Halo Infinite multiplayer news: Bots, split-screen, free-to-play clarified
After getting a sizzle-reel reveal this weekend, Halo Infinite‘s upcoming multiplayer mode received a deeper-dive video on Monday meant to clarify what we should expect from the series’ first cross-platform, free-to-play shooter later this year. The best news echoes a 2017 Microsoft pronouncement: split-screen gameplay is back.
Microsoft has tucked this news away as a single line of text in this week’s blog post on the video reveal. The post also confirms that Halo Infinite, like Halo 5, will support LAN play, across all compatible platforms (Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S), via a dedicated “local server” app on PC. And it doubles down on 343 Industries’ claim that the series’ first-person games “will always have split-screen support going forward.” 343 Industries chief Bonnie Ross made that assertion in 2017 after Halo 5 took considerable lumps from the community for nixing that support.
Today’s update only clarifies that split-screen support is for “Xbox.” It does not clarify whether the feature may support fewer players on a single screen on weaker Xbox One consoles or whether such a feature will work via Xbox’s burgeoning cloud-gaming options. (Also, can we seriously toggle split-screen options on PC already? We plug computers into big-screen TVs now, 343.)
Academy fight song
In a first for the mainline Halo series, bots will be made available inside a new tutorial-filled mode dubbed the Halo Academy. You’ll face off against bots during bespoke training-style missions (which weren’t shown to fans just yet), while players can also fill out any “custom game” with bots of varying difficulties. In previous games, the closest players got to such an option was to spin up a “Firefight” battle against AI grunts. But otherwise, no Halo game has gone to the trouble of spinning up AI foes designed specifically for its option-rich versus modes.
There’s probably a reason: Halo combat can get complicated. Will Halo Infinite‘s bots truly be up to the task of splitting their attention between Halo classics like weapon-respawn control, managing tunnels with grenades, rushing to claim vehicles, and dual-wielding weapons in select scenarios? And how will new series elements like a grappling hook further complicate those AI demands? Yes, I’m looking a gift-Halo in the mouth here, and even the dumbest AI peons will still be a massive upgrade over none at all.
This week’s blog post also hints at how the new game will onboard novices: “improved systems that deliver better communication of key info to players during a match.” This, of course, could mean a million things: a new “ping” feature, like in Apex Legends, or loudly color-coded indicators of objectives, or maybe the classic Halo announcer voice shouting turn-by-turn directions for what to do, Waze style.
Speaking of announcers: the series will continue its ridiculous customization streak by allowing players to swap out the default battle announcer, dubbed “AI,” via a chip inserted in the back of your Spartan armor’s helmet. While the Master Chief Collection already includes swappable in-game announcers, Halo Infinite hints to an even more customizable system. With it, your in-game voice can have its “personality” tweaked however you see fit. Could more snark be an option?
The feature sounds intriguing. Unfortunately, 343 didn’t clarify exactly how this new voice system will coexist with default series announcer Jeff Steitzer shouting things like “killtactular!” midmatch.
F2P without the FOMO
Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer mode will launch in free-to-play fashion, and if you want to know how that will look, you can peek at Master Chief Collection‘s free, existing “battle pass” system for a hint.
Infinite will offer similar, experience-driven cosmetic unlocks, though they’ll require paying real-world money to open their full selection. Like MCC, Infinite‘s battle passes will operate without any FOMO (fear of missing out). You can purchase and highlight any battle pass, present or past, to drive your progress toward its particular unlocks, should you show up late to a certain shiny armor add-on or take a months-long break from the game.
A quick series of images shown on Monday confirms even more Spartan armor customizations this time around, including the series’ first prosthetic limbs as options. But if you want to pay zero dollars and zero cents and blow people up using a simple, default suit, by all means. Infinite‘s multiplayer maps, modes, weapons, and other gameplay-related content will be available for all players, whether they spend money or not. (Further nitty-gritty details: no loot will be unlocked via surprise systems like loot boxes. And if a weapon can be earned via experience, it cannot be purchased outright, and vice versa.)
As far as how the game mechanically differs from existing Halo entries, we get a few peeks at changes big and small. The new grappling-hook ability appears to be the biggest change, though Monday’s video didn’t clarify anything beyond the Sunday reveal’s glimpse at new crazy maneuvers like the “grapple-jack.” (That move rewards players for grappling up to a midair vehicle, then punting its pilot to the ground below.) And, honestly, we’re still waiting to see what that grappling hook’s recharge meter looks like (lest people shoot grappling hooks every five milliseconds) or whether it can be further limited or outright banned in certain Infinite multiplayer modes and custom games.
Did I mention the brand-new Razorback four-wheeler? It resembles the Warthog, but the new cargo bay in its trunk is meant to carry heavier weapons, flags, and other objective-specific objects. 343 has yet to clarify how this very useful vehicle has been balance-adjusted compared to other driving options, though a new anti-armor weapon (the Skewer) seems like an obvious answer. That’s especially likely when you consider that Infinite will include newly destructible elements for vehicles, which you can individually target. (If you’re looking for other solid firepower options, the “smart scope” semi-zoom returns to classic Halo weapons like the Assault Rifle.)
Big Team bucks? Campaign?
While we assume classic combat modes will fill out Infinite‘s public matchmaking queues over the course of its seasons, we don’t yet know what new or existing modes will receive a particular focus at launch, beyond confirmation that Halo 5‘s Big Team Battle will return. Sadly, 343 didn’t go into detail about whether or how the Halo 5 system of BTB “requisitions,” which are basically cards that can be purchased with real money to have an impact on combat, may return to Halo Infinite and its free-to-play economy.
If you’re keeping score, some other massive questions remain unanswered. How many maps, weapons, and vehicles will the game ship with? When might existing, classic maps appear? The series’ famed “Forge” mode—meant for building new maps and modes—will return, but how exactly will it work? How will players share their customized content with friends and the community? And will Halo Infinite eventually do the devil’s dance with a battle royale mode?
Clearly, the development team at 343 Industries has more to reveal between now and the game’s “Holiday 2021” launch window, especially since Sunday’s splashy trailer included, er, zero new footage of how the game’s campaign mode will look. We saw no new biomes, no new vehicles, and no new ways that the campaign’s emphasis on open-world exploration will play out (and we’d sure like to see some updates there). As soon as we do, we’ll report back, fellow Spartans.
Listing image by Xbox Game Studios
via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com
June 14, 2021 at 01:57PM