Halo Infinite Tech Preview Impressions: Halo for the Modern Era?
If you were playing a word association game, the first word many might associate with Xbox is Halo. No franchise is as ingrained in the fiber of a platform as Halo, except for perhaps the name of a certain plumber. So with Halo Infinite finally on the horizon for this holiday, and the first technical playtest come and gone, how is the newest installment in the franchise shaping up?
Pretty good based on our short time with it.
Most of what the preview included was a PvE mode with select times for PvP play, the latter of which was straightforward, classic Slayer. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a small snippet of what the MP will ultimately be like. It is, however, still a good place to start analyzing the Infinite's gameplay, considering that Slayer is to Halo what blood is life.
All of the weapons we tried out feel good to use, mainly because each of them has a general feeling of added weight when they fire. Each of your shots has that extra "oomph" that makes them feel punchy.
Mainstays like the assault rifle, battle rifle, sniper, and rocket launcher are all very fun to use and feel great, though I do think the battle rifle's recoil could do with some adjusting as I found it plenty easier for the reticle to taper off my target than in previous Halo titles.
The added weight and punchier feel to each weapon, though, is what I would say is one of the more modern influences for the better. Modern shooters like Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal, for example, have weapons that almost create an extension of your feeling, so that when your shot hits it has the sensation of actually hitting something.
Halo Infinite doesn't quite get to the feeling that Doom does, but it's definitely on that path, and it all works to increase the overall immersion.
At the end of the day, the skewer wins the top spot for the best-feeling weapon, though, at least when it connects. Whether or not it's a headshot, it always feels good to send Spartans flying with a weapon that Captain Ahab would have killed for.
When it comes to multiplayer gameplay, there are several aspects introduced this time around that are already drastically altering classic Halo combat.
The new grapple hook does an excellent job of adding another layer of maneuverability to Halo's combat and opens up an entirely new avenue of interacting with the world. You can grab a far-away weapon or item to pull it toward you for a clutch kill, make a quick getaway, or throw yourself directly at an enemy for a melee attack.
So far, it doesn't break the flow of combat because you can only use it three times after picking it up, and like everything else on the battlefield, you won't be able to grab it right after someone already has.
Sprinting isn't exactly a new mechanic for Halo, though it is one that is still highly contested within the community, and I'm not entirely sold on it yet. While I do appreciate being able to move through the world faster, it makes the gameplay feel more in tune with other modern-day multiplayer games, not Halo.
That isn't necessarily a critique or a negative overall, but currently, it sticks out as the only thing working against this return-to-form for the Halo franchise. Having an optional no-sprinting game mode for multiplayer or even a toggle-able feature for custom lobbies would be a welcomed feature for the full release.
The few maps we were able to experience aren't exactly anything to write home about. They're certainly not up to snuff with the legendary maps Halo is known for, but more than anything, they seemed simply "serviceable" for the test.
Weapon locations were varied to provide players more chances with each one; they were small to keep you consistently engaged, and the weapons available for each map fit its individual landscape fine.
Their potential came through mostly during PvP matches, specifically with the Bazaar map, but they were more or less just okay.
This was just a playtest though, and we'll obviously have more than just three maps for the full release. So while those maps in this weekend's playtest do not leave me hopeful, exactly, the selection can only get better.
All that being said, I am much looking forward to playing more Halo Infinite when the time comes and assured that the direction in which 343 seems to be taking the multiplayer is, in fact, a good one.
Is it better than classic Halo multiplayer in the Halo: MCC? It could be, but it is too early to tell. Does it feel like Halo? Yes. Is it fun to play? Absolutely.
At least for now, Halo Infinite is on track to again be one of the most popular shooters in gaming.