Halo Infinite season 1 surprise-launched just a few days ago, but I’ve already sunk nearly 20 hours into it. I’ve played round after round of Team Slayer, ranked Oddball, and Big Team Battle matches, my exclamations changing from shouts to whispers as I play deeper into the night. It’s easy to get hooked on Halo Infinite’s multiplayer – while the battle pass progression is garnering plenty of feedback from players, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to celebrate here, from beautifully designed maps to pitch-perfect gameplay to exciting game modes.
343 Industries clearly injected Halo Infinite with a love for the franchise that shines through in almost every frame – the only thing it’s missing is a damn Slayer-only playlist. So suit up, Spartan, and read on for Halo Infinite multiplayer season 1 first impressions.
Maps, they don’t love you like I love you
When Halo Infinite multiplayer dropped as a surprise announcement on Monday, as part of Xbox’s 20th anniversary celebration, I immediately wondered if we’d have access to the same maps that were in the Halo Infinite multiplayer tech test. You can imagine my delight when I booted the game up and dropped into Recharge, a map I hadn’t yet seen. It’s one of ten available during what 343 Industries is still calling the “Halo Infinite beta” – this will presumably change when the campaign launches on December 8 – and the first game I played on it was a traditional Slayer match.
Recharge is the perfect example of how Halo Infinite successfully straddles a nostalgia for Halo 3 multiplayer and a more modern take on the arena shooter. It has the same feel as other classic indoor Halo arena maps, with connected rooms and ramps allowing the fight to flow easily between spaces. But it’s the mantle spots that really elevate map movement, giving players a chance to scramble away from tough situations in ways that previous Halo games haven’t really tapped into. During one game, I round a corner and promptly walk into a trio of enemies, do a quick 180, drop down off a ledge, scramble up a metal crate, and am sliding into a different room before any of them can finish me off.
After Recharge, I then play three rounds in a row on Launch Site, and it’s a testament to the power of 343 Industries’ map design that I don’t grow tired of it. Vehicle spawns help add some chaos to the indoor map, allowing players to close spaces quickly across the more open combat areas. But it’s when I play my first Oddball match on the incredibly small Streets map that the realization dawns on me: this game is going to eat up all of my free time for the foreseeable future.
Streets is a neon-soaked cityscape set in New Mombasa that feels a lot like Plaza, one of the best maps in Halo 5. The super-condensed, hyper-vibrant map is a rarity in Halo games, and it’s lovely to see a new version of it that’s not a complete remake of its predecessor. You will be in almost constant firefights on Streets, which gives you a chance to get a feel for the gunplay and movement-based skills you’ll need if you want to succeed in Halo Infinite. A well-placed M41 SPNKR rocket launcher round makes for a fun little mid-map firefight, as getting your hands on just two rockets can wreak some serious havoc here.
The larger Big Team Battle maps are as excellent as the small and mid-sized maps, with ample space for chaotic vehicle battles and sniper stand-offs. Behemoth and Fragmentation are familiar, but a Stockpile match on High Power offers an entirely new experience in both mode and map. As I try to retrieve a battery and bring it back to our base, I’m shot in the back by a mounted turret, and watch a Mongoose explode on my lifeless body. When I respawn, I take two steps forward and am immediately splattered by a Warthog – it’s beautiful carnage, which is exactly what we sign up for with a Halo game.
There’s a reason Halo Infinite quickly became the most-played Xbox game on Steam in less than 24 hours on from its launch – it feels bloody fantastic. Halo made a name for itself as an airtight arena shooter with physics that allow for gravity-defying plays and hilarious ragdoll moments, and Halo Infinite supplies that in spades.
I expect the Halo Infinite guns to feel good, but they also sound incredible as they send satisfying clicks, booms, and pewpews careening around my headset every match. The sound and feel of the weapons prove 343 has found a sweet spot between arcade game and realistic shooter – a balance that some of the previous Halo games have struggled to find. The battle rifle is especially great, with a gratifying clang that feels appropriately weighty for its fire rate and recoil. And for the first time in a while, the assault rifle feels like a viable weapon choice.
There are two weapons I either can’t get a handle on or are just underpowered: the Pulse Carbine and the Heatwave. I find the Heatwave to be useless (it seems like it’ll be the most useful in tight corridors and around corners, but I just can’t get it to work) and the Pulse Carbine seriously underpowered when compared to other rifle options. Aside from these two weapons, however, I’m fairly happy with any gun in my Spartans’ hands, although my current favorite combo is a classic Team SWAT throwback: the BR and the MK50 Sidekick.
The vehicles are just as lovably unwieldy as you’d expect, with the bigger ones like the Warthog and Banshee requiring some serious finesse and smaller ones like the Mongoose careening end-over-end at the slightest gust of wind. This is how Halo vehicles should be: beefy, bouncy, and easily blown up. I’ve encountered an accidentally hilarious vehicle glitch in several matches where, after being killed near a Ghost or Warthog, the vehicle seems to teabag my corpse until I respawn – it’s a glitch, but it still manages to feel oh-so-very Halo.
Halo Infinite’s game modes are as strong as its weapons and vehicles, with nary a bad one in the bunch. Large Big Team Battle matches of Stockpile and Total Control are especially fun, with Oddball and Slayer matches leading the pack in terms of smaller-side arena modes. Currently, Capture the Flag is a bit of a boon, thanks to either zone camping tactics or players not playing the objective in favor of running and gunning. The lack of a Slayer-only playlist only adds to the frustration, as running and gunning would be welcome there. And therein lies Halo Infinite’s biggest issue: its menus.
Halo Infinite’s only issues exist outside of multiplayer matches, in the myriad menus that have caused me nothing but frustration. The battle pass is a grueling grind, for sure, (in its current form, at least, although 343 has pledged to balance it in the coming weeks) but there’s a ton of confusion around where items go when you’ve finally unlocked them. Unlike Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends, and Fortnite, Halo Infinite offers nothing in the form of icons when you unlock new content, so it’s almost impossible to know what you’ve actually unlocked and where it is.
When I finally reach battle pass level 2, I’m told via post-game screen that I’ve unlocked the UA/Type B1 rare helmet. There’s no indication of where that helmet is in my armory, and with the name reading more like a file type, I struggle to find it across the two different armor cores I have available. Then there are attachments to armor pieces that make it all the more confusing, as you have to sort of stumble your way through the menus in order to figure out which armor item has an available attachment and how to equip it. With players already frustrated at how slow battle pass progression is, 343 needs to make it crystal clear what you’ve unlocked, where it is, and how to use/equip it.
We’re still playing around with Halo Infinites ranked mode and learning about Halo Infinite ranks and tiers.
Then there are the game mode menus, which at the time of writing don’t allow players to to pick a specific mode. Instead, you can choose from three competitive game types – Quick Play, Big Team Battle, and Ranked Arena – and are then thrown into a randomly generated game mode. That’s right, those of us who prefer to play only Team Slayer are basically screwed right now, as we’re forced to play through objective-based modes like Stronghold, Oddball, and Total Control. You can’t even select or unselect modes from the Quick Play menu – you’re just thrust into a game type of the Halo Gods’ choosing. Where’s the Slayer-only playlist? Where is my beloved Team SWAT?
Here’s hoping these menu issues and lack of game mode choices are resolved sooner rather than later, as I find it frustrating to play back-to-back CTF matches when I just want to shoot anything that moves Streets. Despite my affinity for in-game killing, however, Halo Infinite is so damn fun I’m still happily booting up and dropping in to play game modes I actively dislike, which certainly says something. But remember, Halo Infinite, while polished as hell, is still technically in beta, so expect feedback to continue to be addressed. And with the Halo Infinite Tenrai event on the horizon, we’ll soon get our first look at what Halo Infinite events will have in store for multiplayer. Since Halo Infinite is meant to hold us over for a decade, events will be crucial to keeping the game fresh.
Right now, Halo Infinite is the rock-solid arena shooter we’ve been waiting for, and it’s only going to get better. The Halo Infinite multiplayer beta is currently live on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. Get into it.