Halo Infinite Season 2 will add two new multiplayer maps, three new game modes, and two new armor cores when it drops on May 3. However, this welcome influx of new content comes nearly six months after the game was released. For many players, the content drought has felt extreme, especially in comparison to other live service games and previous Halo titles, so there's a lot riding on Halo Infinite Season 2.
Just recently we reported that the Halo Infinite player count had dropped below The Master Chief Collection on PC, and a visit to the Halo Infinite subreddit will reveal an overwhelming sense of frustration from players. Halo Infinite Season 2 could swing favor back towards 343 Industries and reinvigorate the game's player count. There's a lot riding on this.
When Halo Infinite surprise-launched its multiplayer in beta last November, there was a sense of breakneck pace as we were handed access to ten maps and a handful of modes right away. But that pace quickly slowed to a trot, and as events like Fracture: Tenrai kept coming back and limited-time modes offering fun new modes would disappear after a few weeks despite requests to make them permanent, and so players got antsy.
343 Industries has added several new cosmetics, game modes, and playlists, including Fiesta and Tactical Slayer since launch, but the content pipeline still feels backed up. In January, 343 Industries pulled a map from Ranked play because of concerns over its balance, making the map pool even smaller. And as players will point out, with seven of those maps in Arenas and three for Big Team Battle, if you have a game preference you're only really playing a few of those ten maps. It's understandable that players would express frustration at a lack of content, especially when you look at the bigger picture across the free-to-play live service world and previous Halo games.
Live service games tend to have a pretty regular cadence of updates, especially when those updates are rolled out in seasonal format. Apex Legends' seasons run about three months, with each season debuting a new character and major map changes. Call of Duty: Warzone's seasons are around two months long, with new seasons introducing map updates, extensive battle passes with a ton of customization items, and more. Halo Infinite Season 1 has run for over five months – I finished the battle pass months ago, and have had little reason to return save for Ranked matches.
Halo Infinite may be the first Halo title to adopt the free-to-play model, but its release cadence feels slow when compared to other games in the series. Granted, these games were meant to sustain a player base over multiple years from the moment it launched, but player expectations versus the realities of a live service environment are causing some growing pains. Halo 5 launched with 20 maps on October 27, 2015. Less than a month later, the Battle of Shadow and Light DLC dropped, bringing with it four Forge maps, and a month after that, the Cartographer's Gift DLC introduced four multiplayer maps.
But it's not just the lack of new maps that are frustrating players – it's 343 Industries' approach to cosmetics. There aren't enough free, high-quality cosmetics available for players to earn - most of the ones you can get from grinding games are emblems or attachments to existing armor cores. Players want new armor cores and more armor coatings that aren't locked behind a paywall. Halo Infinite Season One offers only a handful of unlockable cosmetics in the paid battle pass and a select few free cosmetics available in a special event that has been repeated five times throughout the season or through weekly ultimate rewards. The Halo Infinite in-game storefront, however, has rotated in and out a fair few pieces of high-quality cosmetics – you just have to pay for them.
Halo Infinite Season 2 (titled Lone Wolves) seems incredibly promising. We're getting two new maps in Catalyst and Breakout, with the former joining the Arenas rotation and the latter available for Big Team Battle matches. Unlike many of the current maps, Catalyst feels quintessentially Halo: there's Forerunner architecture, suspending catwalks, and a tightness that is missing from a few of the current maps (looking at you, Launch Site). Breakout looks like a perfect CTF map, and an environmental hazard will help maximize the potential for sandbox shenanigans.
Lone Wolves is also bringing four playlists, three of which are new: Land Grab, King of the Hill, Last Spartan Standing, and the return of Attrition (which we've seen before and loved). King of the Hill is a classic Halo game mode, and while 343 Industries has been somewhat quiet about Last Spartan Standing, info from dataminers suggest it could be a small-scale battle royale. All three of these playlists will add some much-needed variety to Halo Infinite, with each bringing something a little different to the table. Lone wolf players will love Last Spartan Standing, long-time Halo vets will cherish King of the Hill, and those of us who love Attrition will enjoy having it back.
And in many other ways, Halo Infinite Season 2 is nothing like Season 1. The upcoming season will run for a reasonable three months, and the premium battle pass will give players a chance to earn enough in-game currency to potentially buy the next season's battle pass (if it's offered at the same price as the last two seasons). This incentivizes players in a way the previous season did not, encouraging them to return to Halo Infinite to chip away at the battle pass to get some quality cosmetics and a free go at the next battle pass.
Halo Infinite Season 2 will also fix ultimate rewards so that players can spend their weeks working towards better quality content. 343's Jon Junyszek promised the rewards in Season 2 will be "at a higher, more consistent quality bar" and will "focus on content like coatings, visors and stances, and no longer have emblems or backdrops throughout the course of the season." For players who may have felt like Halo Infinite's cosmetic situation was a bit of bad-faith acting, Season 2 is clearly looking to change their mind.
And of course, Season 2 will usher in the long-awaited campaign co-op, though we don't have an exact release date yet. It's clear that 343 Industries has had some growing pains in their transition into a free-to-play game model, but are working hard to make changes to help reinvigorate the player base. It's also important that we make it clear that we don't ever want devs to crunch in order to give us content, so hopefully there's been a good work-life balance in the run up to Season 2.
Halo Infinite Season 2 is a make or break moment for the game, but I'm confident it'll usher in a golden age of Halo. After all, 343 Industries has turned around a game before (the Master Chief Collection was famously panned at launch) – who's to say they can't do it again?
Halo Infinite's co-op delay is a blow, but it deserves to be done right