Spartan Ops shipped with all copies of Halo 4, promising ten weeks of “ongoing surprises which build on the Halo universe”. Players have been granted access to a new Episode every Monday, which includes an introductory cinematic and five playable missions. The cutscenes are incredibly rendered; to the point you feel you are watching the latest action-drama on television, but it is the long term gameplay which is letting players down. In the first week, Episode 1, Spartan Team Crimson were deployed to sites familiar to the players from the campaign and given basic ‘activate this’, ‘neutralise that’ objectives, some of which built up to introducing the story arc for the season. It was like playing Firefight (from Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach) but with much more form and structure. Personally I was left chomping at the bit to continue the story in the following week. Unfortunately, Episode 2 didn’t fulfil expectations. The opening cinematic was once again dramatic, but it was disappointing to see several of the maps reused for some of the missions. One Chapter in particular, Pelican Down, was nothing more than the reverse of Episode 1’s Sniper Alley. Having reached Episode 5, there has been more recycling but not to the point which induces boredom- new areas of the map are utilised, standoffs are shifted around slightly, and different enemy classes kindly offer themselves as fodder. We cannot crucify 343 Industries for being limited by time and finances to reusing these maps, but expecting some more variety wouldn’t be considered a ruthless request either.
The creative team at 343 industries has gone to great lengths to contextualise parts of the Halo series that did not quite fit into the lore. Spartan Ops is no exception. Several of the levels have been reworked into story driven locations. Take the multiplayer map Ragnarok; one of its features is a downed military aircraft. Through playing Spartan Ops, fans have learned it is actually the crash site of another Spartan deployment. Little additions such as these make the mode worth playing, just for the face it builds upon already established knowledge.
Interestingly, 343 has put a large amount of effort into Spartan Ops, rather than dedicating every resource into perfecting the campaign and multiplayer aspects of the game. There is so much substance under the surface of this mode. The story of the Episodes develops in a way which leaves players waiting anxiously for the next, despite the missions themselves being unsatisfactory. Memorable characters from the campaign, including the illusive and mysterious Catherine Halsey, provide a recognisably Halo tone through both the voice and motion-capture expertise of the actors. Has 343 bitten off more than they can chew? The first season alone promises more game time then Halo 3: ODST, which was a standalone title produced by Bungie in 2009, making the project itself highly demanding. With Halo 5 already promised, 343 could have problems finding the middle ground between continuing the level of quality dedicated to Spartan Ops, and starting pre-development on their next big title. If future seasons of Spartan Ops arrive in poor condition, we will know Halo 5’s quality could be in jeopardy.
Spartan Ops only requires a Gold LIVE account to play, but 343 has not ruled out charging for additional seasons. If the quality of the gameplay does not improve by the end of Season 1, Microsoft may not see their sales projections for Season 2 peak as high as they thought. This situation could divide the Halo community into two groups. One group of story driven fans- who buy the books, read into the lore, discuss the Halo universe on forums- will undoubtedly buy the coming seasons if there is a price tag attached. The other group simply will not sacrifice money on an expansion which doesn’t meet the high standards of content set in the campaign and multiplayer portions of Halo 4. Of course this has always occurred on some level over the past decade as stories have been told through numerous Halo novels and comics, which have not drastically influenced the events of the main video games. However, 343 keeps reminding us that Spartan Ops will “lead directly into the arc of Halo 5”. It is a big risk to charge players for something they don’t enjoy but also hinders their future indulgence in Halo.
I’ve been delighted with the handover of the Halo franchise. 343 Industries exceeded my expectations in nearly every area when rebooting the series. It is a shame it see Spartan Ops being handled with a little less care, but it may only be noticeable because the mode is still finding its balance. I predict there will be an improvement because, overall, the inclusion of Spartan Ops is a worthwhile one in expanding the universe and offering procedural entertainment which has been lacking in the franchise for 11 years. Good call 343!
See what goodies you can win with our Exclusive Chaos Legion competition this week.
Dec 8th, 2013 0This week we are giving 3 of our special readers the chance to win some exclusive merchandise from Chaos Hour. This is just one of the many competitions going forward which will be exclusive to the Chaos Legion membership. Week in week out we will be hosting some incredible competitions…
Rest In Peace Paul Walker (1973 - 2013)
Dec 2nd, 2013 0