Did you just eek out a nail biting victory in a Big Team Battle Slayer match? Bash a bunch of your fellow Spartans’ heads in with a flaming skull in Oddball? Capture a ton of objectives in Total Control, putting big numbers on the board for all your PVP comrades to see? Halo Infinite’s battle pass does not care. It does not see you. Sorry, no points for you.
The surprise soft launch of Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is off to a roaring start, posting over 200,000 concurrents on Steam alone last night, and winning widespread acclaim for its feel, balance, and fun. However, its battle pass might be the one exception. It’s certainly the biggest. That’s because, unlike almost every other battle pass players are used to, progress in Halo Infinite’s is governed strictly by completing challenges. Where other games reward you simply for playing, 343 Industries’ latest makes you complete obscure and unnatural feats, like “Kill 15 enemy Spartans with the Sidekick Pistol in PVP.”
Players have daily and weekly challenges to work toward during each session. The bulk of XP comes from the weekly ones, which if combined offer about five levels of progress on the battle pass. Some are straightforward, like winning matches in certain modes. Others are a bit more of a chore. There’s nothing wrong with “Kill five enemy Spartans by flattening them with the Repulsor in PVP,” but gearing the entire grind around these challenges takes away from the fun of just playing Halo.
The result is you can have a fantastic round of Capture The Flag, inching out opponents with a last ditch steal in overtime, and barely see the XP meter for your battle pass creep forward. It only took a few matches for something lodged deep within the lizard part of my gamer brain to begin crying out in pain. And I’m not alone. The consensus is in. This shit sucks.
The current system is stingy, which is hard to seperate from the fact that as a standalone free-to-play mode, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer is completely supported by microtransactions. You can of course rank up the battle pass simply by pulling out your credit card (you’ll have to do that anyway if you want the premium tier that includes the full slate of seasonal rewards). Halo Infinite’s inaugural season is supposed to last until May, which is also possibly why the grind feels like such a slow burn right now.
But even aside from the economics, this current setup is just not fun. Most games have found a way to make weekly challenges more of a bonus, rather than the cornerstone of their progression. And a lot of them have really nailed the level up screen at the end of a match. Call of Duty: Warzone’s rewards screen might be excessive, but it certainly feels better than the austere greeting Halo Infinite currently provides. The end of those matches feel less like Christmas and more like my late Polish immigrant grandfather sternly giving me four quarters for raking his leaves, only to take them back because he meant to give me nickels. I come to Big Team Battle for a lot of things, but lessons in hard work and thrift are not one of them.
343 Industries anticipated these criticisms back during the previous test flights, promising the system would continue to evolve. “We have heard community feedback around wanting more progression options including things like “match XP” to feed into the Battle Pass and an entirely separate, incremental system along the lines of earning SR152 in Halo 5: Guardians,” the team wrote in September. “Expanding Multiplayer progression offerings is something the team is actively exploring, and we look forward to continuing to evolve the experience in future seasons post-launch.”
That’s good news. It would be even better news if future seasons weren’t half a year away.
Update: 11/16/21, 2:21 p.m. ET: The Halo Infinite team said it’s “looking at Battle Pass progression and gathering data from yesterday’s sessions and we’ll share updates as we have them.”