By now, Halo Infinite has been out long enough for you to get pretty good. But there comes a point in all competitive shooters—hey, no shame in this—where you hit a plateau. Your matches start playing out just as the previous 50 did. You find yourself falling back on the same tactics, to the same effect. You’re not bored, not just yet, but you’re not exactly growing either.
Over the past few months, several Kotaku staffers—editor-in-chief Patricia Hernandez, weekend editor Zack Zwiezen, and, obviously, myself—have collectively poured hundreds of hours into Halo Infinite’s competitive multiplayer mode. I’ve further chatted with a handful of top-flight Halo players, folks who’ve similarly clocked staggering hour counts. If you want to level up your Halo Infinite game, the following tips, tricks, and secrets will help.
Oddly, perhaps the single best thing you can do to level up your competitive Halo game isn’t to play against other people, but to play against bots. Hop into Halo Infinite’s training mode, called the Academy, and you can practice everything from reticle placement to skill jumps. You can memorize where weapons and equipment spawn, and figure out secret tricks for them. And you can do it all away from the pressure-cooker stakes of a real match.
“It’s an experience that we’ve never really had in an Halo game,” Alexander “Shyway” Hope, a Halo esports commentator and content creator, told Kotaku. “I find it a unique way to learn reticle placement both before and during gunfights, because it ensures that … you know where your opponent’s going to be and ensures that you can always prepare yourself for every shot.”
Once you boot up a match in the training mode you can customize settings on the fly, including your gear or the specific number of bots you play against. (Man, if only Halo Infinite’s actual custom match mode had such a bespoke toolkit.) But the key setting to turn on is “reveal enemy location.” Doing so will put a small red marker over any bot’s location. Though it may sound sacrilegious, particularly in light of the cheating scourge plaguing Halo Infinite, bots don’t mind if you use wall hacks, and it will quietly hone your skills.
“It’s allowing you to apply certain muscle memory that you would never normally have access to because now you’re fully confident,” Hope said. “It’s a really cool kind of training wheels.”
Since the days of Halo: Combat Evolved, the baseline metric of skill in Halo has been your kill-death (KD) ratio or, in later games, your kill-death-assist (KDA) ratio. But the long-revered stat carries less weight this time around. For one, unlike previous entries, Halo Infinite doesn’t visibly track such a score on an account-wide level (currently, anyway). For another, it’s not necessarily a viable barometer of skill; you could just as easily cheese your rating by standing on the sidelines with a battle rifle and picking off unshielded enemies, stealing kills from your teammates (a trick known in amateur circles as “The Ari”).
“The most important stats after a game, which I always check, are ‘shots fired’ and ‘damage dealt,’” Tom, a Halo content creator who posts mind-bending feats on his YouTube channel, Simply & Slick, told Kotaku. “These two stats will tell me how often someone has been in a fight and how effective they’ve been while doing so. If someone drops a 10 kills, 15 deaths game, but also has twice the damage dealt and shots fired, then they have undoubtedly helped every single teammate win the majority of their battles.”
Call it bravado, call it foolishness, call it Mjolnir-induced overconfidence syndrome, but it seems many Halo players almost feel obligated to see every fight through to the end. Instead of trying to win every shootout, including those you’ll lose, it’s far more effective to learn when to run away.
“If you’re one or two shots down in a gunfight, get your shields back before you rechallenge,” Jennifer “Echidna” Hal, a Halo content creator for the esports team eUnited, told Kotaku. “You don’t have to challenge everything!”
Halo Infinite’s melee weapons—the gravity hammer and the energy sword—are immensely powerful, able to kill most opponents in one hit (provided they don’t have an overshield). You can run around some of the smaller maps, like Recharge, and rack up kills. Just make sure to keep any melee weapon tucked away in your secondary slot. If you have it in your primary, you’ll signal to your enemies that you have it equipped, and they’ll try to maintain distance. But by hiding it from view in your secondary slot, you can bait them into close-quarters combat, where, kablam.
Boot up a custom game. Look at the ground. Try to traverse the entire level. Once you do, learn how to do the same for all of Halo Infinite’s 10 multiplayer maps.
“If I can perfectly make my way around the map, do all the jumps and not bonk into walls, then I can have perfect map movement during multiplayer matches without even thinking, even during the tense battles,” Tom said. “Know your map like the back of your hand and you will be able to instinctively use cover, know escape routes, and [learn the] fastest ways to spawn-kill.”
Shortly after launch, Halo Infinite players collectively lost their minds over the new shotgun’s full-auto mode. Unlike many other video game shotguns, you could hold the trigger down and it would fire continually, like an assault rifle. But it’s not just the shotgun. Halo Infinite players quickly discovered other weapons were fully automatic, including the hydra, a low-damage missile launcher; the plasma carbine, a burst-fire energy rifle; and the disruptor, an electrified sidearm whose rounds slowly eat away an enemy’s shields. Don’t treat those as semi-auto weapons. Your opponents probably aren’t.
The disruptor isn’t just a secretly automatic sidearm, it’s also the strongest weapon to hold in a match of Strongholds. By shooting the center of a stronghold point, you can chain its damage to anything—including opponents—inside the vicinity of the stronghold, a move Hope describes as “such a big brain thing.”
“The disruptor pistol doesn’t get picked up too much because it’s kind of a nontraditional weapon, you don’t really get headshots,” Hope said. “But this application makes it useful and makes me want to pick it up now.”
There’s a reason professional Halo players hate the mangler: It’s so, so good. You can drain an enemy’s shields in two shots. It has a staggeringly powerful melee, to the point where you can kill any enemy with a shot-punch combo. And it spawns on the same timer as a disruptor or plasma pistol, something like 30 seconds. If you haven’t started worshipping at the altar of the mangler, it’s not too late to convert.
Overextending—basically, the act of forgoing a strong defensive position to spread out and catch an enemy team off guard—is fine in Slayer, Halo Infinite’s deathmatch mode, but risky for objective-based modes.
“My team will be set up in a Strongholds [match], and all of a sudden I get killed from behind. Why? Because one of my teammates pushed out too far and the enemies spawned behind me, allowing them to get up in numbers and start scoring some points,” Hal said. “Over-extending isn’t a terrible idea in itself; just make sure you communicate … to your teammates what you are doing!”
You probably know the repulsor for its ability to send opponents flying off the edge of a map, a move that awards the ever-satisfying “Mind the Gap” medal. But it’s also good at, y’know, repulsing stuff. If someone shoots a rocket your way, you can time a repulsor to reflect it back at them. Same with grenades. (It’s particularly effective at sending those bouncing, electrified dynamo grenades back to their sender.)
When you have the repulsor equipped, look at the ground, then activate it at the same exact moment you jump. You’ll launch yourself into the stratosphere. Save for a handful of slick shortcuts, like effortlessly launching yourself from the ground floor to the middle platform in Aquarius, the practical limitations here are few. (In fact, if you’re not careful, you’ll just end up teeing yourself up for a sniper.) But it is always awesome.
By holding down the “Y” button (depending on your controller button layout), you’ll drop the weapon you’re holding and swap to your secondary gun. It’s a split second faster than swapping weapons, giving you a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it window to take down an evenly matched opponent.
“All the pros are applying it in some way, shape, or form,” Hope said. “And if you’re not, then it’s difficult to keep up because it’s become the meta.”
As one example, you could fire off two shots with the mangler, drop an enemy’s shields, then drop the mangler as well, to swap quickly to a battle rifle for an easier headshot. (The battle rifle isn’t restricted by the bullet drop of a mangler, making it easier to land headshots.) Or you could seriously speed up your “noob combo”—the longtime Halo tactic of quickly draining shields with an energy weapon before popping off a single round from a pistol. Whatever your approach, any kill you nab after dropping a weapon will earn you a coveted “Hold This” medal.
“The ‘Hold This’ medal is my personal favorite,” Hal said, “but least favorite when used against me.”
In Halo Infinite, at least when you’re playing with the standard control scheme, you look around with the right thumbstick and move your body around the map with the left. Logic may dictate that the right stick, then, is the one to use for lining up shots. But if you want to hone your skills with some of the precision weapons—say, a sniper or a skewer—you should get in the habit of lining up your shots with the left. It’s a bit tighter. It offers a bit more control.
“Odds are, either you or the enemy will strafe directly into your line of fire,” Hal said, echoing Hope’s suggestion that practicing tough shots in Halo Infinite’s Academy mode is the best way to hone those skills.
You don’t need a headset to effectively communicate with your team in Halo Infinite. Tapping up on the d-pad will mark whatever you’re looking at, and the game’s AI is quite intuitive in knowing what you’re trying to mark. Point out a weapon or piece of equipment, and it’ll automatically add text indicating what you’re talking about, complete with a handy white arrow. If you successfully point out any enemy’s location, the ping will show up as a red arrow and hover over where you spotted them. And if a teammate scores a kill because of your ping, you’ll get a small bonus to your score.
The assault rifle is Halo Infinite’s standard-issue firearm, the weapon you start every match with in most playlists. You might even win fights with the thing. But you should toss it aside as soon as possible. Sure, the assault rifle might help you win a one-on-one shootout, Tom said, “but it will leave you with extremely low health afterwards.” Plus, it’s useless at long range. Grab something a bit more versatile—a battle rifle, say, or the new commando rifle—as soon as you can. Your teammates will thank you.
Halo Infinite’s cosmetic options have been a sticking point for the game’s community since launch. Some say the suite of offerings are too thin, little more than a sea of grayscale. Others have lambasted how pricey some of the microtransactions are. And that’s to say nothing of customization’s impact on the actual game.
“I personally think you should wear whatever makes you look cool. However, when I play in a tournament I normally turn off all of my armor effects [so] as to not put myself at a disadvantage,” said Hal, who typically wears the enlightened path armor effect—which leaves a purple-hued trail in your wake—in casual play. “It definitely has given me away at times, and I have spotted enemies and their exit routes because of it,” she added.
You can’t often sum up an opponent based on what they’re wearing, but you can sometimes get a read based on what they’re not wearing. If you’re in the Onyx rank and come across someone who’s entirely devoid of customization options, who’s rocking a standard-issue gray kit, “they are 99.9% extremely good,” Tom said. They’re in it just for the game, and they’ve proven their skill at said game. (According to stats from 343 Industries, fewer than 5 percent of controller-using players are in the Onyx tier. Mouse-and-keyboard players are in a similar range.)
But at the end of the day, you needn’t sweat this stuff too much. “Regardless of what you wear, there’s an outline system in this game that’s going to reveal your location,” Hope said.
We’ve all done it, we’ve all felt it, but when you’re playing under par, there’s a natural inclination to place the blame on your team. In some cases, like when a teammate bails on an otherwise balanced ranked match, yeah, that’s fair. But much of your personal performance boils down to how you play.
“In general, people are very quick to blame their teammates for everything,” Hope said. “Yes, you do get some lousy teammates. Sometimes you definitely fall into that pitfall. But I think if you focus too much on that, you know, it doesn’t help.”
Here’s the thing: If you’re upset about how you’re playing, you can always reframe a bummer into an opportunity—an opportunity to hone your skills, to learn more tricks, to get even better at the game. You just have to practice.