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Halo Infinite’s Winter Update is the boost the shooter needed

It’d be an understatement to say it’s been a rough run for Halo Infinite. The latest in the classically Xbox-centric first-person shooter series, Infinite was released in November 2021 to a steady stream of positive reviews, though its popularity quickly died off due to an unintuitive progression system, a mountain of bugs, and a disappointing lack of fresh content delivered on anything resembling a consistent release schedule.

Instead of becoming one of the quintessential multiplayer games of 2022, Infinite went out silently with no more than a whimper as its concurrent player count fell below that of its predecessor, Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Longtime Halo had fans feared this would be the case, given how Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries handled its predecessor — the largely middling Halo 5.

Even though I enjoy Infinite’s far more modern, Call of Duty-inspired take on the signature arena shooter style, it hasn’t been quite the same without a few of the key features that fans have come to expect, like the Forge map editor and the economy of custom maps and modes that normally accompany it. That all changed on November 8 when 343 Industries dropped the Winter Update. It includes Forge Beta, campaign co-op mode, and a free multiplayer season with 30 progression tiers including sleek new Spartan customization options and several new maps, plus some other quality-of-life improvements like match XP. Those are all things that Halo Infinite sorely needed, giving disappointed fans a real sign of 343’s dedication to Halo Infinite’s ongoing development as a live service game.

Forging ahead

The greatest draw of any Halo game — post-Halo 3 — is the series’ highly-scalable approach to multiplayer. Up until the Winter Update, Halo Infinite hadn’t had any sort of in-game custom map support or campaign co-op, leaving social players at the mercy of whichever static matchmaking playlists existed at the time, including the famously broken Big Team Battle playlist. Even so, Halo Infinite still lacks any sort of split-screen multiplayer. So far, it appears that there’s no such feature on the way for either Xbox or PC players (at least, not anytime soon). But with the Winter Update, all the other missing pieces of the traditional Halo experience are finally included.

Halo Infinite Forge Beta banshees
You can do (almost) anything in Forge Mode.

That includes the long-delayed Forge mode. I’m not the biggest fan of the process of making my own maps in multiplayer games, but I do recognize the importance of a high-quality map editor and talented designers within a game’s community. Forge already leaked a few months ago, resulting in some positively wild maps like this one, but let’s be honest: A Halo game without a built-in Forge mode feels wrong. It’s a huge deal that Halo Infinite finally features the fully functioning editor built directly into the game.

Granted, the Forge Beta is currently feeling pretty unintuitive for me, but it does look like it could become deeply encapsulating if I were to learn the ins and outs of its interface. What’s immediately clear, though, is just how much stuff you can do in this new editor, including plop down your own map geometry and turn the skybox completely purple. You can build entire maps from scratch if you want, but I’m satisfied just using the Forge editor to spawn 10 banshees above a gravity launcher, something you couldn’t do conventionally before the Winter Update dropped.

I’m more inclined to play with the custom maps that other people create, and though I’m just getting started on that front, I’m already wildly impressed with the amount of creativity I’m seeing. If you’re curious about seeing some of these maps for yourself, you can view the best maps made by the Halo Infinite community at Forgera.

Multiplayer refresh

Halo Infinite’s recent updates to multiplayer matchmaking are far subtler, but they’ve kept me thoroughly entertained over the last few weeks. I haven’t played with any of the new unlockable gear in the progression path for the Winter Update season pass, but I have spent an inordinate amount of time matchmaking in the highly entertaining Rumble Pit playlist. The latter is basically a free-for-all mash-up that includes classic game modes like King of the Hill and Slayer, but often with a few twists like only having swords and grappling hooks at your disposal.

Halo Infinite Covert One Flag
Covert One Flag is one of the new game modes added to Halo Infinite via its Winter Update.

There are new game modes as well, such as the new Covert One Flag mode, which is basically asymmetric CTF. In this mode, one team gets cloaking devices and needs to infiltrate the enemy team’s base to capture a flag, but the defending team can almost immediately kill members of the infiltrating/invading team if they’re quick enough to see through the infiltrators’ invisibility. I’m a huge fan of these fresh twists on classic Halo action, but even more important to me is the inclusion of match XP, which translates to a steady tick of progression. That leaves me feeling like I’m improving all the time instead of only when I’m meeting the criteria for certain challenges.

Wrapping up the Winter Update is the inclusion of campaign co-op, which means you can finally run around in the Zeta Halo’s open world with your buds if that’s what you want. I was never that big into Halo Infinite’s campaign to begin with, and I don’t personally care to return to it any time soon, but it’s nice knowing that if I do choose to come back, I can bring a friend or two.

Regardless, 343 Industries seems poised to put the “Infinite” back in Halo Infinite, and I’m ready for it. Forge, and the flurry of multiplayer content that accompanies it, will inevitably bring players back to Halo Infinite once the holiday season zeitgeist is over. Until then, I’m mostly just glad that we finally have some fresh options.

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Redfall’s May 2 release date revealed during Developer_Direct
A screen capture from the Redfall gameplay reveal.

Arkane Studios and Bethesda finally confirmed a release date for Redfall during today's Developer_Direct showcase. The cooperative open-world, vampiric first-person shooter will come out  May 2.
The Developer_Direct showcase spent quite a bit of time on Redfall, highlighting both its single-player and multiplayer content. Its part of the show started with a look at various combat zones and safe areas on Redfall Island, where the game takes place. We then learned more about some of the enemy types players encounter, weapons they can use, and each character's special abilities, as Arkane showed off gameplay snippets from multiple missions. If you're a fan of looter shooters and vampires, Arkane looks to be fully delivering on that concept based on this gameplay snippet.  
Redfall has been a highly anticipated first-party Xbox game ever since its reveal in 2021, but its delays have also been quite infamous. Originally intended to be released in summer 2022, it and Starfield's delay into 2023 really significantly impacted the dearth of content that plagued Xbox platforms last year. That's why having a concrete release date for Redfall is quite a relief; it provides hope that Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda will get back in the swing of having a consistent string of first-party releases. It will also be one of the first Xbox-exclusive games to sport a $70 price tag. 
Redfall launches for PC and Xbox Series X/S on May 2. If you don't want to spend $70 on this game, it will also be on Xbox Game Pass on day one like all first-party Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda games. 

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Goldeneye 007 comes to Game Pass and Nintendo Switch later this week
goldeneye 007 switch xbox release date january 27

Rare, Nintendo, and Xbox Game Studios confirmed that their remaster of classic Nintendo 64 FPS Goldeneye 007 will launch on January 27 across Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
GoldenEye 007 – Xbox Game Pass Date Reveal Trailer
For most, this long-awaited enhanced re-release will be locked behind a subscription service. On Nintendo Switch, the only way to play Goldeneye 007 is with a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass subscription, which grants players access to a variety of Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, NES, and SNES games alongside the DLC to some first-party Nintendo titles. That said, Microsoft has confirmed that the Nintendo Switch version of Goldeneye 007 will be the only one to feature online multiplayer, although it'll still be displayed in split-screen.
Meanwhile, the Xbox versions of Goldeneye 007 don't have online multiplayer but benefit from the addition of achievements and an upgraded 16:9 4K resolution. To play the game on Xbox, you'll need to either have an Xbox Game Pass subscription or own the gaming compilation Rare Replay that was released in 2015. Still, fans are probably happy that they'll just be able to experience this classic on a modern controller.
While it has aged quite a bit, Goldeneye 007 is a highly influential FPS game that also became an iconic Nintendo 64 release thanks to its fun multiplayer. Unfortunately, the license it's attached to likely prevented the game from getting a proper re-release until now. It was one of the best announcements in September's Nintendo Direct, and its launch will also technically mark the first Xbox first-party game released in 2022. 
Goldeneye 007 releases for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on January 27. 

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Xbox and Bethesda’s Developer_Direct: how to watch and what to expect
Redfall Cover

Microsoft has confirmed rumors that it will be holding a game showcase later this month. Called a Developer_Direct, this livestream will take place later today and feature updates on Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda games launching over the next few months, like Redfall.  Xbox doesn't typically do that many games showcases outside of events like E3, so this Developer_Direct seems like Microsoft's own take on the Nintendo Direct or State of Play formula.
That said, it's being a bit more transparent that it will be a bit slower-paced than Nintendo or PlayStation's shows typically are. For those planning to watch the show live today, this is how to watch Xbox's Developer_Direct Showcase as well as what you can expect from games like Redfall, Forza Motorsport, Minecraft Legends, and The Elder Scrolls Online at the event. 
When is Xbox and Bethesda's Developer_Direct? 
Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda's first-ever Developer_Direct will air live and for free later today, January 25, at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT. 

How to watch Xbox and Bethesda's Developer_Direct
The Developer_Direct showcase will be officially livestreamed by Bethesda and Microsoft in the following four places: 

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