Repeated Halo Infinite controversies are getting old
Controversial decisions and delays don't make me excited to dive in.
Despite its status as the flagship series for Xbox and the franchise that originally put that console on the map, Halo has struggled to remain relevant in the first-person shooter space following the success of Halo: Reach in 2010. Both Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians featured controversial changes such as intrinsic advanced movement abilities, a less diverse sandbox, and gameplay-altering microtransactions that many fans felt were contradictory to the core of what made Halo great. As a result, both games were largely overshadowed by other titles.
With Halo Infinite, Microsoft and 343 Industries are looking to propel Halo back to its former glory with an expansive semi-open world campaign, a free-to-play multiplayer suite with a brand new customization system, seasonal Battle Pass offerings, and sandbox-focused gameplay that returns the series to its roots. Yet, despite the exciting potential that Halo Infinite has, I can't help but feel a twinge of disappointment about many of the caveats that we know the game will have.
The lack of co-op and Forge is painful
Arguably the biggest downside with the game is that Halo Infinite won't have co-op campaign and Forge at launch. These two features are a core part of what used to make the series so popular, and co-op in particular has been an integral part of the Halo experience since Halo: Combat Evolved launched in 2001. Playing through each Halo game as they release has become something of a tradition for my friends and I over the years, but with Halo Infinite, we won't be able to do that for three months after release. I'm sure I'll enjoy playing through the campaign by myself, but it's arguably unacceptable that a new Halo game is launching without a feature it has always had at launch since the beginning of the series.
The lack of Forge will also make it extremely difficult for a custom games community to form around Halo Infinite when it comes out, mainly because the feature isn't going to be added for at least six months post-release. Without the ability to make custom maps for fan-favorite custom game modes like Duck Hunt, Garbage Man, and Speed Halo, everyone will be forced to stick to Halo Infinite's vanilla maps, which cuts out a large part of what makes Custom Games special. As someone who loves playing community-made game modes on creative Forge maps, learning that Forge won't be in Halo Infinite for half a year was a real hype-killer.
A controversial customization system
Another drawback is within the Halo Infinite coating system, which allows players to earn and use "coatings" — a combination of colors, textures, and patterns — to customize their armor, weapons, and vehicles. There's a lot of cool new stuff that you'll be able to do with coatings, such as add wear-and-tear to your gear, but the big downside to coatings is that you won't be able to customize your Spartan's armor color freely like you could in previous Halo games.
The coatings available in the first Halo Infinite beta test suggest that players will at least be given a default spread of coatings with basic colors to choose from, but players won't have the opportunity to customize their colors on a deeper level without also having to use the alternate textures and patterns built into many of the game's coatings. Fans have suggested separating coatings from colors so that players can use them without having to change their preferred armor color, but the developers have stated that this isn't a possibility. I don't doubt that coatings will offer some really cool options to players, but the fact that we don't get to customize our Spartan's colors separately is a huge tradeoff.
An unnecessary change to progression
Recently, 343 Industries also announced that Halo Infinite Battle Pass progression will be limited to challenges, preventing fans from accruing experience and leveling up their Battle Pass by simply completing matches as you could do in Reach, Halo 4, and Halo 5. The developers since confirmed that some challenges will require players to simply complete games, but based on what we saw during the first technical preview, we also know that there will be plenty of challenges with objectives like getting kills with specific weapons or finishing matches of a specified game mode.
The community's response to this news was overwhelmingly negative. Countless fans cited concerns about the system being designed to get players to buy the Challenge Swap microtransactions seen in the beta, forcing people to play a specific way to make progress, and that progression overall might be extremely difficult for new and low-skill players that struggle to do well in multiplayer. In the end, the developers caved, confirming that challenges requiring match completions would perpetually refresh after every game.
I'm glad the developers addressed the issue so quickly, but it's baffling to me that the developers thought moving ahead with this change was a good idea in the first place. It fills me with concerns about what else they think is a "good" idea going into the full game.
Will everything in Halo Infinite have a caveat?
Ultimately, it feels like everything coming in Halo Infinite has a drawback. It will have the franchise's most ambitious campaign and Forge mode yet, but you won't be able to enjoy the campaign with friends or use Forge until several months after launch. The customization system will allow you to personalize your armor in awesome new ways, but you can't change your Spartan's colors freely. Each seasonal Halo Infinite Battle Pass will offer plenty of cool cosmetics to earn, but progression may be heavily tilted towards challenges that may or may not be fun for your playstyle, despite the addition of progression for match completions.
At a time where competing multiplayer titles like Battlefield 2042 are offering players more features and content than ever before, the last thing Halo Infinite needs to do is make it feel like there's a downside to every part of the experience. I want to be excited to play Halo Infinite, but thanks to the absence of co-op and Forge at launch, the restrictions of the coating system, and the muddled messaging around Battle Pass XP, I'm left feeling overly concerned about the game (it doesn't help that the developers haven't shown the campaign at all since 2020, either).
If Microsoft and 343 Industries want Halo Infinite to put Halo back on the map, then the game needs to offer players new and exciting things without cutting or delaying features that are core to the franchise.
What do you think? Do you agree with me that the frequent bad news about Halo Infinite is frustrating? Let me know. I hope that it ends up being one of the best Xbox games available, but a lot of my previous hype is gone, to the point where I'm not even going to preorder Halo Infinite like I usually do with new Halo games.
The next adventure in the saga
A new Great Journey awaits
Halo Infinite will hopefully be an incredible game filled with wonder, adventure, and more. Based on the beta and what was seen at E3 2021, we can't wait for the full release... although we're saddened to learn that some features will be absent at launch.
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Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.