In the 16 bit era, there were plenty of discussions about whether Sonic or Mario was better.
The truth is, both franchises were absolutely fantastic and integral to the growth of the industry in their own ways, but that never stopped people asking the question.
Nowadays, that conversation has shifted more towards whether Call of Duty or Battlefield is the cream of the crop. To some people, that might sound pretty bleak – even though both games have made a ton of money between them – but in a year where both franchises are back and ready to push the limits of new-gen, it’s certainly not going away.
At least, it wasn’t, until Xbox and 343 surprised us all by dropping the Halo Infinite multiplayer beta a little bit early and changed the question altogether.
Halo Infinite has had a tumultuous development cycle, there’s no getting away from that. Last year’s infamous ‘Craig’ meme is just the tip of that particular iceberg, and the game missing the Xbox Series console launch window certainly raised a lot of questions.
Which is why the game launching in the state it has, opening a vintage multiplayer experience up to anyone who owns an Xbox as F2P, is the redemption arc we all wanted for this legendary franchise.
343 have done it. They have managed to craft a multiplayer experience that matches the fantastic Halo 3 and build upon it in ways that make effective use of modern day systems and infrastructure.
It’s just so much fun being able to ricochet grenades off walls to get stylish kills, making use of all these unique weapon types – old and new favourites – and even sneaking in a back smack when the enemy isn’t looking.
The thing that surprised me most of all, though, is how quickly I was able to slot back in, easily adapt to the game’s flow and feel right at home, something I have never been able to do with either COD or Battlefield because I’ve often died the moment I step out the front door.
Insta-kills are less common in Halo, the game relying more on strategy, aiming shots correctly, weapon selection, understanding the layout of the map as well as the different types of matches you can play, like Oddball and CTF.
Halo rewards well-rounded players, who can adapt quickly and aren’t all about getting the best K/D ratio in every match. Of course performance is valuable, but sometimes necessary sacrifices are needed to ensure victory and teamwork is almost always at the heart of everything you do.
I played a lot of Halo 3 and made a big effort to get my rank as high as it would go, while simulatenously feeling the pressure of trying to keep it. This inevitably made me a better player at the game as I tried to stay as focused as possible for every game to help lead my team to victory.
Even though it’s been years since I’ve played, I feel I’ve retained a lot of that muscle memory. And Halo Infinite is the closest Halo since that has really got those competitive juices flowing again and has kept me invested in each match from beginning to end.
Forget the ‘Just One More Go’ mentality, I don’t even stop to think about not playing and automatically jump to go into the next match and the next one because I am having such an incredible time.
The game has such a great loop and hook that I don’t care that I’m not playing anything else. The quality of this release, available to everyone on the hardware and not having to pay to play it, is a gamechanger and it has quickly cemented itself as my go-to game that I am regularly dipping in and out of.
And remember, this is still technically in Beta, which means there’s still a ton more polish, a bunch more modes and lots of other things coming down the tracks to keep the game interesting ready for the final commit.
There’s definitely been some rightful complaints about the progression/battle pass system and how much of a grind it’s proven to be, but 343 have already been really reactive and addressed some of these concerns by increasing XP based on games you play and tweaks to Daily Challenges. I’m excited to see what other changes are in the pipeline.
As for everything else, the map variety is really cool, from an underground science facility, to an open, rundown village, and a vast desert landscape. The newer weapon types have even proven to make some incredible clips. Like the Sentinel Beam…
That’s it, I’m calling it.
Game of the Year. pic.twitter.com/MIvId3tYlR
— Blackbeard (@Blackbeard) November 27, 2021
I’m going to be playing this a lot in the coming months and will give a more final determination once we’re out of the Beta phase and the roadmap is a bit clearer.
All that, and we’ve still not mentioned the campaign mode rocketing towards us on December 8th!
Halo is back in a big way and Infinite shows that 343 have spent their time wisely and are half way to finding the best Halo game since the Bungie days. They’ve been working hard since being cast in that looming, particular shadow, and it has paid dividends.
Even if you’re not normally into the modern online FPS experiences, if you’ve got an Xbox, give Halo a spin. It might just change your perception, just like it’s changed the questions between which is the best big budget shooter this year.
Spoiler – It’s neither of them!
Halo Infinite Multiplayer Beta is now available on Xbox
Played on Xbox Series X