Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer Challenges Need A Rework
A few months in, Halo Infinite has carved out a place in my regular gaming schedule. I had a lot to praise about the game in my original review, in which I wrote about the ways that this newest Halo nimbly walks the line between nostalgia for the earlier games and a fresh, modern core. I’ve been surprised that the multiplayer component has kept me so engaged for as many weeks as it has; as many have observed, the small number of map selections and modes can be limiting, but I still find myself coming back for more of that wonderful “dance” of competition that the Halo competitive experience offers in its best moments. Nonetheless, as the weeks wear on, the challenge system that sits on top of that competition feels deeply flawed, and the passage of time is only making the problems more apparent.
For those who may not yet have tried it, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer allows for progression through a few different tracks at a given time. Each match you play awards XP for the completion of challenges, from the always-present “play a match” requirement, to more complex goals, like nailing headshots in a particular game mode. In turn, the completion of those challenges moves you forward along your season pass, certain challenges progress any current event that might be running that week, and completing the full suite of weekly challenges awards a small but special bonus, like a weapon coating or emblem.
In the early stages of playing Infinite’s multiplayer, this system holds up pretty well. There’s a consistent sense of forward momentum, and I’ve yet to meet the gamer who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of filling up a meter toward character improvement and rewards. But longer-term engagement begins to reveal some big issues.
Perhaps even more than a PvE experience, competitive games really see players gravitate to modes and experiences that they specifically enjoy. After all, it’s no fun to get beaten over and over again in Tactical Slayer if you have never gotten a handle on the Battle Rifle. Unfortunately, Halo Infinite’s challenge system largely overlooks that dilemma, regularly pushing players to dive into specific game modes or weapon usages that they may not enjoy. That problem is exacerbated on event weeks, when you’re often pushed to play one particular mode on repeat, simply to complete the various challenges on offer. I like a little bit of Fiesta’s random weapons as much as the next guy, but after multiple weeks of being compelled into that same mode, I’m desperate for a break.
A limited-use challenge swap currency is available if a particular challenge seems especially daunting, but it feels like a flawed patch to an already flawed system. Sure, I can trade out that Chef’s Kiss challenge to nail peak efficiency kills with a kinetic weapon, but I have no way of knowing if the new challenge coming in might be even worse. Moreover, it misses the core point: I’d much rather play the game mode I want to play in a given evening rather than be forced to pursue an objective I’m not interested in.
The dilemma is exacerbated by the weekly ultimate challenge. On one level, it’s satisfying to gradually tick off challenges over the course of the week to snag a small but fun reward if you do them all. However, that can turn into a real letdown if one or more of the core challenges at hand is poorly structured, especially if you get to the end, and learn that you can't swap it out.
That was the case with last week’s Fiesta Killjoy challenge, one of the worst offenders in a mix of unwelcome challenges the game has offered up. That challenge demanded that players stop enemy killing sprees in Fiesta. Now, pause for just a moment, and consider the implications: Not only are you forcing players to engage with random weapons, but you’re also asking them to only succeed at the challenge if you’ve let the other teams kick you to the curb a few times first.
If that sounds like a recipe for trouble, you’re right; ahead of reset, Fiesta on Monday evening was a total disaster. Anecdotally from the time I was online, players seemed to be purposefully throwing matches, letting enemy teams rack up killing sprees in the often-vain hope that one could then successfully turn the tables and take out one of those killing spree players with a well-timed late-game attack. Alternately, you could play as normal and desperately watch as one match after the next flitted by, without any progress on getting those Fiesta Killjoy completions. It was, in a word, infuriating – especially at the tail end of a week completing every other challenge put forward. I eventually turned off the game in frustration, weekly ultimate challenge incomplete.
Setting aside the lackluster rewards on offer in many cases, the challenge system feels like an ill-advised approach. I’m reminded of the early days of the original Destiny, and its bounty board. In the infancy of that game, the bounty board offered little choice to players, but it was sometimes the only way you could feel like you were making progress. After loud complaints from the community, Bungie changed the structure of Destiny’s bounties, and to the game’s benefit.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer suite would be in better shape if the developers at 343 Industries followed a similar course, and to the team’s credit, it has indicated changes are indeed on the way.
Multiplayer engagement is dependent, at least in part, on players who feel compelled by the loop of engagement and progression. As it is, challenges feel too limiting, lacking in choice, and often, simply unenjoyable and grindy to complete.
Contrary to some players’ expressed experience that I’ve seen in the community over recent weeks, I’ve continued to find the in-game match play of Halo Infinite to be exciting and fun. But every time I hit a challenge that makes me groan in frustration at what lies ahead, it takes me one step closer to dropping away from my nightly games. And that would be the real killjoy.