Wednesday, September 28

After Months Of Disappointment, Halo Infinite Is About To Get A Whole Lot Better

Spartans run through the Bazaar map in Halo Infinite during season two, Lone Wolves, on Xbox Series X.

Screenshot: 343 Industries

For a while now, the prevailing narrative around Halo Infinite is that interest in the game, once confidently perched at the summit of Mt. First-Person Shooter, has fallen off a precipice. But that stands poised to change when season two, “Lone Wolves,” rolls around on May 3. Folks, it sounds (and looks) dope AF.

Halo Infinite, first released last November for Xbox and PC, is the first game in the series to feature a free-to-play model. Like many games with a similar model, it’s built around a seasonal framework. Players have roundly praised Infinite’s fundamentals—the guns, the movement, the heavy dose of nostalgia—but criticized everything from pricey cosmetics to a general lack of new, updated content. (The game’s splashy special event, Fracture: Tenrai, repeated five times throughout Halo Infinite’s first season, with another occurrence planned for later this month.) For its part, developer 343 Industries instituted changes, like lower prices for cosmetics, throughout the first season.

Developer 343 Industries teased Infinite’s second season, “Lone Wolves,” in an exciting if vanishingly brief trailer, with a sizzle reel of new maps, cosmetics, and heavy-handed lines of dialogue (“We always have room for another wolf.”). That trailer is in addition to a series of blog posts from the past few weeks outlining the granular changes.

There’s a lot to like. Also, you can earn $10.

Okay, not technically, but you could, in theory, buy one premium battle pass and never have to buy another. In January, 343 announced that players could earn credits—in-game currency spent on Halo’s microtransactions that roughly maps out to $1 for 100—through the mere act of playing but didn’t get into the weeds. Now, we know how it works.

Those who buy the premium battle pass for season two (battle passes cost 1,000 credits) can earn 1,000 credits over the course of the pass. You could conceivably then bank those 1,000 credits, spend them on the premium battle pass for season three, earn 1,000 credits from that pass, bank them for season four, and so on. Of course, that assumption is entirely contingent on three factors. Premium battle passes of future seasons would need to cost 1,000 credits. You’d need to be able to earn 1,000 credits from those premium passes. (Representatives for 343 Industries did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.) And you’d need to have the time, patience, and energy to stick through the entirety of said battle passes.

But “free money” isn’t the only thing worth writing home about, as Infinite is getting a slew of new additions next month, including two new maps.

A huge sticking point for players was how Halo Infinite launched with ten maps—a fine enough number on paper, unless you scrutinize the circumstances. One of the initial maps, Behemoth, was so loathed by the community that 343 Industries eventually removed it from ranked playlists. Another one, Launch Site, is what experts describe as “just the fuckin’ worst.” And three of those maps were relegated to the large-scale Big Team Battle playlist, which spent months languishing with minimal functionality. Effectively, this meant Halo Infinite players were relegated to five maps that were actually reliably fun.

A spartan holds a ravager on the Behemoth map in Halo Infinite.

The long-neglected ravager will see an increase to its damage in season two.
Screenshot: 343 Industries

Arena playlists will get Catalyst, a small-scale map that looks to be set on a Forerunner structure of sorts. Meanwhile, Big Team Battle—which is functional now!—is getting a new map called Breaker. The season two trailer shows some lava. In any case, if 343 continues to add two additional maps every season, that rate will put Halo Infinite on track to have the same total number of maps as prior Halo games. There’s a deep well to draw on, too; this is the first Halo under 343’s purview that hasn’t yet featured remade versions of popular maps from previous games. (My fingers are crossed for Halo 4’s Haven.)

Halo Infinite will see a bunch of new playlists, too. King of the Hill, the longtime mode in which players battle over control of a small space—and the one I personally haven’t shut up about wanting for the past six months—will be available from the start of the season in “multiple playlists.” As will Attrition, the tense, team-based deathmatch that was playable for a few weeks in January. (Called it.) When it comes back, you’ll no longer be frozen in place for a few seconds after you’re revived by a teammate.

More curious is the Last Spartan Standing mode, which is less of a known quantity than King of the Hill (been around for ages) or Attrition (has literally been playable in Infinite already). The official line is that it’s a “free-for-all elimination mode,” though details, like its release date or even a rundown of how it works, aren’t available. Data-miners believe it’ll be a twist on the 24-player Big Team Battle, something akin to a miniature battle royale.

Capstone rewards are also getting a much-needed overhaul. Every week, Halo Infinite provides players with a unique list of 20 challenges: rote tasks like “complete two Slayer matches” or “kill 50 players in PvP.” If you knock all of them out, you unlock that week’s capstone challenge. Finishing that gives you the week’s capstone reward.

A warthog sporting the "alabaster cognac" vehicle skin in Halo Infinite floats against a purple background.

Why yes, I will grind all of the challenges in the world for this sumptuously named “Alabaster Cognac” vehicle coating.
Image: 343 Industries

Right now, capstone rewards are all over the place. On one hand, when they’re not worth the time sink—say, an emblem that’s both ugly and has also popped up as a reward for two out of the prior five weeks—so players feel disincentivized to complete the grind. But when the rewards are awesome, you get players saying they feel too much pressure to play, or even feel some FOMO for not being able to make the time commitment. The rewards outlined so far for “Lone Wolves” seem to strike a solid balance: of the five detailed, it’s a mixture of stances, weapon skins, and vehicle coatings. John Junyszek, Halo’s senior community manager, said boring prizes like emblems and backdrops won’t be issued as capstone rewards. It’s a key sign that 343 is listening to its player base, internalizing the feedback, and actually making crucial changes.

These are all in addition to various balance tweaks for weapons (the mangler, the ravager) and equipment (the drop wall, the overshield). Exciting times, if you’re a Halo fan.

But “Lone Wolves” isn’t entirely the silver bullet Halo Infinite needs, as it is going to launch absent some promised features. Support for the cooperative campaign, which can reportedly support two players in splitscreen and four players online, was slated to launch with the release of the season. That’s since been delayed, and is now slated for an unspecified date later in the season. (“Lone Wolves” is scheduled to run for about three months.) And save for one notable leak, the Forge creation tool is nowhere to be seen. Though it was always slated for Infinite’s third season, 343 hasn’t officially unveiled details.

The big question for Halo players is if “Lone Wolves” can reinvigorate players who’ve bounced off the game, or if it’s too little too late. In my mind, there’s precedent here. Just look at 343’s own Halo: The Master Chief Collection, arguably among the most disastrous launches for a big-budget online game…maybe ever? But 343 stuck with it, shored up the servers, added a bunch of new content, folded in enticing targets and seasonal models, and turned the ship around. Halo: The Master Chief Collection was, for a while there, one of the best multiplayer shooters.

Can 343 pull off that same hat trick twice? Only time will tell, of course. But for the first time in a while, I’m feeling optimistic about Infinite’s future.

 



Reference-kotaku.com

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