Halo Infinite had its first technical preview this past weekend, with the testing period wrapping up at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT today. I spent the majority of the play time from late Thursday night well into last night playing the preview, slaying bots that got progressively more challenging.
On PC, the experience is fantastic with tons of options for graphics and controls. The game itself, despite being a build from a couple months ago, was remarkably smooth on my rig. Even with teething issues, Halo Infinite was a blast to play and I can't wait for more.
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I put in more hours than I'd like to admit over the course of three days, but that time flew by as I got to try new guns, abilities, and maps. Halo Infinite's multiplayer is shaping up to be a real joy to play and it might be my new go-to once it launches later this year.
Halo Infinite Tech Preview: Launch issues
The launch was very rocky to start with. People were unable to access the Halo Waypoint site to get their Steam keys and Xbox users faced an "Update needed" message when installing the preview build. No one expected things to go off without a hitch, but developer 343 Industries kept going well into the evening (night time here on the East Coast) until people finally could get into the game.
On the PC version, 343i's community director warned players of a long loading screen upon initial startup, even on high-end PCs. My rig is probably high mid-grade and it's no slouch, but I sat at the black loading screen for well over ten minutes. It felt like longer, possibly due to my excitement.
343i also warned people of a dedicated server error upon attempting to start a match, but the company said to give it a few more tries and all should be well. In almost an hour of "playing" Halo Infinite, I got to join one match and it was already half done. I could not get free of the dedicated server error, and then I had the game crash to the main menu when I did manage to connect to a match. As midnight approached, I decided to call it a day and try again on Friday.
Halo Infinite Tech Preview: Getting to play
Come Friday morning, I almost ran down the stairs to my office and booted up my gaming PC — unfortunately, I had to sit through a Windows update. But upon finally loading into Halo Infinite, I successfully connected to a full match on the first try.
It was awesome.
The fluid movement, the beautiful gun models, the great sound design, all of it came together to make for a killer match and first impression. As I played more, I got better and better, pulling off some sick headshot kills with the battle rifle (which is really good now) or the pistol. The MA40 assault rifle is still a reliable mainstay, but the new VR47 Commando AR packs a punch with the potential for headshots.
Halo Infinite will also sport a lot of customization options, a brief glimpse of which was available in the tech preview. Picking and choosing how your Spartan looks will be key to the Halo Infinite multiplayer experience. Helmets, shoulder pads, colors, all of that and more will be custom to you (and what you earn/buy). Gun and vehicle skins return, too.
One new addition to Halo Infinite is the grappleshot. It's a grappling hook that unlocks incredible gameplay opportunities, like repositioning quickly for a sniper shot. If you've ever played Overwatch or Apex Legends, it's like playing as Widowmaker or Pathfinder, but with a much shorter cooldown. It can also pull items to you. The bummer is that you lose the power-up on death and need to find it again. But I can see plenty of potential for high-skill players.
During the course of the preview, four human players went against four bots. These computer-powered Spartans are a first for Halo and offer a chance to improve your skills without the pressure of a real match — the bots will also serve as a good warm-up before a gaming session. The preview started with the second tier difficulty, called Marine, but we got to go against the next difficulty level, ODST, and then the hardest, Spartan.
The bots mimic common player tactics, like jumping, strafing, and crouching to throw off your aim. Their grenade tosses were also on point, and I died more to them than to bullets. Overall, the bots helped players get a feel for what Halo Infinite will offer. Future previews might feature full 4v4 matches, but bots helped keep things low-key while 343i tested the infrastructure on this two month old build.
Halo Infinite tech preview: Final thoughts
There's a lot to like about Halo Infinite, even in this first technical preview. The game features several accessibility features, including the ability to change the highlight colors around friends, fireteam mates, and enemies. Since Halo Infinite does away with the traditional red vs. blue paradigm — instead focusing on player choice and customization — it's great to see people who deal with colorblindness issues be able to tweak things to their liking.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer will be free-to-play and it will feature a battle pass system. 343 Industries stressed that it's focused on respecting players and not relying on FOMO to keep people playing. 343i doesn't want Infinite to feel like a chore where you have to play constantly. This is something I can get behind, but we'll see if that comes (or stays) true once the game launches.
There are still a few months left before Halo Infinite launches and 343i plans to host a few more previews to make sure the game is up to snuff before we all can get our hands on it. The campaign will cost $60, but I really hope that 343i has some strong anti-cheat ready for the inevitable cheaters that will flock to a free-to-play game. It's an issue that others like Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Destiny 2 deal with. It can easily ruin the experience for a lot of people.
As a long-time Halo fan, Infinite has me really excited. I can't wait to play the multiplayer with my friends, but I hope that 343i brings people up to speed for the campaign since Halo 5 never came to PC. Regardless, count me in for any future flights (preview or beta) that 343 runs for Infinite.