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Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer Can Only Go Up From Here

For the past few days, I’ve been playing Halo Infinite. The game’s surprise multiplayer release was all I needed to drop Battlefield 2042 and my 100th run through Skyrim. Halo’s multiplayer is a timeless thing, one that felt as though it had been built upon when I played Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer.

With its release (which developer 343 Industries wants everyone to keep in mind is a beta), Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer has proven itself as one of the best free-to-play experiences out there. On PC, I’d rank it among mainstays like Fortnite and Team Fortress 2 — it has that kind of potential staying power.

The next step for Halo multiplayer

Halo Infinite‘s fun is immediate, from the first time you see your Spartan crack their knuckles before a game starts. But the real treat in Infinite isn’t playing as an individual, but rather as a team. Once again, Halo’s meat-and-potatoes are objective-based game modes, like Oddball, which is Halo’s version of kill the carrier. Playing with a team instead of as a rogue elite super soldier is how those Halo-specific moments happen.

Is it fun to pick up active camo along with a shotgun and roleplay as a very deadly ghost? Yep. Of course, the same goes for picking up any of Halo Infinite‘s other power weapons. But they’re all used better in conjunction with teammates. Instead of using a rocket launcher to take out one or two enemies, it can be used to turn the tide of a battle or save an objective-carrying teammate. In Halo Infinite, there are always larger fights to win, and it makes every match feel dynamic.

That’s part of Halo’s DNA, something that’s been true throughout the franchise. Halo Infinite sets itself apart with its weapons and movement, both of which add even more to the multiplayer’s already fantastic bones. Hitting headshots with the game’s automatic carbine or sniper rifle is beyond satisfying, and power weapons, like the new Skewer, can leave players feeling like an unstoppable machine of war. There’s really nothing quite like skewering a Warthog full of players and being awarded with a “triple kill!” announcement.

An unfriendly game

The sad part is that you’ll only be awarded a quippy voice line from the game’s announcer. Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is going through what feels like its awkward teenage years. While some areas of the game are polished and ready to ship, others are simply underbaked, and they’re almost all related to quality of life. Halo Infinite, while being a fun game to play, is also extremely difficult at times.

And that starts with the game’s progression system. Players in Halo Infinite aren’t awarded XP toward the game’s seasonal battle passes — which are also the sole progression system in the game — for simply playing the game. Instead, XP is handed out as an award for completing challenges in the game, most of which are pretty specific. For instance, players can get XP for destroying an enemy Ghost, but only once, and only if it’s a challenge. The game’s Scrooge-like doling out of XP leaves progression feeling (as I’ve previously said) like a slog. While 343 has already somewhat addressed this issue by adding constant challenges that give out XP for playing a match, a majority of what players do each game will still go unawarded.

Halo Infinite's battle pass challenge screen.

Similarly unfriendly is how Halo Infinite lets players approach multiplayer in general. From the game’s main screen, you’re given the options of quickplay, big team battle, or ranked arena. For 343 Industries, this anemic multiplayer screen is a shadow of what players can expect when they boot up Halo: The Master Chief Collection. There’s no way to select specific game modes or groups of game modes. Instead, whether you get into a game of Oddball or Slayer is a roll of the dice and one that gets tiring. I personally got into five games of Oddball in a row, after which I wanted to eat my own shoes out of frustration. Sometimes you just want to play Slayer, but Halo Infinite currently doesn’t accommodate that kind of basic player choice.

Halo Infinite‘s problems, as the game is now, aren’t unbalanced weapons, weak maps, or to use a blanket term, bad gameplay. I’ve said it three times now, but I’ll say it again: Halo Infinite is a very fun game. What it isn’t is a friendly game. But the issues with its multiplayer are all fixable, they’re not baked in. When it comes to listening to its community, 343 Industries is historically open and receptive.

I wholeheartedly expect the life of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer to go along the same route as Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The game has had a great start, and it can only go up from here.

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Halo Infinite’s campaign co-op and Forge modes have been delayed again

The for the campaign have arrived and it’s looking like an exciting step forward for the series. Unfortunately, players will have to wait even longer than expected to play the mode with their friends.

Developer 343 Industries that Halo Infinite won’t have campaign co-op (a stalwart mode in the Halo series) or Forge custom games when it arrives on December 8th. It plans to add campaign co-op when season two starts, which was initially supposed to happen three months after launch, with Forge to follow in season three.

However, 343 Industries revealed this week that season one will run until May. The studio’s head of creative, Joseph Staten, confirmed to that means campaign co-op won’t arrive until May at the earliest, and Forge will arrive even later.

That’ll likely come as a disappointment to fans, but 343 Industries’ decision to focus on the campaign and multiplayer might have been the right one. It already , so getting the two core modes right was critical.

Fortunately, the free-to-play multiplayer component, which 343 Industries , is a blast. It’s evidently a hit already, too. The mode quickly hit 272,000 concurrent players on Steam, and that’s before you include those playing on console, through the PC Xbox app and on cloud gaming. 

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Halo Infinite’s Unpopular Battle Pass Is A Total Slog

Developer 343 Industries made a massive announcement at the end of yesterday’s Xbox 20th anniversary stream. At around 1:30 p.m. ET, Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer was made available for everyone to play. The game’s beta was opened up and people were able to start progressing through the game’s first seasonal battle pass. Unsurprisingly, it attracted tens of thousands of players on Steam.

But there was one part that ended up making the entire experience somewhat bittersweet. While I had a killer time playing with my colleagues, we all came out of our session with one complaint in common: Progressing through Halo Infinite‘s seasonal content and battle pass is going to be a real pain.

Shackled to progression

Unlike other Halo games — or many other multiplayer games for that matter — Halo Infinite doesn’t give players experience points for just about everything they do. When you shoot down another Spartan with a sniper rifle or splatter them with a Ghost, you’ll get a little endorphin rush, sure, but you won’t get any XP — unless, you have challenges for either of those things. Battle Pass XP is only doled out for completing challenges in Halo Infinite, and in a game that seems to be all about letting players approach encounters however they want, it’s antithetical.

Halo Infinite‘s battle pass is full of all kinds of neat cosmetics. Players who fill out its ranks can sport Master Chief’s classic Mark VI helmet, or just set their entire set of armor on fire for an extra-badass look. But getting to that point will take players a good long while since they only earn XP by completing challenges.

Challenges in Halo Infinite are arbitrary, situational, and beyond anything else, pretty lame. The lone constant challenge tasks players with simply completing PvP matches, while other daily and weekly challenges are much more specific. My current list of weekly challenges, for instance, will reward me with 200 XP each if I can destroy a Ghost, kill a spartan with the Mangler, or capture a zone in an objective-based mode. But after I complete these challenges, I won’t get any more XP for doing those things again. For Halo Infinite, things players do regularly in-game don’t always deserve to be rewarded.

Compared to other free-to-play multiplayer games, like Call of Duty: WarzoneInfinite‘s progression system is just cruel. Those games reward players for doing just about anything. Kill a player? Here’s some XP. Win a game? Here’s some more XP. But Halo Infinite doesn’t care if you win, lose, or kill players unless you get lucky enough to have challenges tied to those requirements. And with 1,000 XP needed to advance through each level of the Battle Pass, players will have to complete a lot of challenges to earn any of its cosmetics.

Developer 343 Industries has designed this progression system to demand and consume all of your free time.

Stuck in a grind

This opinion isn’t unique either. You’ll find similar sentiments at both PC Gamer and Kotaku, and there’s a good reason. In September, after one of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer betas, 343 Industries acknowledged that people weren’t happy with how scant XP was. “We have heard community feedback around wanting more progression options, including things like ‘match XP,’ to feed into the Battle Pass and an entirely separate, incremental system along the lines of earning SR152 in Halo 5: Guardians,” reads the post. “Expanding Multiplayer progression offerings is something the team is actively exploring, and we look forward to continuing to evolve the experience in future seasons post-launch.”

Halo Infinite‘s current progression system also flies in the face of what live team design director Ryan Paradis said this past July. “First and foremost,” Paradis said, “We’re working hard to ensure that the Battle Pass isn’t a ‘grind’ for players. We want it to be a supplemental rewards stream for the time you were already putting into the game.” That idea was seemingly scrapped, as the game’s Battle Pass is its only rewards stream.

So while 343 Industries considers handing XP out for something as trivial as winning matches, players are going to be stuck with Halo Infinite‘s progression slog, and it seems like the system won’t be reworked until next year. Until then, players will simply have to grind their noses off trying to earn a cool helmet or armor effect.

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Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer Has One Giant (Well, Tiny) Flaw

Over the past two years, my eyesight has taken a nosedive. Maybe it’s just the natural side effects of being in your 30s. Or perhaps over a year of staring at screens with no break during lockdown was, in fact, bad for me. Regardless of the reason, my once pristine vision is gone and I’m now nearsighted.

That’s made me more acutely aware of the gaming industry’s love of miniscule text, HUD elements, and other user interface considerations. I’m lucky in that I can just put on a pair of glasses when something on screen is too small for me to see, but others, like partially blind players, don’t have that option. They’re at the mercy of a game’s accessibility options, which don’t always account for every problem.

That’s my primary concern when I play Halo Infinite’s multiplayer. The beta’s current UI is nothing short of a nightmare for those who already have difficulty seeing games. While features like a lack of mode-specific playlists and a weak battle pass are drawing the most criticism at the moment, added accessibility tools should be the game’s primary concern.

A (big) tiny problem

There’s a lot happening on screen during a Halo Infinite match. You have radar, a health bar, equipment information, a score bar, a kill feed, and tips that pop up on screen when you die. That’s all pretty standard for a shooter these days, but it can create a difficult balancing act. Developers want players to be as immersed in the game itself as possible, which often means shrinking or minimizing HUD elements to allot more screen time to the action. In fact, Halo Infinite’s UI menu allows players to turn off the HUD entirely.

What it doesn’t allow me to do, as far as I can tell, is increase the size of anything outside of some text or menu font size. That solves a few problems, but I still find myself squinting at key moments, even with glasses on.

To the game’s credit, developer 343 has included an impressive suite of accessibility options outside of that. Players can turn down the opacity on screen elements, which is a big help, or disable confusing visual ticks like speed lines that appear while dashing. I applaud the work that’s gone into both audio and visual accessibility overall, though that makes the limited UI scaling all the more puzzling to me.

I’ve essentially given up on using the dime-sized radar entirely. I generally never know what gadgets I have equipped or how much ammo I have. It’s not just the persistent HUD elements that are presenting challenges for me. In the game’s Stockpile mode, a tiny white symbol marks where power cells are on the map. In my first round, I could not see the symbols. They kept getting lost in off-white rocks, forcing me to bug my friends about what I should even be looking for during an entire round.

Halo Infinite UI during a multiplayer game.

I wasn’t the only one who had complaints during my first six hours with the game. Everyone I partied up with voiced similar confusion. Some teammates were confused about how to pick up weapons, not noticing the sliver of semitransparent text on the screen. They’d frequently be shocked when a game ended, simply not noticing what the score was despite it being pinned to the bottom of the screen. I thought the problem may be less noticeable close up to a big monitor, but a colleague playing on PC noted many of the same challenges when we played together. I shudder to think what the game will look like when it comes to the Steam Deck or phones via Microsoft’s cloud gaming service.

Puzzling decisions

Not every issue is about size. Halo Infinite makes a whole bunch of puzzling UI decisions. Equipment menus are laid out as a battle pass-like rail that has to be scrolled through. In-games subtitles butt right up against the score bar, rather than using the wide open space above or below it. Weirdest of all, the game allows players to choose their armor colo, which means that you might see an enemy in friendly blue armor instead of red. The game’s solution is to add a (too) subtle outline around characters.

A player fired a gun in Halo Infinite.

There’s a saying in the accessibility community that has stuck with me over the years: “Accessible design is just good design.” Halo Infinite is facing a visual literacy issue at present that doesn’t just affect those with impaired vision. It’s simply hard to read visual information on screen unless you’re playing on a gigantic monitor. Not everyone will have that problem, and it’ll decrease as people get comfortable with the game’s language, but there’s no downside to letting players scale things up. It’s not giving anyone an advantage; it’s letting them see crucial information.

I have no doubt that more size adjustments will be available in the future. Microsoft is leading the charge on accessibility in gaming, as seen with games like Forza Horizon 5. Even Halo Infinite goes above and beyond most modern games with its suite of tools. Still, small text and UI are a persistent problem in lots of games, and one that only becomes worse as tech allows us to play games on any screen.

Let’s hope this is one of the reasons Microsoft is labeling the surprise launch a “beta.”

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Halo Infinite’s free multiplayer mode is available now

Rumors started swirling over the last few days that Microsoft will release the free Halo Infinite multiplayer mode before the full game. During its Xbox 20th anniversary event, the company confirmed that’s the case. The standalone mode is now available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Players can access it through Xbox Cloud Gaming later today.

The beta is open to everyone, and Season 1 of Halo Infinite multiplayer, which will run until May, is underway three weeks early. Microsoft and developer 343 Industries have run a few multiplayer test events over the last few months, but now the mode is open to all. You’ll have access to all the Season 1 maps, the battle pass and the core modes.

The Halo Infinite campaign release date is still set for December 8th, and your multiplayer progress will carry over. A few features will be missing at launch, however. The campaign co-op and Forge modes will be released later, because 343 Industries wanted to focus on the quality of the single-player and multiplayer modes.

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Halo Infinite’s Surprise Launch is a Power Play for Xbox

For once, a seemingly ridiculous video game rumor turned out to be true: Halo Infinite’s multiplayer released nearly one month early. Leaks indicated that the surprise could happen, but it still seemed too good to be true. But the fact is that players are enjoying Halo Infinite’s first season much sooner than anticipated.

In an age where video game release dates only get moved back, not forward, the news came as a straight-up shock. Shooter fans were just sitting down with Call of Duty: Vanguard and waiting for Battlefield 2042’s full release. Xbox Game Pass subscribers had just begun digging into the recently released Forza Horizon 5. If you had a strict plan for tackling all the games launching this holiday season, go ahead and toss it in the fire.

The decision to drop Halo Infinite early isn’t just a sweet “thank you” to fans for their support. It’s the sneakiest power play a video game company has pulled since Sony’s infamous “$299” mic drop at E3 1995.

Un-freakin’ believable

Before the surprise drop, Microsoft was in something of an awkward position. Halo Infinite was set to be its big holiday game, but its planned December 8 release date wasn’t ideal. A December date meant that the game wouldn’t be out in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when many people buy holiday gifts or hunt for discounted games. Battlefield 2042 and Call of Duty: Vanguard would headline sales events, putting those shooters in the spotlight heading into the holidays. Even if Halo Infinite got positive buzz at launch, it would be late to the party.

Getting good word of mouth was going to be a challenge, too. December releases also tend to miss the Game of the Year season as many sites publish their lists by the end of November. While Digital Trends planned to hold our GOTY decision until we played Halo, others likely would have left it out of contention and saved it for their 2022 lists. Similarly, the game would be ineligible for The Game Awards this year and would be considered for the following year’s show instead, much like what happened to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate when it dropped in mid-December 2018. Any critical acclaim would come late, making it hard for Microsoft to capitalize heading into the holidays.

By dropping the multiplayer mode early, Microsoft has rewritten the rules. While the game isn’t fully out (single-player is still coming in December), the conversation around it is now in full swing. Players will start posting clips all over social media, it’ll dominate Twitch charts, and media will start kicking out impressions way earlier than planned (ourselves included). And all of that will happen before people start putting together their holiday wish lists.

It’s a bombshell move and one that might tick the competition off. Battlefield 2042 was supposed to be the most high-profile game launching this month (especially after tepid Call of Duty: Vanguard reviews), but Halo Infinite just crashed a Warthog full of banana peels on its clear runway. Now it’ll have to share the spotlight with the biggest shooter of the year — one that’s totally free to play and has the element of surprise behind it.

Halo Infinite is no longer at risk of getting lost in the mix; it’s the competition who should be worrying.

A sneaky beta

The sneakiest part of the whole early launch is the clever use of a “beta” label. Fans aren’t experiencing the final version of Halo Infinite right now. Microsoft is strategically calling the multiplayer mode a “beta.” That gives the company a fair bit of flexibility. Players are more likely to forgive any technical issues when they know they’re playing a non-final version of a game. EA won’t get the same good will when Battlefield 2042 launches in full later this week. In fact, the game is already getting “review bombed” by early access players who are bumping into stability issues in a game they paid $60 or more for.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the multiplayer mode actually leaves beta once the game’s release date rolls around. There’s a good chance that Microsoft will just leave the label on — an admission that the long-delayed game still wasn’t ready for launch. Had Microsoft fully released the multiplayer on December 8 as a beta, fans would have been outraged. The company would be under scrutiny for releasing an unfinished game (it will already lack campaign co-op and Forge mode at launch, which has drawn criticism from fans). Instead, fans are simply delighted they’re getting to play it weeks early.

New Halo Infinite Map Behemoth.

Messaging is everything in video games and Microsoft seems acutely aware of that. By positioning the launch as a “gift,” players are going to approach the game much differently than they would have in December. Microsoft now looks like a good guy kindly giving fans a surprise, rather than a giant company rushing out a game to pump up its fourth quarter financial earnings at any cost. It’s a devilishly clever move that could change the way companies roll out their games moving forward.

I’m not sure if that’s good for players in the long term, but that’s unimportant at the moment. Microsoft has delivered a rare shock in an industry that’s usually predictable. Rule-breaking power plays like this are scarce, but they tend to be turning points for the industry. Don’t be surprised if the Xbox Series X suddenly usurps PS5 as this holiday’s hottest console as a result.

Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is now free to download and play on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. The full game, including its single-player mode, launches on December 8.

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Microsoft shows off Halo Infinite’s campaign for the first time in over a year

With Halo Infinite’s release date fast approaching, Microsoft has shared a new six-minute trailer that offers an in-depth look at the game’s single-player component. The last time the company provided an extended preview of Infinite’s campaign was during its . That trailer was poorly received, with most fans agreeing the game’s visuals looked dated. In the aftermath of that reveal, developer 343 Industries said they , and Microsoft subsequently .

In this latest preview, you can see the visuals have gotten an update (look at Craig the Brute). But what hasn’t changed too much is the emphasis on sandbox gameplay. During a , 343 Industries said they were inspired by levels like from Halo: Combat Evolved to design the game in a way that would allow players to accomplish objectives with creativity. 

You see that ethos on display in the second half of the trailer. Master Chief stumbles upon a Banished outpost he has to take out. You can use his grappling hook to move around the facility quickly and pull enemy weapons and explosives to augment your current arsenal. Vehicles play an important part in the overall gameplay loop, as do abilities you can purchase for Master Chief. 

All of the different gameplay elements come together to form something that looks like it will offer a classic but more open Halo experience. It’s just too bad you won’t be able to play the campaign with a friend, at least .

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Halo Infinite’s Campaign Includes Some RPG Mechanics

Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries has shown off the game’s campaign once again, although this time with a fresh coat of paint. The game’s campaign, which was originally revealed during E3 2020 and received negative feedback for its graphics, seemingly sports a new coat of paint and will arrive with RPG features.

Halo Infinite‘s campaign will still place players in a large open-world area called the Zeta Ring. Naturally, that means it won’t be as linear as other campaigns in the franchise, with players instead being tasked with destroying bases belonging to the Banished, a new enemy faction. These bases, which are scattered around the game’s open world, can be tackled Just Cause-style, with Master Chief throwing fusion coils at certain structures to blow them up.

Along with bases, players can also find seven types of collectibles scattered around the game’s open world. To get around easier, players will be able to call in vehicles at certain points, ranging from a simple mongoose to new aerial vehicles, namely the Wasp.

However, Halo Infinite‘s biggest departure from the rest of the franchise is the inclusion of RPG mechanics. Using Spartan Cores, a new resource that can be collected during their travels, players can upgrade Master Chief’s various abilities. Today’s trailer showed that Master Chief’s grappleshot, shield core, threat sensor, drop wall, and thruster can all be upgraded. Likewise, the game seems to include named enemies that function as mini-bosses, another first for the franchise.

Halo Infinite is still set to launch on December 8 for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. The game will also be available on day one via Xbox Game Pass. However, the game will be missing some key features at launch, including co-op campaign and forge mode.

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