The reveal trailers, dev updates, and 4v4 technical tests can't prepare you for the magic that is Halo Infinite Big Team Battle. After all, the essence of the Halo franchise has always existed in Big Team Battle. The physics, gun meta, and vehicles shine brightest in these matches - so this past weekend, which offered us a second Halo Infinite multiplayer technical test and the first look at BTB, was a big one for 343 Industries.
With a few delays under its belt and the still-worrying news that campaign co-op and Forge won't launch until six to nine months after release, the recent Halo Infinite multiplayer test weekend had a lot to accomplish. With Big Team Battle the franchise's core IP, this weekend had to deliver large-scale battles that retain the perfect pandemonium of previous games while showing off new weapons and equipment - and boy did it do just that. Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle is perfect in every way.
During the Big Team Battle preview, there's only one map available the entire weekend: Fragmentation, a spiritual successor to Valhalla that has a much less open field and far more opportunities to seek cover from incoming sniper fire. Fragmentation is full of caves, rocky outcroppings, and Forerunner-forged tunnels, with weapon and grenade spawns that feel fairly laid out so each team gets a chance to snag some power weapons. Vehicles like the Mongoose and Warthog spawn at your home base, while Ghosts, Banshees, and even Scorpions are air-dropped in depending on how the game is going. If a team is leagues ahead, you may find a Ghost drops in earlier than you'd expect.
The cadence by which ordinance and vehicle drops happen is a testament to how much 343 Industries has considered while designing Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle - and that thoughtfulness doesn't end there. Halfway through a Capture the Flag match where my team was getting properly trounced, I noticed our final flag had spawned inside of our base instead of further out. We were getting a better chance to turn the tide, and even though we didn't, that change shows 343 listened to former complaints that CTF matches often ended in draws.
Team Slayer is thoroughly enjoyable in Big Team Battle format, as it's the purest form of Halo chaos, an undiluted shot of madness akin to tequila in that it makes your limbs feel all warm and tingly. But Halo Infinite's newest BTB game mode Total Control is really where all of the new guns, vehicles, and equipment shines. In Total Control, teams have to capture three control points across the map, with a brief respite between points that lets you catch your breath while three new territories spawn in different areas. Every Total Control game feels excitingly even-keeled - even when my team was losing by two, the third spawn points appeared mercifully closer to us, giving us the chance to capture all three faster than the enemies could say 'Cortana.'
With a beautifully designed map and thoughtfully designed game types, Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle is exactly what you'd hope for and more. But you don't hop into the BTB playlist for drawn-out strategical battles - you hop into it to play in an epic sandbox.
That Halo layout
The first Halo Infinite technical test only gave us a tasting menu of the sandbox features, while this past weekend's Big Team Battle was like a buffet. A simple scroll through Twitter or Reddit will unearth a treasure trove of Big Team Battle's best moments, from players grapple hooking a Banshee just to yeet a Spartan hundreds of feet out of its cockpit, to a Capture the Flag moment that takes the now-throwable fusion core and turns it into a deadly football.
When my partner takes the reins, he's initially overwhelmed by the flying projectiles, flipping Warthogs, and enemies zooming around the map like a Titanfall 2 match. This is the one place where Halo Infinite will struggle: the skill ceiling. It's always been painfully high in the Halo franchise, and the advent of new traversal options that will most certainly be abused will make it a rather steep slope for new or lapsed players. But trust me, once you round that corner and can start squeezing off a no-scope with the sniper or successfully stick a Plasma Grenade to an oncoming enemy's gravity hammer, it'll be worth it.
During a Slayer match, I successfully kill three enemies in a row with my pistol, spam a few grenades into a chokepoint and take out two more, before stepping back to admire my work just to get absolutely creamed by an incoming Ghost. For a moment, I'm frozen, my controller barely held in my now-limp hands, before I chortle and shake my head in disbelief.
This is what makes the Halo franchise the definitive arena shooter, and Halo Infinite captures that lightning in a bottle while generating some new electricity of its own.
Halo Infinite releases on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on December 8, 2021.
Until then, study up on the Halo Infinite weapons.