Halo Infinite Customization Leaves Much to Be Desired

Key Points

  • Halo Infinite customization is opening up, but more needs to be done soon.

  • Armor cores allow artists and players unique opportunities for expression.

  • The art and design teams get a lot right for enjoyable gameplay.

  • Halo Infinite customization pricing is overly aggressive and counterintuitive.

  • An Elite armor core is an easy win for 343.  

Halo Infinite customization is a bit of a divisive topic. Long-time players find the system frustrating, even to the point of discussing old games’ systems. A Sergeant Johnson quote from Halo 2 comes to mind when comparing older Halo games to 2023: “Back in the day, there were no fancy tanks! There were sticks. Two sticks and a rock for the entire platoon! And you had to share the rock!” The latest game in the franchise has an armor system that is just plain different than it used to be.

Don’t misunderstand though, the game’s cosmetics are beautiful. Well-designed and detailed, armor patterns and helmets coincide nicely with attachments. Weapon keychains and vehicle coatings are a fun addition and there’s no shortage of options to select from. Halo Infinite customization choices, however, hit a wall quickly as the game’s live service has been on life support for over a year.

This is a discussion of Halo Infinite’s cosmetics problem, how 343 Industries is responding, and other options to fix it.

A Rundown of Armor Cores and What Works

The armor core system functions as a filter for unique armor pieces across old and new generations of Spartan field gear. Every armor core is free to access, each having paid options through the shop and their associated battle and event passes. As of this writing in 2023, armor pieces are locked to the core they were designed for. Visors are cross-core, meaning no matter which armor is selected, all visors are available for any helmet.

The armors below fall into two categories: canon and fractures. Canon refers to the armor that exists within the same narrative and continuity as the Master Chief and official Halo stories. Fractures refer to variations of Halo Spartan armor in alternate realities. For instance, the Yoroi core is samurai-influenced Halo armor. There’s a lot of room for artists to express themselves within these categories. 

Without further ado, here are the armor cores available in 2023:

Mark VII — Canon

As the latest generation of MJOLNIR armor, the Mark VII features the most earnable and free cosmetics. This core houses the best options for color coatings. Classics helmets return with new iterations and plenty of original work. Fan favorite helmets including the Mark VII, Warmaster, Aviator, and Trailblazer are all worth playing for.

Mark V [B] — Canon

Dropping in hot from 2010’s Halo: Reach is the Mark V [B] core, the inaugural showpiece for “Season 1: Heroes of Reach.” This core brings over the majority of armor from Reach and expands the availability of classic armor through free events like the Winter Update battle pass and Joint Fire Event. Fan favorite armor includes Emile’s EVA helmet, the Master Chief’s Mark VI, and Scout. 

Rakshasa — Canon

An armor for DIY enthusiasts, Rakshasa (rahk-shah-suh, Hindi for “demon”) is a Halo Infinite original, brand new to the franchise. Premiering in “Season 2: Lone Wolves,” Rakshasa is designed for Spartans who spend lengthy engagements behind enemy lines. Think of lots of jagged metal, makeshift plating, and duct tape. There are armor attachments like the health pack from Combat Evolved, a small hand shovel, and even an Elite skull shoulder piece. How metal is that? 

Mirage IIC — Canon

As of February 2023, Mirage IIC is the first of two armor cores not yet released. What is known about Mirage is that it’s the latest rendition of the Semi-Powered Infiltration armor, designed for reconnaissance and interfaces smoothly with the Covenant’s active camo systems. As the main armor core for Season 3, this core premieres in March 2023.  

Yoroi — Fractures

Released in the Tenrai event of Season 1, Yoroi is an imagining of Halo’s Spartans as samurai. An official description from Halo reads: “[Yoroi] are forged using ancient [K]arakuri arts from the raw energies of the land — each hand-crafted for eager young samurai of unimpeachable honor to defend their clan and lands from the barbaric Covenant invaders.” This core features plenty of katana and samurai blades and Kabuto helmets. 

Eaglestrike — Fractures

Reimagining the Halo space opera as a World War I-styled trench warfare is a compelling idea that naturally leads to a unique visual identity. Eaglestrike debuted with the Fracture: Entrenched event in Season 2 and brought with it battle bowler-inspired helmets, leather detailing and paraphernalia, and impeccable naming schemes like “Leadbelcher.” 

Chimera — Unknown

Though no official information has been made public yet beyond a quick snippet in December 2022’s developer showcase, Chimera is rumored to be a fracture armor core. The core is anticipated to release in March 2023 with the arrival of “Season 3: Echoes Within.” In Greek mythology, a chimera is a creature composed of multiple types of animals such as the body and head of a lion, the horns of a goat, and a tail with the head of a snake. There is speculation that this core allows any armor piece to pair together. Time will tell. 

Give credit where credit is due — Infinite’s armor and art style are both stunning. The core system has led to some incredible merchandising opportunities and allows players different flavors of expression for their game avatars. Imagine how many artists worked on employed conceptualization, design, and implementation of each armor piece, color coating, and even weapon keychain!

A big positive also worth mentioning is prosthetic limb customization. Your Spartan, across all cores, has the option to rock prosthetic arms and legs. 343 Industries put a notable amount of time into accessibility features like this and even partners with prosthetics non-profit Limbitless Solutions to bring Halo-themed prosthetics to children.

“But I Don’t Want To Ride the Elevator!”

Now that you have the good news, here’s the bad news. Infinite’s customization at its worst leaves much to be desired. For one, unnecessary barriers in the armor core system hinder players’ freedom of expression. But the biggest sin of all is that it just feels greedy.

Think back to the game’s launch. If you want simple armor colors like blue and red for the Yoroi core, you’re required to purchase them. What is the price tag for one of those coatings? It’s going to run you $8 a pop. The color white is paywalled behind a $20 bundle that includes some armor pieces that you may or may not care about.

There are several issues with this system:

  • The color white is locked to a core. Unless each designed coating moves across multiple armor types, you’re stuck wearing that color with only one armor core. 

  • This bundle is the only way to get the white armor coating. Infinite’s shop offers no options for purchasing individual items. Pay $20 or you don’t get it.

  • A lack of a catalog system means punishing players who take breaks. If you missed a helmet in the shop, that’s it. Tough luck, kid. Don’t log off next time.  

This issue isn’t unique to Infinite. Free-to-play games have similar monetization systems that often generate higher levels of revenue than a one-time charge to own the game and all its content. Look at Fortnite. There is no admission price, but it brings in billions of dollars year after year. Infinite must slash its prices and make cosmetics fully cross-core to restore some goodwill and net higher profits. The backlash with Halo: Infinite implementing this system is understandable from the perspective of its long-time fans. Here’s why.  

If the words “Vidmaster Challenge” send excitement or dread through your bones, you understand how Halo approached customizable unlocks in the past. The seven Vidmaster challenges in Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST were highly obscure and specific skill checks to unlock coveted armor. Rewards were gained with Classic gameplay, not by paying $20 or more for a single helmet or the color white.

If you completed 100 percent of Infinite’s campaign, you unlocked some armor coatings, stances, and nameplates. 343 is actively rolling out more events and Twitch streams to get unlocks into player’s armor lockers. Unfortunately, most of these cosmetics are bound to one core, so if your favorite core is the Rakshasa but you want the white coating from the Mark VII, you’re out of luck.

This brings the discussion to what is perhaps the greatest tragedy of Halo Infinite’s customization. You cannot select your color combos. You only pick a coating. Coatings are described by 343 Industries as “[offering] a unique opportunity to craft some hyper polished looks…[that come] from a player-first mentality.” While it’s true that Infinite‘s armor looks very polished, it is lacking in the player creativity department.

In every previous Halo game, players chose their two colors, a primary color and a secondary, the latter detailing shoulders and other plates. While coatings offer interesting templates for colors, patterns, and materials never before seen in Halo, it’s not hard to tell that customization is unnecessarily restricted when the basic color of white is sealed behind a paywall. 

Cross-Purposes — How to Improve Core Customization

Visors were made cross-core compatible in an August 2022 update, and every core and cadet color was made free in a November 2022 update. Customization is opening up, but there’s a lot of progress to be made. First and foremost, the biggest priority needs to be the full implementation of cross-core compatibility.

In February 2023, the majority of cosmetics are only unlockable via the shop. 343 has made strides to get free and earnable armor in the shape of event passes, but as a free-to-play game with seasonal content, a lot of the most detailed and desirable cosmetics are locked to the battle passes. Infinite’s pass does have some benefits, however. It’s one of the only passes on the video game market that doesn’t expire, meaning if you didn’t play at launch, you have the option to double back for those customization pieces.

Cross-core helmets, coatings, and chest attachments are allegedly a priority for 343 Industries, but no release dates are available yet. It’s a surefire win to surprise players with the immediate implementation of cross-core giving players the option to put their favorite helmet on another core with their preferred color. 

While a complete rework of how colors work is unlikely, coatings that have material and patterns sound highly appealing. Material and patterns are what make up the coatings, but the player’s choice of which colors it displays is a good compromise between the need for microtransactions and a player-first mentality.  

Elite Company

It’s worth mentioning the absence of playable Elites in Halo Infinite. 343 Industries has yet to release a game where playable Elites are available. Their absence is a common source of criticism among dino-enthusiasts who chose to play as Elites over Spartans in Halo 2, Halo 3, and Reach

The addition of Elites to Infinite is speculative, but it’s guaranteed to be popular and a source of goodwill. The core concept is unique among other armor since Elites and Spartans have separate design philosophies. It also gives artists that chance for highly-specialized looks. Elites stand out in an already diverse catalog and are bound to garner positive responses from long-standing Halo fans.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection recently had an Elite-themed season, rolling out dozens of new cosmetics for the fan-favorite dinos — Covenant-themed headdresses, energy sword colorways, and ceremonial armor throughout. It’s a smart business decision for 343 to take inspiration from games they’ve already produced at a time when Halo needs everything it can get.

Bringing It All Together

From the offset, the core system was detrimental to Halo Infinite customization, but 343 has made an effort to bring down artificial barriers. Cosmetics add so much enjoyment to the Halo experience, so making them readily available for fair prices (if they have to monetize them at all) is the only way to grow the player base.

It’s also time to bring back the Elites as it’s been well over a decade!

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