“This is my last fight; a true test of legends! Our story…will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart, Spartan! Bare your fangs! Fight hard! Die well!” –War Chief Escharum
Originally set for launch in November 2020, 343 Industries ended up making the decision to delay Halo Infinite‘s release to December 2021 to ensure that their latest instalment of Halo was functioning as expected. While at launch, Forge and co-op will not be available, 343 Industries decisions demonstrates the level of commitment to quality that is expected of developers; in recent memory, games like Cyberpunk 2077 and No Man’s Sky had illustrated the price of launching games on schedule even in the knowledge the game was incomplete, with inevitable results. For me, since I’m in no particular rush, these delays are acceptable: in fact, as far as gamers go, I’m quite unconventional in my habits, and news of Halo Infinite‘s launch date, as well as the presence of a technical test, drew my attention primarily because I am running a machine that is now eight-and-a-half years old. As such, the concern for me was a matter of whether or not Halo Infinite would even run on this machine: the game requires an Intel i5-4400 and GTX 1050 Ti at minimum, along with 8 GB of RAM. On paper, my machine’s GTX 1060 and 16 GB of RAM should be sufficient. Moreover, the i5-3570k is supposed to be around eight to fifteen percent faster than the i5-4400k under real-world conditions despite being older. However, it isn’t until one actually attempts to run a game that performance can be tangibly ascertained: this was my primary goal with Halo Infinite‘s technical test, and after around four hours of gameplay spent in the open beta, playing against both AI bots and other players have given me a much clearer picture of what the way forwards looks like. On my aging setup, Halo Infinite is generally very playable at 1080p, maintaining a consistent 60 FPS with the visual settings set to the “high” preset. There were frame drops on occasion, although I did not find that they occurred as a result of activity on the screen (e.g. entering a crowded area with many players, or the result of visual effects resulting from weapon fire and explosives usage). The client testers were provided with was generally stable, although I did experience a two separate instances where the build did freeze or crash to the desktop as a result of bad memory access. Outside of these issues, I have satisfied myself with the fact Halo Infinite appears to run with reasonable smoothness on my machine.
Looking beyond the fundamental matters of performance and stability, Halo Infinite‘s technical test gave me a chance to try out the gameplay mechanics for myself. Trailers had shown that Halo Infinite would feature the return of equipment that had previously been employed in entertaining ways during combat, including a grappling hook and shield wall. However, the most critical element in any Halo game (or shooter, for that matter) is the movement and weapon system. Halo Infinite delivers on both. Player movement has been refreshed to be in line with more modern games; besides the return of a sprint system, players have slightly faster movement than the Spartans did in the original Halo titles, and there is now a vaulting system that allows players to grab ledges, making navigation through maps easier than before. Altogether, modernising movement in Halo Infinite means maps can similarly be updated to utilise creative elements that weren’t previously possible. The gun-play in Halo Infinite is similarly excellent. Weapons feel powerful, and the time-to-kill is reasonable. Players being shot at have enough time to react and get out of a situation. Keeping cool under pressure will allow one to win a firefight even if one did not start shooting first, but players who start a combat engagement with a sure aim and utilisation of the right timing and equipment will come consistently out triumphant. The weapons themselves are fun to use: the basic assault rifle has come a very long way from the Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation and is now reliable, while the Halo 2 battle rifle returns as the BR-75. Players are given feedback in response to landing shots on an enemy, and scoring kills. While quality-of-life adjustments in Halo Infinite makes every successful kill more visceral than in earlier Halo titles, the core gameplay largely remains untouched: everything still feels like it did with Halo 2. Overall, the gameplay mechanics of Halo Infinite are satisfying and consistent, retaining all of the elements that made the original Halo games great, while simultaneously bringing some of the best features in contemporary shooters into Halo.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While I’ve had two weekends to try the Halo Infinite beta out, these days, I’m don’t spend the whole of that time in game: the weather of late’s been gorgeous, and I’ve been greatly enjoying all that the autumn weather has to offer. I ended up spending the afternoon yesterday walking out to a grove of trees that turned golden-yellow, and then swung by an overlook at the park’s southern end. Shortly after spawning into my first-ever match on Live Fire, the original map that August’s Halo Infinite technical test featured, I immediately snapped up the S7 Sniper Rifle and got a double kill with it against the bots. My intention in this open beta was not to see how much gameplay I could experience, but rather, to see if my machine could even run Halo Infinite, and so, having the option of playing against AI bots was most refreshing.
- One of the drawbacks about open betas are that some players deliberately use their vacation time to experience the beta, and consequently, have put in upwards of eight hours before I even finished downloading the client. Playing against these individuals means being annihilated in the blink of an eye, which would’ve degraded my ability to run the game for longer periods of time. Conversely, with AI bots, I was able to stay alive for extended periods and properly stress-test my machine, as well as see what happened whenever many grenades were thrown and equipment deployed.
- On the whole, Halo Infinite runs very well, and there were no player actions that seemed to cause any performance issues. However, during one match, my client began stuttering and then outright froze, forcing me to quit (and incur the early quit penalty). After I finished and quit another session, my machine suffered from a blue screen of death, with the error code indicating my GPU had been overtaxed. DOOM Eternal has done this to my machine on occasion, where the computer would display a blue screen and force a restart after I’d quit the game.
- These sorts of things happen infrequently, but I imagine that it is a driver problem more than anything; even people running more recent GPUs, like the RTX 2080 Ti, have reported this issue on some occasion. However, as noted previously, these events are infrequent enough so that they’re not super-disruptive. Here, I’ve switched on over to the Recharge map, which is located inside a hydroelectric plant. I’m armed with the basic MA40 Assault Rifle, a capable all-around weapon for close to medium range combat, and the MK50 Sidekick as my sidearm.
- The MK50 is more similar to the M6C line of pistols, being a compact and lightweight weapon compared to the hard-hitting magnum pistols of earlier Halo games. In most matches, I discard this weapon straight away for a different secondary weapon: here, I’ve got the VK78 Commando, an automatic tactical rifle with a twenty-round box magazine. Accurate and reliable at range, the VK78 replaces the DMR, reaching further out than the battle rifle, but firing more rapidly than the sniper rifle. This weapon very quickly became a favourite for me; while I used to be a big CQC person in Halo, my experiences in Battlefield has meant that medium range engagements are something I’m more comfortable with.
- This strange-looking weapon is the Ravager, a Banished weapon that fires arcing plasma rounds that can deal damage to vehicles and infantry alike. The weapon is not reloadable and utilises a battery, but built-up heat is not automatically dissipated, so players must use the reload button to vent the weapon. During the open beta, I found that the UNSC and classic Covenant weapons proved to be the most reliable and consistent in firefights; the new Covenant Pulse Carbine, for instance, is a burst-fire plasma rifle with the Carbine’s form factor, although its behaviour was a little difficult to get used to, so I ended up ditching it. Conversely, the Plasma Pistol and Needler still work just as I remember, making them excellent secondary weapons.
- Bazaar is a map set in Old Mombasa and therefore, is reminiscent of Halo 2‘s “Outskirts” mission in terms of aesthetic. This arena-like map is laid out in a manner most similar to Counterstrike‘s classic Dust and Dust II maps, featuring a central open area and two “bases” that make the map suited for two-team battles, like CTF. These sorts of maps bring back the memories I have of playing Halo 2 on Windows Vista: back then, I had considerably more time than I did today, and I remember (with a twinge of regret) that I spent the most of my summer, prior to starting university, playing custom games in Halo 2‘s multiplayer.
- In retrospect, I would’ve been better served spending that time with a summer job, specifically, at one of the local bookstores: while the work experience here wouldn’t be relevant to the undergraduate research experience I did end up picking up, and the pay isn’t anything to write home about, it would’ve been nice to get out and do something constructive with my time. Once I did enter university, I spent my summers doing research instead: this was both relevant and engaging. On the flipside, I also remember that most days, I also went for long bike rides on the best of days.
- The new CQS48 Bulldog is a combat shotgun fed from a rotary magazine. Compared to the old pump action shotguns, the Bulldog has a much faster reload and can fire faster, but does considerably less damage than its predecessors. Here, I used it to decimate an AI bot at close quarters, earning myself a Running Riot spree in the process. The bots in Halo Infinite‘s training mode can have their difficulties adjusted, but during the online matches where I teamed up with other players against the AI bots, said bots appeared to have had their difficulties set to the easiest level: every match I played was a blowout (or, in Halo terms, “Steaktacular”).
- Here, I stick a bot with the plasma grenades. The keen-eyed reader will have spotted that the evergreen trees in the background look a little blocky and low-resolution; I originally wondered if this had to do with the fact that I was running Halo Infinite on the default low settings, but even after turning the settings up, the trees remained of a low quality. It is probably the case that not all assets or visual effects have been finished at this point in time: 343 Industries sent out a stable build to test their server capacities and see how things handle under load for this test flight.
- After switching over to higher visual quality, I did not notice any appreciable improvement in the visuals. Fortunately, there was also no degradation in performance: 343 Industries intended this test more for their servers rather than for us players, and I imagine that the build we were given, while ready for play-testing, is not optimised yet. Assuming this to be the case, it could mean that I’ll have no trouble running the launch version with reasonable settings.
- While some elements of Halo Infinite are still works-in-progress, others are remarkably polished and look production ready. Here, after scoring a double kill on some AI bots, I made to reload my weapon and happened to capture a screenshot of the reload, which highlights the level of details that went into the weapon models. Reloads have come a very long way since the GoldenEye 64 days, where the animation simply involved ducking the weapon off screen and raising them once the reload finished.
- The HUD in Halo Infinite has been modernised so that its layout is identical to that used in contemporary shooters. Previous Halo games put the ammunition display counter on the upper right of the screen, and the grenade inventory on the upper left. However, more popular shooters like Half-Life and Counterstrike had their ammunition counters on the lower right. Call of Duty and Battlefield follow the same layout, as do other well-known shooters, so it made sense to migrate the ammunition counters over to the lower right.
- The shield indicator firmly remains at the top of the screen, and players will have noticed a small health bar underneath that also recharges. This bar was originally hidden in Halo 2 through Halo 4, only returning in Halo 5 to provide a visual indicator of how much health a player has once their shields are drained. Health can be depleted very quickly if the shields are dropped, and players traditionally can fall to a single headshot if their shields are down, so as soon as the upper screen flashes red in response to shields being low, one’s first move is to get to cover as soon as possible (or finish off a foe and then get away when safe to do so).
- During the beta, I had a plethora of double kills, but owing to the map and team sizes, I never got around to getting any triple kills despite coming close on a few occasions (teammates would finish off the enemies before I could). It has struck me that 4 on 4 matches mean that the coveted Killtacular would be exceptionally rare. Back when I was a secondary school students, some of my friends were absolutely determined to get a killtacular and so, hosted LAN parties every other week. Since graduating from university, everyone’s gone their separate ways, although right up until the global health crisis started, we were still able to gather on some occasions for LAN parties.
- A big part of the fun about LAN parties was that, since we didn’t do them often, they always took forever to setup, as we fumbled with wiring all of the Xboxes together using Ethernet cables. This was one constant that remained with us no matter how many times we did the LAN parties, but we never minded; while waiting for setup, conversations would turn towards all manner of topics. Of course, during LAN parties, the folks with Xboxes back home would tend to do the best, and the remainder of us would be lucky to get a few kills here and there. This never mattered, though, since LAN parties were always fun.
- Here, I’ve finally come upon the BR-75 Battle Rifle: a burst-fire weapon that was introduced in Halo 2 and subsequently became the most recognised MLG weapon in the games. With its three-round burst, the battle rifle was a reliable four shot kill at medium ranges (three bursts to strip the shield, and then a headshot), making it a highly consistent and dependable. On consoles, I’ve never been able to make use of the weapon properly, but with the mouse and keyboard, the battle rifle has very much become my favourite starting weapon in Halo.
- I’d like nothing more than to have fun and relive the glory days of the old LAN parties in a comfortable chair at home. However, when I returned to The Master Chief Collection‘s multiplayer last year, I found that the design paradigm behind Halo‘s multiplayer today is completely incompatible with what I am looking for. I expect to be able to drop in and out of matches without penalty and play in a relaxed fashion, but 343 Industries have a quit penalty, and players in the so-called “social” tier are still aggressively competitive.
- In conjunction with the fact that players will universally plug in a controller to capitalise on the fact that controller have full aim assist and increased bullet magnetism, playing with the mouse and keyboard set up leaves me at an immense disadvantage, so I ended up calling it quits by the time Halo 3 joined The Master Chief Collection. Here, I managed to swipe the SPNKR rocket launcher and blew up an enemy. Playing Battlefield and Call of Duty has changed my usage of explosive weapons somewhat: in modern military shooters, anti-armour weapons don’t have enough splash damage to be effective in an anti-infantry role, but in Halo, the rocket launcher is meant to be a power weapon, possessing limitations but otherwise, remains highly effective against personnel and vehicles alike.
- For Team Slayer matches, the AI bots are more than fine, but it turns out that the bots are also present in smaller games of CTF and Territory Control: the very fact that the bots do work suggests to me that it would be possible to include a mode with bots only so players can get used to the maps and weapons without affecting their stats. For players like myself, bot-only matches would also represent a nice way to simply go mess around for ten minutes and play at my own pace: the days where I could dedicate a few hours towards ranking up my character and items are long past, and I prefer games where I can pop in and drop off whenever I wish.
- Towards the end of the open beta, my old skills began returning to me, and I managed to get a double kill off the bots with the battle rifle. The bots, while far easier than human players, still have the same shields and health as players do, making them a great way to get a feel for the TTK against human players. I elected against playing real players for as often as I could for the open beta, since the aim of this exercise had been to test the game. I won’t have this luxury during the Battlefield 2042 beta; DICE had announced their beta to start on October 8 and will run through the ninth.
- However, players who preordered or have EA Access will be able to start their test on October 6. Preloading begins on the fifth, and here, I will note that while I am a Battlefield fan, I’m not so dedicated as to preorder the game yet. Instead, I will sit down for a few sessions on Friday night and throughout Saturday where I am able. Similarly to Halo Infinite, my goal will be simply to see how well my machine can handle Battlefield 2042. Unlike Halo Infinite, however, Battlefield 2042 won’t have a campaign, and what determines whether or not I end up buying it will be how extensive Battlefield Portal‘s AI bots are.
- Back in Halo Infinite, I start a match on Behemoth, a larger map more suited for Big Team Battles rather than infantry-only matches. Vehicles are available, and this makes the match particularly suited for the larger matches of CTF or territories. I’m actually not too fond of these larger maps, since the vehicles disappear almost the moment the match starts, leaving me to hoof it across the map. Conversely, the smaller, arena-like maps are my favourite, since their focus is on infantry combat. In Battlefield, maps are designed so players can spawn onto points allies have already captured, on squad-mates who are out of combat, or on special beacons, so larger maps aren’t a problem.
- The Volt Piercer (informally, the Shock Rifle) is one of the most exotic weapons I’ve seen in a Halo game and would not look out of place in something like Planetside 2 or Tribes Ascend. Firing an electrolaser bolt with a range of up to 300 metres, the weapon functions similarly like a sniper rifle and can kill with one headshot. However, it can also arc off nearby enemies, and two shots can temporarily disable a vehicle. I’ve not had the chance to try the plasma pistol’s overcharge against a vehicle, but in Halo 4, the overcharge could disable a vehicle and render it vulnerable to boarding.
- Overall, the modes against AI bots were fairly compelling, and I had a great deal of fun here: the weapons of Halo Infinite definitely retain the handling and feel of the classic weapons. Of course, the most fun for me will be seeing where all of these weapons come into play during Halo Infinite‘s campaign. Towards the end of my time in the open beta, I hopped on over to Fragmentation for a Big Team Battle match up, marking the first time I’d fought human players during this open beta. I admit that I was a little reluctant to join such a match: back when 343 Industries was flighting Halo 3, I ended up with a miserable experience owing to the fact that the game openly favoured controller players.
- However, when I joined my Big Team Battle match, I was fortunate in that the size of the map meant that players were spread out enough so that I did end up with a chance to explore the map and get a few kills here and there, as well as work out where all of the weapons were. I’m not sure if Halo Infinite will bring back the old loadouts from Halo 4, which allowed players to spawn with a primary and secondary (non-power) weapon of their choice. If given the choice, I’d almost always pick the battle rifle and magnum in Halo 4. However, since the battle rifle and Commando tactical rifle are found on the weapon racks as pickups, I imagine that Halo Infinite could be going back to the basics.
- For some reason, Halo Infinite describes the Commando as a light machine gun: while the Commando is automatic, its smaller ammunition capacity and description as a precision weapon means it doesn’t satisfy the definition of what makes a light machine gun: LMGs don’t necessarily fire full-sized cartridges, but their function is to fulfil an infantry support role (e.g. providing covering fire). The small magazine on the Commando is too small for the weapon to be used in this role, so I am wondering if 343 Industries are going to continue referring to the Commando as an LMG once the game launches.
- I managed to pick up another Shock Rifle and began firing on distant enemies, but because the weapon’s handling is unlike the UNSC weapons, I wasn’t able to place the best shots on my opponents, who were trying to steal our flag. However, I did land two hits on two different foes, and my teammates astutely picked them off. This match ended up being a game of attrition: players were very much focused on defense and felt reluctant to go on offense, which makes sense, since everyone is still new to the map: I did make one attempt to take the enemy flag, but died instantly, since half their team was hanging back.
- As the match drew to an end, I ended up picking up the Heatwave, a Forerunner hard light weapon designed for close-quarters combat. The weapon is most similar to a shotgun, and in its default mode, fires a horizontal pattern of projectiles. However, it can be altered to fire in a vertical pattern. The former sounds good for crowd control, and the latter has proven to be excellent against individual targets. The weapon resembles the UNSC Rail Gun (Halo 4), and indeed, when I picked it up, I was expecting the weapon to handle like the Rail Gun.
- During this final map on Fragmentation, I ended up going 13-16 and helped my team to win the game with a score of 1-0, and to cap things off, I’ll show that it is possible to get kills with the Sidekick even though it is a sidearm meant for use if one’s starting primary weapon is out. All things considered, this wasn’t a bad first time playing against real players, and I did have fun just running around on the map and engaging lone players before ducking away. With this, Halo Infinite‘s open beta comes to a close, and I imagine that the next time I play Halo Infinite will be once the campaign launches.
Having now had the chance to experience Halo Infinite for myself, it is clear that my aging machine will run Halo Infinite in a passable manner, and the gameplay itself retains everything that made the original Halo games so enjoyable. As such, my final verdict on whether or not I will pick this game up is simple enough: I have seen enough to know that I will have a good time with the game once it launches in December. The multiplayer aspect to Halo Infinite is actually free-to-play, and revenue is to be generated by a seasonal battle pass: 343 Industries will have seasons, and players can purchase the passes for seasons they wish to unlock cosmetics for. Unlike other developers, who have time restrictions, Halo Infinite‘s battle pass system will be such that one could buy the first season pass a year later and still be guaranteed a fair chance at completing everything. While my main interest in Halo has always been with the campaigns, a free-to-play multiplayer gives another more opportunity to see how my desktop handles Halo Infinite before I step into the campaign should the need arise (otherwise, if the footage of gameplay looks promising, and the benchmarks look good, picking up Halo Infinite will be an easy decision). The sum of my experiences here in Halo Infinite‘s technical test have been positive. If the final product can iron out the more serious of the issues I experienced, as well as optimise the game to further improve performance, 343 Industries will have made a very compelling case for me to pick up the single player campaign at launch price. With this being said, the multiplayer alone is not something I see myself playing extensively; in this day and age, I no longer have the time to play through multiplayer games with a lengthy progression system. The appeal of having a single player campaign is precisely that I can experience something at my own pace. However, if Halo Infinite were to include the ability to play AI bots in all of the same game modes and maps that are available to in PvP modes (complete with match score and time limits), I would be ecstatic; the AI bots seen Halo Infinite are actually pretty convincing when set to the higher difficulties, and while they understandably should not contribute to one’s completion of progression items, being able to go into a private server and mess around with the AI bots would be immensely enjoyable, perfect for folks who are interested in having a more laid-back opportunity to have fun in their own manner of choosing.