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Halo Infinite Multiplayer
Halo Infinite Multiplayer

Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date:
November 2021
Halo Infinite Multiplayer Review
Review By @ 01:18pm 14/12/21
PC

Halo came to the fore at the tail end of the Arena Shooter era, after Quake III Arena had already presented the world with perfection and Unreal Tournament had provided people who had been Humiliated too many times with something to cling to, their life preserver in a sea of pwnage. Even today, simply ask 'Quake or Unreal Tournament?" and you know you can safely 1v1 anyone who answers the latter.

Halo, when it arrived, was a rung lower still, dominated by the Nintendorks who'd spent years contorting their hands to accommodate the ergonomic nightmare that was the N64 controller. But as soon as the PC Gamers learned to shift from mouse and keyboard to the gorilla-hand-sized original Xbox controller, years of superior game strategy allowed them to dominate.

And as the scene on PC shifted towards the team-focused play of Counter-Strike, Halo did an admirable job of holding fast the integrity of the arena shooter. Its long time-to-death and interesting weapon offerings meant it provided both new and old players with meaningful choices mid-fight. Good players could win when outnumbered by disengaging strategically thanks to the game's auto-replenishing health, and the over-sized maps allowed for vehicles to be utilised in interesting ways.


These days, Halo's brand of high Time-To-Kill multiplayer is fairly common — many Battle Royales trend in its direction, with Apex Legends feeling to me almost exactly as Halo did — but the Arena shooter isn't.


And as the scene on PC shifted towards the team-focused play of Counter-Strike, Halo did an admirable job of holding fast the integrity of the arena shooter. Its long time-to-death and interesting weapon offerings meant it provided both new and old players with meaningful choices mid-fight.



It's popular in the indie scene — Halo fans should check out Splitgate for some 'Halo with Portal' vibes, and old head Quake players can try Diabotical if their self-esteem is too high and they want to get walloped by dexamphetamine junkies with ultralight mice — but the AAA shooter scene is dominated by Call of Duty-likes.

And honestly, it's nice to be back in the arena. It's nice to return to the days of map control and 'On-site Procurement'. To the days when spawn management meant timing out a run to the power-ups instead of trying to only control two-thirds of the map so enemy players wouldn't spawn behind (not that it matters with Call of Duty's spawns anyway).


Like most big budget AAA shooters, Halo Infinite has both the good and the bad. Good, is Capture the Flag on most of the game's Arena or quick play maps. There's a decent amount of cover which allows for some interesting pathing options in the smaller variants of Halo Infinite's 4v4 maps; so Slayer, Oddball, Control and Capture the Flag all work well on them.

Bad are the two larger sized Arena maps, Launch Site and Behemoth. They're both, well, awful. Just lopsided dumpster fires, with Launch Site being the worst of the two – an asymmetrical nightmare designed seemingly for Halo's worst perma-mode, the Arena classic "single-flag capture the flag". The series insists on splitting this mode into attack and defend that has never, ever worked. Single-flag capture the flag with a solitary flag in the middle works — Halo's implementation does not and never has.

Good are the Big Team Battles, which divest players of responsibility for their actions and allow a great deal of play. The maps in Halo Infinite's BTB are all pretty good, with my favourite being Fragmentation, which has a vaguely symmetrical feel to it and loads of interesting areas to grapple up to. It feels like Halo Infinite — large and broad and gorgeous, and maybe a little shallow.



Bad is the mode "Total Control", which requires teams to capture all three domination areas to score a single point. There's two ways it plays out — either it's a tedious neverending stalemate that takes 30+ minutes, or it is a four-minute-long-stompfest. Imagine a Battlefield game where you needed to capture all three locations across a map… oh my god they did this in Breakthrough in 2042. What a terrible game.


Like most big budget AAA shooters, Halo Infinite has both the good and the bad. Good, is Capture the Flag on most of the game's Arena or quick play maps.



Good is the grapple hook, and the repulsor, and all of the gadgets that Halo Infinite brings to bear. After the campaign, I kind of wish you had the grapple hook at all times, just a default mobility addition, adding a degree of Tribes style momentum to every single game. Or maybe they could just do that as a Limited Time Event — call it skiing, and unlock the ability to slide forever. Maybe I'll make that, if the Forge ever gets added (it's missing).

Bad is the netcode, and the melee, and a few other fundamental elements of the multiplayer experience. You'll die behind cover often in Halo Infinite, and while it's more understandable in Big Team Battles — Battle Royales have gotten many people accustomed to, if not accepting of, the idea of desync in large scale multiplayer — it's egregious in Arena games. It shouldn't happen, but it's impossible to miss when it does.


It's a problem exacerbated by Infinite's scattershot approach to matchmaking. I'm constantly dumped in 200+ ping games, and there's seemingly no way to stop this from happening. I know console players would dearly love to opt out of crossplay, but they're not able to do that either outside of Ranked. As Kosta said in his campaign review, Halo Infinite is unfinished — that is absolutely the case for the multiplayer portion of the game as well, although to a lesser extent.

The melee hit registration suffers heavily from these networking woes, and it's made worse thanks to wonky collision detection — a critical element of any melee system. I constantly pass freely through enemies, turning fistfights into competitive ballet performances as both players attempt to out-pirouette one another. It's unsatisfying and annoying and I have repeatedly considered unbinding the melee button to remove the temptation altogether. It's that broken to me.


And then there's the Battlepass.

It's tough to talk about Halo Infinite's multiplayer without touching on the Battlepass stuff, right? Because there are multiple schools of thought on the issue. Some people don't care about battlepasses at all. They never engage with the stuff, and so it means nothing to them. All this outrage is silly to them, because their preferred system of play appears to be unaffected.



Bad is the netcode, and the melee, and a few other fundamental elements of the multiplayer experience.



Others love the thrill of chasing their next level, treating it like leveling a character in World of Warcraft, feeling the "Ding!" each time they hit the next milestone. They're livid about Halo Infinite's system, because it doesn't feel good to engage with, and that clashes with the excitement they feel at playing Halo in general. They're upset.

A small, small percentage are going way too far with that outrage, spewing hate and venom and even death threats at developer 343 Industries, Microsoft, and anyone in the general vicinity of those two. These people represent a teeny tiny minority of players, but at the same time there are entirely too many of them. Going so far as to get Halo's Reddit shutdown for a weekend. All of those who engage in this toxic behaviour are dickheads.


Personally, I don't care about cosmetics in games. Hell, you could say I specifically care about not wearing anything in games. The pure joy I get from hearing people upset because they were killed by a "default skin" in games is almost as good as being called a hacker.

And yet I side with the people upset with Halo Infinite's Battlepass. Not the dickheads, of course. Never the dickheads. But people who feel that the Battlepass is a toxic influence on Halo Infinite's multiplayer are, in my opinion, onto something. Because it's not the first time Halo's attempts at monetisation directly influenced game design decisions. Halo 5 Guardians was particularly bad for it, as REQ packs introduced a degree of pay-to-win into a franchise that once took place entirely on LAN.

Halo Infinite isn't pay-to-win, but the insidious nature of its Battlepass can still be felt by those refusing to engage with the cosmetics-only rewards scheme.


Borrowing its 'challenges' focused progression system from mobile games means in theory it should be simple to avoid engaging with the battlepass of Halo Infinite, but the truth is even if you don't look at your challenges, you'll still be paired with people who do. And when they have a challenge that tasks them with getting 15 kills with the Commando, you can expect to see them camping the VK78 Commando spawn. Or the Wasp spawn. Or leaving you holding the Oddball alone so they can throw away their life trying for Ravager kills. Or leaving the moment the game begins because they need to play Slayer and you loaded into Capture the Flag. Or letting you die while carrying the flag because they need caps (before almost always failing to get the cap themselves).


Halo Infinite isn't pay-to-win, but the insidious nature of its Battlepass can still be felt by those refusing to engage with the cosmetics-only rewards scheme.



And because of the way the UI is designed in Halo Infinite, even if you don't personally interact with the Battlepass, it's still front and centre to the experience. When you finish a round, the first thing you see is the "Heroes of Reach" screen telling you how you did in your challenges.

This is manipulative design, a trick game designers learned from the pokies — or maybe the other way around. Even the most steadfast member of the "I don't care about cosmetics" brigade can't help but feel a spark of joy at seeing the "Challenge Complete" notification because they killed an enemy with a headshot in PvP. And the other challenge listed, where they killed three of five enemies with an Assault Rifle — subconsciously they'll remember that for next time. This is lizard brain shit they're tapping into, worming its way into the deepest recesses of our brains and influencing our decisions without our knowledge.


Halo Infinite is riddled with this shit. Still, it's 2021, and it's a free-to-play game. So it gets hand waved away. Billion dollar corporations gotta eat, after all. Halo Infinite's multiplayer is, to me, like Halo Infinite's campaign. Gorgeous and ultra playable and ultimately crippled by a release deadline it wasn't close to meeting. Everything wrong with it could be fixed with more time and more testing.

More testing could have demonstrated how bad the Battlepass felt, even for those trying to ignore it. They might have rectified the situation by rewarding players for their performance in matches on top of their challenges completed — as a start, at least. More time would have allowed for the networking issues to be resolved, and the collision detection to be fixed. A few more Alpha Flights could have shown Total Control for the utter dogshit that it is, and allowed 343 the opportunity to launch Launch Site out of a cannon… and into the sun.

But I find myself playing Halo Infinite over and over anyway. I'm not taking it seriously. I'm not altering my Spartan Armour or pursuing challenges or caring about how my team is doing. But I am wallowing in the pure nostalgia as it washes over, wave after wave of old school arena shooter goodness crashing into me. I'm getting myself into and then getting myself out of 2v1s, just sitting back and trying to recapture a little of the glory. It's just a shame that below the volumes of nostalgic goodness lurks a riptide called predatory monetisation.
What we liked
  • Feels like coming home
  • Classic Arena Shooter vibes
  • Some fantastic maps
What we didn't like
  • Predatory Monetisation
  • Launch Site
  • Total Control
  • Noticeable desync even on low pings
  • Poor matchmaking
  • Not enough playlist options
More
We gave it:
6.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Joaby
Posted 04:27pm 14/12/21
The good thing about taking pot shots at Unreal Tournament players is that I know deep down they can't hit me if they fire back
nachosjustice
Posted 04:55pm 14/12/21
F**k you, UT hater (where ** = la)!
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