Halo Infinite's latest mode proves we need a Halo battle royale

Halo Infinite Lone Wolves
Halo Infinite Lone Wolves (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Halo Infinite entered its second season on Tuesday, accompanied by the most extensive update to its free-to-play multiplayer suite since launch. Season 2, embracing the "Lone Wolves" theme, introduces two new maps and various accompanying game types, including a high stakes deathmatch mode, Last Spartan Standing. The addition has quickly become a highlight of the latest season, offering a new experience faithful to the classic Halo formula.

Last Spartan Standing draws clear inspiration from the battle royale craze sweeping the gaming industry, albeit on a smaller scale with just 12 players for now. It's a fight to be the sole survivor in an ever-shrinking play zone, encouraging a slower, methodical approach to some encounters. The mode builds upon the same mechanics used in last season's Attrition mode, now configured as a free-for-all.

Halo Infinite Last Spartan Standing

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

But despite the similarities, Last Spartan Standing isn't the usual battle royale derivation. It's debatable whether the mode constitutes a battle royale, given its forgiving ruleset, allowing for up to five respawns per play. Looting is also absent, a staple among many popular games. Instead, the mode rewards points for each kill, progressing toward new weapon "levels" akin to Gun Game from Call of Duty. It's previously been discussed as battle royale lite, which probably best describes what's on offer here.

Differences aside, Last Spartan Standing evokes the same heart-pounding action which has fuelled battle royale juggernauts to date. The gameplay revolves around the same fundamental pillars, rewarding those who get well-equipped early on, with tension building to a climax in the final minutes. While it's a shame those moments are short-lived with just 12 players, and some small balancing tweaks would go a long way, it's a glimpse at what Halo could bring to the setting.

Halo Infinite Last Spartan Standing

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Like earlier entries, the Halo Infinite sandbox is a defining trait of its multiplayer. The franchise has gained a reputation for tying its arcade shooting with vehicular combat and crazy physics, elevating modes like Big Team Battle as staples of the series. It's always clear the Halo sandbox could work well at an even larger scale, even if 343 Industries has kept its distance to date.

Last Spartan Standing marks the first time 343 Industries has explored battle royale, despite its previous aversion to the formula. It's denied plans to touch the mode since the early days, reaffirming its commitment to classic Halo gameplay. "The only BR we're really interested in is Battle Rifle... the original BR," 343 Industries writer Jeff Easterling stated in a 2018 stream.

Halo Infinite has since launched sans battle royale, bucking the trend, while Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone draw millions with their respective modes. Halo's success in the space isn't guaranteed — many battle royale games have come and gone — but it's hard to deny its potential. Last Spartan Standing tests the waters for what that could look like, especially amid reports of an actual battle royale project.

Halo Infinite Last Spartan Standing

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

We previously reported that 343 Industries has enlisted aid from Austin, TX-based Certain Affinity on an unannounced mode for Halo Infinite codenamed Tatanka. The duo has since announced it's "deepening" its relationship with 343 Industries for what's believed to be a battle royale experience, using the existing Halo Infinite sandbox as its foundation. Development on Tatanka started back in spring 2020, with a launch potentially set for later in 2022.

Various references to Tatanka have surfaced following our reports, suggesting the mode will take that next step for a true battle royale offering. Twitter user @leaks_infinite has posted various information obtained from game files, indicating a higher player count, with expanded looting and various "operations" littered throughout the map. The mode could also adopt player-versus-player-versus-environment (PvPvE) combat, putting players against real and AI-controlled foes, with support for two and four-player fireteams.

Tatanka's final form remains to be seen, though Halo comes with various avenues to explore. The addition of Last Spartan Standing has made it clear Halo Infinite has value to bring to the table, leaving an opening for a full-fledged mode. While in some ways Last Spartan Standing feels like an afterthought, working around Halo Infinite's existing custom game tools, it's a clear proof of concept for what could be a much larger endeavor. Halo has an opportunity to break into the space — we just need Microsoft to back Halo Infinite with the necessary resources to support such a live service at scale.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.