Halo Infinite’s fifth season, “Reckoning,” arrives on October 17, 2023. With two new maps, a returning multiplayer mode from Halo 4, a new variant of the Bandit rifle, and more, it’s shaping up to be an excellent season for 343’s shooter.
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Halo Infinite’s new Arena maps: Forbidden and Prism
While Halo multiplayer is capable of delivering many different experiences, the core 4v4 experience of “Arena” is essential. Halo Infinite shipped with solid maps on launch, and has seen some wonderful new additions, but I’d suggest that these new maps are a step above what we’ve seen added to the game before.
“Forbidden” is a symmetrical map that 343 Industries multiplayer level designer Cliff Schuldt said was designed “specifically for Capture the Flag.” It features a well-known Forerunner ruins art style that’s very reminiscent of Halo 2’s “Sanctuary” and has a dash of “Warlock” as well.
As a symmetrical map, it’s a natural fit for competitive play, and I found it to be quite fun in game modes besides CTF as well. But it’s the visual design that I especially appreciate. With varied amounts of overgrown vegetation covering its structures and a looming Halo ring visible from the very center,it has that distinct Halo vibe that other competitive maps in the game like Aquarius or Streets are somewhat lacking.
There are a lot of neat opportunities for some fancy movement across Forbidden. In particular, I loved the “rat holes,” as Halo Infinite’s multiplayer level designer Cliff Schuldt called them. These are chutes on either side of the map that you can slide into to drop down to the lower level, making for great flag getaways or quick repositioning.
The varied levels, tight corridors, ramps, and opportunities to snipe down some wonderfully positioned sight lines gives me some very serious “Lockout” vibes, a classic map from Halo 2 on which I used to absolutely terrorize my friends.
“Prism” offers a very different flavor from Forbidden and features a welcome injection of Covenant purple that feels like it’s been missing from Halo for far, far too long. While structurally it’s very different from something like “Midship” (it reminded me quite a bit of Halo 4’s “Abandon”), the presence of enormous glowing purple crystals (from which Needler ammo is mined according to the lore) really sells that old-school Covenant vibe. It features varied levels of elevation that have a natural-feeling topography as opposed to the more angular “Forbidden.” In my time with “Prism,” I found that the map naturally lends itself to tight pockets of action, particularly in the new game mode: Extraction.
“Prism” also features some environmental hazards in the form of crystal clusters that, when shot, release dangerous shards that can damage you or your opponent. It gives the map a bit of interactivity, and well-placed shots and grenades around these crystals ought to make for some interesting plays. I didn’t find them overly punishing, but they provided enough damage to either be used strategically or, potentially, to catch you by surprise if you’re not prepared.
“Prism” also features the Pinpoint Needler as a power weapon. If you’ve played Infinite’s campaign, you’ll remember it as the reward for taking out one of the High Value Targets. It’s a far more lethal variant of the Needler, feels perfectly at home on a Needler-themed map, and helps shake things up a bit from the usual “go get the rockets/sniper” pattern of most maps and power weapons.
Speaking of weapons, Season 5 also includes a new addition to the arsenal by way of the Bandit Evo, which manages to avoid stepping on the Battle Rifle’s place in the game while still offering some excellent range.
The Bandit Evo might be better than the DMR ever was
The semi-automatic DMR rifle made its debut in Halo: Reach and was arguably the final evolution of the one-shot-at-a-time precision of the overpowered M6D in Halo: Combat Evolved. It worked well enough in Reach, but when it joined the Battle Rifle in Halo 4 (along with the now-retired Light Rifle), it sort of felt like there were three guns competing to do the same thing.
Enter the Bandit Evo with season five of Halo Infinite. On paper it’s rather simple: It’s a Bandit (a semi-automatic medium-range DMR) with a reflex scope as opposed to the ACOG-style featured in Reach, 4, and 5.
With just a reflex scope, the Bandit gets the range it deserves, while not stepping on the Battle Rifle’s domain. In my experience it finds a nice middle position between the Sidekick and the Battle Rifle. I predict this weapon will work out very well in Big Team Battle, but its shorter range means that it presents some great utility for standard 4v4 action. To me it feels like a more appropriate version of Halo CE’s pistol.
The return of Halo 4’s Extraction, match XP in custom games, cross-core customization, and yes, AI in Forge
History doesn’t always look too kindly on Halo 4, which is a bit of a shame as it had some great ideas. Extraction, a multiplayer mode where players need to deploy and defend extraction devices in key areas, is one such example. Once you plant an extraction device, the countdown toward scoring a point begins. Fail to defend the area, and the opposing team can take it from you. It’s a straightforward mode, but one that can lead to a lot of interesting outcomes as both sides battle for control of the area.
Season five will also include some other much-needed additions such as cross-core armor coatings and helmets (these were previously locked to specific armor sets), and match XP from custom games, so you can make progress in the battle pass by playing in games other than what’s found in the matchmaking playlists. This is particularly interesting as season five also sees the long-awaited inclusion of campaign AI in Forge, opening the door to all kinds of interesting PvE and PvPvE experiences on Halo Infinite’s maps.
Forge AI, however, is a topic for another day. We’ll dive into that a bit more closer to release.
Halo Infinite Season Five: Reckoning will be available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Windows on October 17, 2023.
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