Spartan Ops Season 1.5
In the build up to Halo 4 one of the things that excited me most was Spartan Ops. Something that promised to combine the excitement of multiplayer and the simple thrills of firefight with the deep and immersive story elements of campaign was riviting to a cannon head like myself.
Having been somewhat underwhelmed by the first half of season one, I was beginning to long for ODST’s firefight, but still held tight to the thin glimmer of hope that the return of Palmer, Dalton, Thorne and co would prove to be more engaging and exciting… luckily it was just that.
Despite my misgivings for the first five episodes I still always looked forward to the opening cut scene each week, the beautifully rendered, the short but always impressive bites of story we were treated to were brilliant, not least because of the characters. Thomas Laskey captain of the UNSC Infinity would already be familiar to most of you from the campaign and probably from the live action web series Forward Unto Dawn and for me he was the real star of show here. Palmer however seemed to be a little psychologically unhinged and somewhat unfit to command the legions of Spartan IVs, Infinity AI Roland is a great character and it’s nice to finally see another smart AI other than Cortana getting some screen time, the addition of a couple of characters recognisable from the main story and the extended fiction in Jul M’dama, leader of the covenant splinter faction composed mainly of the ‘Storm Sangheili‘, along with none other than Dr Catherine Halsey only served to further the excitement and the way that story develops through the second set of five episodes and serves to heighten the Spartan Ops experience.
The main thrill of the second half of Spops is the feeling that your characters “Fire Team Crimson” are really making an impact on the story and garnering more respect from the key players in the story of the Forerunner shield world Requiem. Where in the first half it felt as though it was all about Majestic in the latter stages it is Crimson who take center stage. This is good because this bunch of arrogant and annoying Spartans really were starting to get old (with the exception of Thorne), luckily Majestic take a back seat from episode five and onward. As the story plays out the episodes begin to gather pace and it really starts to feel like a Halo campaign rather than a set of boring “go here, press this, defend this, leave” errands, yes there are still elements of that but the maps and the way they are used in the second half, breathe a new life into the beast that is Spartan Ops and finally start to make it look like a worthy successor to FireFight. I won’t go into detail about the missions because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are yet to live out the experience which builds to an unexpected, exciting climax.
Playing through with a group on Legendary is already very tough but I can’t help but feel that the addition of a FireFight-esque lives system would hike the tension levels and make the whole thing a little more interesting and challenging, 343 are promising to re-run the episodes though and hopefully this is one of a number of things they could and should add, skulls would be nice, as would a theater mode and having your medals show up as you earn them ala multiplayer and FF would be a nice touch, that said I wouldn’t have too many complaints if they didn’t add any of these features because this method of story enhancement has now proven itself as a more than worthwhile escapade. Plus it was free, all ten episodes of season one for not a penny is a complete bargain.
It’s a smart move from Halo’s new grand overseers at 343 because not only was it an excellent way to increase the games longevity and keep the fanboys happy between map packs, it could also prove to be a nice cash cow in the coming months should they decide to release what would most likely be a pay to play second series. We saw the success that Tell Tale games ‘The Walking Dead‘ game garnered with this kind of episodic content winning praise from all corners, including a game of the year award, this kind of game shows developers exactly what gamers are willing to pay (in time and money) if you put out quality even in small doses.
“Is it push this button?”
So what does the future hold for Spartan Ops, well it seems that the overall reception has been positive with most of the folks I have spoken to admitting they would be more than happy to pay up to 1200 Microsoft per season, I don’t think they could quite get away with charging 400 msp per episode without seriously increasing the number of chapters contained in each weekly release but who’s to say they won’t try.