ZVEZDA ArmorSource: Xbox Game Studios

Halo Infinite saw an unexpected shadow drop on Monday, with developer 343 Industries announcing a surprise early launch of its multiplayer, three weeks ahead of schedule. Outlined as a part of Microsoft's 20th anniversary Xbox celebrations, Halo Infinite multiplayer has launched into early access "beta," available for free on Xbox consoles and PC.

While Halo Infinite's campaign remains on track for Dec. 8, the open beta provides a head start with its new free-to-play multiplayer offerings, including traditional arena combat and the expanded 24-player Big Team Battle mode. The game also pilots a new paid battle pass, a popular tier-based progression system among shooters, unlocking rewards as you play.

However, the Halo Infinite battle pass is slightly different from what you might see in Call of Duty or Fortnite, with its $10 entry price granting permanent access to its tiers. While you'll still need to grind XP to progress the ranks, the battle pass never expires, even with future content releases. The new 100 tier system has also replaced the traditional XP-based level system, previously commonplace among recent Halo titles.

Halo Infinite Battle Pass Heroes Of ReachSource: Windows Central

But Halo Infinite players aren't happy with the change, with battle pass progression steadily emerging as the hot topic through release. Top posts on the official /r/Halo subreddit pan the battle pass as the "worst free-to-play progression" out there, with changes to XP leaving many unable to level up the battle pass after hours in the game.

The most controversial change stems from "per-match XP," a returning concern first voiced by players during the Halo Infinite technical preview back in August. 343 Industries has opted to tie XP exclusively to challenge completions, meaning that players won't progress for completing and winning matches. Battle pass progression has proven slow for some as a result, spurring frustration among players.

"3 hours in and [I] barely managed to level up once. I know its (sic) a beta and they've talked about improving this in the future," stated said one Reddit user. "But it's just really discouraging to go out of your way to use the less effective weapons/vehicles for XP that amounts to a single grain of sand."

"Leveling the battle-pass is frustrating, completing a hard fought game only to slowly see increments of sometimes 100-200xp per challenge and nothing else," said one user in a similar Reddit post. "I really hope they implement XP for matches completed and matches won."

Halo Infinite MultiplayerSource: Xbox Game Studios

While the new battle pass hasn't gone down well, it's not the first time we've heard these concerns. 343 Industries representatives downplayed discussions back in August, stating some challenges will reward match completions, with the system making it "extremely difficult" for players to run out of challenges to grind. While that might be the case, the challenge-centric approach has proven controversial, forcing players into specific playstyles to earn new unlocks.

Halo Infinite's progression isn't a massive departure from some earlier Halo games, with players rewarded new cosmetics upon hitting various XP thresholds. However, players have found progression slow with the new system, in some cases achieving no progress for completing matches. This battle pass is now expected to last half a year, with Halo Infinite's next major update slated for May 2022, but it's left many frustrated from day one.

New "Challenge Swaps" are one way to bypass challenges, one-time-use consumables obtained via the battle pass, rotating out one set of requirements for another. However, players are limited to only a few free challenge swaps, with more available for purchase via Halo Infinite's shop using real-world money.

With no traditional XP-based ranking system also available from launch, current frustrations appear to stem from the current implementation of the battle pass. The progression system isn't hugely different from past iterations, albeit this time no longer public-facing and packaged up with a $10 price tag. While there are some tips to level up the battle pass fast, with no guarantee of earning XP every time you play, it could be a long grind ahead to tier 100.