Maps & Modes Preview | Season 3
Season 3 of Halo Infinite arrives on March 7.
A new season means new maps! Season 3: Echoes Within brings with it a trio of exciting and unique spaces for your regularly scheduled online Spartan-slaying. These maps are Oasis, Cliffhanger, and Chasm.
We’re joined today by a terrific trio of our veritable multiplayer designers—Cliff Schuldt (Multiplayer Level Designer), Donnie Taylor (Art Director), and Kim Haines (Lead MP Env. Technical Artist)—for a Q&A deep-dive into these new maps, the process of creating them, the fun we’ve had on them, and more...
Of course, before we get into talking about these maps, how about we show them off in their full majesty with a new flythrough video?
I’m super excited to be able to talk with you about the three new maps coming in Season 3! To start off, let’s give each of them a general introduction—how would you summarize these maps so Halo fans have a sense of what they’re in for with these spaces?
CS: Oasis is a mosh pit of pure vehicular fun for BTB, and it’s got a stunning skybox with a Forerunner ship terraforming the desert environment around it.
Cliffhanger is set at an ONI black site atop a mountain, also featuring man cannons for maximum vertigo!
Chasm is what you’d get if you took Boarding Action from Halo: CE and put in some Grappleshots, which is every bit as fun as it sounds.
To dive into Oasis, the first thing I think we have to do is marvel at that stunning vista—that's as much a staple of Halo as the complexities of its design, to my mind. Can you tell us a bit about what goes into creating a skybox on a Halo map?
DT: When production starts for our skybox, or really any art asset, we begin with concepting several mood sketches that depict time of day and any major feature that we want to put on display for the vista. In the case of Oasis, that was the large Forerunner structure.
We use those concepts to help guide us to a final direction and that becomes the visual target for the game art moving forward. This direction is not fully set in stone as translating ideas from 2D to 3D always has its curveballs, but the overall goal is to stay true in game to the hook that first drew us to select the original 2D piece.
I definitely get some Halo 4 BTB map vibes from Oasis. Were there any specific inspirations that were part of the development of this map?
CS: There are elements of inspiration taken from the map Exile from Halo 4, which was a BTB favorite back in the day, with the emphasis on more open space for lots of fun vehicular action.
CTF modes were particularly exciting on this map during testing, as vehicles allow for some truly epic flag capture runs. Practically every space here is accessible with a Warthog, even the interior spaces. So you can go out into the open, where you might be more at risk of falling prey to air or heavy vehicles, or you can drive through some of the interior spaces where those other vehicles are going to have a much harder time catching you and risk getting boxed in.
That risk/reward aspect of Halo’s vehicular gameplay is always incredibly engaging, and we think Oasis is a great showcase of that.
Let’s shift over to Cliffhanger—so aptly named because this ONI facility is set on the edge of a cliff. What are some of the unique elements of this map?
DT: Biome diversity is always a big one for us when it comes to multiplayer maps. We want these spaces to feel different from past maps we’ve offered—and even where we might be using a similar “theme,” like a human base, we have unique visual elements to tap into.
An ONI black site is going to look quite different to the more traditional UNSC aesthetic of Live Fire, or the water treatment facility of Recharge. And there’s a subtle Forerunner element in this map you might pick up on as well.
What are some of the design considerations that go into creating an asymmetrical Arena map like this?
CS: Cliffhanger was originally designed with zone control modes (like Strongholds and King of the Hill) in mind, and what that means is that each “zone” has to look and feel unique.
There's a bit of a “rock, paper, scissors” dynamic that zone control modes have in terms of how you tactically consider what your team is going to go for—if we go for Zone A and C, we might lose out on B, but that location might end up being a solid base for the enemy team to make a comeback if we’ve divided our forces across the map, and so on.
That goes on to inform sightlines, weapons spawns, equipment placement... everything ties back into how you can work together with your team to control areas of the map.
Something I always enjoy about asymmetric maps are the “scenarios” that are naturally created by the map layout—like on Halo 3’s High Ground where the turret above the door to the enemy base creates the sense of a “siege.” What are some of those focal points on Cliffhanger?
CS: What we really felt as we were testing this map was how different it feels depending on which mode you’re playing. One Flag, for example, creates a more “linear asymmetric” experience in a similar vein to the example you gave of High Ground—attackers and defenders are not just put on different ends of the map, it feels like they’re in different “scenarios.”
Of course, when you then play a mode like Strongholds, you get a totally different experience of the map. We hope that creates a cool dynamic that players enjoy.
We’ve got a third map coming as well when Season 3 drops. Chasm looks and feels quite different to the other maps in Halo Infinite, so how did this map come to be?
CS: This map came to be when my friend Andrew and I were running through the Halo Infinite Campaign Network Co-Op flight. As we were playing through the second mission, Foundation, we were goofing off in a particular area and I thought this could be a fun space to play in for multiplayer.
So, I investigated this, pulling the space into a multiplayer level (note: this was definitely a more involved process than ctrl-C and ctrl-V!) and redoing the layout to be a rotational symmetrical map to support CTF.
After the first couple of playtests, the map was received really well, and we decided to give it the full treatment to pull it in as an official map.
Even though it looks incredibly similar to a space in the campaign, it has been laid out—and thus plays—very differently. One of the things I think is awesome about this map is the risk of falling into the “chasm” (har har!), but with the Grappleshot you can actually turn that to your advantage and make some incredibly cool skill jumps and maneuvers that turns falling from a danger of death to a risk/reward “route” through the map.
While the other two maps have Forerunner elements in them, Chasm is entirely Forerunner-themed. What are some of the unique visual and gameplay factors of this particular palette that offer something fresh?
CS: I think the visuals of this space are awesome. Being in the cavernous depths of Zeta Halo has this eerie and mysterious feeling in the campaign, and that really translates to the map as well—the Art Team knocked it out of the park!
Something we did to help visually differentiate parts of the map is that one side has that traditional cool blue tone you often see in Forerunner spaces, while the other side has a greater emphasis on the gold element you see in places like the Silent Auditorium in the campaign.
How do you think the new sandbox additions—namely, the M392 Bandit and Shroud Screen—will change up the way these maps are played?
CS: Oh, I think they’re both strong additions! A lot of the feedback we got from players on Chasm noted that it felt like the Bandit worked really well for the kind of ranges you have on that map.
Shroud has been great on Oasis as well. It’s fun to “smoke” a long sightline before pulling a flag—we've seen some amazing "Houdini" plays around it!
We’ve previously stated that we’re bringing editable dev maps to Forge in Season 3. Does that include these three maps as well?
KH: Yes! Each of these maps are editable on release, along with all the previously shipped Arena and BTB maps. Future maps will be editable on release as well.
What modes can players expect to be playing on these maps? Do you have any you’re especially excited about players getting to experience?
CS: Well, I am a sucker for CTF, so I have really enjoyed CTF matches on these maps quite a bit. On Oasis, there have been some truly incredible flag runs with Warthogs and Banshees chasing you down through the caves.
On Cliffhanger, Strongholds, KOTH, and One-Flag have been super fun. There are a lot of great opportunities to push people into death pits with the Repulsor, and using a man cannon to fly across the map into the hill location has been a fun (and risky) way to assault the other team.
I will say that people should load up KOTH on Chasm to see one of the spiciest hill locations Halo has ever seen.
And then, of course, there’s the new Escalation Slayer mode coming in Season 3 as well. We can’t wait for everyone to jump into that!
Do you have any fun stories from playtests on these maps?
CS: Oh, absolutely!
On Oasis, I was driving a Warthog with Brian Berryhill on the turret during a CTF match and we managed to do all three flag captures. We had a Wasp on our tail throughout, which we managed to shake off in a tunnel, only to emerge and find an enemy Scorpion on the other side—but we managed to escape that as well and steal the flag. By the time we got back to base, we had wheels missing, our Warthog was on fire, but we won and the tension around whether we would make it was absolutely exhilarating!
On Cliffhanger, there’s a man cannon that sends you over a death pit, and using the Repulsor to knock enemies who are chasing you off the map is tremendous fun. There’s an elevator shaft elsewhere on the map, as well as some sneaky mountainside paths, and the Repulsor and Grappleshot really bring a new dynamic to the danger of those kinds of locations.
Finally, Chasm. People loved faking their deaths on this map—pretending to jump off the edge into the abyss, only to use the Grappleshot to swing back up with incredible momentum that can have them sailing through the air to another part of the map.
There was one situation where a player got to the Active Camo spawn a little early, putting him in danger of getting picked off from an exposed position, and so he jumped off the hex pillar to use it as cover and zipped back around to grab the Camo as it spawned in. It was this dawning realization that we’ve never been able to play Halo quite like this before, and we really are excited to see some of the insane plays people are going to have.
Thank you very much for taking the time to chat about the maps coming in Season 3! Do you have any parting words before we wrap this up?
We’ve put some fun little Easter eggs on these maps (some sandwich-related, others we’re going to let you find yourselves), so do let us know if you find anything interesting...
And, as mentioned above, we really can’t wait to see what kinds of plays you make on these maps—whether that’s a heroic flag capture on Oasis, mountainside tumbles courtesy of the Repulsor on Cliffhanger, or Grappleshot fake-outs on Chasm. Absolutely tag us with your clips and montages, we’d love to see them!
Huge shoutout to our partners who helped bring these maps together, and to our players as well who we hope are really going to enjoy what we’ve been cooking up for Season 3.
Also coming in Season 3 is the Escalation Slayer game mode.
Escalation Slayer is a mode that some of you may have played in Halo: MCC, as it came to the collection in the Series 6: Raven update back in April 2021 and quickly became a fan favorite—and now it is coming to Halo Infinite.
In Escalation Slayer, players progress through a list of weapon and equipment loadouts as they score kills. With each elimination, you advance to a new weapon, culminating in a final challenge to win: getting a kill with the Oddball.
You can also de-level enemy players by meleeing them in the back, so watch your six out there!
The order of loadouts is as follows:
LEVEL 1: Rocket Launcher, Cindershot, Repulsor
LEVEL 2: Energy Sword, Gravity Hammer, Grappleshot
LEVEL 3: Sniper Rifle, Skewer, Threat Sensor
LEVEL 4: Hydra, Ravager, Repulsor
LEVEL 5: Bulldog, Needler, Grappleshot
LEVEL 6: Battle Rifle, Commando, Threat Sensor
LEVEL 7: Shock Rifle, Stalker Rifle, Drop Wall
LEVEL 8: Heatwave, Sentinel Beam, Thruster
LEVEL 9: Bandit, Assault Rifle, Drop Wall
LEVEL 10: Mangler, Sidekick, Threat Sensor
LEVEL 11: Oddball, Shroud Screen
This mode is launching in Season 3 with two variants: Team Escalation and FFA Escalation.
Team Escalation progresses all players on a team through the loadout list together. Kills are summed across the team, so everybody's efforts count. And FFA Escalation is, of course, every Spartan for themselves!
And yes, there will indeed be a BTB version of Escalation Slayer, along with a “Super” version of the mode which will bring in the special weapon variants and upgraded equipment that you can obtain in Halo Infinite’s Campaign.
That concludes our showcase of the maps and modes coming when Season 3 of Halo Infinite launches on March 7.
We can’t wait for you all to embark on a maptacular odyssey that awaits, from the vehicular mosh pit of Oasis, to the dangerous heights of Cliffhanger, and the cavernous depths of Chasm (I don’t know about you, but I was certainly sold the second I heard “Boarding Action with Grappleshots!”)
We’ll be back soon with more information on the Ranked experience and Playlist updates, and follow up with a Sandbox blog as well—so stay tuned for more Season 3 news!