343 Studios has taken a brazen step forward in the world of console gaming and nixed their ever popular co-op firefight mode for episodic Halo gaming. Taking place six months after the events of Halo 4, Spartan Ops gives you a playable television series revolving around Spartan IV squads. The first season is divided into 10 episodes with each episode containing 5 chapters. Giving you 50 chapters of gameplay seems like it would be a large amount of content, however after the first half season, there is much left to be desired.
Let’s start with the overall idea behind Spartan Ops. The UNSC Infinity is sending Spartan squads to examine and gather intelligence on the Forerunner world of Requiem. Of course Requiem is still crawling with a splintered Covenant group and loads of Prometheans. One of the main drawbacks from this concept is that without digging into the Halo novels, most people won’t have any idea who these characters are and why they are there in the first place. In general, 343 did not do a great job of recapping the Halo universe for any newcomers. This makes Spartan Ops seem like a bit of fan service for the dedicated if you like story, and if you like gameplay, there is enough of that to keep you at least mildly interested. Every episode begins with a beautifully rendered cutscene cinematic. If Halo 4 did anything right, it was making it pretty.
Each chapter within the first half of season one has taken place in a recycled world. Understanding what goes on to make a game, this makes sense in one way and does not in another. The existence of assets makes it an easier job for the developers however it also makes the fans rage with repetition, something that the Halo universe (since The Library) can do without. For Halo 4 being the flagship game for 343, I would have liked to see 343 take episodic content to a new level with completely new environments essentially giving their fans 2 games in 1. They played it safe so far with season 1 and really just gave the gamer bits and pieces of Halo gaming in a tight compressed package.
The majority of the chapters revolve around defending an area for a given amount of time or progressing in the level till you find the point you need to defend. It seems almost as if they took firefight and put it in a moving world. If the game had a wider variety of enemies this wouldn’t be so bad but Halo 4 does not have that variety. So far of all the chapters, only 1 mission in particular has really grabbed my attention and 343 nailed it on so many levels. You and 3 buddies are on the multiplayer map of Ragnarok (Valhalla in Halo 3) and are each given access to a Mantis, Halo 4’s new mech vehicle. You then defend the area from an onslaught of banshees and phantoms that really extends for nearly 15 minutes. The battle is reminiscent of some of the final scenes of the Matrix trilogy with their mechs defending the Zion loading dock. Beyond that chapter though, there just hasn’t been enough “meat” to feel great about.
The 2nd half of the first season has been promised to showcase new environments and missions. So let’s hope that 343 can execute on that. I am a huge Halo fan and do enjoy Halo 4, however, the further I look into it, the less excited I am about what they have given me thus far. Halo 4 is fun, but it’s not the game breaking, rule changing Halo that I remember.