Halo Infinite multiplayer feels like an exciting return to form – The Verge

Halo Infinite arrives on December 8th, 2021, after over a year of delay, but the game seems truly worth the wait. Infinite was supposed to launch alongside the Xbox Series X in November 2020, but got pushed back after an underwhelming initial reveal that made the game into a meme. As of late 2021, it appears Microsoft may have turned things around big time. The Halo Infinite multiplayer preview has gotten rave reviews and we’ve enjoyed it so much, we can’t wait to play more.

Here’s what The Verge’s Tom Warren and Sean Hollister loved, hated, and what we’re hoping to see when the full game comes out.

Tom Warren: My favorite part of Halo Infinite multiplayer is the new grappleshot. It’s game-changing for Halo, both in terms of moving around maps and also the ability to grab objects. I’ve been using it mainly to parkour around as if I’m playing Titanfall, but once you master its uses beyond mobility, you can quickly grab the power weapons or repel yourself back onto a ledge if you just got hit by a repulsor.

Some of the most entertaining clips I’ve seen throughout the beta have been by people grappling back onto ledges, grabbing vehicles out of the sky, or just generally using the mobility of the grappleshot to get some truly impressive plays. It really feels like a mix of Titanfall and Pathfinder’s grapple hook from Apex Legends.

You need to find the grappleshot and pick it up before you can actually use it to grab things or move around quickly, and there’s a small cooldown and limited amount of uses so it doesn’t feel too overpowered. You can configure the training mode with unlimited grappleshot, and I almost want a dedicated mode where everyone has it equipped.

If you haven’t managed to play Halo Infinite beta yet, it’s one of the tools you’ll want to master early on for multiplayer.

Sean Hollister: I’m a sucker for a great grappling hook, and I’ll echo Tom here: I’d love a mode where I could use it nonstop to grapple into, onto, and around everything. I’ve seen some amazing plays with the repulsor, too — like a single Spartan bouncing away a fully loaded Warthog like it was a two-ton tennis ball, securing a CTF victory for their team — but more often it seems like a way to boop people into bottomless pits. I prefer pulling myself out of those pits with the grappling hook, and it’s exhilarating to do things like intentionally throw myself under a bridge, swing underneath, and pop up behind foes on the opposite side.

But my favorite part of Halo Infinite is simple: the gunplay. From the booming audio to the tremendous amount of damage they can put out against a shielded, armored soldier, every weapon feels incredibly powerful, every fight leaves me on the edge of my seat.

Stray projectiles and covering fire are deadly enough, I feel the pressure to put my head down, let my shield regenerate, or try another angle of attack entirely instead of poking out from cover again and again. I’m constantly calculating the risk / reward of a devastating melee attack or a grenade toss, because they’re just as satisfying as they’ve always been in classic Halo games, as are the classic headshot-friendly pistol and spray-and-pray assault rifle you get by default in most matches.

With a few obvious exceptions like the rocket launcher, sniper rifle, and giant spike thrower (which have counters of their own), the weapons feel balanced enough that I never felt penalized for picking a different one just for fun variety. It’s the most fun I’ve had with Halo in years, after the most recent games tried to get a bit too tricky.

A grappling hook doesn’t keep you from getting shot out of the sky.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Tom: I also love the movement in Halo Infinite. Mobility is always a key aspect of first-person shooters, and Halo Infinite really encourages it with smooth sprinting, sliding, and vaulting. Halo 5 really took movement mechanics to the extreme, with mechanics like the thrust slide that could boost your movement and allow you to outsmart opponents. Infinite’s movement changes are a lot more refined, very subtle, and have a clear skill gap to pull off.

YouTuber Shyway demonstrated this really well, with a 17-second clip showing off curb slides in Halo Infinite. While the comments are full of people saying Titanfall movement is better (and he addresses that, too), these curb slides are actually a big change to a Halo game that doesn’t have easy-to-use thrust slides and lots of movement mechanics.

I’ve also seen people demonstrate the mobility in Halo Infinite really well on Twitter, and slide jumping is a fun mechanic, especially when you combine it with things like the grappleshot. I’m used to playing Destiny 2, which has a big focus on movement and mobility, so Halo Infinite doesn’t feel slow in comparison.

Once people start to master the curb slides, we’ll see some wild clips go viral.

Sean: Frankly, I’m hoping there aren’t too many mobility tricks like the curb slide, and that they don’t dominate the game. Skill ceilings can make a lot of shooting games inaccessible to those who don’t play for a living, and so far I’ve been impressed that most skirmishes I’ve had in Infinite felt like fair fights — losses where I’d have won if I’d played my cards right.

We don’t know what the meta will be like quite yet, of course, since we were playing against foes with a similar lack of experience. We also don’t necessarily have a good handle on the maps: the test flights dropped us into a bare handful of small and / or extremely symmetrical levels, and I wonder if I’ll enjoy larger ones as much.

Not that any of those things will factor into my purchase decision: Halo Infinite multiplayer will be free to play, a super exciting move that should hopefully ensure it’ll be easy to find a match at my skill level for years to come. Microsoft will be making its multiplayer money entirely off cosmetic items, it seems!

“I call shotgun. HEY, wait for me!”
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Tom: I don’t like the battle pass system, though. There are credits which appear to be available to purchase for real money, too. You can use credits to level up the battle pass and unlock rewards like consumables (double XP), armor, and other items. You can also level up the battle pass by completing challenges, but you don’t earn XP through regular play.

I’m fine with the challenges existing, but I feel like there should be a way to earn XP based on the amount of time you’re playing the game. If you can truly buy credits from the store that let you level up the battle pass, then that’s veering too close to pay to win for me even if all you’re getting is cosmetics.

The battle pass system is the only part of Infinite that I’ve felt confused and irritated by.

Sean: I do wonder how Microsoft will keep it engaging enough to keep paying players paying. I took a look at the different armor variants and colors, but there are only so many ways you can skin a set of armor, and Halo’s guns don’t have the mountains of attachments or variants you’d find in a Fortnite or Call of Duty, nor the unique heroes of an Apex Legends or Overwatch to keep people buying and costuming.

I’m fine just ignoring the paid extras, like I do in all free-to-play games. But here’s something I’d genuinely pay for: a mode that makes the vehicles bouncy and indestructible, like they were in the original 2001 Halo: Combat Evolved. Want a good time? Get everyone on an OG Halo server to put their guns away and start Warthog jousting instead, then watch as the game’s bonkers physics system launches those vehicles spiraling into the sky. No shooting allowed: you’ve got to knock your foes out of their futuristic Humvees and run them over to win. It becomes a big floaty bullfight, or — with enough players — a piranha feeding frenzy. Halo made vehicles destructible in Halo 2, and that was that.

Either way, if Halo Infinite stays as fun as it was in these test flights, I’ll be playing a lot of it. The bite-sized matches go by so quickly it’s hard to resist — it’s easy to fit one or two into my busy dad schedule, perhaps during my lunch break. Tom, you in?

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