“There are those that said this day would never come. What are they to say now?” This quote from the Prophet of Truth has never carried more weight regarding Halo. Especially considering we have been ready to jump feet first into Halo Infinite’s highly anticipated co-op mode for the last 219 days. Not that I have been counting. 343i initially released the Halo Infinite campaign to the public with the biggest sandbox they have ever put together, and it certainly seemed to have plenty of room to bring a friend or three.
Running from the 15th of July to the 1st of August, the Halo Insider Program has put together a separate build to the main game that allows those who were selected to participate in the four-player co-op test flight. The goal? To test run how four Master Chiefs running rampant across Zeta Halo, curb stomping the Banished, and tea bagging their way to victory would hold up in the, originally, single-player built experience. For those that may need a refresher, or still haven’t played the campaign yet, the reason a conceded effort to balance the experience is needed comes from the upgraded equipment and special weaponry you can assemble through the campaign.
Eventually, once everything has been unlocked in the campaign, Master Chief can reach the full potential of the Demon the Covenant feared he really was, but then, multiplying that force by four when you add in three more players may not provide the challenge first intended. Fortunately, 343i seems to be leaning into the overpowered fantasy, rather than shying away from it and letting any player that has fully maxed out their equipment join a player fresh off the ranks.
This also goes hand in hand with the extra feature of mission replayability that can be used in either single-player or co-op. This feature can be accessed straight from the in-game TAC map and will let you play any completed mission or recapture outposts. Replaying these missions won’t affect your progress in the main campaign either – a small rotating arrow symbol over the selected mission indicates there is a replay save on that mission which you can return to at any time.
During my first co-op session with just one other player, we set the difficulty to Heroic and proceeded to slug our way through the first few levels with little resistance. That’s not to say we didn’t die. We died a fair few times each, however, it was more related to general Tom foolery that having a co-op buddy brings out. There was a time after completing the campaign I didn’t think that replaying with a friend would be all that different, yet the sheer giddiness of team-killing over a power weapon, or using the grapple shot to latch onto each other and speed boost across the level gave an entirely different atmosphere.
Perhaps it comes with a long history of playing Halo games, but we found Legendary difficulty to be the most balanced and fun experience with multiple players, and even with respawns available, we still got overwhelmed and had to try again if we weren’t careful. With the generous distance of about 300-meters, each player could stand apart from the other and we were able to have one player provide sniper support from a cliff face while the other ran suicide runs into the Banished Outpost and draw the enemies out.
If the suicide runner died, they would respawn with any weapons already equipped, so you wouldn’t lose that precious rocket launcher. It was a pretty generous system that allowed for a lot of fun, but if we exceeded the tether distance from the host, the other players would be killed. Fortunately, as I mentioned, you wouldn’t lose your weapons in the process. Even though this is technically an open-world experience, every Halo before this has had a pull mechanic that kept players within a reasonable distance, and besides, I’d rather be with my co-op buddies than playing a solo mission anyway. It should also be noted that if your friend drops out for any reason or you want to add in a new player, you will need to go back to the main menu to team up again before reloading your save.
In this build, it didn’t carry over my completed campaign with all of the bells and whistles, but it did give me an insight into the different possibilities. I realised that progressing through the campaign with others at the same time meant each player could spec into different equipment boosts to create a more dynamic fireteam. To upgrade your equipment, Spartan Cores are collected through the campaign, and having one player max out their drop shield first meant they could provide support for another player who maxed out their threat sensor for example. 343i even thought ahead and made it so you can’t farm Spartan Cores, and once you have collected a certain core it was unlocked on that save for you, meaning you can’t hop from friend to friend and grab an unlimited amount.
There is the ongoing debate on if this update is too little too late and to be fair, I had lost a bit of hype since December as well. In practice though, the game felt like it was given a new lease on life and with the promise of new and exciting achievements that will supposedly reward players for both teaming up and creativity, I will be planning on sharing my love of Halo with as many friends as possible.