The second season of Halo Infinite, titled Lone Wolves, launched last week, and since then the Halo community has been rife with commentary and criticisms. As with all things Halo, this is to be expected, as if there’s one thing all of us agree on, it’s that we can’t all agree. This has been true since the early days where arguments raged daily on the Bungie.net forums about every specific mechanic you can think of.
So with tens of hours into Infinite over the past week, including finishing the Interference event and hitting Onyx in Ranked again, I wanted to share my thoughts on the state of Halo Infinite and where I feel the game is heading over the next few months. Let’s drop in.
Content, Content, Content
The most prevalent criticism throughout the community has been the lack, or the speed of delivery, of new content. I’ve talked about this extensively, so I’m not going to rehash it all again. But I would venture to say that most in the community agree that 343 Industries needs to deliver fresh content at a better cadence. In fact, 343 themselves agree as well, with Joseph Staten stating as much. Putting that aside for now, let’s detail exactly what has been delivered with the Lone Wolves update.
- New 100 level Battle Pass with a revised range of rewards
- Two new maps
- Catalyst for Arena/Ranked
- Breaker for Big Team Battle
- New game mode Last Spartan Standing
- New game mode King of the Hill
- Attrition brought back for Quick Play rotation
- Rumble Pit playlist added
- Interference event for the initial two weeks (May 3rd through May 16th)
- Includes new armor add-ons, cosmetics, and narrative cinematics
Now, if you’re close to Halo you knew all of this was coming as 343 has generally been very transparent in their communication. So I think any reasonable player understood going in that season 2 wasn’t going to be some “game-changing” experience that would fundamentally alter the state of Infinite. Rather, it injects some freshness for players who might’ve felt the initial offering had grown stale. And in that vein, I’ve been quite pleased.
Last Spartan Standing is a unique combination of mechanics from modes like Battle Royale and Gun Game. I think the mode has a lot of promise, but I’d personally like to see some changes to it. First, active camo and overshields are far too integral to winning right now with them appearing too often. I’m also a little torn on the “Gun Game” aspect of the mode. One of the most fun aspects of Battle Royales (or similar modes) is randomized pickups, as it makes every game unique. As it stands currently, each match is too similar with limited weaponry and too little of the Halo sandbox being utilized.
The new maps, meanwhile, are generally excellent. Catalyst has a lot of throwbacks in its design, thus giving it a very “classic” Halo feel. It’s a pretty large map for Ranked play with long sightlines and interesting movement paths, so I’ll be interested to see how it evolves in pro-play in the coming months. For Big Team Battle, Breaker is a fantastic addition. It has unique mechanics and is supportive of a wide-range of play styles and game modes.
Season 2’s Battle Pass not only offers a fresh 100 unlocks, but it has also been improved since season 1 based on player feedback. It now includes the ability to earn back the 1,000 credits you have to spend for the premium path, includes more free unlockables, and contains less “filler,” such as experience boosts and challenge swaps. While challenges are still handled the same way as of this writing (and still need improving), I like a lot of the content in the Lone Wolves Battle Pass. And let’s not forget that if you bought the premium track for season 1’s pass, you can still unlock those items as well.
Of particular note is level 50’s unlock, which is a new Banished A.I. named Iratus. According to the in-game cinematics accompanying season 2, Iratus is the first Banished A.I. that has been discovered and will play a role in upcoming multiplayer story beats.
The in-game multiplayer cinematics tie to season 2’s first event, titled “Interference.” This is yet another free, ten-level Battle Pass that features armor pieces for the new Rakasha armor core, along with a few additional cosmetic unlocks. I really enjoy the fact that season 2 launched with not only a new 100-level Battle Pass, but a new event simultaneously. Going forward, I’d like to see event challenges be able to be completed outside of a set game mode, however. Forcing people to play specific modes they may not enjoy is never a good idea.
With regard to game modes, I was a little hesitant when I heard King of the Hill was returning. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of KOTH in Halo, as they typically become messy, grenade-spam fests. In Infinite, I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve been liking it. Taking a cue from modes like Strongholds and Total Control, I believe the contrasting team meters combined with a three-ring requirement to win (four in ranked) provides room for a lot of tension. That should also translate to great viewing when watching high-level play.
It’s nice to see Attrition back in the mix for Quick Play as well. I hope they continue to move more and more game modes into the general mix permanently as time goes on.
What I’m most excited about, though, is what’s yet to come in season 2. Thanks to the road map and some interviews, we know that another new game mode is on the horizon in Land Grab. We also know that there are additional events coming, including the next Fracture later this month, which will add yet another armor core to the rotation. In terms of further additions coming during season 2, there’s always the possibility that 343 will add additional maps and/or modes mid-season.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect for Halo fans, though, is that the Forge open beta (featuring the full suite of tools) is also coming during season 2. While we don’t know the full details of its implementation yet, let’s hope that a custom game browser similar to Halo 5 is on deck.
What’s also exciting is what’s not been explicitly said by 343 Industries to date. Of course, I’m referring to the “Battle Royale” mode (I use quotes as what I’m hearing is that it will be a unique take) being developed in coordination with Certain Affinity.
While we don’t have full details nor a date at this point, it immediately raised suspicion that the season 2 road map had plans through September, but nothing showing for June.
The teaser that abruptly interrupted 343 Industries’ season 2 livestream ending up providing two specific dates. The first was May 3rd, which is when season 2 launched. The second was June 14th. With the Xbox and Bethesda showcase now set for Sunday June 12th, it begs the question as to what could be releasing for Halo that Tuesday, June 14th. Many of us are speculating that it could be the beta or first test of the new mode from Certain Affinity. Fingers crossed.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Perhaps the largest issues with season 2 are not content related at all. Instead, they are some frustrating bugs that were introduced alongside the removal of aspects that were not communicated prior to launch.
Bugs can rear their ugly heads with any release, and I think that’s understood by the general community. However, the most egregious bug in season 2 so far is the “gun jam” bug which has made me lose my mind on quite a few occasions so far. If you’re unaware, the bug will intermittently cause a semi-auto weapon not to fire when you pull the trigger. In a game where shot timing and kill-shots are so critical, it can be maddening. This is especially true in ranked, where a single BR burst is typically the difference between losing and winning a battle.
Barring that issue, I’ve been enjoying my Ranked experience so far in season 2. I managed to achieve Onyx rank over the past week and have put quite a few hours in, already. I like the additions of Catalyst and King of the Hill to Ranked as they add some much needed variety to the rotation. I can also see Capture the Flag on Catalyst being one of the premiere matches in HCS and high-level play going forward.
The biggest mystery in season 2’s update, though, was the removal of a number of skill jumps throughout the maps. For the uninitiated, skill jumps are locations on the maps where the geometry allows a player to maneuver in a very specific way. These often allow high-skill players to take shortcuts, thus opening additional pathways in maps and allowing for highlight-worthy plays. While the vast majority of Infinite’s playerbase won’t be concerned with such things, they are an integral part of high-level Ranked play and the pro-leagues.
As they take time to learn and master, and are used heavily in these matches, including the HCS, it’s rather dumbfounding that 343 would remove a number of these without any warning whatsoever. It’s exceedingly clear that pro players are upset with this decision, with many taking to social media to express their frustrations. While I’ve praised 343 for their transparency and communication many times, this one is baffling. I hope 343 discusses this more broadly soon.
Of course, I also hope that the “drop pods” that have been discussed will address some of the long-standing issues such as de-sync, melee registration, and the like.
We’ve talked about it rather extensively here at SG, but live-service games are challenging for developers. Moving Halo to live-service was always going to come with some bumps along the way. I personally believe 343 has done quite well given the circumstances, but there is obvious room for improvement. Let’s hope they continue to take feedback to heart and surprise us this summer. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy season 2’s content.