Longtime Halo fans have a lot to look forward to with Halo Infinite and while some parts may be an acquired taste, newcomers should definitely give this game a shot, with only the monetisation being an obstacle on the road paved with thrills.
- What is it? The standalone F2P multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite, an ode to FPS classics
- Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 5700 XT, 16GB RAM
- Developer: 343 Industries
- Publisher: Microsoft
- Release date: November 12, 2021
- Available on: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Halo games were traditionally Xbox exclusives, meaning the PC crowd didn't a widespread opportunity to taste them until the Master Chief Collection started making waves. With that, Microsoft laid a foundation for another platform for the series and Halo Infinite multiplayer component is certainly building up to something good with pretty much everything except the hard monetisation push.
Halo Infinite has a lot of good to show but the gameplay is easily the biggest highlight. Whether you choose 4v4 or 12v12 battles, you are in for some high octane action. The choice between the two really lies in whether you want the action to be chaotic on a larger map or somewhat more calculated on the smaller ones. Either way, the pace is quick and the game quickly grabs your attention until the match is over.
The action itself is fairly unique for modern-day shooters. Headshots do not take that much of a priority as they would in Valorant or Destiny 2, for example. You are generally aiming to drop an enemy's shield by shooting any part of their hitbox and precision hits become more important only after the target is left defenceless, with an exception here and there. For example, a sniper rifle headshot will kill enemies instantly even if their shields are up.
All of this may sound odd to newcomers but it definitely works well in practice, provided you get used to the somewhat altered ruleset, compared to other FPS titles you may have played. More importantly, the fans of the series that have enjoyed Halo since the beginning have finally been obliged and Infinite gameplay is what they've been craving for years. Even if the gunplay in Halo Infinite doesn't end up being to your taste, 343 Industries deserve to be commended for listening to their loyal fan base, which is sadly a dev quality that keeps getting rarer by the day.
On the topic of newcomers, the long time to kill (TTK) might be another thing that feels weird to such players. This is something that usually makes players quit games out of frustration because everyone becomes a bullet sponge but Halo games appear to be unique in the sense they tend to be the only ones where this approach actually works.
Destiny 2, for example, tried something similar in the early days and fans absolutely hated it. This is possibly the closest a modern FPS game comes to Halo Infinite in similarities and yet the TTK disparity makes a world of difference. In other words, Halo Infinite is a unique game on the market, which is fairly hard to accomplish, given the saturation of the FPS genre.
Another set of features that make the latest entry in the Halo series unique in the modern-day are the multiplayer game modes. Capture the Flag is a classic game mode that has fallen out of favour for some reason and Halo Infinite is bringing it back in style. The game features several variations of the mode and has in both 4v4 and 12v12 formats. The latter adds vehicles for increased chaos on the battlefield which also opens up possibilities for new tactics, keeping CTF fresh for long periods of time.
Even when you have modes like team deathmatch and domination that are seen in virtually every shooter these days but even here, Halo Infinite throws in additional flavour with multiple rulesets that are the much-needed refreshments other games don't offer. For example, team deathmatch, which is called Team Slayer in this instance, can take the form of Fiesta, which will no longer have weapon pickups but everyone will spawn with different random weapons each time.
Overall, the wealth of game modes in Halo Infinite multiplayer is immense and it is bound to keep the game from getting stale. You can see a lot of effort went into creating them and the game deserves every praise on this front.
Flaws in gameplay are few and far between but there are some that can be singled out. The chaotic nature of fast-paced shooters inevitably leads to some spawns that will give an advantage to a player as they find themselves immediately flanking the opponent. That said, this occurrence is not as frequent or game-breaking as it sounds and in my own experience so far, the match winners have always been the players who prevailed with their skill, not luck.
Crafting a fair and skill-based game then leads to high-quality competitive matches and a healthy ranked ladder, which can only be spoiled by weak matchmaking or progression systems. Thankfully, neither are present in Halo Infinite. In fact, the progression system is probably the most advanced you will find these days because it prioritises player performance over match results. Speaking plainly, this means that the better you play, the better you will be ranked, even if your team loses the match.
Controls and options
Halo Infinite allows you to almost completely customise settings to your liking. It has virtually everything - key binds that accompass every mechanic you might need, wide Field of View customisation, mouse sensitivity modifiers when zoomed and much more.
Even though we are near the end of 2021, game developers often forget some of the most important mouse control features in FPS titles, such as being able to remove mouse acceleration, sensitivity modifiers and sometimes even key binds for mouse buttons other than the left and right click. Halo Infinite nailed it on all counts. Do you like mouse acceleration? You can turn it on. Want a different mouse sensitivity on each of the five zoom levels? You can set it up.
However, there are a few settings in the options menu that don't quite work properly. For example, screen tearing is not supposed to happen when you limit frame rates at or below your monitor's refresh rate. I played Halo Infinite on a 75 Hz monitor that supports AMD FreeSync and I kept getting the screen tearing regardless of whether I tried with uncapped frame rate or capped at 75 and 60 FPS. The only way to stop it is to enable V-Sync which has other adverse effects and frame capping as well as FreeSync are supposed to be ways to circumvent V-Sync.
Performance and graphics
As I mentioned before, screen tearing is caused by frame rates higher than the refresh rate of the user's monitor. That means I kept getting more than 75 FPS with R5 3600 and RX 5700 XT, which is actually slightly below the recommended system specs. Therefore, it's safe to say Halo Infinite optimisation is amazingly well done, which is another high point for the game.
As far as the graphics go, they are a far cry from the underwhelming reveal that showed flat graphics. Environments didn't exactly blow me away but everything looks crisp and at no point would I go "oh, this texture is pretty meh". Most importantly for a competitive shooter, there is not much clutter around and you can keep your sights on target without being obstructed by unnecessary eye candy. Overall, if your PC is at or above the minimum requirements , you shouldn't have any trouble related to performance and the graphics seem set to stand the trial of time.
After all that praise, it's time to talk about the worst part of Halo Infinite. The vast majority of customisation, and pretty much all of the cool customisation is locked behind paywalls, be it in the battle pass or via microtransactions. This is horrible on its own since players do not get any sense of progression or cool rewards to look forward to like they did in previous Halo games.
It's even worse because this system runs contrary to what the devs promised and were hyping the fans before the launch. There was a mention of a million customisation combos on day one, along with a singular source of customisation options so if you obtained something through hard work, someone else couldn't just buy it in the shop. There was also the promise that a lot of customisation would be unlockable through "playing the game and playing the game alone".
All of these promises were broken and this left a sour taste in the mouth of every player. It will be these broken promises that will leave a lasting inability to trust 343 and a persistent feeling of unease with the players, which will severely drop the enjoyment factor in the long run.
On top of that, 343 chose what is the worst way possible to progress the battle pass, through challenges. Anyone who has played Destiny 2 immediately knows why this is bad since pretty much no one liked the bounties that ruled that game's Bright Dust economy for so long. The reason for disliking these is simple - they force players to play a certain way, which may not necessarily be what they prefer.
If you are in a ranked match trying to do your best, you certainly don't want the game to force you to use the Commando to kill 15 players if you want to make any significant progress on the battle pass. Even worse, the challenges can sometimes ask you to get kills with a sidearm and if you primarily play ranked, you don't respawn with one on you. As such, you would need to queue up for regular matches, which were not what you wanted to play in the first place, and then play them in a specific way the game tells you to, not the way you would enjoy it.
This system has fundamental flaws that can't be corrected and if 343 want the players to stay engaged in battle pass farming long term, they will need to overhaul it. Otherwise, the community will just get fed up and start ignoring the nuisance entirely.
Finally, there is also the matter of the recently started "free" event where players are supposedly able to unlock customisation options without opening their wallets. That wasn't entirely true and parts of the armour set were actually locked behind microtransactions .
Halo Infinite multiplayer is truly a love letter to old school shooters and a proper return to the qualities that originally made the series famous. Whether you are looking for smaller, more organised, matches or all-out warfare with vehicles, you have a lot to enjoy in this game. Those not used to Halo fundamentals might need to acclimatise before properly enjoying the game but it's well-worth any invested time and effort. Still, Halo Infinite multiplayer started off in a beta that felt vastly more polished than "fully" released AAA games of the modern age.
However, as hard as the devs worked on creating a game that will dazzle the longtime fans and newcomers alike, someone decided to work equally hard to ruin the experience with overwhelming monetisation. This brought along a tide of broken promises that will eventually leave players feeling like they had the best cake in their lives but had to chug saltwater immediately after.