So the long awaited Infection playlist finally made its way into matchmaking last Thursday. It's received quite the response thus far, considering the short amount of time it's been available.
---Auburn: Infection has been a principal feature in the Halo franchise since the release of Halo 3. However, the gametype roots back to Halo 2, where it was just a player-created variant known as "Zombie". While its rules were largely the same as Infection, players had to resort to honor rules as a method to "convert" infected players. The variant was popular nevertheless and was thus translated into what we know as Infection.
In a previous community update, 343i announced that the beloved gametype would makes its first appearance in Master Chief Collection's online multiplayer as a rotational playlist. Keep in mind that it will only be available for a limited time. You can expect to see the following gametypes:
- Halo 3: Braaaains, Creeping Death, Save One Bullet, Hide and Seek, Speed Demons
- Halo 2: Anniversary: Infection, Cadre
- Halo 4: Flood, Hivemind, Last Stand
---With multiple Infection maps and gametypes both recent and old thrown into the same playlist, to put it simply, it's a nice mash up. However, with all of the different lineups of the Infection playlists thrown together, it does present the opportunity of comparison. That being said, here's what I've drawn up after playing the playlist for a few days now.
Halo 2 Anniversary
First off is the remake of Halo 2: the so-called highlight of the Master Chief Collection. 343 has assembled some of their standard map variants and on-disc gametypes and slapped them together for some matchmaking content.
One thing to mention right away is that options to vote for the Cadre gametype are essentially ignored. Don't expect to play it very often.
Being that the H2A options in the playlist are all pairing of standard gametypes with standard maps, gameplay is fairly simple compared to Halo 3 and Halo 4 variants. The two exceptions to this are matches on Stonetown and Warlord.
Stonetown was ultimately not a map made to support infection. Two spots on the map ultimately ruin the Infection experience that 343 was trying to go for when including this map in the playlist. The stone structure overlooking the beach is a great place for humans to hold out on high ground with limited routes to reach them. Great lines of sight and reduced risk of zombies being able to reach you makes this a more than viable position to hold out. The other spot is the beach itself. Standing out in the water away from the rest of the maps gives humans a wide open space to look out for zombies. The cover is also very minimal, which certainly doesn't help the zombies in the slightest.
Warlord has problems for the opposite reason. It's much too close quarters of a map to be included in the Infection playlist. How 343 justified putting this in there I will never understand. Regardless, if you see Warlord as a voting option, try not to vote for it, unless you want to be a zombie and get your melee kill achievements.
Unfortunately these H2A maps and gametypes fall short of the other options from H3 and H4 in terms of fun factor. Matches played with H2A variants feel very generic in terms of gameplay. This is likely because standard maps and gametypes are used with no community variants to speak of.
In short, no community-made content for H2A Infection leaves a bit of a dull experience.
All of the Halo 3 maps and gametypes in this playlist are taken directly from old variations of the rotational Halo 3 playlist, Living Dead. This is great for those who want to enjoy a "classic" infection experience. I say "classic" because these are some of the first maps and gametypes to be made with community hands using the tools Bungie first gave us in Halo 3.
These are sure examples of the early years of community-made infection in Halo. Almost all of the Halo 3 variants in this playlist favor the humans with a significant margin. The exception is Hide and Seek, which completely favors the zombies (they spawn with rocket launchers...).
Probably the worse case of this unbalance is Braaaains on Infected Manor. It's a Foundary map where humans spawn in a small house and have to make their way to the roof/attic. Zombies spawn in the passageways in the back of Foundary. Looking onto these back passageways is a turret on the roof of the house. Also, since there's a big hole in the roof for the turret, humans can of course get onto the roof. If the humans don't want to camp on the roof, there's only one way into the attic, and there's a series of doors you have to jump up to get there.
Braaaains in general is just a very unbalanced gametype that favors humans over zombies. The problem is that is gametype is the most common one in the playlist, causing it to be paired with maps like Isolation, Standoff, and even Valhalla. Yes, VALHALLA. When humans spawn with magnums and shotguns, and the zombies have so little health that 1 magnum head shot or 3-4 body shots will kill, this just should not be.
Save One Bullet variants are the best matches in the playlist in my opinion. They are the most balanced between the humans and the zombies, and the accompanying maps benefit that fact further (no Valhalla, at least from what I've seen thus far).
If the Halo 3 variants teach us anything now, it's that infection has come along way since its humble beginnings in Halo 3. The lack of balance in most gametypes makes it fun for one side and frustrating for the other.
The Halo 4 Infection content has some good and some bad to it.
The bad side of the playlist is the standard Flood gametype. Pair this with the standard Halo 4 maps and these matches face the same issue as the H2A variants. Of course, the Flood also have armor abilities which I believe should not be a thing. Zombies with thruster packs have a much easier time infecting humans...
On the other hand, the community content from the Halo 4 Infection playlist plays great as always. We see the return of several great maps on Forge Island such as Villa de Pena and Drillsite with the popular Hivemind gametype. We also see the reluctant return of the Last Stand gametype and a couple of maps to accompany it.
As far as the balance between humans and zombies, the Halo 4 playlist is definitely the best overall. Even the matches with the standard Flood gametype (as painful as they are with armor abilities for Flood) prevent players from having any major advances on the scoreboard, which is a good thing really, especially for matchmaking. The more recent community content definitely shines in gameplay compared to the older variants.
With everything said and done, this playlist is a nice mix of nostalgia (mostly H3) and quality (H4 community-made) Infection maps and gametypes. While I certainly would have preferred to see some different entries for Halo 3 taken from the later segment of its lifespan, the variants they've included still do a good job of emulating the old Living Dead playlist. The H2A maps were also a nice addition, as they play very differently from their H3 and H4 counterparts.
Overall, I think this playlist is still a great addition to matchmaking in the Master Chief Collection and it will certainly help extend the popularity of the game even after the release of Halo 5.