Halo Infinite multiplayer release date surprise: Xbox and PC very soon

For Halo fans, this past weekend had a lot of ups and downs, as we heard rumors which claimed that Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer would get a surprise early launch at the end of today’s Xbox 20th Anniversary livestream. Those rumors were followed by other reports claiming quite the opposite, saying that while Microsoft had initially intended to launch Infinite multiplayer early, that was no longer on the table. Thankfully, at the end of today’s livestream, we learned the truth, and it’s a good outcome for the Halo fans of the world.

Halo Infinite multiplayer beta live now

At the tail end of today’s presentation, we received a brief video message featuring the entire team at 343 Industries. In it, the studio announced that Halo Infinite multiplayer is going live today in beta across Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. It’ll be live until Halo Infinite‘s full launch on December 8th, which is when the campaign will be available.

Not only is Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer live, but season 1 is beginning today. The first season is called Heroes of Reach, and as the name suggests, the battle pass will be themed around the characters we met in Halo: Reach. In a lengthy blog post to Halo Waypoint, 343 Industries reveals that leveling up season 1’s premium battle pass will unlock all of the armor kits belonging to the ill-fated Noble Team.

Microsoft and 343 say this is a beta, but it appears to be more like “early access.” The beta will run until Halo Infinite‘s full release on December 8th, and there are no restrictions to the modes that can be played. According to Microsoft, what we’re getting today is the full multiplayer experience. Still, since it has “beta” attached to it, we probably shouldn’t be surprised to encounter some bugs as we play.

Halo Infinite playlists and PC specs

Since this is the full Halo Infinite multiplayer experience, there are a variety of playlists to jump into. In that same blog post linked above, 343 Industries says several playlists are available today: Big Team Battle, Quick Play, Bot Bootcamp, and Ranked Arena. Big Team Battle’s 12v12 matches need little introduction for Halo veterans, but it’s worth noting that the Quick Play playlist will include the Capture the Flag, One Flag CTF, Oddball, Slayer, and Strongholds game modes.

On the other hand, Bot Bootcamp is a way for Halo fans to get their feet wet without diving in completely, as it’ll pit a team of four human players against a team of four bots. Various game modes are available in this playlist as well, including CTF, Oddball, Slayer, and Strongholds. In addition, ranked Arena will include solo and duo queues dedicated to different control types – controller and KBM – along with a cross-input playlist that supports up to a full party.

The first event playlist for Halo Infinite, Fracture: Tenrai, will be going live on November 23rd and will allow players to unlock Samurai armor by playing. While the Fracture: Tenrai playlist will only be available for a week, it will be re-run numerous times throughout season 1, so you’ll still have a chance to earn the Samurai armor even if you don’t play the event next week.

Finally, 343 Industries shared several recommended spec lists for Halo Infinite today, which you can see in the image embedded above. The minimum specifications for Halo Infinite require either a Ryzen 5 1600 or a Core i5-4400 for the CPU, and either an RX 570 or GTX 1050 Ti for the GPU. Compare that to the ultra spec, which calls for a Ryzen 6 5900X/Core i9-11900K and an RX 6800 XT/RTX 3080, and it seems Halo Infinite can run on a wide array of systems.

Halo Infinite multiplayer is available to download now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows 10, including the Microsoft Store and Steam. Microsoft says that it will be available through Xbox Cloud Gaming later today, so Game Pass Ultimate subscribers should keep an eye out for that imminent drop as well.

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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.

Editors’ Choice

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Xbox 20th Anniversary livestream: How to watch and a rumored Halo surprise

Today is a big day for the Xbox brand because today marks 20 years since the launch of the original Xbox. Microsoft launched the first Xbox console on November 15th, 2001, with Halo: Combat Evolved as its most notable launch title. In celebration of this anniversary, Microsoft is hosting a special livestream later today, and rumors that cropped up over the weekend suggest there may be more to this stream than Microsoft is letting on.

When and how to watch today’s Xbox livestream

Before we can talk about any surprises that may happen during today’s livestream, we first need to talk about when it will happen and how to watch it. Today’s 20th Anniversary Xbox livestream will be happening at 10 AM PST/1 PM EST, and it’ll be streaming on several different platforms. The easiest way to watch is via the YouTube stream we’ve embedded below, but it’ll also be up on Twitch and Facebook for folks who prefer those platforms.

Microsoft has noted that the livestream will be available with subtitles in a wide variety of languages, including “German, French, BR Portuguese, LATAM Spanish, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Castilian Spanish, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Malay, Norwegian, Persian (Farsi), Portuguese (EU), Slovak, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese.”

To watch the livestream with subtitles in one of these languages, the YouTube feed is one you want. When the show begins, click the gear icon in the lower-right corner to select your preferred subtitles. We’re not sure how long the livestream is slated to last, but we know that Microsoft is planning to “celebrate some of our favorite moments from the 20 years of Xbox.”

Is Microsoft planning a Halo Infinite surprise?

While we weren’t expecting any game reveals during this livestream, Microsoft may still have a big surprise up its sleeve. Over the weekend, we started hearing rumors claiming Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer will get a surprise release today rather than December 8th, which is the current release date for the full game.

It appears these rumors were kicked off by Twitter user Adam Fairclough discovering references to November 15th lurking in the Xbox store data for Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer (references that have since been changed to December 8th, for what it’s worth). There’s been a lot of back and forth about this throughout the weekend, with some suggestion that Microsoft intended for a surprise Halo Infinite multiplayer release only to delay it at the last minute because the logistics behind giving a game an early release are complicated.

Still, some industry insiders like VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb and VGC’s Tom Henderson suggest that a shadow-drop may still happen today. After a weekend full of rumors going in both directions, it’s safe to say that the status of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is firmly up in the air. We’ll just have to check out the Xbox anniversary livestream later today to see if Microsoft makes that surprise reveal.

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Animal Crossing Version 2.0 update surprise: Here’s what’s inside

Animal Crossing: New Horizons fans have received a rather pleasant surprise, as the game’s version 2.0 update has gone live a little bit early. Initially, we expected the version 2.0 update to go live on Friday, November 5th, alongside the Happy Home Paradise DLC. While it seems we still have to wait until Friday for the DLC to land, the version 2.0 update is available now and ready to be played.

What’s included in Animal Crossing: New Horizons version 2.0

While the Happy Home Paradise expansion is paid DLC, the version 2.0 update is not and is free to everyone who owns Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Perhaps the most significant addition in the update is Brewster, who will open a cafe called The Roost in the museum after players complete a task for Blathers. Players can join island residents and friends in the cafe for some coffee, and they can even use amiibo cards to summon coffee drinking companions as well.

Brewster isn’t the only returning character in this update, as Kapp’n will be making a return as well. He’ll ship players off to new islands that may be home to unique flora or islands in the midst of different seasons. Essentially, it sounds like Kapp’n could be a good way to obtain items that wouldn’t usually be available on home islands.

Gyroids are also making their return with this update, and players will be able to dig them up just like they do fossils. Gyroids can be discovered buried in the ground after rain showers, or players can bury gyroid fragments that grow into full gyroids overnight. As in previous Animal Crossing games, gyroids will make various sounds when placed, and they’ll react to music as well. They can even be customized this time around to match the design of the room they’re placed in.

With this update, Harv’s Island is also getting some renovations as players will be able to contribute bells to turn the island into an open-air market featuring shops from numerous peddlers. Cooking has also been added to New Horizons with this update, and players will be able to grow a variety of vegetables to help further their cooking ambitions.

So, even though the Happy Home Paradise DLC packs a lot of content, this update is no slouch either. You can check out the video we’ve embedded above for details on everything included in this update.

A surprise release or a mistake?

Interestingly enough, there seems to be no official confirmation from Nintendo that this update is indeed live. The page that catalogs all of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons updates on the Nintendo support site hasn’t been updated at the time of this writing and instead shows the most recent version as 1.11.1. Likewise, neither the Nintendo of America nor the official Animal Crossing Twitter accounts have made any mention of this update.

The radio silence from Nintendo has left us wondering if this surprise release was actually a planned one or if it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, it’s unlikely that Nintendo would confirm it, so we’ll likely never know what the truth is; we’d just assume there would be a little more fanfare trailing this launch.

In any case, our Switches confirm that the update is live, and while it was automatically downloaded for us, you may need to manually update Animal Crossing: New Horizons to get it. Doing so is easy – simply highlight Animal Crossing: New Horizons in your Switch library, press the “+” button, and then select “Software Update.” We’ll let you know when the Happy Home Paradise DLC is live, but while we wait, New Horizons players can dive into the new update and see what it has to offer.

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Fortnite Supercharged weekend makes a surprise return with extra XP

Epic Games has brought back its Supercharged power-leveling weekend for a second time in a row, giving players more than enough opportunities to rake in as much XP as possible. As with previous weeks, players will need to make sure they log in at some point during the power-leveling weekend to enable the Supercharged bonus.

Fortnite‘s Supercharged weekend applies an XP multiplier that awards more points for eliminations, opening chests, and other activities that award XP. This results in leveling up to new tiers at a faster rate, particularly if the player completes Punchcards and daily challenges with high XP rewards.

Some players were concerned at the start of Chapter 2 – Season 8 that too much grinding would be required to get enough points for completing the Battle Pass. Epic had said back in September that it would address the XP concerns, leading to an adjustment. On top of that, this season has brought a huge number of daily challenges in addition to the new character Punchcards, enabling players to rake in more than 50k XP per completed card by performing simple tasks.

Combined with the Supercharged multiplier weekends, many players have already unlocked all of the Battle Pass items, opening the Bonus Rewards that, generally speaking, cost considerably more Battle Stars than the initial Battle Pass rewards.

Fortnite players need to log into their game account at some point before November 1 at 4 AM PT / 7 AM ET in order to get the Supercharged multiplier. Players can tell when the multiplier has been applied to their account by looking for the “Supercharged” label above the XP bar at the bottom of the screen during matches.

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Xbox Series S teardown reveals “brilliant” design and a Master Chief surprise

While there’s currently a lot of focus on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series S may just wind up being one of the biggest surprises of the new generation. The Xbox Series S is underpowered compared to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, but its $300 price point and its ability to play current-gen games at a lower target resolution and framerate could make it an attractive buy for some gamers. Now, thanks to a new teardown, we’re getting to take a look inside the Xbox Series S.

The teardown was performed by Rich Leadbetter of the always-excellent Digital Foundry, though if you’re worried that a functioning Xbox Series S was broken down in this age of console shortages, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Leadbetter says at the outset that this is actually a console that was bricked in another experiment, so there is no functional hardware being destroyed here.

Leadbetter says that the teardown requires a Torx 8 security screwdriver to remove all of the screws in the system and notes that the back can be taken off with the removal of just two screws. With the back, lid, and internal chassis removed, it’s clear that the Xbox Series S uses up pretty much all the space in its small footprint. With the main fan removed, we see a modular power supply and a massive heatsink covering the console’s SoC. The two are big enough to cover up the entire Xbox Series S motherboard, and it’s on that power supply that we find the hidden Master Chief Easter egg.

We also get to take a peek at the tiny PCIe SSD that provides the Xbox Series S with its 512GB of storage. One of the most interesting parts of Leadbetter’s teardown is when he shows us the Xbox Series X SoC side-by-side with the Xbox Series S SoC. We also get a rare look at the SoC layout for both systems thanks to diagrams that Microsoft gave to Digital Foundry.

All in all, it’s a fascinating and illuminating look into the Xbox Series S, and we get to take that look without taking apart our own consoles. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your own Xbox Series S intact because Leadbetter notes that once the cooling assembly is removed, the console will be irrevocably damaged. We’ve embedded the teardown above, so be sure to give it a watch.

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Axiom Verge 2 just got a release date surprise none of us saw coming

We were hoping for some big announcements during today’s Indie World Showcase, and that’s precisely what we got. Smack in the middle of the presentation, when no one was expecting it, Nintendo revealed the release date for Axiom Verge 2. The game, which is highly anticipated among Metroidvania fans, was first revealed during an Indie World Showcase back in 2019, so it seems only appropriate that its release date would be revealed during one as well.

Even more surprising is that the release date for Axiom Verge 2 is today. According to a tweet from the game’s developer, Tom Happ, it’s not just launching on Nintendo Switch today either, but also on PlayStation 4 and PC. The game will be launching on Xbox and PlayStation 5 at a later date.

In a follow-up tweet, Happ revealed that the game should be live on the Switch eShop and the PlayStation Store around 10 AM PDT/1 PM EDT, while it will launch on the Epic Games Store around 12 PM PDT/3 PM EDT. On PC, Axiom Verge 2 will be exclusive to the Epic Games Store, with the developers also revealing today that this is a 12-month exclusivity window for EGS.

In any case, this is definitely an exciting day if you’ve been looking forward to Axiom Verge 2. In the lead-up to this announcement, there was no indication that the game was targeting an early August release, as Happ had previously only confirmed a Q3 2021 release. So to have it get a surprise release announcement during today’s event certainly made this an Indie World Showcase worth remembering.

Axiom Verge 2 will run $19.99, which is the same price as the game that preceded it. The original is held up as one of the better Metroidvania titles around, so here’s hoping that its sequel can impress fans of the genre as well.

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‘Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice’ gets a surprise Xbox Series X/S patch

Ninja Theory has released an Xbox Series X/S optimization patch for , three years after the action-adventure game arrived on Xbox One. Along with enhanced visuals, you can take advantage of DirectX ray-tracing on your next playthrough. A PC update is also in the works, but there are no current plans for a PlayStation 5 performance patch.

The performance mode supports a dynamic resolution of up to 1080p with a maximum framerate of 120 on Xbox Series X, and full HD at 60 frames per second on Xbox Series S. The resolution mode offers up to 4K dynamic visuals on Series X at 60 fps, and up to 1440p at 30 fps on Series S. The enriched mode enables ray-tracing on both consoles at 30fps, with a dynamic resolution of up to 4K on Series X and full HD on Series S. Ninja Theory it has updated details, materials and particles, and there’s now a chapter select option.

The patch arrives ahead of , which will be exclusive to Xbox and PC. The original game debuted on PC and PlayStation 4 in 2017 before hitting Xbox One the following March. Microsoft to the Xbox Game Studios portfolio in 2018.

There’s no confirmed release window for as yet. Microsoft is promising updates on some Xbox Game Studios titles during its later this month, so perhaps we’ll find out more details then.

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Mario Golf: Super Rush gets a bunch of new content in a surprise update

Fans of Mario Golf: Super Rush got some good news this morning, as Nintendo revealed that the game is getting some new content in a free update. The update is landing later today, and not only does it add a new character, but it also adds a new course. In addition, Nintendo is dropping a Ranked Match mode with this update, giving golfers the chance to prove their skills with a ranked ladder to climb.

The new character joining the roster today is Toadette, while the new course we’re receiving is New Donk City from Super Mario Odyssey. You can see both Toadette and New Donk City in the trailer Nintendo shared today, which we’ve embedded below.

Sadly, the trailer offers only a brief glimpse at both Toadette and New Donk City, but it does reveal that Toadette’s special shot is the Super Pickax Stinger. Like many of the other special shots in the game, the Super Pickax Stinger blasts away any balls that are in its path, so it’s a good option when you have a lot of balls ahead of you and want to ruin other players’ plans.

Nintendo’s tweets also give us a look at the Ranked Match mode that will be added today. From the screenshots, it looks like players will be ranked on a standard grading scale and that achieving an A- rank or higher will allow players to pick Yoshi’s color when they play as him.

Mario Golf: Super Rush isn’t the only Nintendo game to get a free update that adds a bunch of new content. Yesterday, Nintendo delivered an update to New Pokemon Snap which adds three new courses and 20 new Pokemon to photograph. While Nintendo doesn’t give a specific launch time for this Mario Golf: Super Rush update, it does say the update launching later today, so keep an eye out for its arrival if you’re a Super Rush player.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony had a video game surprise

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have officially kicked off, albeit a year late and without live spectators. Gamers who watched the Opening Ceremony of the event and the Parade of Nations were greeted by something they probably weren’t expecting: a soundtrack filled with video game music. Many took to Twitter to call out songs they were familiar with as tracks from games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Dragon Quest played during the event.

While it was surprising at first to hear video game music at the Olympics, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. After all, Japanese studios have a long history of making games and franchises that go on to become hits worldwide, and many of those games were represented at the 2020 Olympics.

Nikkei Asia actually put together a full playlist of all the video game tracks in a thread on Twitter, and there are indeed some verified bangers on there. All of the songs come from Japanese games, with a few studios in particular well-represented on the list. With songs from Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, NieR, SaGa, and Kingdom Hearts on the list, Square Enix is arguably over-represented, if anything.

Music from games belonging to other studios is on the list as well, though perhaps not to the same level as Square Enix. We see a couple of songs from Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, while Sega has music from Sonic the Hedgehog and Phantasy Star. Other games represented in the Toyo 2020 Olympics playlist include Ace Combat, the Tales series, Gradius, and Soulcalibur.

Strangely, there’s no Nintendo music on the playlist Nikkei has put together, even though Nintendo is undoubtedly the most recognizable Japanese developer in the world. Sadly, it looks like the IOC wasn’t able to get permission to play Nintendo’s music (or just didn’t think it would be a good fit), but regardless, we’d say that the list the IOC came up with is a pretty solid representation of the Japanese games industry.

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