Microsoft and 343 Industries dropped Halo Infinite's free-to-play multiplayer mode as a surprise during the Xbox 20th Anniversary livestream. Still technically listed as a beta, Infinite's player-versus-player mode has launched to almost universal critical praise. I'm throwing my hat into that ring as well. Halo Infinite multiplayer is not only a ton of fun, but it's also the best multiplayer mode the series has ever had.
However, there is another common sentiment you might have seen regarding Infinite's multiplayer. The battle pass, in a word, sucks. As in Halo: The Master Chief Collection, you have to complete challenges to earn progression points. Other free-to-play games offer straight XP from wins and losses. Infinite's system forces you into playstyles or game modes that you may not like, which can steal the fun for a lot of people.
Still, I've spent the better part of this week playing Halo Infinite's multiplayer, and I feel very positive about the experience for the most part. There are some hitches here and there, especially when there's a lot going on, but at its core, Infinite's multiplayer is a blast.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: The good
Halo Infinite is a modern first-person shooter. People who skipped Halo 5 will probably welcome this development. If you've been playing the Master Chief Collection's multiplayer mode, you'll find a lot to love here: ledge clambering, timed power weapon spawns, armor ability pickups and unlimited sprint (something that Halo 4 had, admittedly).
If you know Halo, you know that the multiplayer shouldn't take itself too seriously. It thrives on chaos and steamrolling. The latter can get pretty disheartening if you're on the wrong side, but you have equal access to the tools you need to make a comeback. Vehicles add a new level of chaos that other free-to-play shooters can't match. In short, Halo Infinite leans heavily into the series' strengths.
I'm planning to jump into the competitive playlist this weekend, so I'm not sure how that whole system works just yet. But quickplay makes it easy to hop into a match, kill some enemy Spartans and complete various challenges. You can also create a custom game with your own rules, just like in previous Halo games.
Halo Infinite's gunplay is the best that the franchise has ever had. I think that Destiny 2 still takes the cake for the best first-person shooter experience, but Infinite puts up a good fight. Each gun hits hard in its own way, with quirks you need to learn and adapt to. The standard assault rifle workhorse will be your default primary weapon in most of the game types, and the Sidekick sidearm can do some serious damage if you land your shots. Let's not forget the fan-favorite battle rifle, either.
The sound design is top-notch, too. Guns sounds awesome, the Spartan chatter is fun (you can disable it if you prefer) and the music has that iconic Halo vibe. Plus, hearing the shield recharge sound takes me back 20 years to playing Halo: Combat Evolved as a boy. Nostalgia certainly feels good.
343i included a wide swath of accessibility options — far too many to list here. One that stands out is that colorblind people can change friend/foe outlines to a color of their choosing. Gone is the red vs. blue pattern of old. However you customize your Spartan, that's how they'll look in-game. This is something that the Master Chief Collection had trouble with.
And speaking of Spartan customization, there's a lot, provided you unlock the armor kits and cores. For this first season, it looks like most armor options are locked behind the premium battle pass. That means you'll have to pay $10 to get the Halo: Reach armor sets, different visor colors and so on.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: The bad
Let's get this out of the way: The battle pass progression is not good. Instead of earning XP from wins and losses, you have to complete challenges. These range from simply playing a game to doing certain things in matches. Some objectives include killing a certain number of players with a specific gun, or dispatching enemies in a particular game type. This can force you into a playstyle that you don't want.
The amount of XP you earn from completing these challenges is paltry, meaning that battle pass progression is incredibly slow. I get that 343i wants to keep people interested for the full six-month season, but this system doesn't work. Even Apex Legends, with its challenge-based star system, awards levels faster.
To address the feedback on Battle Pass progression we will be making targeted tunings to our model later this week.To start, we'll be adding "Play 1 Game" challenges to help make sure you consistently progress through the Battle Pass by playing matches the way you want.November 18, 2021
Luckily, 343 Industries has said it's working on tweaking the battle pass. The company added a short-term fix: a repeating "complete a match" challenge. This was a step in the right direction. There's a long way to go, but I found the incredibly quick response encouraging.
My other gripe with the battle pass is just how much content it locks behind the premium tier. Even basic things like color shaders are paywalled. Looking ahead through the levels, sticking with the free route appears to be very unrewarding. I think 343i could look to other battle passes, such as Apex Legends or Destiny 2, which still offer plenty of freebies to keep people interested. Destiny 2 even gives you seasonal exotic weapons in the free tier, eventually.
After years of other excellent F2P shooters, I find it hard to excuse Halo Infinite's undercooked battle pass. That said, 343i seems to listen to community feedback, so I'm willing to give the developers the benefit of the doubt. I want to see Halo Infinite's multiplayer succeed and feel rewarding.
One other note: quickplay is just that. You can't choose your preferred game type, such as Slayer. I definitely want to see that change, especially if there are going to be challenges that require you to play certain game modes.
Halo Infinite multiplayer: Outlook
I love Halo Infinite. While the multiplayer is still in beta, it's got a ton of promise. This game feels like a truly modern evolution of the Halo formula. It's a different kind of game experience, and it's not trying to be a Destiny or Apex Legends killer. It stands on its own and leans into its strengths, which I respect.
The battle pass is an issue right now, but I think that will improve over time. The game did launch earlier than expected, so some teething problems are bound to happen. At least the core gameplay is fun as hell. It's so fun that I don't really mind the challenge system— until I look at how low my level is, due to playing the game my own way.
I'm going to play more Halo Infinite multiplayer in the coming days. I'll join up with friends this weekend to jump into the competitive playlist, and I can hardly wait. You know a game has done well when you can't wait to start playing it again.