The Halo Infinite beta feels exactly as it should. Grenades fly everywhere. Bodies do, too. Ghosts plummet down a shaft in the middle of a map, exploding on impact. A Gravity Hammer sitting in its spawn is sent flying into an abyss by a wayward Plasma grenade. At least once across all three nights of my Halo Infinite multiplayer beta preview, a random teammate of mine laughs in gleeful disbelief.
"Do you think I can use the Repulsor on a Warthog?" A teammate excitedly asks me in the midst of a match. In the end, he doesn't get the Repulsor - a new piece of equipment that lets you deflect projectiles and knockback enemies - for the rest of the match, which is my final one of the Halo Infinite multiplayer beta preview, so I never get the answer myself. But it's the question itself that tells you just how good Halo Infinite is. It captures the fun, frenetic pace of classic Halo multiplayer and teases the seemingly endless sandbox surprises you'd expect from large-scale Halo maps.
Halo Infinite is everything I wanted and more, from the weapon feel to the movement mechanics to its impressive graphics. I'm happy to report it will be worth the wait.
That Halo feeling
Halo Infinite multiplayer feels exactly how I thought it would: weightier than Halo 3 and 4 but less higgedly-piggedly than Halo 5, which messed with Halo's movement mechanics until they basically broke. Sprint isn't lightning-fast, but fast enough you'll likely keep it on most of the time. Mantling is effective and smooth. Sliding is short and sweet. Spartans eat bullets with a surprising hunger, requiring you to swap weapons when a clip runs out or deploy a well-placed punch in order to send an enemy careening across the floor. You're punished severely for not getting the jump on someone, as a millisecond difference between firing off AR rounds can mean life or death.
Speaking of AR rounds, Halo Infinite can only be as strong as its gunplay - and the Halo Infinite weapons feel fantastic. The classic Halo weapons are appropriately different: changes update and elevate them for a contemporary FPS world, but they don't feel foreign in the hands of a seasoned vet. The MA40 assault rifle returns as the central meta weapon, offering just enough rounds to deplete a shield but not enough to take a Spartan down unless you punch 'em square in the Aviator helmet. The new MK50 Sidekick pistol is actually incredibly useful (and powerful, I can easily see it becoming a favorite loadout gun) while the Plasma Pistol makes the iconic noob combo possible, but more difficult. The Gravity Hammer is much slower but no less devastating.
The only change that initially troubles me is the BR75, which has a much slower fire rate than I expected and is much less effective at mid to close range. However, after a few solid hours with it in my super soldier hands, I feel comfortable with the way the new BR feels - even though it's still booty at close range. But don't worry, that's where the new VK47 Commando comes into play. The UNSC weapon is a precision tactical rifle that absolutely shreds at both mid and close range. Go fully automatic or ADS with a 3x tactical scope for a slower rate of fire with higher recoil - it sort of doesn't matter what you do, as long as you hit somebody with this thing. It feels great, and will likely replace the BR as my Halo weapon of choice.
There are so many new weapons that I barely get any time with during my Halo Infinite preview, as weapon spawns remained stagnant on maps where it feels like they should swap. One map only seems to spawn the new Banished sniper rifle the Skewer during my first day of playing, before swapping between that and the Spartan sniper rifle in later sessions. But despite not getting a good chance to test out the Shock Rifle or the Mangler, I'm confident that Halo Infinite is offering diversity when it comes to killing.
That Halo layout
The September 24 Halo Infinite multiplayer technical preview offered four different maps for 4v4 Slayer, Capture the Flag, and Stronghold matches: Live Fire, Bazaar, Behemoth, and Recharge. Bazaar is set in New Mombasa of Halo 2 fame, with a central market square flanked by rooms and hallways a level higher than the bazaar below them. As a result, the central market area sets up some chaotic brawls, with players consistently dropping down from above or hucking grenades into the elevated rooms.
Live Fire has a lovely layout, with two clear levels that set you up nicely for some classic Halo plays. A major central chokepoint features the spawn area for one of the best new Halo Infinite weapons, the Skewer, which shoots a gigantic spike at high speed. If you can manage to hit someone with this, it's lights out, and when I fire off a no-scope with it during the multiplayer tech preview, I scream so loud all three of my cats go skidding into the other room.
The weakest map for me is Recharge, which focuses on vertical fights across a small energy facility full of ledges and hallways. I play my first match of the entire preview on Recharge, instantly get a Killing Frenzy, and proceed to get my ass whooped in every other match by players who figured out the rotations faster than I.
For the first several sessions of Halo Infinite multiplayer, it seems like I'd only get to play Slayer across those three maps, as that was all that was listed in the playlist. The next day, I booted up my Xbox Series S and jumped into Halo Infinite without even looking at the playlist. You can imagine my surprise when I was dropped into a Stronghold match on Bazaar (Stronghold requires you to hold two of three bases in order to score points, whereas holding all three will rack up your score even faster).
Later that night I spawned in a Capture the Flag match on Behemoth - an entirely new map that feels like the love child of Halo 3's Valhalla and Sandtrap. It's there that my teammate asks if he can Repulsor a Warthog, and it's there that I have the most fun of the entire beta, careening around the map on a Warthog, slamming into enemies on a Ghost, and trying to nab the sniper from a particularly difficult spawn point.
That Halo Infinite
Throughout the entire weekend, I found myself returning to Halo Infinite to get more games in - even after the repetition of that first day. The matches were delightfully chaotic and oh-so-comfortably Halo, and the game looks and sounds amazing.
In every regard, it's clear that Halo Infinite has benefitted from the delay, but it may be most clear in the AV. 343 Industries has polished the hell out of those shiny metal surfaces and given us a soundscape that is both nostalgic and new. Gregorian chants welcome you on the home screen, a loving reminder that this is, indeed, the Halo you grew up with - but the guitar-heavy, almost nu-metal score that plays during the beginning and end of multiplayer matches reminds you that this is also a brand new Halo.
And it looks brand new. This may be a game that bridges console generations, but everything about Halo Infinite screams Xbox Series X/S. The plume of CO2 coming out of a fire extinguisher captures the light from a Shock Rifle, the light filtering in through an exhaust fan shows imperfections in its metal casing, a mud puddle looks so real I almost subconsciously sidestep it. Halo Infinite is gorgeous - leaps and bounds beyond the now-infamous preview we saw during the July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase.
343 Industries has spent this extra time making sure Halo Infinite delivers on every front: gameplay, audio, visuals, that "je ne sais quoi" that makes a Halo game a Halo game. And after spending a weekend with it, and witnessing Grapple Hook trick shots and spike grenades sticking to Spartan boots from across the map, I'm so happy to report that Halo Infinite delivers. It's a package worth waiting for.
The next Halo Infinite multiplayer beta preview kicks off September 30 and will feature Big Team Battle and Arena. Prepare yourselves.
Expect Halo Infinite to be on the list of best Xbox Series X games.