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  • Writer's pictureWalter Hill

Halo Infinite Is A Game of Runs

When I tell my friends Halo Infinite is still in my weekly gaming rotation, I can feel the confusion the way I can feel when the spawns flip during a match. Really? I thought the gamers decided Halo Infinite was mid. I’ll admit I am a full tilt, dyed-in-the-lore Halo nerd. Yes, Halo Infinite is flawed (hello, desync) but I keep coming back. And that has a lot to do with the quality of the multiplayer gameplay, my weakness for arena shooter design, a generous dash of basketball, and an incurable competitive itch. 

First, the gun shoot feels good. This is the best a Halo shooter has felt yet, the movement is snappy, dynamic without losing the attention to positioning of its slower paced forefathers or buckling under the weight of a kitchen sink approach to traversal (cough Halo 5). Weapons have smart designs and strong use cases, unless you’re the ravager in which case you’re more useless than a pool noodle. 

Halo Infinite is imminently readable in terms of processing what’s happening on screen. In a space ruled by your Call of Duty’s and Apex Legend’s, Halo feels like a game with other gears besides F1 supercar twitch speed. Maybe I am old and the speed of Halo is a nice old man gamer blanket, but I often finish fights, win or lose, and am able to decipher the play in a way that’s intoxicating. Some of this is down to the respawn timer. Halo eschews the kill cam and the snowball effect rhythm of a call of duty deathmatch. Halo allows players to reflect on the life just lost or gather information on team and enemy positions. I can diagnose where I made the wrong movement choice or missed a shot or got too eager to drop grenades at my own feet. I can make callouts to a teammate from beyond the grave and plan my next steps. When I’m dropped back in-game, I come in with a plan of attack & a small urge to make this life in the arena go better than my last. 

Another aspect of Halo that keeps me from finishing dozens of other games I’d like to play is its map design. Fundamentally, arena shooter design gives maps a sense of spacing, pace, & points of advantage and disadvantage. All these aspects lend to a game of ebbs and flows and ups and downs, a key ingredient to engaging moments in any competition. Halo Infinite nails this feeling across a healthy roster of maps and modes. In basketball, you’ve got a much better chance of hitting a shot if you’re underneath the hoop. In Halo, you’ve got better kill potential and objective control if you can control the flow of movement through a map or consistently play offense with deadly power weapons like the rocket launcher. 

Halo gives me a similar feeling to running up and down a basketball court, stringing together possessions or lives to try and put together a win. Some matches are blowouts, others are two or three point battles. Halo individually and team-wide is a game of runs. A close match can be decided by a sudden 5-kill killing spree. That’s your common 8-0, 10-0 run that can swing a match in your favor or far out of reach. Losing out on control of power weapons at the start of a match will put you in a hole that impacts decision-making for the rest of the match. At the same time, holding control over portions of the map serves as a stifling defensive game plan that can translate to better offense; easy kills, power weapons, or dominant objective control (shout out to oddball). 

Some players find Halo Infinite to be consistently “sweaty.” I find most matches cerebral, and the strategy endlessly compelling. I think about Halo Infinite multiplayer in this way (too much) but it certainly hasn’t made me a gaming legend. My win percentage hovers just under 50%, and I have just as many amazing matches as I do duds. And that’s fine with me. Especially with the 4v4 matches seeming to last just under 15 minutes a pop. Matches I win make me want to chase that high. Loses encourage me to do better next match. In either case I want to compete not just against the other team, but with my own performance. 

Every match ends and I field my own questions. Catch me digging through the after action report like a post game press conference. And often the lauded kill-death ratio isn’t the primary stat I’m focused on. I find myself trying to glean lessons from player stats like an NBA scout: What was my average time spent alive? Did I have enough assists? Too many? Which enemy player was dominant and what stats jump out for them? Above all I always find myself asking what can I do better in the next match?

I fell in love with Halo years ago because of the mix of setting and gameplay, the spectacle of the set pieces and sci-fi story of the campaign. I find myself these days coming back to Halo Infinite’s multiplayer weekly even as most of my friends have moved on from it. The same way I spend an hour or two too many on the court at an open gym. I can play one more Capture the Flag match, execute one more power play. With Halo Infinite, I’m always ready to run it back.

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