I had a blast playing Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle mode over the weekend.
343 opened the floodgates to Halo Infinite's multiplayer, and 12v12 Big Team Battle was the star.
Previous tests revolved around 4v4 Slayer, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it was in Infinite's bigger map that Halo's fabled sandbox truly shined.
And it's in BTB that the new tools 343 has added into the mix have the breathing space to create the kind of organised chaos Halo is famous for. Infinite's grappling hook isn't a brand new idea for video games, but it's one of the best new things to hit Halo since 343 took up the reins from series creator Bungie. It's executed wonderfully well, works as it feels it should and, crucially, attaches to vehicles.
In BTB, you see Spartans flying around the place, shooting after Warthogs like they're in a Fast and the Furious movie. Better still, you can grapple onto flying vehicles, such as the Banshee and the Wasp, and boot out their pilots. Things go full Hollywood when the player you boot out grapples back, booting out the booter. And so on. It's just fantastic.
And then there are the fusion coils - bombs, essentially - you can pick up, carry about and throw for a devastating explosion. I found myself picking one up at home base, flying through the air via the boost pad, and lobbing it at any poor Spartan unlucky enough to be close by. Lovely.
The new Dynamo grenade comes into its own in BTB, too, especially when you're trying to cap a heavily-defended point. This new toy emits an electric field in the surrounding area, causing damage over time to whoever's nearby. Crucially, the Dynamo renders any vehicle it affects unusable for a short time, making those inside sitting ducks. In BTB, which has loads of vehicles, the Dynamo can be a potent tool.
Infinite's BTB ups the player count from 16 to 24, which makes for a more action-packed experience. And with more players playing together, it's more likely you'll get those magic moments where you end up working together in some fun way with a complete stranger or two. Perhaps you spot someone charging mid with a fusion coil and decide to grab one and join them, just for the laugh. Or maybe you hear a Warthog beeping and jump in the passenger seat with a Gravity Hammer for some drive-by slamming.
If you're reading this you've probably seen some eye-catching clips of Halo Infinite multiplayer going full action movie already. There are loads out there. Here are some of my favourites:
I was also pleasantly surprised by some of the gameplay adjacent flourishes. Fragmentation, the lovely-looking B2B map that was available to play over the weekend, has pockets of wildlife you can interact with. Does a Halo multiplayer map need cute little critters running about? Nope. But I love that they're here.
Organised chaos - BTB really is just that - and 343 has done a wonderful job making it polished, sickly sweet and hard to put down. Each match breezes by, which is always a good sign. I found myself caught in a BTB loop over the weekend, losing track of time within the four-hour window matchmaking was live. When the flight was finally over, I felt a little lost. Oh, I can't play any more? That's a real shame. What will I do now?
Based on the two recent multiplayer tests, I really do think Halo Infinite's multiplayer, which, let's remember, is a free download from December, could be something special. It rekindles the best of 2007's Halo 3, with some really fun new tools. Concerns I had at the end of last weekend's test remain. Battle pass progression still doesn't feel great - and I do hope 343 has a rethink on that. The range on the radar is so limited I hardly ever used it - perhaps it could do with a buff. Playing with an Xbox controller feels a little finickity, and could do with some tuning. Weapons feel good to fire but still sound a little weak. And the more powerful vehicles spawn too late in the game, for me. I want all out organised chaos all of the time!
I've seen some say Halo Infinite's multiplayer is so good the game doesn't need a campaign. I wouldn't go that far. Campaign has always been the bedrock of Halo, grounding each iteration in a sense of time and place. And Halo campaigns have, historically, been wonderful. Iconic, even. Halo Infinite's campaign has a lot to live up to, and I am a little worried about it, given how little we've seen of it. There's a reason fans were so disappointed to hear campaign co-op was delayed.
But, taken in isolation (and Microsoft will release it in isolation), Halo Infinite multiplayer could be a smash hit. I can imagine losing long Christmas evenings to Big Team Battle, forgetting what time it is, matchmaking again and again and again, flying through the air like an armoured Vin Diesel on his way to yet another death-defying Banshee grapple jack. This one has legs.