Halo is back, and it feels so good.

Over the past few weekends, 343 Industries, the studio that took over development of the Halo franchise after original developer Bungie split from Microsoft, has run several test flights for the highly anticipated “Halo Infinite,” the first game in the mainline franchise since 2015. These tests of its multiplayer mode are meant to gauge server strength and back-end performance in preparation for the title’s launch on Dec. 8, according to the developer. But they’ve also been enormously reassuring for Halo fans after a series of delays and disappointing trailers and previews at industry showcases.

Some of 343′s franchise installments have looked and felt slightly off — the Mega Bloks to the originals’ Legos. From that perspective, this past weekend’s test flight, in which The Post participated, was a salve. There’s no more crucial description of “Halo Infinite” than “fundamentally Halo-like,” which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.

The game’s physics feel light and springy, but also, paradoxically, hefty. Vehicles bounce, sway and careen over ledges in the environment. If you’ve played Bungie’s Halo games before, the experience will feel mostly familiar. That’s great news.

As my friends and I played, we argued over whether the assault rifle is any good or if players should be granted a precision weapon from the start. We debated the relative merits of the default sidearm. It didn’t make much of a difference — the game wasn’t broken or seriously hurt by whatever shortcomings we saw in particular weapons. Instead, that kind of banter harks back to formative moments playing previous Halo installments: at someone’s house, crowded around a big TV with snacks, with one player always relegated to playing on the “bad” controller.

The game’s most notable change is the addition of the grappling hook, which can be picked up in regular spawn locations on the map. It has allowed for some remarkable plays, where even the misfires ended with shouts of, “Oh my God, if I had pulled that off!"

The addition also has me brimming with excitement as a fan of custom game modes. In “Halo: Reach,” my friends and I would play a home-brewed mode we called Hunter Hammers. In Firefight, which pits the players against continuous waves of enemies, we’d spawn in the Hunter enemy type and attempt to take them all down armed with jetpacks, gravity hammers and grenades. I can only imagine the kinds of modes players will design in “Infinite’s” free multiplayer with the addition of the grappling hook — modes that might, in turn, spawn impressive communities and iterations of their own, like Grifball.

I genuinely can’t think of anything significant to grouse about. Even the servers held up admirably for the most part; I experienced some mild stuttering and a smattering of crashes, but nothing worth getting mad about. At one point, I queued up with a player based in Texas, one in the U.K. and another in Singapore. We played together with few noticeable issues.

Forbes’s Paul Tassi argued Sunday that “Halo Infinite” could release now — without its campaign — and still be a huge hit, and I’m inclined to agree. When I shared on social media that I was playing the “Infinite” test flight, a raft of childhood friends and acquaintances responded, professing their excitement.

Halo is back. But more than that, the social phenomenon of Halo might be back too. In recent years, “Warzone” and “Fortnite” have become the default games to play regularly with friends. But these test flights have stirred up a sense of enthusiasm for Halo that I haven’t witnessed in years.

Read more