‘Halo Infinite’: Fun to Play, But Newer Gamers Complain Its Rewards System Is Slow

"For Halo fans who only care about multiplayer, 'Halo Infinite' is a free-to-play game," writes the Washington Post. "But improbably, it's messing up the free-to-play part." [I]ts progression system has been widely criticized for being too slow. You can only advance...and earn rewards by completing specific objectives for a few hundred experience points. Nothing else counts toward your progress besides a morsel of experience points earned just by playing a match, win or lose. Many of these challenges distract from the objective of winning matches, like when players are asked to use certain weapons or vehicles to get a kill. And since the current playlist system means you can't choose what game type you'll play, oftentimes you'll see people running around using less-than-viable guns instead of, say, capturing the flag in a game of Capture the Flag... Progression by itself is a tricky balancing act for developer 343 Industries, a studio that has never released a free-to-play game before. The issue is exacerbated by separating rewards out to be used only for specific armor sets. So for example, if you earn a blue color coating for armor, it's applicable to only one type of armor. Currently, there are samurai-themed items on sale in the digital shop, including a sword belt for $15. The value of the sword is significantly lowered once you realize it can only be used along with the armor set unlocked by playing the event. There's a surprising lack of cosmetic interoperability: If you want to wear the sword belt on your Mark VII armor, you're out of luck. "Infinite" restricts armor customization to specific "core" armor sets, like the Mark VII or Mark V. Anything samurai-related can only be attached to the samurai armor set. If all of that sounds confusing, it is, and it's one of the main reasons the game's monetization needs a rethink. Regardless of your opinion on the value of cosmetic-only rewards, 343 Industries had years of industry research to fall back on to implement these features better, communicate them more clearly and understand how challenge-only progression might divide the player base between people who focus only on completing challenges and those who'd rather work toward the objectives of a match. All this criticism comes with a big caveat: The core gameplay of "Halo Infinite" has received almost universal praise. The game is undeniably fun for almost anyone who touches it. But the fun turns to frustration if players don't feel sufficiently rewarded for the experience. Therein lies the great divide in the Halo audience. Longtime Halo players like myself play the games because, well, they feel fun to play; "Halo Infinite" succeeds on those merits. But players who are accustomed to earning cosmetic rewards in free-to-play games feel cheated when those rewards don't come fast enough. That's just how multiplayer games work these days.... "Halo Infinite" was very nearly a home run, but 343 Industries is struggling coming to grips with the free-to-play reality, and the audience is left confused and frustrated because of it.

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