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Halo Infinite is Back on Top - But Microsoft is Still Not Realizing Its Full Potential

Halo Infinite's redemption arc has finally borne fruit for 343 and Microsoft, but they are still missing the mark on what Infinite can become

Now is certainly a good time to be a Halo fan.

Halo Infinite released just over two years ago, and during that time, fans of the beloved series have had their patience tested for sure, but ultimately, they've been rewarded thanks to the new leadership and direction from 343 Industries, the talented developers of the last three mainline Halo titles.

The game itself was excellent from the start, with a new art style and tone that matched the heralded Bungie era of Halo that saw one of the greatest trilogies in media set the franchise's legacy in stone.

As Halo fans are no doubt aware, that excellent reception was extremely short-lived thanks to the missing features the game released without.

Thanks to mismanagement that could easily take up a book on its own, a lot had to be sacrificed to get the game out the door back in 2021 even after a year-long delay - namely, campaign co-op and Forge mode, two major staples of the Halo franchise.

Not only that, but the code was essentially held together by duct tape and prayers - while it played great and looked as if it had a great foundation to add content to, any changes or additions were effectively a nightmare to make for the developers; the devs had had to go back and fix layers of patched-together code just in order to make basic adjustments or add anything new to the title.

With a limited amount of multiplayer content to start with and a virtually inexistent progression system, the steady influx of content required to keep a multiplayer community intact in today's day and age was nowhere to be found and the number of players quickly dwindled to alarming lows.

During its launch window, both Battlefield and Call of Duty had misfired and Halo Infinite had the perfect opportunity to fill the void, which it seemed to do at first thanks to its stellar quality, but the lack of content and any real multiplayer progression system killed that momentum off as quickly as it had come.

Microsoft and 343 had effectively waltzed right up to the undefended endzone, only to trip on its own shoelaces and fumble the ball at the one yard line.

It took over a year for campaign co-op and Forge to finally roll out, with both being extremely well received, but for multiplayer matchmaking (which for casual players in particular is the main focus), there was still a lack in content - thanks to the incredible Forge tools 343 has put out and the always-exceptional Halo community though, that is no longer the case.

With the latest multiplayer "season" bringing with it a steady stream of exciting content including adding AI to Forge, a playlist featuring seven remade Halo 3 maps, and the return of Firefight (and may I say, an improved version of it), Infinite is finally realizing its potential thanks to a healthy and steady offering of content, an incredible Forge mode that will be providing fans with memorable maps and modes for years to come, and a now-feature rich package under the Infinite banner.

Those additions have brought Halo Infinite back to the top of the most played games charts on Xbox, with legions of fans venturing back and getting hooked on the game all over again.

343 has also done a great job of fixing problems and addressing complaints from the community, something they had problems with after launch but have improved massively in after a much-needed executive shakeup over the past year; even the dreaded de-sync issue which has plagued the game since launch has finally been fixed.

There are still simple things that 343 could improve on however and seem to be missing.

For one, the playlist variety has been much improved and helped no doubt by the influx of returning players to keep the matchmaking playlists healthy, but one philosophy that 343 seems intent to adhering to is to limit the amount of maps in a playlist - for ranked playlists this is certainly understandable, but for casual playlists, this seems to be the wrong approach.

It's very common to hear groans from players after loading into a match that they just played the same map or have played it more than twice in a row in certain playlists, particularly in Big Team and Squad Battle, which only have a handful of maps to choose from and thus you're regularly stuck playing the same one or two battlegrounds multiple times in one session.

With the plethora of great Forge maps available, there's no reason that every "social" playlist doesn't have at least ten maps in rotation, if not more, to always be keeping things fresh and experience a wider array of the amazing maps that are available.

Featuring a "Grab Bag" playlist of sorts would also be cool - a playlist that features dozens of different Forge maps by the community and is regularly rotating new ones in, so that players get to play something new every time they boot up the game.

Something that is infuriating gamers in many competitive multiplayer games right now is the strict skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) systems being used by many games such as Call of Duty and Halo Infinite - typically for Halo titles, ranked playlists use this while unranked or "social" playlists do not or use a much less strict version of it, but with Infinite, all of the playlists are using it. This matchmaking system only seems to loosen its restrictions if a playlist has less players playing in it, that way it can still find matches in a timely manner.

This can be extremely frustrating for players that are just looking to hop in and enjoy some matches either by themselves or with friends, and are instead repeatedly thrown into hyper-competitive lobbies which force them to play their ass off or get absolutely trounced with no in-between.

It's a problem facing many titles at the moment and one that 343 should definitely address, and this can be done very easily simply by loosening these restrictions on non-ranked playlists.

On the monetization front, while I've never been a fan of paying for cosmetics and the like and they're always overpriced, it is a necessary evil for free-to-play games and 343 has been improving this aspect - they did however seem to really miss a big opportunity this week with Doom's 30-year anniversary.

I'm not keen on most crossover "events" nowadays in gaming, as they're typically a weak cash-grab and often make shooters look downright silly when they add out-of-place characters and skins to multiplayer lobbies.

When it makes sense however, they can be great and if there was ever a crossover that made more sense than Doom and Halo, I'd like to hear about it.

An iconic FPS that inspired every shooter that came after it, Doom is one of the most beloved franchises in gaming (much like Halo) and thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda in 2021, the tech giant now owns both legendary IPs.

The iconic Doomslayer aesthetically has plenty in common with Master Chief, from the heavy futuristic plate armour to the military green, and of course given the games both cater to hardcore FPS fans, there's plenty of crossover appeal - so much so that gamers have been trying to recreate the Doomslayer's look using different combinations of standard Halo armour pieces since the days of Halo Reach.

This photoshipped image of what a Doomslayer skin in Halo Infinite could look like definitely shows how easily Doom's hero would fit in as a Spartan armour variant, and it would surely generate plenty of revenue for extremely little work from 343, especially given that Microsoft owns both IPs so the usual hassle of getting the rights and such is eliminated.

Popular Forge creator Uneeq even created a Doom-inspired map in Infinite which plays very well and certainly captures the Doom aesthetic - throwing that into a limited time playlist along with the Doomslayer armour set seems like a no-brainer to celebrate the iconic franchise and really welcome Bethesda and id Software into the Xbox fold.

But these kind of minor changes and updates aren't what this article is about - instead, it's about the future of Halo Infinite, which given that 343 has recently stated that the majority of the team has already shifted to the next Halo title, it appears that 343 executives and Microsoft have failed to realize the potential for.

To truly live up to the Infinite in its title, Halo Infinite should not be looked at simply as a game, but as a platform.

To Infinity...

Thanks to 343's incredible Forge tools, the future of Infinite is looking fantastic.

The content that's already been created by fans within a month of the latest Forge update, which added campaign AI to the mix and has allowed creators to craft entire campaign missions as well as PvE Firefight-style modes and even Warzone-esque mixtures of PvP and PvE encounters, is astounding.

As such, 343 should of course continue to support these creations like they have been (and they've even teased that music will be added in a future update to give these creations a proper, authentic campaign feel).

It would be nice to see more community made-maps being added to standard playlists, and a simple addition would be a "Recommended" campaign playlist of sorts that can be highlighted in the main menu and would play 343/community recommended missions, drawing in more people to discover great player-made PvE levels.

With campaign and co-op, a robust multiplayer suite, both PvE and PvP modes as well as a wealth of Forge content for all sorts of tastes, Infinite is already serving as a content platform in a way, just like every mainline Halo game has since the introduction of Forge in the Halo 3 days.

But if the deluge of Forge maps already being made in the past month that have been recreating classic Halo missions is any indication, as well as the excitement of fans regarding the original Halo: CE campaign being redone in the Halo 3 engine thanks to a lone modder, it's that 343 is missing a big and potentially lucrative opportunity.

It's no secret that many publishers are in love with remakes - after all, it's far less expensive than creating a new IP or sequel, can be done in much less time, and is less likely to suffer from poor sales. 343 is no stranger to this themselves, having worked in tandem with other studios to produce "Anniversary" editions of both Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, and of course bringing them along with remastered versions of the rest of the Halo titles into the Master Chief Collection.

Though they were in general solid remakes, much of the effort seemed focused on the dual-rendering nature of the Anniversary editions, effectively allowing players to switch at any time between the original game engine and the Anniversary's version.

It was a cool way to see the changes and enhancements that more than a decade of progression inspired, but ultimately this hamstrung the graphical capabilities of the "new" version of the game.

Many fans were also upset in particular with the Halo: Combat Evolved upgrade, as many of the artistic changes that were made didn't seem to match the original look and feel - similarly, Halo 2 Anniversary felt a bit too much like Halo 4 in many ways thanks to the game being largely built in that engine.

With Halo Infinite, 343 has lovingly crafted a gameplay and artistic style that is effectively a continuation of that original trilogy, with some upgrades of course - this style is why it's so satisfying to play on remade maps in multiplayer under a fresh coat of paint and with Infinite's mechanics. It's also why so many fans are excited about classic campaign missions being remade in Infinite, even if they can conveniently go and play the originals at any time in the Master Chief Collection.

Remaking classics in a franchise's newest engine is a great idea particularly when executed well, and the perfect example would be the Resident Evil remakes, which have all sold incredibly well and released in between major new entries in the franchise.

Using Halo Infinite's Slipspace engine would be the perfect vehicle to get (eventually) the entire Halo experience under one seamless roof and that is what 343 should be striving for.

Recent comments indicating that the studio is not going to be making any story DLC for Halo Infinite is certainly disappointing, but if they go the route I'm suggesting, it will give us the best of both worlds.

You see, my solution, of expanding Infinite into a platform, would turn the game into a proper platform similar to the Master Chief Collection but in one, truly seamless experience without any engine switching or major mechanical changes in between games, and would easily facilitate future campaigns.

...and Beyond

Now that 343 has finally smoothed out most of their game engine's rough edges, it's time to take advantage of all their hard work and build out from there.

Their progress on the next title should of course continue, but the way it's handled, and integrated into the current framework, is what would change.

Instead of effectively creating a brand new platform with every mainline entry, like it and virtually every other game has done in the past, it would instead simply build on Infinite.

The "next" Halo game would take the form of a new, fully featured campaign - a sequel to Infinite, which takes place right after the last game ended as is already being planned.

The new entry will explore new biomes and combine open-world areas and elements with traditional Halo missions just as Infinite did, hopefully delivering on the grander vision that Infinite was intended to be.

We'll call it Halo: The Endless for now, since that was trademarked by Microsoft some time ago and would seemingly fit for a continuation of where the story left off.

Just like when Halo Infinite released, The Endless would have a full retail price ($70 US) for the campaign (this time though it has to release with co-op at launch, no exceptions), with the multiplayer suite being free-to-play like it already is.

Except launching the game would all be handled through Halo Infinite; you'd boot up the Halo Infinite platform, and in the campaign menu, you'd then select either Halo Infinite or Halo: The Endless to pick which campaign you'd like to play, with the multiplayer and Forge components being accessed exactly the way they are now and not requiring either the Infinite or The Endless campaigns to play.

This may seem like a rather simple distinction but it's an important one for making Infinite into a proper platform.

The multiplayer suite, along with Forge, would remain as is, but of course to coincide with The Endless release, new content such as maps, cosmetics, Forge objects and environments, and weapons/equipment from the new title would be added in, and an upgrade to the the underlying engine would undoubtedly also take place for the launch.

Players would need the ability to select which content they'd like to install of course (just like with the Master Chief Collection and many other titles nowadays), so for instance someone not interested in the campaign can just install the multiplayer portion, or someone who's running low on space may want to remove the Infinite campaign to make way for The Endless.

And then of course, what my plan is really gearing toward: complete recreations of the original trilogy.

Starting first with Combat Evolved of course, a smaller team within 343 would begin working on recreating the entire campaign in Halo Infinite's engine, from start to finish (with the exception of The Library, which I would have to insist they reimagine to fix what is an infamously annoying and frustrating mission in what is otherwise a masterpiece).

Thanks to Infinite's art style, mechanics, and sandbox the alterations to the engine needed would be minimal, with the health system being the only thing that really sticks out given that health pickups were used - this of course could simply be ignored and it can use Infinite's system, or they can add health packs exclusively in the CE campaign.

Recreations of the classic versions of CE's weapons and vehicles, and of course adding a few which haven't to date been added in Infinite (like the classic shotgun) could also be added to the multiplayer portion of Infinite, even if they're only available in Forge mode to remove balancing headaches (like the overpowered Halo CE pistol, which has to remain overpowered for the campaign).

With a sufficiently sized team, and given the engine is already feature-complete and wouldn't require much tweaking from 343, it should be more than doable to release an Infinite version of a classic title in about a year.

Halo 2 and 3 would require some new functionality in the engine to accommodate dual wielding, which 343 would have the choice of incorporating it into Infinite's gameplay, or of simply being a modification available only in the singleplayer/co-op Halo 2/3 campaigns.

Given the smaller scope of the projects, a cheaper price point would more than make sense for a remake made in this manner (which I'd like to dub Halo Infinity), say $40-50 US for the campaign (which includes co-op), and like The Endless, it would again be launched from Halo Infinite.

Once released, the remake team would immediately transition to the next title in the series (Halo 2 Infinity) and continue until every Halo title is re-released through the platform.

Each campaign release would of course coincide with multiplayer cosmetics inspired by the title, and could also make use of the "weapon variants" cosmetic options currently in multiplayer to let players use classic weapon skins for certain weapos in matchmaking even if they function as the new versions of the weapon do.

To coincide with the release, dedicated multiplayer playlists featuring Forge recreations of all of that title's original maps would be a no-brainer as well.

A physical copy (and a digital deluxe version) could then retail at the going rate for a full-priced game ($70 US) which would include the campaign/co-op, as well as a multiplayer bundle that includes an armour core/kits as well as a weapon cosmetics bundle, which can of course be bought separately to earn money from multiplayer-only players.

Legendary editions would also be a must, with perhaps an exclusive statue, recreation of the original box art, and other goodies included at a premium.

Not only is there clearly a market for it, but it's certainly achievable by the talented devs at 343 and would create an expansive and fully integrated platform for all-things Halo in the future.

Such a platform would also keep a much more steady income stream for Microsoft as not only would it bolster microtransactions around each release, but it would provide a steady yearly release schedule without oversaturating the market given the presense of both remakes and new campaigns (similar to Resident Evil's approach).

A sample release schedule for the next decade could be as follows:

2024 - Halo Infinity (Halo CE Remake)

2025 - Halo 2 Infinity

2026 - Halo: The Endless

2027 - Halo 3 Infinity

2028 - Halo ODST Infinity

2029 - Next Halo sequel

2030 - Halo Reach Infinity

2031 - Halo 4 Infinity

2032 - Next Halo sequel

2033 - Halo 5 Infinity

This kind of release schedule would also be a huge win for Game Pass as it'd be adding major releases for one of its biggest franchises every year, while the multiplayer bundle component (and the Legendary editions) would add additional income for Microsoft even from Game Pass players who opt to get the campaign through the service.

343 has finally turned Halo Infinite into a proper success story, but to really evolve the franchise and integrate the free-to-play multiplayer model they're currently employing while also significantly bolstering revenue, 343 needs to think of Infinite not just as a game to support until the sequel launches and then move on from, but as the beginning of a platform that will be delivering content to Halo fans for years to come.


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