Halo’s Twentieth Anniversary Delivers with Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer Beta

This week, Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of Xbox and by extension, the franchise that build it, Halo. It is very hard to imagine the Xbox living past its first console without the Master Chief. Halo is one of gaming’s most influential franchises, and the most influential first person shooter since Doom. Halo single handedly changed the way we thought about the genre on consoles. Eleven games and countless multimedia pieces later, Halo stands taller than ever, with the franchise releasing their most important title since its inception at the original Xbox launch with Halo Infinite

“Call Me Master Chief”

When I first encountered Halo: Combat Evolved, I went over to a friend’s house after football practice one Saturday morning. He had just bought the Xbox and swore we had to see this game. Now, I hadn’t had much experience with shooters, only playing GoldenEye 007 and some Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 since I was more into JRPGs, adventure games, and collect-a-thon platformers at the time. We went into his basement where he had the massive box hooked up to a projector which was aimed at a huge blank wall.  We all created our Spartans (aka chose colors) and we played well into the night. I had never played games that way with friends before. The tension, the customization of matches, the teamwork, and game modes were all so fresh. Feeling the uniqueness of each weapon really had an impact of how I viewed video game design. I immediately had to grab an Xbox. 

I went on to play every entry since, finishing every campaign aside from Reach and spending countless hours in the multiplayer. Halo 2 lived in the Xbox which never turned off in our dorms in college. Halo 3 was a spectacular conclusion to Bungie’s trilogy. ODST and Reach offered something unique in the universe by telling stories outside of Cortana and Chief. Bungie was a master at keeping players (including me) engaged in their stories (and still is) and battling it out in Slayer, Big Team Battle, SWAT, and more. I even loved 343 Industries’ first outing with Halo 4

“Wake up Chief, I Need You”

A lot of fans were skeptical on Halo’s future after Bungie left the Microsoft fold to make Destiny. On one hand, you had the hardcore Bungie fans who loved their games and wanted to see their next journey. On the other, you had the Halo faithful who wanted more of the lore, combat, and adventures in the universe. When Bungie left, Microsoft created 343 Industries, named after the character, 343 Guilty Spark, with some ex-Bungie employees like Frank O’Connor, Bonnie Ross, and others leading the studio. Creating a brand new studio to head up arguably your most valuable franchise was still a lot to ask, even with Halo veterans leading the way. How were they going to continue Halo after Bungie? What stories were they going to tell? Well, in 2012, Halo 4 released, receiving high praise from critics but mixed feelings from fans. 

Halo 4, as I’ve noted on Arsenal X: The Xbox Podcast, has my favorite campaign. I loved it not because it was better than Bungie’s outings, but more because of the story it was telling with Chief and Cortana’s relationship. About half way through the game, Chief had to leave Cortana behind. He was dealing with loss and was learning how to deal with that loss as he wanted to save her. That story was very relatable to me at that time, and it’s stuck with me since. Losing someone you love is incredibly difficult to deal with. Chief’s story helped me in a lot of ways deal with a major life. I thought it was a great first outing for 343i. 

“They Never Stood a Chance, eh Arbiter?”

Going from one of the biggest surprises to one of the biggest disappointments was incredibly disheartening. I remember reading Ryan McCaffrey’s Halo 5: Guardians review at IGN and thinking “oh, no.” Even though it scored a 9, the words were what stuck with me. Now before I get into the negative, the act of playing Halo 5 was actually fun. The movement felt fast and kinetic, the dash move was innovative, the weapons felt good, and a good mix of classic and new maps was a welcome site. A lot of the sandbox felt very polished and well done. It was Halo on a modern level. 

The disappointment came with Halo 5’s campaign. The promise of the marketing was so cool. Locke hunting Chief, a showdown between the old guard and the new class. Find Cortana. Hunt the Truth. It was all set to be an epic story. But the game we got was an incomprehensible mess. Also, only playing as Chief in three out of the fifteen or so missions really I played through the campaign three times and I still can’t really tell you anything that happened outside of the overarching story that will continue in Halo Infinite. Don’t get me wrong, Locke was an interesting character, but in a numbered Halo game, I wanted to play as John. Halo 5 wasn’t by any means a bad game, it just wasn’t what I wanted from a Halo game. 

We’re Going to Be Fine”

Now I don’t think this was all 343i’s fault and do contribute a lot of Halo 5: Guardians lack of vision to the leadership at Microsoft at the time. They were all about TV, Kinect, Call of Duty, making Xbox the center of the living room, and other things along those lines. As soon as Xbox started backpedaling on these initiatives, it was too late for Halo 5 to restart development. With only eighteen months to get a product out the door, they switch gears from an open hub world type of game and did what they could to try to save the sinking ship. In the end, they delivered a good game, just not the Xbox defining franchise entry we wanted. 

Wake up Chief, I Need You”

Halo Infinite is now upon us, releasing its multiplayer suite in beta form with the campaign launching in just a few weeks. I have spent a lot of time with the multiplayer, and I have to say Halo is back and is back with a vengeance, dominating the conversation of this holiday’s multiplayer shooters. 343i has finally delivered a Halo experience that has the heart and soul of the originals, while forging their own path into the future. 

The movement feels kinetic, merging Halo 5 and Halo 3’s controls to make what feels like the natural evolution of those original games. The inclusion of the grappling hook has also added a very welcome verticality and strategy, being able to climb to high ledges, pull yourself to vehicles and enemies, and grabbing weapons just out of reach to take out the next target. In a world where shooters are struggling to find something to make them stand out, Halo has delivered a spectacular tool here.

I Need a Weapon”

One thing that Halo Infinite has done so well is create natural “Hero Moments” with their weapons and vehicles. Smacking someone with the Gravity Hammer while they lunge at you with the Energy Sword or grappling up to a Banshee, kicking the pilot out, and taking out the rest of their team on the ground all feels so satisfying. All of the weapons feel as unique as they do satisfying, even the new ones. Even using the assault rifle allows you to stand your ground against an opponent when you catch them off guard. The battle rifle hits hard, the new Banished weapons feel strong, and the returning covenant weapons still feel unique enough to switch it up. 

Even the large array of vehicles feels incredibly fun to mess around with. Flying the Wasp or swerving in and out of the environment on a Ghost still feels tight. Getting a group of friends on the Warthog in Capture the Flag and storming the other team’s base, catching the protector by surprise and rushing back across the map makes your heart race with anxiety and excitement. I haven’t had this much fun in a PvP scenario since probably Halo 3 or Gears of War 2. My only nitpick is with the progression in Season 1’s Battle Pass, but I’m going to let that slide since it’s a product still in beta and 343i has already addressed they are looking at updating how player gain experience.

No. I Think We’re Just Getting Started.”

Halo was a cultural phenomenon. The resurgence of love for Master Chief, Halo multiplayer, and just 343i getting their chance to prove themselves to the players has been incredibly heartwarming. With Halo Infinite being the baseline for the next ten years of the franchise as it transitions into a live service game, I would say they’ve hit the ground running. I am so thrilled to not only say that Halo is relevant again, but it’s thriving across console and PC, setting a concurrent record on Steam alone at 270,000 plus on day one and as of Thursday, still crashing Halo Waypoint’s website with fans trying to reach it. 343 Industries deserves all of the credit and praise for what they’ve built. Here’s to the next twenty years and beyond, Petty Officer John-117.

Sources: IGN, Halo Waypoint, Metacritic, Xbox.com, Bungie.net, Game Informer

If you want to hear or talk more about Halo Infinite and all things Xbox, join our Discord or Facebook Group and check out Arsenal X: The Xbox Podcast on YouTube and all major podcast services.

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