Rumours of a Battle Royale-style mode coming to Halo Infinite are swirling once again, but is a BR mode really the best play?
Ever since PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and later Fortnite took over the gaming scene, the "battle royale" genre has turned into a race between major publishers in finding the next big BR hit.
Activision has successfully transported the Call of Duty franchise to the relatively new genre with Warzone, not only taking CoD's famous gameplay and dropping it into a BR-mode but adding their own twists and enhancements over time to keep their players engaged.
EA has made more than one attempt at entering the BR scene, failing in their attempt to copy Call of Duty: Warzone's success with a Battlefield version of the mode, but hitting the jackpot with Remedy's Apex Legends, a squad-based battle royale loosely set in the Titanfall universe that currently sits alongside Fortnite and Warzone as the most popular games in the genre.
Although achieving success in the space may be difficult and there have been tons of failed attempts over the past few years, there are clearly examples of other franchises successfully debuting their own take on the battle royale genre - even a racing game like Forza has managed to create a surprisingly fun take on the mode with The Eliminator, which has now been present in the last two installments of Forza Horizon.
Though their ability to get things done in a timely manner has certainly been lacking with Halo Infinite, 343 Studios is certainly a capable developer and what they have been putting out has been excellent, so a battle royale mode set in the world of Halo would undoubtedly be of high quality and would certainly bring something different to the table compared to other shooters in the space.
The problem is that such a mode requires a lot of time and effort in order to succeed, not only in its creation but with a steady stream of updates to keep things fresh and engaging for players. With the amount of work still on 343's plate, a BR mode should be far from the highest priority and seems like it'd just be taking away resources from the core game that most Halo fans would prefer anyway.
There are still classic Halo game types like King of the Hill that aren't even in the game yet, and assassinations, a gameplay mechanic that is tailor made for customization and monetization which you'd think would have been a huge focus for Halo's now free-to-play multiplayer, still aren't in the game and we've yet to see any updates on when they'll be added.
That's not to mention the desperate need for additional maps (even if they're simply remakes of old Halo maps), better and more varied customization options, and a proper non-Battle Pass progression system, all things that are being worked on that fans have been painstakingly waiting for.
The low map count in particular is bothersome given 343's dedication in that area in previous titles - in addition to Forge being missing at launch for the first time since it was introduced in Halo 3, which will undoubtedly alleviate the issue when it does eventually arrive, there are just 7 arena maps and 3 big team maps to choose from and 343 has announced only one map for each will be added in season two (which releases in May, a full six months post-launch).
Even ignoring the lack of Forge (which looks amazing if leaks are accurate, but is likely not coming until at least the fall, if no further delays occur), Halo 5 for instance added a steady stream of maps to its playlists post-launch, and even had two additional multiplayer modes to play - Breakout, which featured single-life multi-round tactical fights on their own set of maps, and Warzone, which featured massive maps complete not only with 12-vs-12 multiplayer but additional AI combatants to fight and a unique requisition system that offered in-game progression (and also featured an 8-player co-op Firefight mode as well).
Considering Halo Infinite had twice as much development time, it's quite astounding the disparity in content and how little has been released in the months after Infinite's launch; despite Halo 5 not being a free-to-play title, its multiplayer component was monetized in a much better fashion and was supported much better.
The roadmap for Halo Infinite is therefore already absolutely packed - to get an idea, here's a simple breakdown:
Releasing in Near Future:
Season 2 of multiplayer content with new maps, game modes, cosmetics, etc. (May)
Progression system overhaul and updates for proper non-Battle Pass progression (May)
Addition of co-op to the game's campaign, as well as making story missions replayable (sometime between May-August)
Season 3 of multiplayer content (August), Season 4 (November)
Release of Forge creation tools (target is sometime this fall)
In addition to these major releases due this year is of course the constant work needed for bug fixes, improvements to the anti-cheat system on PC, as well as a more steady stream of playlists and content to keep players engaged in the live-service model that Microsoft is trying to make happen in Infinite.
And then there's the unannounced additions that are currently in development - mainly new campaign expansions that will bring the additional biomes that were originally intended to be in the game's campaign, and will hopefully properly realize the story telling potential Infinite's setup has primed.
So with everything else already on the table, should a BR mode even be bothered with?
The short answer is a rather resounding "no".
It's a miracle that 343 was able to get Halo Infinite out the door and at such high quality considering just how much of a 180 they had to pull in the last year and a half before launch, but the rush to fix the astronimically poor planning and get the game out has resulted in the developers absolutely failing to achieve the "live service" aspect of the title that is vital for the game to succeed in the long run as a free-to-play game.
With Microsoft's "10 year plan" in supporting Infinite, it really should have been simple - get the game out and in players hands, then continue churning out content in a steady stream to keep players engaged and satisfied. Although content on the multiplayer front was lacking at release (particularly due to the lack of Forge), the foundations of the game seemed so rock solid that it seemed like Halo Infinite was in the perfect position - with the game made and the foundations set, now it was time to get into content creation mode, which tends to come much more quickly once a game engine is complete and its foundations are set.
Instead, because of the hasty reconfiguring and scrapping of the original game's massive scope that proved impossible, adding content is not nearly as simple as it should be as the developers are having to go back and redo sloppy code that was rushed out in order to actually expand on the game.
It's quite simply astounding that none of the execs at 343 have lost their jobs given that they've completely botched Microsoft's plans and undoubtedly put the developers through hell due to their utter lack of management ability and clear disconnection from reality.
Now, for the near future, fans will have to make do with the content on offer even as many of the more casual players abandon the game for other pastures. Unfortunately, it's likely going to take quite some time before Infinite is able to really start churning out content like it should be, but hopefully the developers at 343 can accomplish that within this year.
Once they get things settled however, there are other modes that should see a return long before a Halo BR mode is even started on, and they would take a lot less work so getting them out to the content-starved fans would be a lot easier.
Halo 5's Breakout mode was a great addition to the series and offered a more reserved approach to gameplay that would surely be a favourite amongst competitive streamers today.
Breakout offered more tactical skirmishes given that it was a round-based system where players only get one life per round (although they can still be revived by teammates) with limited shielding and equipment, making teamwork and map familiarity essential.
It seemed like Breakout or some variation of it was going to be coming to Infinite given that there's an achievement for reviving teammates in a game of Elimination (one of Breakout's variants), but that achievement remains unobtainable and there's been no update on when or even if Elimination will eventually be added or if it was scrapped entirely.
Its more condensed maps and simpler settings would make it relatively easy to implement compared to other modes and would do wonders to help with the variety that Infinite's multiplayer suite is currently lacking - hopefully this will be added at some point in the near future.
Another mode that would add variety and be a refreshing change of pace is Firefight. Originally added in Halo 3: ODST, Firefight is essentially Halo's version of Horde mode - you and a group of other players take on waves of enemy combatants that increase in difficulty the longer you survive.
Implementing some sort of upgrade system as you progress through the waves, like what was available in Halo 5's version of Firefight, would also be welcome.
And then there's the big one - Warzone.
Halo 5 introduced Warzone (not to be confused with Call of Duty: Warzone) to the series with great success - essentially, two teams of twelve players compete against each other to capture bases, take down enemy factions and their leaders (controlled by the AI), and destroy their opposing team's energy core.
Your team could score points by taking out enemy players, killing special AI "bosses", capturing and controlling the bases on the map, and if a team could capture and control all three bases, the opposing team's energy core at their base becomes exposed and can be destroyed which results in immediate defeat.
Combining Halo's traditional PvP multiplayer with AI combatants made Warzone an entirely different beast that had sprawling and chaotic battlefields and a great sense of progression during each match.
This progression came in the form of Requisitions, which allowed players to call in more powerful weapons and vehicles (either to spawn with or at a REQ station available at each base) or perks. As players scored points and the match progressed, higher REQ "tiers" would be unlocked to allow players to access more and more powerful equipment, with each requisition costing the player energy that slowly refills and is hastened by scoring more points.
The system was simple enough to understand and yet surprisingly deep, as players earned their requisitions through REQ packs that contained both single-use items (like power weapons and vehicles) as well as unlimited items that can be spawned with throughout a match whenever that REQ tier was reached by the player (such as battle rifle or pistol variants).
REQ packs were regularly awarded simply for playing the game (they also awarded customization items like weapon skins, different armour pieces, different assassinations, etc. and essentially served as the game's microtransaction system) and because of their often generous contents and tons of variety, they gave Warzone in particular an addicting and rewarding progression stream.
Given that the REQ system worked so well in Halo 5 and succeeded in generating additional revenue for the title, it was genuinely surprising that nothing of the sort could be found in Halo Infinite despite it transitioning to a free-to-play multiplayer model.
Warzone served as a bridge between the co-op fun that has always been a core part of the Halo experience, and the multiplayer arena warfare that every Halo fan has enjoyed for the last two decades.
The return of Warzone would definitely be a welcome addition to Infinite, but I have an even better idea of how to expand on the mode and turn it into something truly great that would arguably be better than a Halo-ified version of battle royale.
My proposal in many respects is to simply bring Halo 5's Warzone mode into Infinite, but with a few important additions and changes.
With the larger scale of conflicts in Warzone, and now with Infinite being on newer hardware (as well as the ability to offload some of the computing to the cloud just like Halo 5 did), larger maps and player counts would definitely be high on the wish list.
The requisition system would need to make a return, even if in a modified capacity, though it'd be important that players who never pay anything still can use any of the weapon/ability/vehicle drops that paying players can call in, with the only variation being in cosmetics to ensure an even playing field just like in the traditional multiplayer suite.
Where the new version of Warzone would really make itself known however, would be in taking advantage of the "armour core" system already present in Halo Infinite.
The current armour core system hasn't been met with much enthusiasm thanks to its limitations - while it sounded great on paper, its current implementation leaves much to be desired.
For the uninitiated, players have several armour cores to choose from that act like a "base character" for their customized Spartan - after selecting a core, players can then swap out armour pieces, helmets, paint schemes, special effects, and more to get their desired look.
The problem is that these cores actually limit customization rather than enhancing it - for instance, if you pick the samurai "Yoroi" core, but you like a set of shoulder attachments you have unlocked on the Mark 5 core, you can't put that attachment on the Yoroi core.
This lack of cross-core customization is especially annoying when you realize that colour schemes are core-specific as well and for schemes that are available on both, you have to unlock them (or pay for them) separately in order to get them for each core.
It's a silly constaint and the implementation was poorly thought out, but the system would be perfect for different "cores" that were logically incompatible, and that's where my idea comes in.
Warzone already has layers of progression to it that work well, but what if we took that one step further?
What if, instead of just upgrading the weapons and vehicles players have access to as a match progresses, it upgrades who the player is playing as?
Picture this - instead of pitting two teams of Spartans against each other, the UNSC is pitted against the Banished.
The UNSC side would start with the ability to drop in as common marines; as the match progressed and new progression tiers were reached, better units would be available, from a more heavily armoured marine unit to ODST shock troopers and finally their Spartans from regular multiplayer.
The Banished side would similarly start out with lowly Grunt and Jackal options, expanding to include Elites, Brutes, and Hunters as the match progressed.
This idea is of course heavily influnced by the classic Star Wars Battlefront games, and as such, would also borrow the idea of "Hero" units.
These special units (of which there'd be restrictions on when and how many can be present in the match at one time) would be considerably more powerful and meant to be the ultimate weapons in the mode - characters both past and present could be featured here as time goes by, starting out with characters such as Master Chief and members of Noble Team (since their character models are already in the game as customization options) for the UNSC side with baddies like Atriox, Escharum, and Blademaster Jega 'Rdomnai serving as the Banished's hero units.
Balancing these units would be key just as it was in the Battlefront game, where the hero units have to be very powerful and a reward to play as, but not so overpowered that other players feel overwhelmed or powerless.
There are multiple ways to do this - having their health slowly degrade if they've been alive for a few minutes to prevent a player from being one for the entire match, limiting their ammo and the like - and they can also be used to try and turn the tide for a team on the brink of defeat, such as giving a losing team an extra hero unit on the field after their core has been exposed and are thus nearing a loss.
Implementing such a new mode would of course constitute quite a bit of work in order to get it right - after all, each of the different playable character types would need to be balanced and be made to feel accurate and unique - but if 343 could pull it off, it just may be a game changer.
It would also serve as a great way to usher in tons of new customization options and entice players to spend more - rather than just having their own Spartan customizable, there's now plenty of additional player models that can now be customized.
While hero units would keep their authentic look, all the other units would comprise their own "armour core" that can then be fully customized.
For instance, every player would have a selected Grunt armour core that will serve as their look when deploying as a Grunt in Warzone, and as such would be able to choose their own custom armour pieces, colour schemes, helmets, etc. to make their Grunt their own.
This merging of Warzone with Battlefront's classic mode seems like the perfect fit for Halo and one that would bring a totally different experience to the game that would fully fuse the co-op greatness that Halo's campaigns are known for with the multiplayer battles that made Halo the king of shooters.
It would also be a fresh addition to the gaming world as a whole - after all, EA and DICE have practically butchered the Battlefront brand and have left a massive void for that kind of multiplayer experience. Rather than chase after a slice of the Battle Royale pie that's overcrowded as it is, why not cater to an audience that is currently deprived in addition to more closely aligning with what most Halo players would like?
Currently the rumours surrounding the Halo Battle Royale mode appear to be that a new version of Warzone is being worked on that will "add battle royale elements" into the mix, so it seems clear that some version of Warzone will be coming to Infinite at some point in the future - here's hoping that if this is true, they change course and go for a smarter, more Halo experience instead.