Review: Halo Infinite’s multiplayer gameplay is great, but the monetization is exploitative
November 15, 2021
Microsoft and 343 studios decided to go a different route with Halo Infinite’s multiplayer by making it entirely free to play. You only pay full price for the campaign, but the main attraction, the frantic player vs player matches, is available to everyone. While this has led some budget gamers to jump for joy, it has left a lot of long time Halo fans wondering… “What’s the catch?”
A Solid Experience
From a strict gameplay perspective, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is genuinely fun. It feels like 343 tried to combine the best aspects from every other major Halo title, and it works.
The map design is by far the high point here. Nearly every map in the game has multiple locations that vary up the gameplay in each individual map. You’ll find cramped corridors, wide-open spaces, sniper roosts, central arenas, and specific layouts that make use of vertical space.
Everyone spawns with a pistol and assault rifle, and from there it feels like a familiar riff on the classic Halo gameplay we know and love. Sure, you can do good work with the weapons you start out with, but any successful game will rely on map control, and scavenging more powerful weapons from pickup locations. This, of course, tends to attract multiple players to the same areas, which pushes everyone toward firefights and keeps the pace of the match flowing.
Multiplayer inherits the best aspects of single player, and that means the return of the grappling hook! This item opens up a world of strategy, simply by giving you new traversal options. There are very few places in Infinite’s multiplayer maps that are safe from a sneaky player with a grappling hook, which prevents maps from feeling routine or safe.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is decidedly arcade-like in nature. While maps have plenty of cover, this isn’t the sort of game where you make slow pushes toward an objective, checking your corners and peeking around walls. Halo Infinite really feeds the Leeroy Jenkins in you, favoring aggression and quick thinking in a scrap. While running out into the open is a death sentence in other modern shooters, it’s not out of the question to jump into the open, grab a power weapon as the whole rest of the team fires at you, and then, say, pepper them with rockets as you try to get back to cover. It carries a specific “action movie” style of flow to it, that works even better.
It seems like FPSes can’t be considered a modern success these days without pushing the limits of player count. Halo Infinite does this but keeps its goals relatively reserved with 12v12 Big Team Battles being the maximum. You can, of course, choose to never participate in these battles and stick to more traditional gameplay, but in our opinion, they work just fine. The only major issue is that bigger squads make weapons feel much rarer than before since someone is always picking them up. You’ll have to get very good with your pistol, but that’s OK, because even if you are wielding a pistol, two players are better than one, and Big Team Battles makes it much easier to move through the maps as tiny micro squads.
By far the most annoying aspect of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is the inability to choose or filter for a specific game mode. The only thing you can do is queue up for a playlist and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this has led to a plague of players dropping early when they don’t get the game type they want, which means you’ll end up sifting through a ton of dud matches till you get one you like. This can be very demoralizing, and when you couple it with a handful of crashes and network connection issues, it’s easy to get frustrated enough just looking for a game that you’ll put the game down. It’s a shame because the high points of multiplayer are really spectacular. There’s just so much working against it, which leads us to…
No game is truly free. Everyone expects some monetization incentives in free-to-play games, but the key is to implement them in a way that makes them both lucrative for the people who want to partake, and ignorable for the people who are playing on a budget.
Halo Infinite screws up that balance immensely.
From the start, you are confronted with a Fortnite-style battle pass with both free and premium tracks. Unfortunately, you earn next to nothing on the free-to-play track. The free-to-play track also doles out rewards very sparsely, so it’s clear that Microsoft is trying to push you into spending money.
To earn XP toward the battle pass you need to complete weekly challenges and win matches. Unfortunately, the challenges are incredibly frustrating. Some require you to win a certain amount of games in a certain game mode, but as we mentioned before you cannot pick and choose your modes. Some require certain in-game actions like killing using certain weapons, but this can lead players to ignore the core gameplay and go challenge hunting, which can be frustrating.
This is compounded by the way the weekly reward system works. If you complete all your weekly rewards an ultimate reward unlocks which is exclusive and limited. Of course, nearly every player wants to get these ultimate rewards, which means nearly every player will focus on challenges, rather than actual match objectives. This gets even worse when the challenges are about to expire.
There are challenge swaps that allow you to trade in challenges you don’t like for new ones. But the new challenge you get is random, so you might draw into one that is just as bad. You, of course, get more challenge swaps with the premium battle pass, so if you want smoother progression, be ready to shell out some bucks.
Exploitative Without Being Pay-To-Win
The rewards are largely cosmetic, with the exception of things such as XP boosts, and there are a lot of them. In fact, even if you are the most dedicated player, completing every part of the battle pass, the game subverts itself by locking the most interesting items behind a timed shop. You can only purchase these items with real money. There is no way to earn currency in-game. This, unfortunately, means that you can immediately tell the difference between free-to-play players, premium battle pass players, and whales that sunk all their money into overpriced bundles, which of course puts pressure on the free-to-play players to spend some money. Even though the rewards are cosmetic, they are about as exploitative as cosmetic rewards can be.
Unfortunately, this makes Halo Infinite’s progression system an all-or-nothing deal. You either turn your brain off and stop caring, or you invest an unfortunate amount of time and money into a system that feels grindy and doesn’t give out worthwhile rewards, and neither is a good headspace to be in. Seeing the umpteenth player with a blinged-out skin will just make some people put the game down, rather than get them taking out their wallets.
343 has been receptive to fan feedback, at least. Challenges have been rebalanced several times since the game went into beta and tweaks are constantly being made to how players earn XP in general. Still, they haven’t quite hit the mark yet. That being said, the underlying gameplay of Halo Infinite is some of the best we have seen in a long while, and it will certainly be enough to carry it through the first few rocky release months. If 343 can strike a good progression balance in that time, we can see Halo Infinite being a popular game for years to come. If not, then it might fade into the background as new shooter offerings become available.
That being said, we can find little reason not to try out Halo Infinite’s multiplayer yourself. While, yes, progression is frustrating, you can’t really argue with the price of free. If you are even remotely a Halo fan, or an FPS fan, then you stand nothing to lose by downloading this on your Xbox Series X or PC and giving it a try.
- Incredible map design
- Fun new weapons and items
- Gameplay scales up perfectly to 12 v 12
- Exploitative and expensive microtransactions
- Disappointing and confusing battle pass
- Frustrating challenges
- No way to filter for a preferred game mode
- Major problem with teammates and opponents dropping mid match