Fracture: Tenrai says more about the early state of Halo Infinite than I suspect 343 Industries ever intended it to. The studio launched the first limited-time Halo Infinite event yesterday; drawn out across Season 1, Fracture: Tenrai can ultimately lead to an unlock of the pretty rad Yoroi armor set and a suite of other themed cosmetics. When Spartan Samurais are on the table, the incentives for getting involved are obvious.
As great as it's been to see some variety injected into the challenge system, particularly as 343 attempts to revise Halo Infinite Battle Pass progression following initial pushback, the first cycle of the Halo Infinite Tenrai event has unintentionally pulled the spotlight onto combat. Specifically, on how fragile Halo Infinite's balance is – and how easily it can be shattered by an influx of power weapons.
Halo Infinite meet Fiesta: Slayer
A quick recap for those of you who are yet to jump into the carnage. The first week of the Fracture: Tenrai event kicked off on November 23 and runs through November 30, and is set to return five more times between January and April 2022, running concurrently with Halo Infinite's existing Season 1 progression. The event pass is free, meaning that all Halo Infinite players can work their way through its 30 tiers of unlocks without needing to purchase the premium Battle Pass.
To complete Event Challenges and push through those tiers, you'll need to jump into the special Halo Infinite Fiesta matches. Now, this should have been a dream come true. As we noted in our Halo Infinite Season 1 first impressions, the free-to-play shooter has been crying out for a Slayer-only playlist option – particularly as rotation between modes through regular matchmaking seems a little tenuous, and there's only so many rounds of Strongholds one can reasonably play before they begin to lose it. So, what's the problem?
The problem is that Fiesta: Slayer is wholly unpredictable by design, the sort of custom game you jump into for a round or two, just to humor a few of your buddies, before dragging them back into the mire of Ranked Mode competition – you know, Serious Business. With just a week to get through as much of the Fracture: Tenrai event unlocks as possible, there is no respite from Fiesta: Slayer and I can't say I'm having all that much fun with it.
Halo Infinite's multiplayer works so well because Halo Infinite is a finely-tuned shooter. The weapon balance is impeccable, with all Spartans landing into regular play with an MA40 Assault Rifle, MK50 Sidekick, and two grenades. The terms of engagement rarely change, pushing the onus for success onto your ability to position against multiple enemies and your skill at wielding Halo's holy trinity of gunfire, grenades, and melee strikes. Even when power weapons do cycle into combat, the spawn points and timings are fixed, while ammunition is limited by design; power weapons are a quick burst of energy that disrupts the cadence of play and then quickly diminishes.
In Fiesta: Slayer, all players respawn with a random primary and secondary weapon drawn from the full pool of kinetic, plasma, shock, and hard light options, along with a piece of tactical equipment. The result is pure chaos, with rounds ruled by multiples of the most domineering power weapons. Multiples of the Energy Swords and Gravity Hammer are difficult to counter in the tight corridors of Halo Infinite's multiplayer, particularly when their ammunition is so easily replenished from the ground, or should you happen to spawn in with one of the many underpowered Banished or Forerunner weapons.
While there's certainly entertainment value to be had from Fiesta, it does dilute the balance Halo Infinite's multiplayer is structured around. Frustration begins to seep into the experience quickly. As you spawn in, only to be immediately grappled by multiple enemies wielding Energy Swords, or round a corner with your assigned Plasma Pistol only to run into a full group wielding Cindershots and SPNKR Rocket Launchers. Typically, Halo Infinite works so well because you always have everything you need to, not survive encounters, but succeed in them; with Fiesta: Slayer, that balance is shattered, and with it, the core appeal of Infinite's Arena play and its Big Team Battles.
Room to improve
There are ways to improve Fiesta: Slayer, from a balance perspective. Perhaps limiting the ability for players to replenish ammunition of power weapons would help, or alternatively, restrict our capacity to swap weapons and equipment out with those that can be found littering the ground. Then again, Fiesta: Slayer has always been this way. It was a mess when it used to rotate in for Free For All sessions of Halo 3, when it dropped into the Team Action Sack playlist in Halo 4, and when it arrived in Halo 5: Guardians as part of the 2016 Hammer Storm update.
Given the initial backlash to Halo Infinite's Battle Pass, I can see some having an issue with the structure of the event itself. With Fracture: Tenrai returning intermittently all throughout Season 1, with its unique cosmetic unlocks rewarded gradually over the next three months rather than being available after the first instance, some amount of frustration from players is inevitable. Then again, teething issues with playlist selections, Event Challenges, and Battle Pass unlocks are to be expected. Halo Infinite is a live service, the type 343 has never run before, and one that Xbox Game Studios has limited experience in. With Halo Infinite set to officially launch December 8, 2021, I'd rather the studio experimented now and found a firmer grasp on what does and doesn't work ahead of what will be an important 2022 for the studio.
And in the meantime, you'll find me grinding out Event Challenges in Fracture: Tenrai. I may not like Fiesta: Slayer, but if you think I'm going to let that get in the way of me equipping that Yoroi armor you've got another thing coming.
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