Halo Infinite Tech Preview Impressions – An Encouraging Sign

Let me start by saying I’m not a massive Halo fan nor have I ever claimed to be. Of course, I’ve been aware of the existence of the franchise ever since I started playing video games, but I’ve only ever delved into a couple of the games minimally. I spent the most time in Halo 5, which was mostly in multiplayer and I barely got through the campaign for that game.

With all that being said, I was still excited for Halo Infinite for a multitude of reasons. Infinite has had a bit of a rocky start in part due to the reception that the game had received during its initial gameplay reveal in 2020. The reception was strong enough for 343 Industries & Xbox that the game was delayed into a new year. Subsequently, a couple of leads at 343 left the studio late last year.

The ride to Halo Infinite has had its ups and downs in many different aspects. The game had regained steam after their presence at the Xbox & Bethesda E3 Games Showcase. Now it leads us to where we are now with the recent Halo Infinite Tech Preview on Xbox & PC. If the overwhelmingly positive reception to this Tech Preview is any indication, 343 Industries may have a GOTY contender on their hands.

Let me start my impressions with how the experience was actually getting into the Tech Preview. To get into this Preview you had to finalize your Insider profile on the Halo Waypoint website and wait and see if an invite came your way. That part was simple enough but then we got to the actual rollout.

I can’t speak to the experience for PC as I played the preview on Xbox. On your console, you had to install the Xbox Insider App and find the Halo Infinite Tech Preview and download it. The problem is the Xbox servers were jammed due to the high traffic of those attempting to download the preview. As a result, tons of people including me were stuck on a pending screen. The pending screen went away for me after about 4 or 5 hours.

The issues with downloading the Tech Preview didn’t bother me too much since I expected it. It would’ve been nice if everything went off without a hitch but the issues didn’t surprise me at all. I figured this would happen considering the nature of the rollout. Plus, the devs over at 343 were transparent and open about the issues on social media and didn’t stay quiet. They even extended the Preview because of all the issues which I commend them for.

Now let’s get to the actual game itself and why it’s receiving so much praise. The simple answer I can give you is that in its current state, Halo Infinite is extremely fun and satisfying to play. From a gameplay perspective, I don’t know what state Halo Infinite was in before the delay but I’m positive that the delay must have done wonders for it overall.

Halo Infinite doesn’t feel like most multiplayer games where the first person to start shooting at the other is going to win 99% of the time. It truly feels strategy and skill-based and I can see my improvement with every other match. The foundation has been established for what to expect come Holiday 2021 and I feel what’s there is encouraging.

Each weapon has a unique feel to it, which is how it should be. My personal favorite would be the Gravity Hammer as I’m more of an in-your-face type of player. There are some weapons such as the Sniper Rifle and the Skewer that I couldn’t get the hang of during my time in the preview. Still, on the rare occasion, I did No Scope or skewer a bot from a far distance, the sense of satisfaction was there every single time.

I regret not delving into weapons such as the Heatwave or the BR (Battle Rifle) as much in this tech preview. According to 343, there will be a couple more flight tech previews before launch so hopefully, I get into those so I can try out some other weapons more in-depth.

Sound Design is absolutely excellent in every single way. I can only imagine how much work 343 Industries put into making sure every bullet or clatter sounded perfect. If you ask me, they’ve already mastered this aspect of the game since I assume the sound design will be as good in singleplayer as it is in multiplayer.

I played Halo Infinite on next-gen hardware which definitely helps with my opinions on the visuals. A lot was made of the visuals of Halo Infinite from the Xbox Games Showcase last year. At the time, 343 made it clear that they heard the feedback in regards to visuals and would improve on them. After about 10+ hours with the Tech Preview, dissecting every piece of graphical fidelity I could, I can conclude that 343 did improve on the one department where they needed to.

Don’t let people have you believe that fruit destroying in a certain way is what makes a game pop and add immersion. The fact that this game is cross-gen may be holding it back in some aspects. Regardless, the version I played flawlessly for the most part. I have faith that 343 will optimize this game across all platforms for a smooth experience all around.

As this was a tech preview, there were a few bugs. Most notably, I had a couple of audio bugs where the sound would disappear completely apart from the noises from the Spartans. Keep in mind, this preview is a 2-month-old build so it’s entirely possible these issues were fixed some time ago.

I played the entirety of this tech preview solely playing against bots. There was a 2 hour period where PvP was enabled but unfortunately, I missed the whole thing. I’m sure I’ll get a nice attitude adjustment when it comes to my skill when I compete against actual players, but this game is one I see myself actively wanting to get better at as time goes on instead of feeling stagnant.

One thing that 343 needs to remove in the full multiplayer experience is the fact that you only progress your rank through completing challenges. As your rank goes up so do the unlocks, the problem is that you don’t earn XP from completing matches. You only earn XP from completing challenges such as “Win 3 Matches” or “Kill 5 enemies in one life”. It’s not the ideal way to unlock certain items and 343 needs to fix that before launch because I know for a fact a lot of other people had a problem with this. You should gain XP through competing matches as well as challenges.

When you first load into Halo Infinite Tech Preview, you’ll be treated to the main menu. It’s as simple and easy to understand as any multiplayer menu there is. My only issue is in regards to the customization section is that I fear that the more options 343 adds to the game, the more cluttered this section will get.

Speaking of customization options, the only available selections were for armor types, armor coatings, and AI. Vehicles were available to look at in the menu but weren’t accessible at all in this preview. I do like what’s there so far but I think there’s room for improvement. I wish you could mix and match or at least have color shaders of some sort. I’d love to have an all-black spartan, it’s possible there may be an option for this in the full game, but it was sorely missed in this preview.

There were a total of 3 maps available in this tech preview in Live Fire, Recharge, & Bazaar. I’ll give a brief synopsis of each map and my opinions of them below.

  • Live Fire – A bit of a testing area style map with tons of open space as well as small corridors. It’s the simplest and smallest of all 3 maps, but it’s relatively easy to get your head around. It’s also the map I best memorized by the end of the tech preview.
  • Recharge – This map was a staple in tech preview for the Grappleshot + Gravity Hammer combo. There are tons of twists and turns throughout. Simply put, it’s the fan-favorite map so far for a reason.
  • Bazaar – An urban-type map that’s extremely wide open, but maybe a bit too much for my taste. I didn’t get a lot of time with this map, so maybe it’s possible I need more time to get used to it, but so far it’s my least favorite.

It seems like the big multiplayer games of the year will most likely be Halo Infinite & Battlefield 2042. Call of Duty will always be there but in light of all the controversy surrounding Activision, right now it might be up in the air. Plus, Call of Duty 2021 sounds like an absolute disaster behind the scenes, and plans might be in place for a recovery plan before the game even releases.

It truly feels like Halo has done a complete turnaround after some of the recent shortcomings in the franchise. Like I said earlier, I didn’t finish the campaign for Halo 5 but the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t the most popular among fans. The campaign for Halo Infinite is still a mystery in terms of majority reception, 343 has a lot of expectations in this regard.

As far as multiplayer goes, for the most part, it seems like they’ve created an enjoyable experience for long-time Halo fans as well as new ones. The reception has been unanimously optimistic and encouraging. As someone who’s not a big Halo player, this game has quickly become one of my most anticipated games of the year. Now, all we need is that release date.

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