Halo Infinite Tech Test Soars High

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

Halo will always have a place in my heart with memories of sixteen-player system link matches dance in my head. Six years since the last Halo, Infinite is set to hit Xbox on PC on December 8, gamers are ready for the next installment, and I had a chance to check out the Halo Infinite Tech Test this weekend.

The folks at 343 Studios and Xbox Game Studios are doing things a little different this time around, converting the multiplayer side of Halo Infinite into an entirely free-to-play experience. This tech test was a small fraction of that portion of the game.

Broken up into four-hour sessions, the Halo Infinite Flight (what the dev team is calling the beta) consists of an offline Academy that takes the player through drills for the various weapons. While this gives you quick sessions at the range for each gun, it really did not do the mechanics of the game justice. For that is why we are here, is it not?

This tech test gave us an Arena playlist with three modes, Team Slayer (deathmatch), Capture the Flag, and Strongholds (domination). The flight presented three maps to try. For Slayer you had the chance to play all 3; Bazaar, Live Fire, or Recharge. Strongholds got two of the maps in the rotation, while Bazaar was the only map for Capture the Flag.

The matchmaking was seamless. On a few occasions, I dashboarded the game and restarted it because of server issues, but the re-entry process was very quick and painless. It was to be expected. Once in a game, there was no lag or disconnections. After the match, getting into a new game was as simple as pressing a button to search again.

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

Gunplay was what really impressed me with this Halo installment. Guns fired with a natural feeling, big guns possessed a kickback and were stronger caliber, while the little guns showed the dexterity you would expect. It was easy to tell which guns were for long-range and which were for close-quarters combat. This is a real testament to the efforts put out by 343 Studios.

Unlike the loadout system in games like Call of Duty, Halo focuses on the maps and placing weapons, grenades, and items throughout the level. This creates both strategy and intensity in the gameplay. Teams can guard weapons or bait other players to that tempting item. It creates for some frantic and fun battles.

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

Powerups were both new and familiar, scattered throughout the maps. Your friendly neighborhood active camo and overshield made appearances while we also got to see the grappling hook in action. I was able to access high-up platforms and hard-to-reach areas by shooting the hook easily with the press of a button.

While this tech test did impress, there were a few things I hope the folks at 343 will improve. The respawn time is too long. At one point I was waiting ten seconds to get back into the action. I think the shortest length of time I waited was seven seconds. That is unacceptable when you are trying to engage players. The high end of a respawn time should never exceed seven seconds otherwise you run the risk of the player losing interest.

This year’s customization seems very cool in terms of cosmetic sheen. Your character will certainly represent you, allowing players to equip a bevy of different helmets, suits, and gun skins. I was even able to give my character prosthetics. Each also gets to choose their own AI companion each with its own personality. I chose one that reminded me of the Cowardly Lion.

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

However, I always felt like Halo multiplayer could use a more in-depth weapon customization system. It is odd that in a futuristic game like this, weapon attachments are not a staple of battle. I understand that leaving these out helps with balance but I cannot help think about all the fun combos with the Halo arsenal there could be.

From the get-go, the developers want you to experience a staple of Halo Infinite multiplayer, challenges, and the battle pass. Many multiplayer games have adopted the battle pass. Like others, different cosmetic items and XP boosts unlock at various levels for this pass. The battle pass is also the only ranking system in Halo Infinite multiplayer, and as many passes have, there are free and premium unlockables.

Challenges will also look familiar to you. Do this and get this much XP. Broken into daily and weekly. these will be a huge factor for Halo Infinite’s free multiplayer. Challenges will be the main way you will get XP in the game. Match XP will be a thing of the past, so no more riding the coattails of your teammates to level up.

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

Now that the gameplay has been given the seal of approval, let me reassure you that the graphics do not suffer. The backgrounds glisten in the light the way a next-gen game should. I experienced no tearing, frame drop, or lag on the Xbox Series X. You could tell the game was built for this system. Bullet, flags, and grenades were littered with detail that made everything pop on the screen.

The audio made me feel completely immersed. Guns made you jump if you heard them near you. The needler’s piercing sound made you run for cover. Footsteps purveyed the proper direction of the opponent. Your AI was consistently having conversations with you, warning you of opponents and when certain items were available. The addition of this voice in your head made me feel like 343 was trying to emulate Borderlands in a way, but at this point, it seems more atmospheric than anything.

Final Reaction

This tech test definitely did its job. It got me excited for what the future is going to hold for Halo in the coming years. With a few tweaks to help keep players immersed this could be a title people are talking about for a while. Since this is a tech test, it is hard to get mad at some of the server issues that have affected the beta. Next week the test will move from the small arena battles to the large team battles. From that, we will really see if Halo can hang with the big boys of first-person shooters.

For more information on Halo Infinite and a chance to sign up for future tests before launch, visit Halo Waypoint.

Update – New Map Introduced

Courtesy Microsoft via Nerd Reactor

On the final day of this weekend’s flight test 343 added the map Behemoth to the Slayer and Capture the Flag game modes. This map gave us a chance to test drive some vehicles, including the warthog and banshee. Behemoth also features gravity lifts, jump assist platforms that have been a staple since the early years of the franchise. This map showcases more open spaces and a chance to really get into some good skirmishes.

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