The Halo Infinitewinter updates are among the most significant changes to the game.
Developer 343 Industries’ desire to “surprise and delight” is paying off.
Armor and equipment go through regular updates in the game.
Infinite’s game events are worth playing.
After the Halo Infinite winter updates, what’s next for the game and its community?
Halo had a rough year in 2022 by most standards, but there’s plenty to be optimistic about heading into 2023. With season three around the corner and 343 Industries getting regular quality-of-life patches, Halo Infinite has finally met the developer’s release goals. It’s as good a time as any for final thoughts on the Halo Infinite winter updates.
In short, Halo Infinite winter updates were a step in the right direction. The game needed some TLC after a rough first year. The long version? Keep reading for Halo Hype’s biggest takeaways, what trends are important to note, and what direction 343’s open-world, live service title is heading next.
Quiet but Effective
In terms of literal data size, the winter update is one of Infinite’s biggest updates, clocking in at 10GB for both PC and Xbox. The drop pod updates 343 released are minor in comparison. Where a drop pod update makes minor weapon balance and user interface adjustments, the winter update is 343’s rendition of Season 2.5.
The winter update gave the dev team some breathing room as they worked to get Season 3 back on schedule for the three-month season rotation they previously promised. Unfortunately, a seven-month Season 2 was pretty tiring for returning players.
Additionally, 343 touted Empyrean, a free 30-tier battle pass of Halo: Reach cosmetics, campaign co-op finally arriving, quality of life updates, and Forge mode just before the winter update.
The remake of The Pit multiplayer map, Empyrean, getting added to Infinite’s map rotation is among the update’s most notable additions. As a franchise staple, casual and competitive players all remember the beloved map from Halo 3 in 2007.
Halo Infinite’s Empyrean — blanketed in violets, lime green panels, and yellow neon lights atop some far-off future cityscape — stands apart from the rest of the map rotation. This enhancement is opportune for a game in dire need of a refresh.
The Customs Game Browser and Forge
The update didn’t mention that the Customs Game Browser (CGB) was in the patch. This surprised the loyal player base and gave them the tools to share maps and game modes. As a result, players are now churning out new content themselves every minute.
Previously, online matchmaking in Halo Infinite limited you to the maps and modes on offer in 343’s rotational playlists. They evenremoved Season 2’s new game mode, Last Spartan Standing, due to low player counts.
The CGB puts the power into players’ hands to hop into game types with rulesets established by session-led players. The CGB is the peanut butter to Forge’s jelly, the pair opening the floodgates for the community’s imagination and creativity to shine through.
The last few months have led to incredible to-scale remakes of Halo map classics like Guardian, Lockout, and Sandtrap. Players have created their own versions of legacy game modes like Race and Infection and reimagined other games like Super Smash Bros Melee and Call of Duty with Forge’s robust creation tools.
Heavy Armor Is Ready
The winter update also brought more player-friendly options to a cosmetics system players finddivisive, to say the least. However, recent strides attempt to make the armor system friendlier to players.
Shortly after, the Mark V[B] armor core became free to all players. The winter update made every armor core free of charge. The update also included ten armor coating color options across all cores, which comprised the Cadet coatings, including colors like brick, sage, forest, cyan, blue, gray, orange, and brown.
While basic in their color schemes, more options across Infinite’s armor core system are always useful. Critics say this should’ve been the case initially, but more options across Infinite’s armor core system are welcome. Basic color schemes available on all cores must be the default and appreciated by longtime and returning players.
Then, there is the most critical aspect of the winter update. The big draw, the Main Man, the Head Honcho, and the King of the Jungle is the 30-tier battlepass with Mark V[B] armor pieces, nameplates, weapons, and armor coatings inspired by Halo: Reach but were missing from Season 1’s paid battlepass. These additions are a quick fix for a game lacking in content and needing some goodwill. CQB helmet enjoyers, this one is for you!
Those kukri knife attachments, for instance, are especially popular among players stemming back to their original appearance in Reach. These cosmetics are a quick win for Infinite, if only because they are free and earnable, but mostly because they’re legacy armor pieces and brought to the forefront of an essential Halo title.
Infinite Events Are Improving
The updates between the end of Season 2 and the start of Season 3 in March are solid, but mainly for one reason: 343 is starting to underpromise in an effort to surprise and delight.
Winter Contingency II, Infinite’s holiday-themed event, featured numerous quality cosmetics worth playing for. In a perfect world, Halo’s maps would have taken on more of a wintery feel with snowfall, holiday-themed modes like a Snow Ball Fight mode (plasma grenades only, perhaps?), and maybe some Halo Christmas rock anthem for the main menu while you wait to get into games with friends. In the end, the Santa hat on a Spartan helmet does a lot of heavy lifting and is so easy to love.
January’s Joint Fire event brought back the mega-popular Joint Fires Observer (JFO) helmet for free, alongside some excellent armor pieces, vibrant visors, and a sleek new armor color coating. Of course, players have to earn these cosmetics in gameplay, but they pair well with the new dev-original mode titled Joint Ops Capture the lone flag (CTF). Attackers have active camo, pulse carbines, and pistols. Defenders get threat sensors, commando rifles, and energy swords.
This mode is fun. The main draw remained the JFO helmet, but the Joint Ops CTF mode was an interesting spin on a classic mode. Developers could have done more, but this event was serviceable for people who love to play Halo regularly.
February’s Noble Intention event also serves as an example of surprise and delight. The event lacked promotion before it went live but still brought plenty for players to sink their teeth into.
For the lore enthusiasts, the developers included some niche backstories of Halo: Reach’s Noble Team through dedicated armor kits of Spartans Thom A293 and Rosenda A344. These Spartans went MIA before the events of that game, only to have Emile A239 and Noble Six replace them shortly after. The earnable cosmetics through the event pass bring highly coveted armor pieces, coatings, and dedicated armor kits for Thom and Rosenda.
Likely, the most important aspect of Noble Intention is the quietly added Community Collection playlist. This is where the CGB, the Forge community, and 343 have joined forces to bring fresh, fan-made content to the masses through sleek and dynamic map design.
Community Collection Playlist
Forge and the CGB allow players to create modes and maps and share them with anyone looking for something new. However, as with anything open source, not all of these are worth spending time on. The Community Collection playlist takes the best of the best, the crème de la crème among Forgers, and puts their creations front and center with a dedicated matchmaking playlist.
The first edition of the Community Collection includes the following maps:
Absolution. Absolution carries a familiar aesthetic feel to Halo 2’s Delta Halo of worn down, stone-based Forerunner architecture and plays like a combination of Sanctuary and Halo 3’s Guardian.
Perilous. This isn’t your father’s Lockout. While this map does take inspiration from the Halo 2 classic, it leverages Infinite’s powerful Forge tools to create something distinct. The giant mushroom platform jumping between towers is also a nice touch.
Salvation. If you took Damnation from Halo: Combat Evolved and ran it through a Banished trash compactor, then gave it a chrome shine job, you’d get this stunning industrial remake. It plays as a great remake should, as a classic Halo gunfight with updated movement mechanics.
Starboard. Midship is another Halo classic that deserves a spot in the Infinite rotation, and Starboard does just that. Going with a UNSC aesthetic, this map plays a little more boxy than Midship, but Infinite’s fluid movement system fits very well. The cargo bay also fits in well with Infinite’s established art style.
Events like Joint Fire and Noble Intention are a step in the right direction for current Infinite players, but it’s not enough to bring back or first-time attract players in droves. The jury is still out on whether “Season 3: Echoes Within” is going to be that enchanting.
Halo Infinite News Round-Up
This is what you need to know about Halo Infinite in Spring 2023.
First off, January saw Microsoft lay off a good chunk of 343 Industries’ staff. Reports range from 60 to 200 or more. The single-player campaign and art teams took some heavy hits. This means you should enjoy the newly arrived campaign co-op as is because there likely won’t be anything new in that department for a while. Halo Infinite’s live service will continue with dedicated support and updates — for how long is up for speculation.
“Season 3: Echoes Within”
“Season 3: Echoes Within” launches March 7, 2023. With it comes two new armor cores, Mirage and Chimera. The season also brings new narrative events for multiplayer and two — at least, but don’t get your hopes up — additions to the map rotation and the weapon and equipment sandbox. These are:
Bandit Rifle: Revealed through leaks and confirmed in 343’s September roadmap, the Bandit Rifle is a variant of the beloved DMR from earlier entries in the series. Likely to play as a semi-automatic precision rifle, they have yet to release the final version of the gun.
Shroud Screen: The Shroud Screen is the next addition to the equipment lineup. It seems to be a fusion of Halo 3’s Bubble Shield, Infinite’s Threat Sensor, and Active Camo. It emits a holographic sphere that plays as a cover option, likewise blinds motion trackers, and players cannot see into or out. The Shroud Screen is unique to the franchise and offers distinct engagement options.
Oasis: The featured Big Team Battle (BTB) map, Oasis is the first official dev-made desert BTB map. New biomes are desperately needed as 2022 was a long year, and speculation is that a narrative event involving Oasis’ spire may be in the works.
Cliffhanger: Set in a snowy tundra with mountains and a tower dividing a small canyon, Cliffhanger has not yet been officially showcased. Expect to see it revealed closer to the launch of Season 3 and perhaps with an updated name.
Halo Championship Series 2023 Season
Halo Championship Series announced its 2023 roadmap and is seeing several locations get their first events since Infinite launched, including majors in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dallas, and Arlington, Texas. Fans expect prize pools and weekly open tourneys to grow as the competitive scene matures, including newly partnered teams like Complexity.
The Halo Infinite winter update accomplished what it set out to do; get the game back to the stable state it should’ve been at release. What’s more is its function as a soft relaunch, getting the studio some desperately needed momentum heading into Season 3 and hopefully true seasonality of three-month rotations with new content and regular patches.
Halo players deserve that level of attention after a rough decade, and the gaming world could finally realize Halo Infinite’s potential. Casual and expert players alike have much to look forward to.
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