343 Industries writer Jeff Easterling, speaking on a livestream, had strong words to say about the inclusion of Battle Royale in Halo Infinite. “I’ll tell you right now,” he declared, “the only BR we’re interested in is Battle Rifle. The original BR. So, calm yourself.”
It’s hard to tell if Easterling was serious. The tone of the comment, and the informality of the stream, makes his statement a step short of an announcement. It’s possible he was speaking for himself, or that he doesn’t have full knowledge of the studio’s plans. If his attitude does represent the studio overall, though, I have an opinion to offer.
That’s dumb. On multiple levels.
Battle Royale is the hottest thing going right now, for good reason. Its unique take on competitive multiplayer is the opposite of everything prior games were built on. Before it, almost all competitive multiplayer games were founded on assumptions that, in retrospect, seem stale. Fights must be fair. Levels must be tight and designed with obsessive detail. Competition can only happen between two players or two teams.
Then came PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite, and a long list of less successful (though often still popular) imitators. These games proved all the above untrue. Fights can be unfair. Levels can be sprawling. Competition can take place between up to a hundred people at once – with only one winner in the end.
As a matter of business, then, shunning Battle Royale isn’t smart. It’s a massively popular game mode that shreds the rulebook and encourages innovation. Players want not just the Battle Royale they know, but the Battle Royale they don’t know. There’s a literal wealth of opportunity for developers with new ideas.
It’s absurd that 343 Industries wouldn’t want to take part in that, but that’s not the only reason I chafe at Easterling’s remark. My big beef is that he works on Halo, a game that could make for an amazing Battle Royale title.
Think about it. What does Halo do well? Big, epic battles. It’s a fundamentally solid shooter, to be sure, but it is scope, not gunplay, that defines the franchise. The original Halo spawned new interest in first-person shooters on console but, aside from the Battlefield franchise, none have nailed (or even tried to nail) the massive battles that define Halo. From that first Warthog ride in the original game to the awesome “The Ark” mission in Halo 3, the game shines when it goes big – and brings a few tanks, too.
Battle Royale is exactly that. It’s big. It’s epic. Can you imagine dropping as a barely kitted Spartan. Searching for armor add-ons? Finding a Warthog? Fighting over an M808 dropped from the sky mid-match? My heart’s beating faster already.
343 Industries already understands this. Halo 5 introduced Warzone, a mode that placed two teams of 12 players on a large map that also contained enemy A.I. The goal was to earn victory points by eliminating the other team, killing A.I. baddies, and controlling bases. It was a fun, hectic, and epic experience. It felt more compact than it should’ve, though, and was undermined by an annoying microtransaction scheme. Still, Warzone showed the idea for large, unorthodox game modes can work in Halo, and I doubt there’s any technical reason the game couldn’t support it.
The inclusion of a Battle Royale mode, or something similar, could be the make-or-break on my Halo Infinite purchase. I want something new. I don’t want a stale sequel to Halo 5’s dull campaign and (except for Warzone) me-too multiplayer modes. If the Halo name is to mean something to players a decade from now, 343 Industries needs to carry the game’s spirit forward while changing the game to fit what players want. Battle Royale is the perfect opportunity to do that.