Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle mode was the focus of this past weekend's beta test, and I came away from it feeling like it's among 343's strongest steps forward in the multiplayer space since it took over the series from Bungie. It is complete chaos--but in the best way.
Halo 5's Warzone mode was an exciting concept, but it didn't stick the landing and the Req pack system and the MOBA-style concept in general did not resonate with me. Thankfully, Halo Infinite's overall ambition to seemingly return to the basics of Halo also applies to Big Team Battle, and as with 4v4 Arena Slayer, the bones are good here.
Fragmentation Feels Like Valhalla 2.0
In Halo Infinite's BTB, the player cap is raised from 8v8 in past games to 12v12. To accommodate the bigger player count, 343 created what seems to be the biggest map in Halo history--Fragmentation. It feels like a spiritual successor to Halo's iconic Valhalla, but with a much larger playable space and many new and exciting elements and lanes. Most exciting to me with Fragmentation is its verticality. There are many hills, ridges, rocks, and other surfaces to climb in between bases and other structures, and these all help you find unique lines of sight. There are many trees and other tall objects, and I thought this was a welcome design choice to help players move around without getting shot from too far away. Snipers will still be happy, though, as there are plenty of places with long lines of sight and opportunities to send a player rag-dolling backwards after a well-placed shot. The map also has cute little space-prairie dogs, and that's pretty cool.
Another exciting element of the BTB map is its Destiny-style loot cave. As a sub-objective, you can use your personal AI to "hack" into a sealed room where a power weapon and a piece of equipment are waiting. The catch is that the AI takes a bit of time to hack into the room and you must stay close enough to the door for the process to complete. I thought this was a fun little distraction that felt meaningful enough to complete because I could get a Gravity Hammer or a Sniper Rifle instead of trying to find it on the map. It also felt rewarding to fend off an oncoming enemy as I held the position. A match within a match. This loot cave system works in BTB in part because of the 12v12 nature of the mode--simply put, there are enough players on a team that when one or two jumps out of the moment-to-moment action to unlock the cave, it doesn't materially impact the flow of a match, or at least it didn't in my experience.
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If I had one issue with Fragmentation, it would be how the map feels a bit scattered, with no real central chokepoints where the majority of the action is focused. Part of this might come down to a lack of familiarity with the map. But whatever the case, there were matches where I felt like I was running around for a while before I saw anyone, simply due to the size of the map. But this wasn't a recurring problem, and by and large I appreciated the size of the map and felt a sense of adventure and accomplishment finding its nooks and crannies and discovering the best places to be to get the tactical advantage.
My favorite part about Halo's BTB over the years has been how it is total chaos compared to the more regimented Arena Slayer mode. You never quite know what you're going to find coming around a corner, and I had many watercooler moments where I gasped and marveled at what just happened. In one particularly memorable encounter, I grabbed a Fusion Coil from base, jumped into the conveyor lift (AKA man cannon) and chucked it at a team of Spartans below me. They never saw it coming. Also contributing to the chaos of BTB is the new equipment. With the Grappleshot, you can acrobatically zoom through the air and get to higher ground much quicker to get the drop on an enemy from a new perspective. The Grappleshot can also be used to "Grapplejack" enemy vehicles, which is extremely satisfying if you can pull it off--and it's a delight to simply witness.
To accommodate the larger environment, equipment pickups give you more uses than in a standard Slayer match, and I thought this was a good idea and it didn't seem to create a rift in the overall balance. I do wish Grappleshot were a permanent movement ability and not something you need to pick up, but that'll always be available in Custom Games or potentially (I hope!) some kind of limited-time event like the ones that 343 has said are coming after launch.
The new Dynamo energy grenades were also a favorite of mine during the beta. Timing a perfect throw to hit an oncoming Warthog, disabling the engine and leaving the enemies exposed, was very satisfying. Or lobbing the Dynamo grenades into a group of players who might be, for example, trying to return a flag, is a very useful technique as the charges seem to chain together to grab everyone in their path.
And the new ordnance drops are a welcome addition to the match flow, too, as Pelicans fly down (watch out, they can kill you by accident!) and drop vehicles and other desirable items onto the battlefield. In my experience this often led to a mad dash to acquire the goods, which served two main purposes: It refocused players toward specific points on the map, even during Team Slayer matches where the action is typically more spread out, and it led to some epic firefights to control whatever the Pelican dropped.
I also enjoyed how, in Capture the Flag matches, the flag spawn and return points can change. This created a new element of strategy, as teams pushing for the flag and defending have to learn different strategies for each flag position, which keeps things fresh during a match. Capture the Flag now also lets you sprint with the flag, which creates a heightened sense of urgency for bringing down the carrier and really gets your blood pumping when you're running the flag. I also appreciated how the name of the person who captured the flag appears on screen, which creates a sense of glory for that person and calls out their impressive achievement.
In addition to Big Team Slayer and Capture the Flag, there is Total Control. Three zones spawn on the map and your team must capture and hold them to score points--anyone who has played Battlefield will be familiar with this. Total Control leans into the chaos of Big Team Battle because players are constantly on the move, managing the push-pull of capturing a zone, defending it, and then scrambling to capture the other two to hold all three to score a point.
Halo Infinite's Big Team Battle mode feels and plays really, really well, and I hope the other BTB maps are as massive in scope as Fragmentation. It would also be nice to see a BTB map that has its own distinct personality. BTB is less intense than 4v4 Slayer, and it's a mode I can see myself coming back to again and again come December.
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