A beta is early days, of course. But let me stick my neck out at least a little here-- based on what I’ve played, Halo Infinite is remarkably good.
Obviously there’s a lot of time to go until release. There’s the fact it’s launching in a semi-compromised state, with some modes and features that fans were looking forward to pushed back to future updates. But after many, many hours playing the multiplayer beta over the course of this weekend, one thing is clear: this is the best Halo in ages.
The thing about Halo, for my money, is that the very things that made it special also made it very hard to replicate. Lord knows, people tried. Marketing departments pushed game after game as ‘Halo killers’, and none of them really were. In the end, the things that truly ‘killed’ Halo were nothing to do with making a game that did what Halo did, but better. It was the rise of Call of Duty - an arguably very different game descended from a different breed of game to Halo’s arena shooter roots - and of course the passing of the torch from Halo creators Bungie to 343 Industries.
In a weird way it didn’t really matter that 343 was created expressly to create Halo, nor that it counted many Bungie alumni among its staff. It was still a sea change, and in hindsight a time of soul searching for Halo. There were experiments to shift it closer to the format of COD, and service game elements, and trying to enhance the co-op nature of Halo’s campaigns. Everything was fine, but just fine. The bright spark that Bungie had nurtured felt to have been dimmed.
Now, however, I can see Halo 4 and 5 in a new light - as a prelude, and important lessons learned, in the run up to Infinite, a game that seems to combine 343’s lofty ambitions to make Halo something more with a new understanding of what the most indelible qualities of Bungie’s Halo are.
The result, at least in this multiplayer beta, is a Halo that leans into the sandbox madness that each game in the series built that came to a zenith in Halo 3. That old trifecta of guns, melee, and grenades remains the absolute heart of Halo - but in Infinite, they’re augmented with new ideas like the Grappling Hook, or older additions that are now baked in, such as the ability to sprint. Crucially, these new features feel as though they slot into the texture of multiplayer matches naturally and without spoiling that precious core triangle.
Whereas some of the additions, changes, and ideas in Halo 4 and 5 felt like they risked what made Halo what it was, the additions in Infinite feel to slot as naturally into things as when Halo 3 added equipment, which now has come to feel like a series staple that’s always been there.
That’s the magic of using the grappling hook to grapple into the back of a Warthog from what feels like forever away, kicking out the current occupant -- it doesn’t feel like some new gimmick, but rather a continuation of the controlled chaos that made me fall in love with Halo multiplayer in the first place.
Other touches also land as 343’s best attempt in each category. The sound design is remarkably good, with the ability to tell where enemies are based on audio alone well defined. 343 has always been good at that, but this game just… sounds more like Halo? There’s a refinement to updated sound effects that brings them more in line with the ‘feel’ of the Bungie games, which to me is the quintessential Halo.
To me, Halo has always been about synergy. That’s why we talk about that triangle of guns, melee, and grenades - the three elements synergized in the first game in a way that ultimately rocked the genre. Halo Infinite feels like the first entry in the series to carry that sense of synergy - and it’s got me absolutely pumped. Obviously this is a multiplayer beta, a non-final slice of the product we’ll get in a few months. The campaign remains an enormous question mark, as does progression and an ongoing DLC and update path. I hope the final package lives up to what’s on show here - as so far, I’m absolutely loving it.