Halo Infinite has been on a roll lately, with its latest season having the makings of an honest-to-god comeback. The game is now well stocked with fun maps and game modes, while its battle passes have evolved from terrible to tolerable. The player count has jumped significantly, and a flood of nostalgia-bait maps from Halo 3 that will absolutely work on me are just a week away.
The Halo community is pretty upbeat for the first time in two years, but I'd say players are almost universally displeased with the latest cosmetic launched in the Infinite shop today: the Mark V armor that Master Chief wears in the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
The design isn't the problem—players seem to love the modern interpretation of the 22-year-old armor's simpler polygons. The problem is that the Mark V armor, launched to coincide with Halo: Combat Evolved's anniversary next week, costs $22—more than twice the price of the entire videogame Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on Steam.
$22 certainly isn't cheap for a cosmetic, but it's also not particularly unusual for a free-to-play game. Fortnite's legendary skins are about $18; Apex Legends' legendary skins are the same price. The highest tier of League of Legends skins cost over $25. But most F2P games don't have to contend with a history like Halo's, which has made for an awkward point of comparison for Halo Infinite since its launch.
On the one hand, Infinite's multiplayer is free; on the other, it makes players pay for a battle pass to unlock many customization options, including basic colors and emblems that have been standard in the series across every single game. So far I still don't like Infinite's armor combinations as much as I liked Halo 3's, which was very simple but still offered some variety.
So the standard F2P monetization model is already a tough sell for Halo, and it looks even more absurd when you consider what 343/Xbox charge for entire videogames. You can buy two entire Halo games for $20 as part of the Master Chief Collection—that's a lot of game for the same price as a cosmetic! Heck, when the Master Chief Collection is in the next Steam sales around Thanksgiving and Christmas, the entire six game bundle will cost $10 based on prior sales. Fans on Reddit and elsewhere have pointed out the glaring value discrepancy, there.
The salt in the wound with this particular skin is that you can't mix-and-match the armor pieces, a feature Halo Infinite just fully opened up as of this season. It makes some sense that a cosmetic celebrating the original Halo's look would be a standalone piece of kit, but it again feels a bit like 343 regressing on something that's been a Halo staple for ages.
Is Halo: Combat Evolved really worth half as much as a new skin (based on the armor from Halo: Combat Evolved) just because it's old? I guess that's just how videogame prices work, but the MCC version of the first Halo is pretty wonderful; it fixes a bunch of old bugs, supports online custom games and modding, and even lets you choose what color you want your Spartan to be without spending anything. If you play hundreds of hours of a F2P game, dropping $22 on a skin certainly works out to be a cheap investment. But I can't help but feel like the whole model's a bit broken in comparison to how we used to just buy games.
Really nice armor, though. They almost got me.
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Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.
When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).