There was a lot riding on the Halo Infinite Technical Preview. Despite it only being a taste of what’s to come, first impressions count, and it was one the game scarpered in its gameplay reveal last year. Playing the game for the first time has to feel right, and capture the magic that many felt had been missing from Halo 4 and 5. Within the first few seconds of the first match we played, it was clear things are on the right track, as 343 Industries seems to be building a Halo game from everything the fanbase enjoys.
Of course, being a Technical Preview there were a lot of hiccups. We played it on the Xbox Series X and there were some crashes, weird frame rate drops, and questionable AI from the newly implemented bots. But what really matters for now is how Halo Infinite plays, and in that regard it absolutely knocks it out of the park.
For a start, weapons feel powerful and pack a punch. From old classics such as the Assault Rifle, to the fan favourite Sniper. The mixture of gameplay and sound design ensures each weapon feels like a force to be reckoned with. One of our particular favourites is the iconic Needler, which fires a barrage of spikes into enemies before ending in a satisfying explosion, better than ever before.
It can’t be understated just how impressive the sound design is in Halo Infinite, and each weapon demonstrates this perfectly. Even the sound of approaching enemy footsteps against the crisp crunch of grass as you venture across it is oddly satisfying. All of this is wrapped around the classic Halo announcer, who retains some classic series catchphrases such as “Killing Spree!”, as well as throwing in an odd new phrase here and there.
It’s from the gameplay standpoint that Halo Infinite really shines, perfectly balancing a mixture of old ideas with the new. While Halo 4 and 5 are considered lesser entries in the franchise, it never feels like they’re truly forgotten. Elements such as sprinting return, and the maps pack a lot of verticality - something that was commonly seen in Halo 5 especially. You can even use the environment to perform some parkour to reach higher vantage points and lay down fire from above. It really opens up more avenues of play.
As for the maps themselves, some shine better than others. Over the weekend, three different maps were added, each proving to be better than the last. Live Fire was the first and the weakest of the bunch, not offering much in terms of exploration. It featured an inside facility and some grassy areas outside, but failed to really invigorate anything new into the series. The second, Recharge, was a massive improvement, bringing the inside of a facility filled with pathways on many levels and perfect vantage points for long ranged weapons.
The best, by far, was Bazaar. A bright, open map, chock full of verticality and the best weapon selection. Rocket Launchers, Battle Rifles, and Needlers littered across the map offered a wide diversity of opportunity, along with some great gear pick ups. Grabbing the grappling hook and sailing across the map is an absolute blast - especially if you use it to grab a weapon away from an enemy before they can.
There are some improvements we’d love to see, though. The radar feels a bit hit and miss at the moment and could be put down to it being a preview, but we hope it’s more reliable in the full release. The grappling hook, while a fantastic addition, feels as though it only offers very short gaps to traverse across and could benefit from being extended. The bots also need quite a bit of fine tuning, too. While their difficulty was upped over the few days, the results often felt a bit cheap. From perfect aim, to venturing around in groups. We’d like to see them act a bit more natural, and not constantly look like an alien attempting to blend in.
We came away from Halo Infinite absolutely buzzing for the full release. While it's hard to get a full sense of what the game will be - especially when we've only fought 4vs4 against AI bots - the initial impression has left us excited for Halo for the first time in ages. While Halo 4 and 5 attempted to go in a new, faster direction, Halo Infinite maintains the spirit of the original series, also retaining some of those ideas found in newer entries.
Now if you'll excuse us, we'll be on Halo: The Master Chief Collection until Halo Infinite finally drops.
What do you think about Halo Infinite after the Technical Preview? Let us know in the comments below.