Xbox, with the utmost gall, shadow-dropped Halo Infinite early. To almost no one's surprise, it's fun. Halo Infinite, which is free for anyone on Xbox and PC, is also a smash hit with over 200,000 players online at one time on Steam alone.
Despite such a huge success, fans are growing upset over Infinite's lackluster Battle Pass progression system. It sucks.
The early release comes in the form of a beta, but this is virtually the "launch" of Halo Infinite's multiplayer. 343 Industries managed to perfect many of the systems that make Halo multiplayer good: gunplay, movement, maps, and time-to-kill have all been finely tuned to make for one of the most solid first-person-shooter experiences of the year. So what's wrong with Infinite's progression?
For starters, Halo Infinite hardly has a "progression" system at all. The only form of "rank" comes from Infinite's Battle Pass system, an industry standard that provides players with rewards for their time playing each season. Halo Infinite's first season, "Season 1: Heroes of Reach," consists of many genuinely cool armor pieces -- including individual sets for each Noble team member. The caveat here is that the Battle Pass costs $10, which is fair considering Halo Infinite's multiplayer is otherwise free-to-play. The second cost is your time. A lot of time.
Leveling Through Challenges
When the only way to level up your Battle Pass is through random, occasionally luck-based challenges, there's a clear problem with your experience system. The daily challenge changes every 24 hours and can be as simple as playing a few matches of Infinite. These challenges give anywhere from 100 to 250 XP, which contributes to your Battle Pass level. The issue is the fact that it takes up to 1,000 XP to level up once, meaning it would take ten daily challenges or various weekly challenges to level up once.
This system's flaws are exposed even further when a challenge you get is hard to accomplish due to the random chances of the requirements. A challenge like "Grapple-Jack" requires you to use the grappling hook on a vehicle and hijack it. Easy enough, if you can find a grappling hook and happen to be playing a game mode with vehicles.
The same goes for challenges involving using a specific weapon. The "Spike Drop" challenge requires players to get a single kill in multiplayer using the Mangler weapon. This, once again, isn't insanely difficult to accomplish -- as long as the circumstances allow it. If you're unlucky with getting maps that have Mangler spawns, you'll have to keep playing until you do find one. On top of that, each kill, capture, and victory means nothing for your Battle Pass level.
Lack of Incentive
Instead of playing the game regularly and focusing on winning the match, I find myself going into Halo Infinite games with my challenges in the back of my head. Sometimes, I tunnel vision these challenges, which can be a sharp detriment to my performance. If I don't do this, though, I'm not leveling, because the game neglects to award me for my good performance. It wants to reward me for menial tasks. This isn't how I've been conditioned as a gamer, and it shakes me to my core.
In other first-person shooters, I can go about playing any game mode and be rewarded for my time. Other types of challenges aren't completely randomized, like in Call of Duty, where I can complete weapon challenges that grant both aesthetic camouflage and XP. Call of Duty also gives me XP for winning matches, getting kills, and capturing points. It's baffling how 343 missed this mark and decided to force randomized, occasionally derivative challenges.
There's nothing wrong with a Battle Pass system, especially as a free-to-play monetization method, but it isn't enough to replace any genuine leveling or ranking system that prior games have had. Previous Halo games offered leveling through just playing the game. Halo Reach gave players experience in the form of Credits. These Credits were granted after any game mode, whether it be a multiplayer match, forge game, or campaign mission. These Credits changed player rank through a system that would help identify how much time they had in a game. It also displayed their rank on their profile, which is fairly standard in other first-person shooters. As redundant as it may seem, being able to acquire new ranks is an important motivation to play the game. I want to show off my shiny new badge, OK?
The cards are in 343's hand. All hope is not lost, as Halo Infinite is currently in beta, so there is plenty of room for improvement. Joseph Staten, the Head of Creative at 343 Industries, tweeted today about the progression system, so don't grab your pitchforks just yet -- change could be coming soon. Beyond this glaring issue, Halo Infinite's surprise launch has gone surprisingly well for Xbox. With little server issues and a massive concurrent play count, it's safe to say Halo Infinite's surprise launch is succeeding.