Editor’s Choice: 5 Elements Halo Infinite Needs To Bring Back

Level Select Isn't Just a Feature, It's Essential
| January 16, 2022

It’s the circle of life: Halo Infinite is enjoying its time in the spotlight, while Halo 3‘s original servers were retired this week. But 343 Industries’ latest offering cannot yet rest on its laurels, while these elements from earlier games are still missing.

Things were rocky for a while, but Halo Infinite arrived on Xbox consoles in two stages at the end of 2021—its multiplayer beta in November, and its campaign in December. Though Craig had us all worried after E3 2020, the final product has shaped up pretty well, and Halo is back, baby.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done. By some metrics and series standards, Halo Infinite isn’t exactly a complete game at the moment. While the majority of fans are happy to have a new experience to sink their teeth into, there’s still work to be done—and in this, 343 Industries should take a closer look back at the series’ foundation for inspiration. Here are five past elements that would help improve Halo Infinite:

Compared To Bungie'S Prime, Halo Infinite'S Physical Offerings Were Pitiful.
Compared to Bungie’s prime, Halo Infinite‘s physical offerings were pitiful. (Microsoft)

5) A Substantial Physical Product

This ship has unfortunately sailed already, and never really stood a chance, but it bears mentioning that Halo Infinite had an incredibly understated physical launch. There was a “Collector’s Steelbook” edition that barely felt like even a token effort—it’s simply a steelbook, with 99% of the same artwork as the standard edition. It makes sense from Microsoft’s current MO, focused as it is on Game Pass, but it also betrays the series’ long-standing tradition of special editions.

Physical products and collector editions are becoming a lost art, but they had previously peaked alongside Halo in the late-aughts. Bungie’s best outings for the series were accompanied by some truly choice upgrades: Halo Reach had two extra versions including replicas of game-world assets, like the journal of Dr. Halsey, while Halo Wars and Halo 3 were packaged with art books or bonus discs in special packaging that truly stood out on your shelf. The lack of effort on this instalment is a sign of the times, yet no less disappointing.

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4) Multiplayer Campaign

If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a Halo game launches without co-op in its story mode, is it truly a Halo game? These questions have plagued philosophers since time immemorial.

Granted, we do know this feature is expected to arrive for the game’s next season, but the current lack of multiplayer in the campaign has put an undeniable damper on its launch. Like many players, I made plans to meet a friend online and dip into the new story; neither of us was overly enthused to check it out, but we were looking for a new co-op experience, and Halo Infinite‘s inclusion on Game Pass seemed an appealing way to pass a couple evenings. However, we had to settle for multiplayer instead.

Side Note: 343 Did A Great Job Of Balancing The Power Sword In This Installment.
Side note: 343 did a great job of balancing the Power Sword in this installment. (Microsoft)

3) Assassinations

There’s a fierce divide between fans as to which reigns supreme, Halo 3 or Halo Reach. The latter had incredibly solid multiplayer, however, and one of the hallmarks it added was assassinations. Instead of simply elbowing your opponents when you catch them from behind, a short animation would show you dispatching them with a little more style. A small thing, but with a bevy of different animations that would trigger in unique contexts, it added a little more character to battles between faceless soldiers in power suits. It was also a strategic choice—go for the glory of a short animation, or play it safe and avoid leaving yourself exposed during the stage.

Melee attacks are still instant-kills from behind in Halo Infinite, just without any special animations. Their absence may have a debatable impact on gameplay and strategy, but it also contributes to the overall feeling of “incompletion” that I can’t shake. After being delayed a full year, this new Halo still feels like it’s baking.

Halo Infinite is currently populated with a lot of plain grey Spartans (cat ears aside).

2) Better Armour Customization (Without Core Exclusivity)

Samus Aran, Grey Fox, and Master Chief all agree: power armour is cool. It’s certainly played a role in making Halo and its main hero a household name, and unlocking new components has incentivized hordes of players to grind away at each game’s challenges. But the soul just isn’t here in Halo Infinite‘s armour options.

The first problem stems from the use of “armour cores.” These allow you to customize different models of Spartan MJOLNIR armour, currently from three different lines—Mark VII, the default; Mark V, exclusive to the Battle Pass; and Yoroi, a samurai-themed set unlocked in limited-time events. You can customize each core you have and swap between them on the main menu. Sounds fine in theory.

However, the majority of the unlockable components for each are locked. Want that nice helmet you saw in the menu? You either need to make a considerable amount of progress on the Battle Pass to unlock it, or pay for it outright from the shop’s rotating inventory. Most components simply say “stay tuned for more details” in their unlock conditions. And each component is also locked to its respective armour core. This makes sense for the Yoroi core’s theme, but to an extent, shouldn’t there be some crossover between the Mark V and VII?

Worse still are the colour schemes. Given the series’ history, you’d expect to at least be able to customize your aesthetic in this regard. But once again, each core has its own colour palette. You slap one scheme on all your armour, and that’s it. There’s a sampling of default “Cadet” colours, but anything unique—like the vibrant Platinum Anniversary coating given to the earliest players—is tied to its specific core. So, after buckling down to earn the Yoroi core, I found I could only use it in a flat, boring grey tone.

Besides that, the current selection of helmets is depressingly thin. It feels like the series peaked in this department back in Halo 3, and Halo Infinite is barely even trying to recapture that lightning in a new bottle. There are one or two recognizable variants, like the skull-painted EVA, but only if you can grind enough or pay to unlock them. (I’ll settle for the cat ear attachments for now—my new hobby is looking ridiculous in match intros/outros.)

Halo Infinite Needs To Reprioritize Fun Over Battle Pass Grinding.
Halo Infinite needs to reprioritize fun over battle pass grinding. (Microsoft)

1) Take Your Eyes Off the Battle Pass, Rediscover the Fun

Alright, Halo Infinite, you see your friends Destiny 2 and Fortnite having battle passes, and you want in on the game too—I get it, that’s fine, it’s the way of the industry these days. But this particular buy-in program has been implemented so far in a way that is incredibly discouraging, if not exploitative or insulting to players.

Check out the list of Battle Pass rewards, and you’ll find plenty of XP Boost or Challenge Swap tokens, with some basic cosmetic add-ons sprinkled throughout—admirably, some are even available without paying in. It’s all very back-loaded, with the most desired items in the upper echelons with hardly any enticing carrots placed along the way to goad you down the path. And again, there’s a strong bias to the Mark V, the pass-exclusive core, including colour schemes.

There’s some merit in keeping certain items exclusive to certain armours. But to lock something as basic as colours behind paywalls is a huge disservice, when this used to be the most basic of customization options in previous games.

We can learn to live with battle passes intruding into our play experience. But fundamentally, there’s a certain spark missing in the multiplayer so far. How many Halo 3 veterans can still regale you with tales of flipping elephants, or other infamous hijinks? There’s nothing in Halo Infinite that inspires that level of buckwild comradery, just by-the-book FPS combat. And when you need to grind this hard to unlock fairly rudimentary customization options, you need something like that levity to keep you motivated.

There are some Grunts lodged in the machinery, but despite these let-downs, Halo Infinite currently has me coming back around every few days to see what’s up—which is impressive, given how I’d all but given up on the series after Halo 4. Our eyes will be on it as 343 Industries continues to update it and the seasons roll on.

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