Step aside, Slayer. There’s a new deathmatch in Halo Infinitown: Attrition, a team-based mode wherein teammates share a limited pool of lives. It’s a total blast, an easy way to spice up Halo sessions, and a terrific addition to the first-person shooter’s arguably sparse range of playable gametypes. Too bad it’s going away at the end of the month.
Attrition is the playlist du jour of Halo Infinite’s neon-soaked “Cyber Showdown” event, which concludes on January 31. If you want any of the event’s free cosmetic rewards—including a lightish-red armor coloring and an ever-so-slightly askew neon visor—you’ll have to complete challenges affiliated with the mode.
In Attrition, two teams of four face off on the same seven maps that comprise the rest of Infinite’s eight-person playlists. (Three of ten available maps are relegated to Big Team Battle.) Each team starts with a pool of eight lives. Once those lives are depleted, your team enters a sort of sudden death: You won’t automatically respawn. If all four members of your team are killed, you lose the round. Best two out of three rounds wins.
There are a handful of wrinkles that ramp up the tension. When your team is out of lives, you can revive downed teammates by holding “X” (on Xbox) next to an iridescent orb floating where they last died. And in that last-ditch endgame state, a “danger zone”—think less Tom Cruise in ugly aviators, more circumferential laser wall à la Fortnite’s notorious storm—slowly restricts the area in which you can play.
The end result of all this is a deliciously high-strung twist on Slayer where the fundamental point—kill the enemy team more than the enemy team kills you—is the same but the stakes are infinitely raised. I’ve played a whole lot of Attrition over the past few days. So far, I’ve found myself holding my breath during firefights, and cringing more at my negative kill-death spreads than I would in, say, the Quick Play playlist. When I die, I’m not just benched for 10 seconds. I’m not just giving the team another point. I’m taking away potential playtime for a potentially far more proficient teammate. What if they’ve lost zero lives and my death—the last one allotted for our team—takes them out of play? Or what if they could’ve wiped the whole enemy team? Attrition has forced me to play, if not more skillfully, at least more cautiously. (Dear teammates, you’re welcome.)
But the best part, at least for me, is how devoid Attrition is of the mid-match deflation so common in many Halo Infinite modes. Whether it’s Slayer or CTF or Strongholds, if you’re getting handily demolished, it’s natural to hit a point where you just…give up. The other team has it in the bag, the thinking goes, so why put up a fight? Let’s just get this match over with! We’ll do better in the next one.
In Attrition, however, there’s always a chance for a comeback. Nabbing 12 kills across a team of four isn’t too tough, so even if you get washed in the first round, you can often rally and bounce in the second. More often than not, I’ve found that Attrition games play out over the full three rounds. Can the same be said for Oddball?
I know a certain vocal subset of the Halo community has begged for a battle-royale take on the game, in part so there’s a mode where failure truly has consequences. Attrition isn’t fully there, but it’s as close as possible while still retaining the quintessential “fuck around, find out” attitude that defines so much of Halo’s signature hijinks. Best of both worlds!
Mind, Attrition isn’t perfect. Despite a focus on reviving teammates, that’s one core feature that goes largely unused. Reviving takes just a smidge too long for it to be a sound strategy. (You’re usually better off just trying to kill the rest of the enemy team, rather than standing still for five seconds, aka an hour in Master Chief time.) Attrition also telegraphs the location of your team’s revival orbs to your enemies, which results in opposing teams camping respawn points. But these are minor quibbles, and with some tweaks, I could certainly see Attrition becoming a Halo mode for the ages.
Of course, for that to happen, Attrition would have to become a permanent playlist.
It’s not like there isn’t precedent. In November, shortly after Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode launched out of the “where’d they have that hiding???” cannon, the random-loadout Fiesta mode was playable for a week as part of the recurring “Fracture: Tenrai” event. After the event wrapped, Fiesta went away, but developer 343 Industries added it back in December as a permanently available playlist.
It’s unclear if Attrition will end up returning to Halo Infinite for the long term. When reached for comment, Microsoft, Halo Infinite’s publisher, did not immediately have anything to add. But let it be said here loud and clear: Attrition rules, and should absolutely stick around.
Now, about that rumored King of the Hill mode…