred around Warthogs and Ghosts, and we know that's only scratching the surface of what this series has to offer.
What I will say is that there are a few areas in Halo Infinite that drive me up the wall. The grenade spam is relentless, and the availability of grenades on each map really doesn't do anything to alleviate this. Anytime you take a gunfight, you can pretty much expect a minimum of two grenades to land in your direction, as every Spartan spawns with two and can find plenty more around the battlefield. Add to this the completely useless 15m radar, which basically serves as a tool to tell you you're about to die, and you can feel that there are still a few areas that would benefit from minor tweaks and changes if Infinite intends to enter and remain in the FPS scene as a top of the pack competitor.
But, all in all, I did have fun with this game. While a lot of my concerns around Halo Infinite do still remain, they don't sprout from the gameplay or the multiplayer, but rather the way 343 is handling the release of this title. Will the lack of cooperative campaign, custom games, and forge sting at launch? Yes. But will the multiplayer and the yet-to-be-tested campaign keep fans engaged until they arrive? We'll have to see.