You might want to dust off your fake sneeze. Halo Infinite’s multiplayer component, which was initially slated for a December 8 release, is available today. Microsoft announced the news during Xbox’s 20th anniversary stream. And yes, it’s still a separate free-to-play mode. I’m, uh, suddenly not feeling so hot, boss.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode is technically in beta for these first few weeks, developer 343 Industries said on Twitter, but the first season, “Heroes of Reach,” starts today. All of your progression will carry over to the full game when it releases in December. Season one will run through May 2022.
Notably, when Halo Infinite launches in December, it won’t do so with a cooperative campaign function or with the player-creation Forge mode. In August, 343's Joseph Staten said that a co-op campaign would come in the game’s second season, while Forge is planned for the third.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment about explicit release dates for both modes.
The news is a “surprise” in the same way that God of War Ragnarok actually getting announced with the title God of War Ragnarok was a “surprise.” For one, Halo turns 20 today. (On November 15, 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved landed on the original Xbox, which came out the same day.) Obviously, Microsoft, and the current Halo stewards at 343 Industries, would want to do something big.
Over at Forbes, loot-shooter whisperer Paul Tassi exhaustively ran down all the available evidence that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer would come out of left field. Data-miners reportedly uncovered code indicating a preorder release date slated for today. Others spotted seasonal events starting on November 23—a date that, corroborated by Kotaku fact-checking, comes before December.
Some have pointed to this week’s imminent wide release of Battlefield 2042, which has received cross-promotional marketing with Xbox brands, including Xbox Game Pass, as proof that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer would stick to its original December 8 release date. Really, why would Microsoft do EA dirty like that? But Tassi rightfully points out that Battlefield 2042 wasn’t initially planned for this week, having been pushed back from its original October 22 release date.
Both games were recently playable for various trial periods. Battlefield 2042’s sole early October beta showed a shooter that was solid on fundamentals but buggy in more ways than you could count. (The full game, currently in early access for players of the bonus editions, isn’t faring much better.) Halo Infinite, meanwhile, was playable via a series of technical tests, running on three weekends between July and September. The first one sputtered out of the gate, marred by the connectivity issues you’d expect from an online game of this scale. But by the end of the third, it was clear: This thing’s ready to go.
Achoo! (...Was that believable enough?)