It’s been a long, arduous journey for Halo Infinite. First announced at E3 2018, the game has faced a series of delays, reports of behind-the-scenes drama, and plenty of criticism after its underwhelming unveiling last July. Hitting the stage at E3 2021, 343 Industries had something to prove: is Halo Infinite truly the future of the beloved shooter series or a misstep for the studio?
During the Xbox and Bethesda conference, 343 not only shied away from showing another scripted gameplay demo but chose not to announce a release date for the game. A short cinematic trailer introducing the campaign’s story and a sizzle reel highlighting the multiplayer component were the extent of 343’s time on the stage. At the moment, Halo Infinite is still labeled as a “Holiday 2020” game.
Whether this will be enough to change the perception around Halo Infinite as a troubled sequel remains to be seen, but one thing that is sure to excite fans is the reveal that the game’s multiplayer will be free-to-play for all Xbox and PC users, with cross-play and cross-progression enabled between the platforms. This easily makes Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer the most accessible in the franchise’s history, and it could turn out to be a perfect jumping on point for new players who are still on the fence.
The multiplayer will get seasonal updates, the first of which is called “Heroes of Reach.” Each seasonal drop will bring new maps, modes, and customization options to the game, including the Yoroi Spartan armor featured in the trailer below:
A mix of old and new is front and center in the sizzle reel. We see new versions of the Assault Rifle, Battle Rifle, Needler, and others as well as the classic Warthog and Ghost vehicles across a few new maps, including one that looks just like Halo 3‘s classic Valhalla. Big team battle, anyone? Speaking of classic match types, Slayer, Capture the Flag, and Oddball all seem to be accounted for.
But what about new modes? If there’s one multiplayer mode Halo fans have been talking about since Halo Infinite was first announced, it’s battle royale. Since 2018, most of Halo‘s major competitors in the AAA shooter space, including Call of Duty and Battlefield, have released their versions of the uber-popular PvP survival match type. So will Halo follow suit? We can only speculate.
The fact that Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is going to be free-to-play certainly leaves the door open for the battle royale business model, which allows gamers to play the mode for free while also enticing them to buy new skins, accessories, maps, and operators to personalize their experience. Seasonal updates are also pivotal to a battle royale, adding new modes, in-game events, challenges, and cosmetics to what is otherwise essentially a Groundhog Day-like experience where you play and die on the same map over and over for months.
In short, the infrastructure for implementing a battle royale mode to the game is certainly there, not to mention that Halo as a franchise was experimenting with multi-team PvP match types more than a decade before battle royale was even a thing. The series has also long featured Big Team Battle, a match type with higher player counts than your usual Deathmatch format.
Could 343 translate that history into something on a much bigger scale, adding the modern design flourishes needed for the mode while also retaining what makes Halo unique (such as the superhuman abilities of Spartans)? A Halo battle royale mode could at the very least entice younger players who’ve grown up with Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone to try the sci-fi shooter, which, let’s face it, isn’t quite in its golden age anymore.
But over the years, 343 has said it’s not interested. A month after Halo Infinite was first revealed, Halo franchise writer Jeff Easterling famously shot down rumors that battle royale was coming to the game, saying “I’ll tell you right now, the only BR we’re interested in is Battle Rifle.” Halo franchise development director Frank O’Connor reiterated again in 2019 that the game would not launch with a battle royale mode.
There are also those fans who have criticized 343 for chasing trends in the past. Additions like the ability to sprint (a modern shooter necessity, in my opinion) and aiming down sights in Halo 4 and Halo 5 were not universally welcomed despite them becoming standard gameplay features in other FPS games, such as Call of Duty. After being criticized for straying too far from classic Halo, would 343 really want to rock the boat by embracing yet another trend hardcore fans might not like?
It’s a tricky situation to be sure, one fans will likely continue to debate about as the game approaches its launch. As far as that’s concerned, Halo Infinite will be available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC as well as Xbox Game Pass this holiday.