Sorry Halo, But Winter Contingency Ain’t It

With the Fracture: Tenrai event on hold this month, it was clear that Halo Infinite was planning some kind of seasonal event to end the year. Early this month I cried out to the heavens beginning for some holiday-themed cosmetic items that would actually bring some Christmas cheer to Halo, but to no avail. The rewards for Halo Infinite’s first Winter Contingency event have been revealed, and unfortunately, nothing here is jingling my bells.

Like the Fracture event, Winter Contingency involves completing special challenges to earn ranks and unlock exclusive rewards. There are ten ranks and ten cosmetic items to earn, and as you can see in the image below, a couple of them are vaguely Christmassy while the rest are just boring stock Halo items. We won't know for sure if this is the complete list of cosmetics until tomorrow, but even if they add a Santa hat or reindeer antlers as rumored, the rest of the rewards are really nothing special.

The Spartan Emblem and Spartan Backdrop have a certain holiday vibe to them with their mistletoe motif and snowflakes, respectively, and the Spartan Emblem and Rank 7 arguably evokes the Star of Bethlehem – though I’d argue it’s generic enough to fit almost any theme. The red, white, and green color coating is definitely supposed to be Christmas colors, but the shoulderpads, hip attachment, and orange-and-black armor coating are just… nothing. Not only are they not holiday-themed, they’re not even interesting or desirable rewards to pursue.

The annual holiday event called The Dawning started in Destiny 2 last week, and I can’t help but compare its cosmetic options to Halo’s. There’s skiing emotes, sparrows that look like snowmobiles, and Ghosts wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. The armor sets are all glowing with dangling lights that look like icicles and there’s transmats that make it look like you're popping out of a present. You can bake cookies for the vendors and trade them for gifts. You can throw snowballs at the Vex. It’s a winter holiday event and through and through. By comparison, Halo’s event looks decidedly low effort. Destiny 2 has had years to build up The Dawning into what it is today, so it isn’t a totally fair comparison, but Winter Contingency sets the bar for Halo seasonal events extremely low.

I think there’s an impulse among Halo fans to argue that things like reindeer antlers and skiing emotes wouldn’t fit in Halo. The reaction to the samurai-themed armor core from Fracture: Tenrai shows that a lot of people think Halo needs to stay grounded and visually bland. The developers seem to agree, at least based on the offerings here. You can get away with ugly Christmas sweaters in Destiny, apparently, because it's a game about using space magic to kill aliens. Halo, on the other hand, is a game about using laser rifles to kill aliens, so it needs to take itself more seriously. Please ignore the silly little grunts that slap their asses and scream things like “I hope the human afterlife sucks!”

Halo isn’t some austere, joyless military shooter, despite what the cosmetic options would have you believe. The offerings in the winter selection aren’t just off-theme, they also lack creativity. I don’t know why 343 is holding back, but I hope we don’t have to suffer through many more unimaginative events like this. I know how much incredible talent there is at the studio, but the artists need to be cut loose so they can create cosmetics worth grinding for.

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