A few months later, Halo Infinite has found a place in my regular game schedule. I had high praise for the game in my original review, where I wrote about the ways this latest Halo deftly straddles the line between nostalgia for the earlier games and a fresh, modern core. I was surprised that the multiplayer component kept me so busy for so many weeks; as many have noted, the small number of card selections and modes can be limiting, but I find myself still coming back for more of that wonderful “dance” of competition that the Halo competitive experience offers at its best moments. Nevertheless, as the weeks go by, the challenge system that sits atop that competition feels deeply flawed, and the passage of time only makes the issues more apparent.
For those who may not have tried it yet, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer allows you to go through a few different tracks at one point or another. Each match you play earns XP for completing challenges, from the ever-present “play a match” requirement to more complex goals, such as taking headshots in a particular game mode. Completing those challenges in turn advances you with your Season Pass, certain challenges progress every current event taking place that week, and completing the full set of weekly challenges grants you a small but special bonus, such as a weapon coating or decal.
In the early stages of playing Infinite’s multiplayer, this system holds up pretty well. There’s a constant sense of forward momentum, and I’ve yet to meet the gamer who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of filling a meter for character enhancement and rewards. But longer-term engagement is starting to reveal some major issues.
Perhaps even more than a PvE experience, competitive games really see players drawn to modes and experiences they specifically enjoy. After all, it’s no fun getting beaten over and over in Tactical Slayer if you’ve never mastered the Battle Rifle. Unfortunately, Halo Infinite’s challenge system largely overlooks that dilemma and regularly challenges players to dive into specific game modes or weapon use that they may not enjoy. That problem is compounded during event weeks, when you’re often forced to play a particular mode repeatedly just to complete the various challenges on offer. I like some random Fiesta weapons as much as the next guy, but after being forced into that same mode for several weeks, I’m desperate for a break.
A limited-use challenge swap currency is available if a particular challenge seems particularly daunting, but it feels like a flawed patch for an already flawed system. Sure, I could trade that Chef’s Kiss challenge for beating peak efficiency kills with a kinetic weapon, but I don’t know if the new challenge coming in might be worse. Plus, it misses the point: I’d rather play the game mode I want to play on any given night than be forced to pursue a goal I’m not interested in.
The dilemma is compounded by the weekly ultimate challenge. On the one hand, it’s satisfying to gradually tick off challenges over the course of the week to get a small but fun reward for doing them all. However, that can turn into a real disappointment if one or more of the core challenges is poorly structured, especially if you reach the end and discover you can’t trade it.
Such was the case with last week’s Fiesta Killjoy Challenge, one of the worst offenders in a mix of unwanted challenges the game has to offer. That challenge demanded players to stop killing enemies in Fiesta. Now pause for a moment and consider the implications: Not only are you forcing players to use random weapons, but you’re also asking them to pass the challenge only if you’ve let the other teams kick you to rein in the first few times .
If that sounds like a recipe for trouble, you’re right; prior to reset Monday night Fiesta was a total disaster. Anecdotally from the time I was online, players seemed to be purposefully throwing matches, letting enemy teams rack up kills in the often vain hopes that they could then successfully turn the tables and kill one of those deadly spree players with a well- timed late game attack. You can also just play and watch desperately as one match after the other flashes by, with no progress at all in getting those Fiesta Killjoy completions. It was, in a word, infuriating – especially at the end of a week taking on every other challenge proposed. In the end I disabled the game out of frustration, the weekly ultimate challenge incomplete.
Aside from the mediocre rewards on offer in many cases, the challenge system feels like an unwise approach. Reminds me of the early days of the original Destiny and its bounty board. In the infancy of that game, the bounty board offered little choice for players, but it was sometimes the only way you felt like you were making progress. After loud complaints from the community, Bungie changed the structure of Destiny’s bounties in favor of the game.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer suite would be in better shape if the developers at 343 Industries followed a similar course, and to the team’s credit, it has indicated that changes are indeed on the way.
Multiplayer engagement relies, at least in part, on players feeling compelled through the loop of engagement and progression. As it is, challenges feel too restrictive, lack choice, and often just plain unpleasant and grueling to complete.
Contrary to the experiences of some players I’ve seen in the community over the past few weeks, I continue to find Halo Infinite’s in-game match play exciting and fun. But every time I take on a challenge that makes me moan with frustration at what lies ahead, it brings me one step closer to dropping my nighttime games. And that would be the real bummer.