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Game On: Halo Infinite Multiplayer flawlessly blends old and new

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 18, 2021

Despite launching by complete surprise Monday, Halo Infinite Multiplayer quickly reached more than 272,000 concurrent players on Steam alone. The game is available for free on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Microsoft Store and Steam.  (343 Industries)
Despite launching by complete surprise Monday, Halo Infinite Multiplayer quickly reached more than 272,000 concurrent players on Steam alone. The game is available for free on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Microsoft Store and Steam. (343 Industries)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

The rumors came true and the multiplayer component of Halo Infinite was released ahead of schedule Monday rather than the previously planned Dec. 8. When I took part in a “test flight” of the game in an earlier state in June, I came away feeling like it was a pretty bland, by-the-books Halo experience. I’m happy to report that Halo Infinite is now in a much better state.

In typical Halo fashion, the multiplayer arena pits two or more teams of Spartan super soldiers against one another – players employ a large variety of weapons, utilities and clever movements to outwit and outplay their opponents.

Although I’d call it a timeless formula, in recent years the tight arena-style shooting galleries have fallen out of fashion somewhat in favor of huge team battles a la the Battlefield series and battle royales such as Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Although the series has failed to live up to its legendary status after it was handed off to 343 Industries while Bungie Studios split off from Microsoft to make Destiny, the developers are onto something with this entry.

Halo Infinite boasts a creative variety of weapons and abilities, clever level design and smoother movement and gunplay than the series has ever had before. It’s not Titanfall smooth, but it’s shockingly close.

Some new utilities include a one-way barrier, a “repulsor” for deflecting projectiles and an endlessly versatile grappling hook, great for scaling walls or grabbing weapons and opponents from far away.

Old staples like the sniper rifle and rocket launcher are present, as are more than a dozen brand new weapons that feel remarkably distinct from one another. Oh, and active camo is actually difficult to spot now – a feature 20 years in the making! Better late than never.

I have only one major gripe with Halo Infinite: the “Strongholds” game mode, wherein two teams vie for control over three positions in the arena. In order to score points, a team must hold two of those objectives.

The other team may own one of the three but will score zero points until they grab a second. In my experience, every match ends with one team eviscerating the other for a few miserable minutes. I’ve been on both sides of this, and neither scenario is fun.

Almost impossibly, the game feels simultaneously like a throwback to the series’ origins as well as a meaningful evolution of Halo. The tutorial, weapon drills and ability to face off against AI opponents to hone your skills make Halo Infinite the most accessible and newbie-friendly Halo of all time. That’s a great thing – the series needs new blood.

If I had to rank it, I’d place Halo Infinite well above Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, but below Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. Despite being 11 years old now, I’d still call Reach the definitive Halo experience for its superb game balance and insane variety of fleshed-out modes.

Really, that’s the biggest weakness of Halo Infinite as it stands – there’s only six game types and 10 maps, and there’s no Forge mode to make your own arenas. 343 Industries has said Forge will launch next summer. I hope that’s soon enough, as Halo 5: Guardians also launched without Forge, and I grew disinterested in the game before the feature was added.

I think Halo Infinite will hold my interest – and other gamers’ interest – for longer, however, given its free-to-play status, battle pass and meaningful new features. My hope is that Halo Infinite will maintain a consistent and large enough player base to encourage its developers to expand upon the title for years to come.

343 Industries has clearly stated its intention for Halo Infinite’s multiplayer to be an ever-changing live service game, and I hope they make good on the promise. There’s a lovely canvas here just begging to be worked upon until a true masterpiece is formed.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler@gmail.com.

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