Fans of Halo Infinite have spent the past few days deliriously anticipating the game’s next roadmap, hoping it’d outline salvation for the floundering multiplayer shooter. Today, 343 Industries unveiled its plans: a wave of delays, a handful of imminent updates, a promised feature cancelled. Needless to say, fans are bummed.
Halo games have always had a robust, ever-changing multiplayer component. But Halo Infinite is the first to adopt a truly live-service model: It’s free-to-play (supported by paid cosmetics) and operates around rotational seasons, which add new maps, modes, and cosmetics to the game. The second season launched in May and was supposed to run through early November — already a timeline that irked players who believed Infinite would operate on three-month seasons. Season two will now extend into March.
To be fair, Halo Infinite will still receive some new content on November 8, the day the game’s third season was set to launch:
- Two new maps called Detachment and Argyle will join the rotation. Both were made in Forge, Halo’s longtime creation mode.
- The Forge beta will slip from its anticipated September date to later this year. If leaked footage is to be believed, Infinite’s iteration on the mode looks — to use a scientific term — fucking dooope.
- Cosmetics that were teased in key art from the launch window appear to be part of a free 30-level battle pass that’ll round out the rest of the year (each seasonal battle pass comes with 100 levels).
- The open-world campaign will receive support for online co-op, plus the option to finally replay missions.
- “Covert One Flag,” a new game mode, will join the rotation.
- The “Winter Contingency” event that ran this past January will have a second outing, followed by a new event called “Joint Fire.”
- There’s also a beta for a revamp of the XP program, intended to dole out XP per match, rather than forcing players to rely on the controversial challenge system that underscored progress on the battle pass.
- “Quality of life improvements,” that vague line such updates for live-service games always tend to come with.
It is, somehow, both a little and a lot. In terms of content, this midseason update offers a slew of stuff that’s roughly at parity with what was offered at the start of the season (which added two maps and one mode, plus some cosmetics). But the fans generally had a deflated reaction to the rollout of season two, brushing it off as a stopgap between meatier updates. It didn’t help matters either that the season itself had a buggy, turbulent launch. At the time, you’d often hear Halo devotees urge dissenters to “wait until season three, that’s when it’ll really get going.”
Even if it hit its initial early November target, season three had to do a lot to make up for earlier frustrations and disappointments. Now, season three has to do a lot more. And based on this early look, well…
First, let’s rip off the Band-Aid: Halo Infinite’s support for local co-op is cancelled outright. Halo 5: Guardians caught flack during its 2015 launch for being the only Halo game to date to come out sans support for couch co-op. In 2017, 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross publicly stated that any first-person shooters released by the studio would have local co-op. In a livestream today, 343 Industries creative director Joe Staten said the studio permanently shelved that feature for Halo Infinite in order to allocate resources toward delivering on the game’s live-service commitments.
Those commitments for season three, formally called “Echoes Within,” seem a lot like the roadmaps for both parts of season two: a 100-level battle pass, an additional 30-level recurring event battle pass, and two new modes (the return of VIP and Escalation, both of which have been in prior games in some form or another). Two new maps are planned for season three: one for the small-scale Arena playlists, one for the larger Big Team Battle. Neither have names yet. The biggest change is set to be the custom game browser, which will allow players to search and play various modes designed by fellow players.
Halo Infinite’s sandbox — basically, the set of tools you can play with — will get its first update since the game’s November 2021 launch. It comprises one new weapon, the bandit rifle, which looks a whole lot like the popular semi-automatic DMR from Halos past. (Leaked footage of the weapon in action split the community in half last week.) That’s joined by a new piece of equipment: the shroud screen. Though 343 didn’t describe exactly how it works, leaked footage shows something akin to the bubble shield from Halo 3, which temporarily spawned a dome that halted incoming projectiles. The shroud screen comes with a smokescreen, obscuring visuals on both sides of the veil.
And that’s it!
The general reaction is dismay, with even some stalwart defenders of the game expressing dissatisfaction. The YouTuber Suzi Hunter described the news as “disappointing.” Halo Infinite esports commentator Alex “Shyway” Hope praised the studio’s transparency but called the timeline “brutal.” Content creator Nick “UberNick” is optimistic that Halo Infinite “will be a great game, I’m just tired of having to wait for it.” Here’s the real tell for how much of a meteoric impact on the community this wave of news has had: Halo Infinite is trending on Twitter for the first time in months.
Representatives for 343 Industries declined to comment.
One year on, Halo Infinite is still my most-played game on a weekly basis. I was definitely among the crowd of people holding out for a major resuscitation in November, with the launch of season three. So, yeah, I was initially flabbergasted at today’s news. For illustration, here’s a direct copy-paste from my real-time reaction in Kotaku’s Slack channel:
Now that I’ve picked my jaw up off the floor, though, I’m less exasperated. To be sure, the removal of local co-op — easily the part of Halo Infinite I’ve been looking forward to the most — is devastating. But the rest of the lineup isn’t so bad. In terms of what’s on offer, again, it’s about the same as what rolled out at the start of the season; if players can’t have three-month seasons, the occasional mid-season refresh is better than nothing. The rollout of Forge is gonna rule, too (provided it actually hits this timeline). And those additions slated for season three are promising, even if only a handful have been outlined today. I think part of the initial reaction, both on my part and on the part of the community, is the hard-line delineation between seasons. If the same amount of content is coming around the same timeframe, isn’t that just a “season” by another name?
Today’s news, in other words, is bringing me around to what a small but vocal subset of the fandom has been saying all along: Halo Infinite doesn’t need a seasonal model to be a successful game. It just needs to be Halo.