Halo Infinite multiplayer is live right now

Microsoft dropped a big surprise (or near-surprise, if it weren't for Friday's leaks) during today's 20th anniversary stream for the Xbox: Halo Infinite multiplayer is live right now.

"To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the franchise, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer beta is available now and free to play on Xbox and PC," the Steam listing states. "Begin your personal Spartan Journey today with Season 1,'Heroes of Reach,' and stay tuned for upcoming, limited-time in-game events and exclusive rewards."

The kickoff of the first season of Halo Infinite's free-to-play multiplayer component, Heroes of Reach, comes well ahead of the launch of the campaign, which is set for December 8. The season will run until May 2022, an extended duration (seasons were originally expected to run for three months each) that 343 Industries said will help it "ensure Season 2 meets our high quality bar and so we can finish development for Season 2 in a healthy and sustainable way for our team."

Players who log into Halo Infinite during the first week will unlock a free reward bundle of anniversary-themed cosmetics. On November 23, the season 1 opening event, Fracture: Tenrai, will get underway, giving players the opportunity to earn the seasonal samurai-themed armor and other customization items. (No Spartan dance moves, though.)

"In January, after all of you have had a chance to play Halo Infinite’s expansive and adventure-filled campaign starting December 8, and all of us on the Halo Infinite team have had an opportunity to recharge our energy shields over the holidays, we will have more details to share about the season 1 event calendar as well as our season 2, campaign co-op, and Forge release plans," Halo Infinite head of creative Joseph Staten said.

The free-to-play shooter is a 26GB download on Steam, but you may have some trouble getting it right away: More than 52,000 people are currently playing but some servers appear to be struggling and download speeds are very slow for some users—we've found that stopping and starting the download might help restore normal download speeds, so maybe give that a try if you're dragging. Some players have also reported a blue screen when trying to launch the game—developers are aware and working on it.

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Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.