Halo Infinite Multiplayer Reviewed: One Year Later

Key Points

  • Despite a rough beginning, the Halo Infinite multiplayer campaign is fun and satisfying, with the potential to get even better. 

  • Most Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews note that Forge and the Custom Games Browser make multiplayer worth playing. 

  • 2023 looks to be a big year for the franchise — and a satisfying one for fans according to Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews. 

If you're a Halo fan, you know what 2022 brought: a lot of ups and a lot of downs. It's been a strange year, especially with Bonnie Ross, the head of 343 Industries, announcing her separation from the company after 15 years. This caused quite a stir in the gaming world. Before this, the initial 2021 Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews were full of praise and excitement. After the surprise launch during Thanksgiving of 2021, though, the reviews quickly started to report a lack of developer support.

The most common complaints in the Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews allude to the fact that the game lacks content and quick balance patches but contains aggressive in-game store pricing.

One Year After the Release

One year after Halo Infinite's release in November of 2021, the game feels more like a quality modern Halo experience than ever. Heavily demanded features are finally present in the game: an online co-op campaign feature, Forge mode, and a custom game browser (CGB) three months ahead of schedule. Quality-of-life fixes are finally happening regularly.

This naturally raises the question: One year later, is Halo Infinite's multiplayer even worth playing? Is the campaign worth trying out for first-time players or those looking to game with friends?

The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

Halo Infinite main character looks towards the sky Photo source: Halopedia.org

Infinite’s 2021 Campaign

Spoilers below!

Halo Infinite players had very high expectations ahead of the release in 2021. It is no stretch that these expectations are directly associated with how poorly received Halo 5: Guardians’ story was. This next story brought a lot of cautious optimism. Fans remained hopeful that the story would be satisfying, as well as give the classic Halo vibes.

For the most part, Infinite’s story is a solid step in the right direction. After somewhat confusing and convoluted creative decisions in Halo 4 and Guardians, this is a welcome change. A return to the classic Bungie-era art style and music feels in line with what 343 touted as a spiritual reboot for the franchise.

Most of all, it sounds like a stable foundation to iterate further on. This approach shows in a few key ways in Zeta Halo.

Cortana

There are several major points of interest, including the elephant in the room — how the writers would tackle Halo 5’s reception. The consensus is Cortana's reveal as the villain of the story is done in poor taste, so finding a way to address this head-on would be a challenge for any writer.

The decision to side-step it with a two-year time jump is an interesting one.

By the start of the game, the Created, Cortana’s faction, lost to the Banished, and she is thought dead. As the story unfolds, there is plenty of exposition detailing what happened to her and most other characters after the end of 5. Collectibles in the game world also allow lore enthusiasts or completionists to piece story details things together.

For the most part, this decision is a safe one. Seeing these events occur in real-time instead of through holographic flashbacks would’ve been more powerful, but it works. While the decision to have Cortana die again off-screen and replace her with a clone character in The Weapon is a functional one, it just falls flat and feels too safe.

But the truth is, playing as the Master Chief alongside a spunky AI assistant with a knack for quips just feels like a return to a classic Halo feel. The criticism is only short-lived as stories in the future push to new horizons.

Master Chief

As the face of Xbox and one of the most recognizable video game characters on the planet, the Master Chief’s characterization in Infinite is a hot topic.

Chief comes across as a natural blend of Bungie’s stoic, faceless super soldier and the tortured, disillusioned renegade of 343’s entries. At first, it may seem like Infinite just hits the reset button on Chief to his original machine-like self. Yet, his demeanor emulates how losing Cortana and endangering humanity changed him. He understands he is a machine created to kill but now he considers the legacy of his violence. 

Chief reflects on where he falls short and what duty means to him. As the campaign concludes, he turns into a better-rounded leader for the Weapon and the Pilot. He fully embodies what it means to be a beacon of hope for humanity in their battle for survival against the Banished.

Halo Infinite characters and gameplay Photo source: Halopedia.org

The Banished

The Banished enter the stage as big bads after their introduction in Halo Wars 2.

They operate in a similar capacity as the classic Covenant with Brutes, Elites, Jackals, and Grunt enemy types. As outcasts of the original Covenant and led by Escharum, they scavenge resources and modify them to fit their faction’s aesthetic design. 

Composed of jagged materials, heavy metal, and adorned with red-black war paint, a Banished weapon doubles as a heavy round burst of fire and musket for close-quarters combat. Banished levels reflect this design and are unique and new to mainline Halo.

The potential for this faction to grow in new story entries is considerable and would be a solid new direction, especially with that Atriox post-credits scene.   

A Fresh Take on Campaign Design

Infinite’s campaign design is a first for a Halo, opting to go open-world instead of its traditional linear progression. It's a breath of fresh air.

The tight set-pieces of Halo 3 are replaced with a grapple shot and fast travel locations for Banished camps, Forerunner dungeons, and scenic vistas. This approach feels inspired by games like Far CryThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Horizon Zero Dawn.

For good reason, an open-world Forerunner installation is an exciting proposition. Not only do you have the chance to explore unique environments and walk from one end of the ring to another in a straight line, but you also have a built-in intrigue with Forerunner artifacts and exciting gameplay loops with Banished forces.

Infinite’s world is good but doesn’t fulfill that potential. The world is only a section of Zeta Halo, so looping from one end to the other is impossible. The rumors are that the campaign had to be cut down by two-thirds to meet Microsoft’s demands. This coincides with reports of a troubled and lengthy development cycle and the apparent lack of different campaign environments. There are a lot of metal hallways of either Forerunner or Banished design, and an open world blanketed in fir trees.

Even though it is the largest campaign world to date, Infinite’s environments are the least diverse in a 20-year-old franchise.

Despite these weaknesses, classic Halo combat meshes naturally with Infinite’s exploration. The grapple shot flows like a dream and might be the best grapple mechanic on the market. Co-op progression is seamless and grappling your buddies to fly around the ring for trick shots, loading up a Razorback with rocket launcher-wielding marines, or tracking down high-value targets and forward operating bases are some of the most fun possible in a Halo game.

A good story with a decent world and plenty of opportunities for chaos with friends means that the rumored campaign expansions have potential. Whether that’s built into Infinite proper or explored in a sequel is yet to be determined.

Halo Infinite Cloud Gaming on Xbox

100,000 Year War

The long and the short of it is that Halo Infinite is in the best state yet.

It's known that post-launch support for the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The Steam player base dropped around 98% since its launch in 2021. It’s barely even in the top 20 of Xbox’s most-played games. 

And yet, there is a recent uptick for both platforms since the winter update, which brought a free 30-tier battle pass featuring classic Halo: Reach cosmetics, two new maps, a sandbox, a playlist, and matchmaking updates.

Rotational playlists featuring new modes happen every Tuesday, keeping the matchmaking experience fresh. Desync updates resolve most networking issues.

Free-To-Play Model

Infinite moving to a free-to-play (F2P) model is full of benefits.

It resulted in the most players at launch for Halo and universal praise for its sandbox and gameplay. Jump in at any time and get into games fast, even with a smaller player base. That number of players sometimes means that you’re getting into matches with very competitive players, but this doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t also have a casual audience. Certain playlists discourage hypercompetitive play so look out for that.

Infinite’s monetization strategy follows other popular F2P games like Fortnite by only making some cosmetics pay only. This is a first for the franchise, but Infinite is not pay-to-win. One of the game’s central design elements is fairness and competitiveness across multiple generations of hardware.

Cosmetics System

The cosmetics system recently opened up. All armor cores are available for everyone with new coatings. Customization is less rigid, meaning a brand new player can find an expression of their spartan that satisfies with cross-core customization in the works.

The current experience is night and day compared to release day. 343 tagged its PVP as a beta due to its lack of content and polish. Staffing seemed to be an issue as devs departed the studio left and right. Patches weren’t getting out quickly, weekly rotational playlists seemed like a fool’s errand.

In comparison, and when you pair that with Forge and the new custom games browser, Infinite feels like it should have at launch. While the pace of this first year is frustrating for Halo veterans and newer players alike, these additions are a step in the right direction and make the game worth playing right now.

Halo Infinite Winter Update characters and gameplay Photo source: Halopedia.org

Custom Games and Forge 

The freshly added Forge and CGB modes are heaven-sent for a fanbase clamoring for new content — made by fans for fans. 

Infinite’s forge, the in-game creation tool that is still considered in beta, is easily the franchise’s most powerful and impressive version to date. Design maps with placeable objects, weapons, and player spawns, but also the aesthetics are alterable at nearly every conceivable angle. RGB features, VFX, sunlight, skylight, reflections, shadows, object materials, and fog adapters allow you as the player to completely reconfigure your map’s feel without changing a single spawn point.

The scripting function allows for wacky game modes to be created, like random weapon properties and unique effects paired with button presses. As Forge develops, Halo’s player base and passion carry the game as 343 procures content for true seasonality. It almost seems like they’re banking on it.

Take the surprise delivery of the Custom Games Brower, a whole three months ahead of schedule. As of December 2022, there are over 4,000 fan-made maps and 3,500 modes available in Halo Waypoint’s content browser with hundreds of new additions every day. In just over a month, fans have remade classic Halo maps like Lockout, Guardian, Sandtrap, and Damnation.

343 regularly updates its recommended tab with new maps and modes to play.

Halo Infinite character carries soldier on back Photo source: Halopedia.org

Halo as a Social Game

The content browser and the spike of returning players point to an undeniable fact: Halo is a social game, meant to play with friends and make new ones.

Game modes like Kong Slayer — reduced gravity, fusion coils only with grapple shot equipment — are more in line with what Halo is intended to be — low-pressure, ridiculous, goofy, but fun.

The Halo Championship Series is great for spectators, and there is always a space for players who want competitive settings. However, Action Sack is what grew Halo 3 to over 1 million concurrent players. The CGB and passion of the community keep Infinite feeling fresh with new, fan-made content as 343 gets consistent work out the door.

To find others to play with, it's recommended you try the following options:

  • Join dedicated Discord servers. YouTubers such as FootedGhost, Mint Blitz, and UberNick have servers where games are running nearly 24/7.

  • Use the Looking for Group feature if you play on Xbox. Getting together a dedicated group is sure to provide consistent game nights full of hilarity and maybe even a few new friends along the way. 

  • Boot up the CGB, hop into a random game and see where it takes you. You’ll never have a shortage of Halo fans looking for people to play with.  

What you’ll get out of your Halo Infinite experience depends on what you put into it. Of course, hopping into a few games every other week will leave you satisfied. 

Looking Ahead

Winter Contingency II, 343’s Christmas event, just arrived and runs from December 20, 2022, through January 3, 2023. Included are free holiday-themed armor, weapons, and novel playlists.

It’s as good a time as any to hop in for a candy cane visor, icy blue weapon coatings, and if you’re feeling especially festive, a Santa hat helmet attachment. The best part is that these cosmetics are free, and unlocked solely through classic gameplay. 

Season 3 releases on March 7, 2023, with new maps, weapons, equipment, and brand-new armor cores. The CGB is supposed to release around this time as well. It’s no small win for 343 to get something out the door well before fans expect it. However, there are features that Infinite still lacks.

Keep an eye out for these things as the game enters its second year:

  • Cross-core customization

  • A true career progression system

  • Seasonal updates, three months per season with regular content drops

  • Announcements of the heavily rumored battle royale mode and campaign expansions

There’s plenty of reason to get excited about where Infinite is right now. Rest assured you'll have others playing right alongside you.

Halo Infinite characters and gameplay Photo source: Halopedia.org

The Future Looks Bright

Halo Infinite multiplayer and campaign are in an excellent spot right now. The future looks bright for this game as the development team provides consistent support to the health of matchmaking and deploying regular bug fixes.

Whether you’re a competitive player looking to grind to Onyx or you want to kick back with a pizza and play Big Team Battle on a remake of Blood Gulch, Halo Infinite is giving plenty of good reasons to stick around — including tapping into some of that classic magic that the franchise has provided for 20 years. 

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