On November 9th, 2004, Halo 2 launched for the Xbox console. After the runaway success of Halo: Combat Evolved, the sequel changed the world of multiplayer gaming forever. Bringing Halo to Xbox Live opened up a new world of FPS gaming. It wasn’t just the marquee game of the 2004 calendar year but the marquee franchise for several console generations.
Nearly 18 years to the date later, Halo Infinite’s Winter Update was released. With it came several key features that were held back from the game’s 2021 launch: Network (not local) Co-Op and the beta for Forge. When reviewing Halo Infinite, I enjoyed my time with the single-player campaign and multiplayer modes. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were incomplete games. Finally, a year later, we get what appears to be the finished product, but I’m not sure if it matters.
We’re a Long Way From the Glory Days of Halo
Part of what made Halo so special was its amazing replayability. For some, like myself, friendships and core gaming memories were formed through playing the single-player campaign in split-screen co-op. It absolutely helps that Halo’s difficulty on Legendary, unforgettable characters, and strong storytelling help in this replayability. Still, it’s the gameplay that truly shines through, and being able to join a friend in the campaign makes it even better.
Unfortunately, we’re a long way from the days of the original Halo trilogy. 343 Industries hasn’t had the greatest track record regarding the franchise’s narrative. Sadly, Infinite was no exception. It’s not the worst, but it’s not the best. Being able to jump in with a friend and enjoy the Halo Infinite sandbox will be a blast, provided you’re doing it online. The issue here, though, is that I’m not sure how appealing that will be. Halo is a series known for well-designed levels and varied biomes. None of that is on display in Infinite; it has more in common with open-world Ubisoft games than the Bungie Halo titles.
When you make it hard to get excited about replaying content, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been waiting to play co-op. Adding the additional barrier to entry with cooperative play being online only makes it even more frustrating.
Until recently, multiplayer was the only way to play Halo Infinite with friends. In all honesty, this was the superior product; Infinite’s multiplayer was superior to the campaign. When I first dove into my matches, I couldn’t get enough of it. It looked and felt like an old-school, traditional Halo multiplayer match with modern influence. Big Team Battle is fun and chaotic. Smaller scale matches offered a wonderful blend of intimacy and enjoyment. Yet it still suffered from a lack of content.
It’s No Secret That Halo Infinite Launched as an Incomplete Product
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer was, like the single-player, an incomplete product. It wasn’t as noticeable, however, because there was still plenty of enjoyment to be found. The free-to-play release model did well to hide its flaws, too.
What helps to make Halo 2 and Halo 3 so fresh and enjoyable is the combination of content in maps and gameplay modes with perfection in level design. This coupled with the landscape of multiplayer shooters at the time, was a recipe for success on the Xbox and Xbox 360. Times have changed, though. We’ve evolved since the 2000s, but Halo hasn’t.
No matter how good of a job they’re doing, it’s still a long way to climb, and gamers are notoriously impatient. Interest in Halo felt like it was at an all-time high leading up to the release of Infinite. Yet the complete fumbling of the launch is mind-boggling. There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in developmental issues. This has happened across the entire industry. Yet why not make the conscious decision to delay the game? You already did it once, wouldn’t the best decision for the long-term health of the game, and earnings report, be to ensure you’re shipping a somewhat completed package?
The Timing of the Winter Updcouldn’Tdn’t Be Worse
Forge mode is finally here, in beta form, but here nonetheless. People were ripe with ideas, dreams, and desires to create at launch. One year later, are they still there?
Halo Infinite multiplayer ran thin like 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront did: the more you play the game, the more you repeat the same maps and mo es. Before you realize it, everything becomes stale and repetitive.
The most obvious and glaring weakness is the lack of a Battle Royale mode. There are rumors that we’ll finally see one come mid-2023, but Xbox will have bigger and better things on the horizon. What do you think will get more publicity in 2023: A Halo Battle Royale, or Starfield, the first new IP from Bethesda Game Studios in ages?
Launching a Battle Royale when you’re going to acquire one of the biggest publishers in gaming seems like a great way to get lost in the shuffle. That would be like releasing your big content update during the launch window of a mega-franchise before the release of its newest Battle Royale map. Surely that wouldn’t be the—