I’m one of the few people who never gave up on Halo Infinite amid its few highs and very abundant lows.
Since the game’s release back in November 2021, I’ve put countless hours into the shooter — in fact, I’ve probably played Halo Infinite more than any game ever (32 days, 3 hours and 34 minutes, to be precise). For a long-time Halo player like myself, the game strikes the perfect rock-paper-scissors balance: modern first-person shooter mechanics like sliding and sprinting, coupled with that classic Halo combat feel and weapons I’ve been missing since Halo 3 (and, of course, the triumphant return of the Battle Rifle).
But sticking with the game hasn’t always been easy, especially in the early days.
Content Seasons have been lacklustre and extremely delayed, with Season 3 being pushed back from November 2022 to March 2023 so 343 Industries could create a more consistent content pipeline for the free-to-play title. Instead, last December, we got Forge, Infinite‘s map builder, online campaign co-op and the ability to replay single-player missions (I can’t believe that wasn’t a launch feature).
Before this update, there was nearly no new content in Halo Infinite for roughly six months.
Next, 343 Industries was hit with layoffs, including the departure of head of creative Joseph Staten, who was widely viewed as being brought in to save the franchise, alongside creative director Frank O’Connor and the head of all things transmedia (including the awful Paramount+ TV show), Kiki Wolfkill, also leaving the studio. At the time, speculation ran rampant, with YouTubers creating videos with headlines like ‘Halo Infinite Is Over,‘ ‘This is PROOF 343 Hates Halo and its Community,’ and my personal favourite, ‘Halo Season 4 Battle Pass Stinks of Dead Franchise.’
The future was grim, and many wanted Infinite dropped in favour of development attention being focused on the Halo battle royale title that’s long been rumoured to be in development.
But in the months since, new maps like Oasis, Escalation and more have arrived. A new weapon, the M392 Bandit and the Shroud Screen also hit the game, adding a much-needed dose of variety to its core gameplay (though the initial version of the Bandit was awful). Forge maps also slowly snuck their way into matchmaking, giving content-starved Halo Infinite players new battlefields to kill each other on. Even a Career Rank progression system arrived.
Slowly but steadily, Halo Infinite has started to feel like the game that should have launched two years ago.
Fast-forward to now, and Season 5 is here, bringing with it very cool Flood-inspired customization options just in time for Halloween, new maps, the return of Halo 4‘s ‘Extraction’ game type, the groundwork for the return of Firefight with AI enemies in Forge, and most importantly, an updated version of the M392 Bandit called the Bandit Evo, a weapon that’s fundamentally changed Ranked matchmaking.
— Patrick O’Rourke (@Patrick_ORourke) October 20, 2023
Do I think the Bandit Evo should be Infinite’s Ranked starting weapon? No. For me, Halo ranked play is the BR — there’s nothing better than four-shotting someone in the head and earning a Perfect medal.
Still, even I can acknowledge that there’s a higher skill ceiling with the Bandit Evo. Accuracy, strafing and movement are far more important in ranked than they were with BR starts, and even if older Halo players like me prefer the BR, this change is good for the broader game. Not everything in gaming needs to cater to older gamers like me. Plus, old guys like me are getting a dedicated ‘Halo 3 Refueled’ playlist full of Halo 3 Forge map remakes on November 14th.
One nostalgia-powered playlist – Halo 3 Refueled drops November 14!
Bringing eight Halo 3-themed maps, including a MTN Dew-themed map:
🥤 Critical Dewpoint
🕳️ The Pit
🪨 High Ground
✈️ Banished Narrows
Game Fuel returns with a… pic.twitter.com/ji0PVFEp8MADVERTISEMENT
— Halo (@Halo) October 19, 2023
Looking to the future, several lengthy events are coming alongside new game types and equipment. In many ways, Halo Infinite offers the best Halo multiplayer since 343 Industries’ took over the series, surpassing Halo 4 and Halo 5 by a wide margin. I’d even argue it’s far better than Bungie’s last Halo multiplayer effort, Halo Reach.
While there’s been a moderate increase in player count on Xbox and PC, the series’ active player numbers still aren’t great. And I get it — Halo Infinite‘s fall from grace is one of the worst the gaming industry has seen, burning long-time fans of the franchise and killing off the groundswell of hype surrounding the series’ return.
Squad wipe 🔫. pic.twitter.com/LkajYAJ72J
— Patrick O’Rourke (@Patrick_ORourke) September 28, 2023
Only hardcore fans like myself stuck it out in those dark months.
But if you can look past 343 Industries’ several missteps and appreciate Halo Infinite for what it is now, it’s slowly become one of the best arena shooters out there. If you’ve been thinking about diving back into Infinite, now is the time.
Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is free-to-play on Xbox consoles and PC.
Image credit: 343 Industries
…. to be continued
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