Halo Infinite Season 3: Echoes Within, launches tomorrow, and it’s bringing a lot to the game – in fact, it’s the biggest multiplayer update the game has received so far. It brings maps, modes, a new weapon and equipment item, new narrative content to chew on, and more. With that in mind, who better to talk through what Echoes Within brings to fans than 343 Industries’ Head of Live Performance, Sean Baron?
Over the course of an hour-long interview, I asked Sean to walk me through every one of Season 3’s additions to the game in detail, getting a look into what they’ll offer, how they were designed, and even a tease of how some of these changes represent what’s coming for Halo Infinite’s live service future.
So, that’s enough of me – let Sean Baron walk you through Echoes Within.
Sean Baron: “We have – surprise! – three maps. We’re releasing two arena maps, Chasm and Cliffhanger – and one Big Team Battle map, Oasis.”
Cliffhanger: “Cliffhanger is an arena map. It’s asymmetrical, with a cross-map man cannon. It’s got a great Halo: Reach vibe. Feels very much like that moment when you’re dropping down into the first mission, “Noble Actual”. It’s got some of that circular, modular buildings-built-into-the-sides-of-hills vibe. The map mixes elevation and sightlines, as well as interior spaces that are really rewarding for close-quarters combat. I’d say that this is a theme across all of our new maps – you can find any type of combat space you’re looking for, you have a lot of variety in all of these.”
Chasm: “Chasm is a unique map, its much smaller than any of our other current maps so combat will be more frenetic. It is leaning very heavily into the Forerunner art style, and is a direct call back to one of Infinite’s initial campaign missions, “Foundation”. In that mission, you’re dropped by the Pilot into the Zeta Halo underworld, which has begun to break apart – there are broken columns, gaps to jump over, lots of ways to move around the environment. In Chasm, this causes lots of really fun moments for high-skill movement players. For those players who can move around really quickly, and jump, and time those jumps really well – great at parkour – this is an environment where there’s a lot of risk-reward. It also has tight spaces with interesting verticality. It’s just a great arena for finding combat quickly. I believe it’ll work well for Free-For-All and Fiesta.”
Oasis: “Oasis is my favourite map. I don’t know if I should have favourites? I guess it’s not like kids, so I can. It’s a BTB map. It’s asymmetrical. It has great lanes for vehicle combat, but those lanes don’t leave you at a huge disadvantage as a player on foot. The vehicle combat on this map should be pretty compelling. But that doesn’t come at the cost of more close-quarters-combat. The map features great indoor spaces – some of them are quite large – that players can control if they want to avoid being outside dealing with vehicles. I love this map’s design direction. It feels like a gigantic version of Standoff from Halo 3. It’s not set in that same place, but something about it feels that way. And then it also – for me – calls back to the “Tip of the Spear” mission from Halo: Reach”
“This is Halo Infinite’s version of a gun game mode. In the Arena variant the starting weapon is the SPNKR and the ending weapon is the Oddball, the skull. Those are two really iconic Halo bookend weapons. In Arena, you’ll work your way through 11 total levels of weapons, and the team with the player who gets the kill with the Oddball wins.”
“The other Halo wrinkle that I think is going to add on layers of variety and strategy from players is that, in our Escalation Slayer mode, as your weapons change, you get a different secondary weapon at each level, and you get a different piece of equipment each time. It has such a Fiesta mode vibe to it. It’s like, ‘Okay, I know that I’m gonna want to get this combo. I love that combo. Okay, next thing, what do I have now?’ It’s very fun in that way. That adds tons of possible combinations. There’s tons of options that we have with this, and tons of directions we can take it, so I’m really excited to see it released, and even more excited to see what players do with it.”
“What is the UNSC’s futuristic version of a smokescreen? It’s the shroud screen. It doesn’t protect anybody inside the screen, other than obfuscating that you’re in it or what’s behind it. If someone drops a Shroud Screen, I can throw grenades into it, I can shoot into it. If I was in the Scorpion tank, I could shoot into it and people inside would probably die.
“The Team, when they were building out the Shroud Screen, they wanted to create something that was much more of a utility equipment item, something that has multiple uses, and then creates novel strategic or combat moments that you don’t see in our combat dance right now. You can use it to conceal movement, which then sets up different attack routes or different strategies. And another thing – and I’m really interested to see how players do this – is being able to bait players into combat encounters. For example, they won’t necessarily know that you’re in there waiting with a Bulldog or a sword. But you drop the Shroud Screen and it creates these moments of tension for the attacker. You’re using it in a way that’s different than anything we currently have with an equipment piece or combat utility item in our sandbox. And that’s really the goal.”
“The goal with the Bandit is to add a new utility weapon—something that you can spawn with and be effective in most combat situations. It’s a precision semi-automatic kinetic weapon. A five-shot kill. It really rewards skilled players who can pace their shots and stay on target. The team wanted to create something analogous to the Halo 5 Magnum from a timing and DPS perspective.”
“When you’re playing with it, it has more effective range than the Assault Rifle but a little less range than the Battle Rifle. And because it doesn’t have a scope on it, it doesn’t get descoped. As a result you can have an interesting combat dynamic between a ranged player using something like a Shock Rifle or a BR – who have more effective range and a scope – and you as a player holding a Bandit.”
“The story continues from Lone Wolves. We’re still following Spartan Dinh, one of our Lone Wolf Spartans. He’s got this Banished AI that’s infected his mind through his Spartan neural interface, Iratus. It’s continuing that story… but there are lots of secrets… I’m not going to spoil those secrets. The narrative ties into some of the gameplay additions – Dinh hands your Spartan a Bandit, elements from the Oasis map show up, some of our UI reflects the narrative. However, it’s not ‘required reading’ to enjoy the game.”
“With the Battle Pass, we are now offering some immediate unlocks. When you purchase the Echoes Within Premium Pass, you’ll instantly unlock the Red Steel Splinter Armor Coating for all available cores, in addition to earning 1,000 cR over the course of the pass. The 100-level Battle Pass, I think, is really going to resonate with our core players – and because our Passes never expire, players who want to spend some time working through all those levels can do that at their own speed. With Match XP tuned well and the changes we’ve been making to the Challenge system based on player feedback, I’m confident that players are going to move through at the right pace.
We also have two new free armor cores: there’s the fan-favorite, throwback ONI-ish looking Spartan core, “Mirage” – that’s going to be particularly sweet for our core players – and then we have a more bonkers core, “Chimera”, that’s tied to the Season 3 Fracture event.
“That’s the thing that for me is a big deal – as we move forward with the service, we need to multiple options for our different kinds of players. Some people hate cat ears on their Spartan – maybe they really want to keep investing in that hardcore, military, Spartan aesthetic. Some people, like me, love cat ears on their Spartan. That’s awesome. We’ll have both. We’re going to explore what appeals to folks – to me, a service is a relationship, and we need to explore what that relationship means. What do players want? ‘Okay, well, you don’t want that. We won’t give you any more of that.’ And so there’s going to be some really fun variety that I think pushes in directions that, from a uniqueness perspective, we haven’t done so far.”
I feel very confident with where we’ve gone with Season 3, and I have very strong confidence that we’re going to be able to keep improving that consistency, and avoid, completely, the long seasons of the past.
“In our preview of Season 3, I said that this is the beginning of what seasonality is for Halo Infinite. But ‘seasonality’ is restrictive. To me, seasonality is really about consistency – we need to be consistent in everything. I feel very confident with where we’ve gone with Season 3, and I have very strong confidence that we’re going to be able to keep improving that consistency, and avoid, completely, the long seasons of the past. We’re going to be more consistent. We’re going to continue to evolve the game in close partnership with our players. We’re focused on shipping Season 3 and then, as Chief said, we’re ‘[r]eady to get back to work.’”
Xbox Game Studios