Since its launch in November, much hooplah has been made about Halo Infinite’s customization options. Between the dearth of variety in free options (too many grays) and the sticker prices of paid options (too many $$$s), there’s a sense that looking great in 343 Industries’ popular multiplayer shooter costs money. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In digital communities like r/halodripfinite, a niche subreddit that currently boasts around 800 members, Halo Infinite players congregate to show off their bespoke outfits. While many involve a level of financial commitment, folding in items—from armor coatings to weapon skins to, of course, those cat ears—available through the premium battle pass, the standalone campaign, or any of the rotating stock in Halo Infinite’s microtransaction store, some players show off lookbooks comprised entirely from free accessories.
Speaking to Kotaku, Romance Brown Jr., a member of r/halodripfinite who regularly streams on Twitch, pointed to the proliferation of Halo Infinite’s time-sensitive events as rationale for why free customization options have popped off. These events, which typically run for a week or two, all feature a free event-themed battle pass. By completing relevant challenges (i.e., “kill five Spartans in Attrition PvP”), you increase your level, with every new level begetting a new reward. For the most part, those rewards come in the form of new cosmetic options for your player avatar, a 25th-century supersoldier called a Spartan.
In late December, 343 Industries launched the free, pepperminty fresh “Winter Contingency” event complete with its own 10-level battle pass. Currently, Halo Infinite is in the midst of the cyberpunk-themed “Cyber Showdown,” also sporting a 10-level battle pass. And Halo Infinite’s first season is punctuated by near-monthly recurrences of “Fracture: Tenrai,” which gives players a samurai-themed kit of armor alongside a 30-level battle pass. (Fracture: Tenrai returns again next week.)
“Personally, I think the best free armor kit is the Yoroi armor,” Brown Jr. said. “It’s the most unique armor core and has the most free accessories.”
When Fracture: Tenrai first ran in late November, the rewards were—to put this as kindly as possible—total fucking garbage. Cosmetic options flaunted in promotional art were gated off in the microtransaction store. You could only progress seven levels per event, which resulted in a pair of shoulder pads getting split up between runs, so you theoretically had to wait a month to equip both (y’know, for balance). And that’s to say nothing of the single-use-item cruft, like XP boosts and challenge swaps, that padded out the pass.
For Fracture: Tenrai’s second run, 343 Industries improved the offerings, removing most single-use items and adding new colorways, new shoulderpads, and some accessories that were previously gated behind a paywall. Once upon a time, those wearing the Yoroi kit were considered, generously, “herbs.” Now, with all the bells and whistles, it’s possibly the coolest free kit out there:
No matter your approach, designing a seriously stylish Spartan requires buying into a certain degree of role-playing, according to r/halodripfinite moderator Tristan Miller, whose idea for the subreddit was sparked by the similarly style-obsessed r/reddeadfashion.
“I usually think about what the character I’m creating would wear. ‘What is their role in the team?’ Halo Reach helped set the different archetypes,” Miller said, using that game’s Jorge (whose unique armor kit is unlockable at level 80 in Infinite’s premium battle pass) as an example. In that case, you’d probably want to equip something like the Mark VII helmet (unlocked at level 96 in the free battle pass) with the Armet attachment (level 98). You get what Miller calls a “mean” look. Plus, with the litany of freely available visor colors, alongside the accessories available via events, you can put your own spin on it.
Both Brown Jr. and Miller said the Cyber Showdown event far and away has offered the most stylish free rewards. Over the course of its ten levels, players can unlock a new visor, a new armor coating, and two new weapon skins, plus two truly inspired, if slightly off-center, neon accessories. The event also isn’t subject to the frustrating play-every-day time restrictions that saddled Winter Contingency. Cyber Showdown is active in Halo Infinite until next Tuesday.
Halo Infinite’s events have added a handful of sorely needed color options to the wardrobes of free-to-play players. Those come in addition to the two widely praised schemes already available in the free pass, “stone green” (level 11) and the gold-flecked “ghost gray” (level 56). And every so often, the game’s capstone reward—earned by completing all of your weekly challenges—could be a new armor coating, as was the case with last year’s sumptuous “willow tea.”
That said, color options—or, rather, the lack of options—are largely contributive to any sourness Halo Infinite players have felt about the game’s approach to customization.
“Being red in Halo 3 was no big deal, childish even, because that was just one of the team colors,” Miller said. “Now we have to pay money to be red instead of maroon.”
On the whole, despite the raft of free customization options now available, Halo Infinite players seem inclined to pull out their credit cards. Even r/halodripfinite members who champion the bargain bin end up buying at least something. See how Brown Jr.’s Yoroi kit, in the pic above, is equipped with the “judgment helm” armor effect? You can only earn that effect with the premium tier of the battle pass, which costs about $10.
It’s unclear how broadly the mindset—“I’ll buy one thing”—extends across the Halo Infinite playerbase. When reached for comment, representatives for Microsoft, Halo Infinite’s publisher, declined to provide a breakdown of how many players have paid for extra content in the game. But anecdotally, Miller told me that most of r/halodripfinite’s members have purchased at least one item for Halo Infinite. In fact, Miller himself once spent 500 credits (about $5) on the “Intrusion Pack” bundle, which included the desert-appropriate “sandrift gulley” armor coating and some snazzy shoulder pads.
“I don’t live life with many regrets, but not buying the cat ears in the Halo Infinite shop is one of them,” Brown Jr. said. “I’ll be purchasing them immediately if they ever come back into the shop.”
Miller, meanwhile, has considered pulling the trigger on the Anubis helmet, which turned heads as a freely included option in Halo 5: Guardians but has sporadically popped up, for a cost, in Halo Infinite.
“Let’s just say I see way more cat ears than the Anubis helmet,” Miller said. “I wish it was the other way around.”
Over the past month, beyond making more cosmetic options available at no extra cost to players via events, 343 Industries has implemented well-received changes to how microtransactions work in Halo Infinite. Last week, prices in the store dropped across the board. This week, items will start showing up piecemeal, rather than as part of bundles. And when season two rolls around in May, you’ll be able to earn credits through playing. These are all steps in the right direction, but the broad hope is that 343 Industries maintains the bearing.
“Armor is the most important part of player expression,” Miller said. “Limiting what we can have limits our imagination.”