It’s no secret that Halo Infinite has been in a tough place since launch. While many will argue that its core shooting gameplay has always been solid and was often great fun, restrictive customization options and a limited-feeling amount of content often made for a shallow-feeling experience. Enter the fifth season, dubbed “Reckoning.” With excellent additions to the game’s sandbox and much-needed improvement to customization options, Halo Infinite is now the best it’s ever been—despite a few remaining rough edges.
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The Halo franchise hasn’t just had a rough time since Infinite’s launch in 2021, it’s arguably been struggling with somewhat of an identity crisis ever since the launch of Halo 4 in 2012, if not earlier. Attempts to keep up with emerging trends while also trying to stay true to the roots of a more than 20-year-old series has resulted in a number of damaging missteps in the eyes of a very (perhaps overly) critical fanbase that’s eager to share its opinions.
Halo Infinite was no exception. Just as the addition of Call of Duty-esque loadouts and perks proved controversial to Halo 4, Infinite multiplayer’s switch to a free-to-play live-service model has not gone over well, with key issues including a lack of flexible customization options, a low number of maps, and a polarizing battle pass and challenge system, to name a few. But now with season five, “Reckoning,” the game is feeling remarkably healthier—and don’t just take my word for it. The proof comes in the Halo community’s reception, which for once seems trending toward the positive.
Halo fans seem to finally be having fun now
There’s a lot of cool new gameplay stuff in season five, and one of the most important additions has been “cross-core” helmets, armor, and weapon coatings. Basically, customizing your character in Halo Infinite, until now, has been very restrictive. You could only use helmets specific to certain armor types, and colors and paint themes were likewise restricted to certain Spartan suits and certain weapons.
Season five changes that up, and the results speak for themselves. Not only have I felt like I was able to finally customize my Spartan in a way that looked cool to me, but Halo players all over are likewise having actual fun kitbashing helmets from different suits together.
Whether it’s folks showing off suit builds that mirror other games like Crysis, making odd creations of their own, or even putting together builds that look like Covenant Elites or Grunts, Halo Infinite players are finally achieving a pleasing level of customization and expression.
Campaign AI is opening up a whole new world
Halo’s map editor and creation toolset, “Forge,” has always been remarkably powerful. But the new ability toy make it spawn both friendly and adversarial AI brings an entirely new dimension to Halo custom games.
Some of that is in the form of straightforward PvE levels. It’s early days for sure, with very simple implementations of AI use and objectives like clearing out a room full of foes and then hitting a switch (which is arguably the skeletal framework of many first-person shooter levels). I’ve played a few thus far, namely the first two chapters of “The Hunt Campaign” by Takingelko770 and Epicminer06. While not threatening to unseat classic Halo single-player levels, these examples show a wonderful repurposing of multiplayer maps as more linear spaces. It’s early days in this department for sure, but once the knowledge threshold tips over toward “art,” I think we’re going to see some wild creations.
Elsewhere, fans are crafting interesting PvPvE experiences. Some examples include a direct injection of Banished forces in more traditional modes and maps like PvPvE Bloodgulch (which includes a Halloween-themed version) or new maps like Zeta Ark PvPvE Firefight, which combines wave-based encounters with existing PvP modes.
Of course, there are also more bonkers creations, like this wild version of a Pokémon-style battle arena in which you literally throw spherical objects into a battle arena to spawn monsters that engage in combat:
But while this is all a ton of fun and seriously promising for the future of Halo, season five hasn’t fixed everything.
Some stuff still needs improvement
The latest season adds two new, excellent Arena maps and a new Forge canvas, which makes the rotation in multiplayer playlists feel very fresh and offers some new backdrops for Forgers to work with. However, difficulty connecting to custom games is throwing a giant wet blanket on the fun.
Take A Tour Through Halo Infinite’s Newest Arena Maps
It’s not uncommon to wait forever for a custom game to load before it just kicks you out, trapping you in a repeat instance of an error that actually prevents you from launching into another game. I’ve often had to entirely restart the game because of this issue. Other times I’ve just had custom games, even ones I was hosting, just spontaneously end, dumping everyone out of the lobby. This particular oddity happens at least every three or four custom games. It’s a real fun killer.
Also, there’s a bit of a problem with discovery of certain maps, particularly the newer stuff with Campaign AI. Infinite could use a more robust tagging system. I typically have to do multiple searches of “Campaign,” “PvE,” or three variations of single-player (“single-player”, “singleplayer”, and “single player”) just to find maps matching those descriptions. Some of that problem is for the community to solve; with these new tools, Halo is going to have to develop a bit of a new vocabulary to refer to new experiences. But discoverability and layout of the custom browser could stand to be substantially improved.
Infinite also still seems to forget certain player settings for no reasons. My Spartan, for example, constantly switches her voice to a male one every time I start up the game. I need to manually reset it each launch by choosing a different voice then going back to the one I want. This one is really not fun.
The same is true of “Spartan Chatter” and the personal AIs. I like to turn that stuff off, but after a while, it will just spontaneously turn itself back on without warning, forcing me to dive into the audio menu yet again to fix it.
Season five is drawing crowds. The numbers prove it
Halo Infinite’s latest season is a serious change for the better. Players are noticing: A recent Steam bestseller chart shows Infinite leaping from the sad depths of 84th place all the way up to number six. The game’s also seeing a dramatic rise in player counts, the largest improvement seen since launch. It’s now one of the 15 top-selling Steam games worldwide, and on Xbox, Infinite is currently the 15th most-played game on the platform. Not. Bad.
There’s room to grow and improve for sure, but things are truly looking up for Halo Infinite.