Yesterday, developer 343 Industries shook up Halo Infinite’s ranked playlist. For the foreseeable future, matches of capture the flag, specifically on the Behemoth map, will no longer appear in the playlist’s rotation, effectively nixing one of the most widely hated maps. Players of the hit multiplayer shooter widely praised the move—everyone hates Behemoth—but I’d posit the ire may unwittingly be rooted in something else: Ranked matches of CTF are too damn long.
Capture the flag, a stalwart mode of Halo multiplayer since the paleolithic era, plays out much like it does on an elementary school playground, except instead of a bunch of still-growing humans who don’t yet grasp the concept of subtraction, teams are composed of armor-clad sci-fi supersoldiers with metal for bones. Each side has a flag. You have to grab the opposing team’s flag and bring it back to your side while also making sure the other team doesn’t do the same to yours.
In Halo Infinite, when playing capture the flag in the low-stakes quick play playlist, you need to score three points to win. In ranked playlists, you need to score five.
The problems with a five-point limit were keenly felt on Behemoth. (Officially, 343 Industries purged the map because cover is scant and everyone starts with the battle rifle, a burst-fire weapon that’s extremely effective at mid- to long-range.) But ranked versions of capture the flag also end up crawling at a glacial pace on the other two maps it can show up on in the playlist, Bazaar and Aquarius.
A five-point limit occupies a liminal space where it seems an attainable goal, and sometimes is, but is often just a hair out of reach. Matches of capture the flag last 12 minutes—long enough for one team to quickly carve out a clear victory but not quite cinch it. As a result, at least in my experience (for context, I’m ranked platinum), many ranked matches of capture the flag don’t end with one team scoring five points but rather with the clock running out, even when it’s clear within the first few minutes that one team will thrash the other.
So then you find yourself at an impasse. You don’t exactly want to play through to the end, because you know the inevitable outcome. But you also don’t want to quit, because you don’t want to take the hit to your rank.
To be sure, when you’re teamed up with three friends—when you’re all communicating effectively, pinging power weapons, pointing out enemy locations, and calling your shots—ranked capture the flag matches are divine. Even better is when the other team is similarly positioned, so you get these cutthroat, edge-of-your-seat showdowns that truly merit uttering “GGs” into your mic. But c’mon, we all know the state of ranked play with random teammates in Halo Infinite. How often have you been paired with a solid team?
Good thing there are easy fixes to all of this: Lower the point limit to three. Give teams a “vote to quit” option that doesn’t penalize as much as a poor-sport quit. And heck, add king of the hill to the rotation. Maybe then Behemoth can come back to the light.