Halo Infinite is only a few months away, and I'm keeping myself occupied until then by playing Splitgate. You've probably heard the story by now: Splitgate, a free-to-play arena shooter from 1047 Games, feels like Halo 3 and Portal met at a bar one night in 2007 and decided, "screw it, let's start a band." The handling, gunplay, and game types are nearly identical to Halo 3, while the portal-building feature incorporates Portal-like movement to make for fun and frenetic multiplayer.
But even though Splitgate feels like Halo 3, I don't believe it can – or will – replace Halo Infinite, even with Master Chief's next adventure delayed to December 8, 2021. Every time I play Splitgate, I get even more excited for Halo Infinite, as it looks poised to sit nicely in-between the vibes of the classic Bungie games and 343's more modern takes, according to our Halo Infinite multiplayer hands-on.
I love the feel of Splitgate, and recognize that Halo Infinite can't feel exactly like it without coming off too retro. Splitgate's portals are what modernize the arena shooter, and Halo Infinite won't have those – but it does seek to find a sweet spot between modern Halo titles and Bungie's source material. If 343 can do that, it should be enough to make Halo Infinite feel both fun and modern. Splitgate is a great way to bide the time until Halo Infinite drops this December, then, but it isn't replacing 343's next title – instead, it's a reminder that Halo Infinite is on the horizon, and it's gonna kick ass.
The Halo Model
Splitgate works so well because it takes everything that's great about Halo 3 and throws it in a blender with Portal movement mechanics. You could choose to never build portals in Splitgate, however, and still have a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and that's thanks to the mechanisms it borrows from the Bungie classic. Chiefly, the gunplay and map layouts, which feel pulled directly from legacy Halo games.
The battle rifle fires with the same satisfying kick as Halo's, the assault rifle serves as a central meta weapon, and the BFG sends enemies careening end-over-end off the side of the map. Like Halo, all of Splitgate's weapons feel different enough that you have to figure out their fire rate and rhythm, but are all strong enough to be considered viable options. I quickly become a menace when I realize that a burst of AR bullets followed up by a quick melee will level an enemy – something Halo players will be all-too-familiar with.
Then there's Splitgate's level design, which also heavily references the Halo franchise with clear pathways, verticality, and a very particular set of visuals that are either sleek and futuristic or earthy and archaic. Splitgate's Club Silo feels like Halo: Reach's Sword Base, and it's not the only map that nods to Halo games. When playing Splitgate, my mind wanders as I attempt to visualize what Halo Infinite will do to contribute to its legacy of pitch-perfect arena maps in varying shapes and sizes.
As a woman who once spent her entire summer job salary on an Xbox 360 and Halo 3, it's impossible to play Splitgate without thinking of Halo. A tense Team Deathmatch AR battle on Pantheon is just like a tense Team Deathmatch battle on Halo 2's Sanctuary. Nailing a BR headshot through a portal evokes the same feeling of accomplishment you'd get in a Team SWAT battle on Epitaph. Sure, Splitgate feels like Halo – but it can't replace it.
Halo: Infinite opportunities
Halo 5: Guardians doesn't feel nearly as good as Splitgate does, and that's largely due to 343 Industries over-complicating the Halo formula with advanced mobility mechanics that decimate traditional multiplayer movement. We know that Halo Infinite is pulling back on those movement mechanics, refining the Spartans so that their movement feels updated but not out-of-sync with what we know and love about Halo.
I wasn't lucky enough to get an invite to the Halo Infinite multiplayer beta – hopefully I'll get handed an invitation to the next Halo Infinite multiplayer test by Master Chief himself – but our very own Josh West confirms Halo Infinite feels tighter than its predecessor. Players can still slide, sprint, and mantle up ledges just like in Halo 5, but there's a restraint that wasn't there in the last game that means these movement assistors will simply assist in map rotations instead of dictating how an entire match plays out. There's no longer a ground pound or a thruster pack jump, either, which shows that 343 is cherry-picking the franchise's best features and tossing out ones that didn't jive in the last entry.
The few maps we've seen in Halo Infinite point to a keen understanding of what makes Halo so much fun: chaotic firefights. While we've yet to see any large-scale maps featuring vehicles, the Halo Infinite technical preview did show off a handful of solid small-scale maps. Bazaar, in particular, is a stand-out. Set in Mombasa (which you might remember from Halo 2), Bazaar is a perfect map for 4v4 battles, with two distinct levels that offer some lovely little traversal options between them. There's no area that can't easily be attacked, which deters campers – a huge part of what makes Halo multiplayer so fast, frenetic, and fair.
Then there's the extensive armor customization available in Halo Infinite. Like Splitgate, Halo Infinite will have both a free and paid Battle Pass offering up two tracts for unlocking new customization options. But unlike Splitgate (and most other free-to-play titles) Halo Infinite doesn't just offer pre-packaged skins – something I can't help but look forward to when unlocking yet another uninspired Splitgate skin (what's going on with that cat dude?)
Yes, Halo Infinite will have armor kits that apply a predetermined set of customizations to an armor core, which follows the Splitgate (and Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends) model, but it also offers an extensive customization process. That process lets players choose every piece of Spartan armor, from helmet visors to utility belts to knee pads, and apply a variety of shaders to that armor. It's more Destiny 2 than anything else, except there are even more customization options. That means that Halo Infinite will have an impressive number of armor customization permutations, making for a lovely and diverse battlefield that emphasizes individuality.
So even though Splitgate feels like a slightly more modern Halo 3, and even though the wait for Halo Infinite has seemed, well, infinite, I don't believe that the former can replace the latter. Instead, every Splitgate game is like a promise that Halo Infinite will bring even more this December, including snappy multiplayer, excellent maps, and a modern take on the classic arena shooter.
Halo Infinite drops December 8 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, and it's reportedly bringing 23 maps with it.