A lot can happen in two months. You could spark a whirlwind romance with the love of your life. You could get a new gig and move across the country. Or you could complete the 100 levels of a first-person shooter’s battle pass intended to stretch out thrice that time.
Yes, it happened to me: Earlier this month, I maxed out Halo Infinite’s battle pass. So, now what?
It’s quaint to think about today, but when Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode launched in November on Xbox and PC, players lambasted its progression system. You level up not by playing proficiently but instead by earning XP from daily and weekly challenges. Some of those tasks were a slog or offered few points, contributing to the widespread notion that moving through the battle pass for the first season, which is slated to conclude in May 2022, was just too slow. Developer 343 Industries quickly addressed complaints by lowering the difficulty of weekly challenges and tweaking the dailies so you receive XP for every match, meaning you could earn at least one level by playing six matches per day.
At the time, I defended the system, writing:
Halo has never been about this stuff. Since the days of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, Halo has always been about the game itself — about winning matches just to win, about sharpening your kill-death ratio, about messing around and having a blast with fun-feeling vehicles and weapons you couldn’t find in any other game, then pairing them with ridiculous match parameters, all in the effort of meshing creativity with competition.
I still stand by that — Halo is, above all, about having a good time — but over the past month or so, I noticed a sea change: Halo Infinite’s challenges and battle pass started to dictate how I played. Rather than playing for kicks, I’d hop into matches with the intent of ranking up my battle pass. Around the 80s, I realised I was flying through it, so I slowed down. Eschewing my own advice, I stopped using XP boosts. I stopped knocking out weekly challenges when I didn’t care about that week’s reward. Some days, I actually — and I know this may be hard to believe — played other games.
Still, I hit level 100. With three and a half months left to go.
Of course, not every Halo Infinite player has hit the cap, and the total number of those who have isn’t known. On Xbox, around six per cent have earned the “battle tested” achievement, awarded for “completing a battle pass.” On Steam, it’s far lower, just one per cent. But those stats are fraught. For one, it’s not totally clear whether “battle tested” unlocks when you complete the season-long battle pass or one of the limited-time event passes. Representatives for Microsoft, Halo Infinite’s publisher, did not immediately have info about the achievement’s requirements on hand. For another, player feedback suggests the “battle tested” achievement is bugged, with some reporting they’ve hit level 100 in the seasonal battle pass only for it to remain locked.
But if these players are anything like me, they’ve found themselves squarely in a liminal space we shall henceforth deem “battle pass limbo.”
I can’t say ending up in this muddy in-between hasn’t notably impacted my approach with Halo Infinite. This week’s reward — a muted tangerine visor — is sick, so I’m playing a ton, diligently knocking out every challenge. Last week’s was also cool. Two weeks ago, though, the prize was a total letdown, essentially a re-run of a previously available prize (a variation of the cheesy “sacrifice” emblem has popped up multiple times this season). If a friend wanted to party up and grind their own challenges, sure, yeah, I’d hop on. But I didn’t find myself playing much just for the hell of it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still playing an absurd amount of Halo Infinite. But the past few weeks have had me wondering what one does upon hitting a progression wall. How do you fill the gap between battle passes? Halo Infinite still reeks of new-game excitement (my third-favourite cologne), but will that be able to sustain in future seasons? Short of 343 Industries proactively adding extra levels before the season ends — as some not-exactly-credible rumours have suggested — nothing immediately springs to mind, though I may have something…
OK, so, after you hit level 100 in Halo Infinite’s battle pass, the XP bar won’t fill up. That said, after a handful of matches, I’ve still received the level-up notification, with the splashy diamond indicating I’ve hit level 100, suggesting Halo Infinite continues tracking earned XP even after it doesn’t really matter any more. There’s the tiniest part of me that’s wholly convinced 343 Industries should continue showing the XP bar fill up for maxed-out players. At least you’d feel like you’re getting a little prize, a small pat on the head, despite the fact that you’re really walking away with nothing at all.
Or Halo Infinite could stay as-is, and those of us condemned to battle pass limbo could muster the strength to be content with, y’know, playing the game. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right?