In Memoriam: Halo 4 Spartan Ops
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In Memoriam: Halo 4 Spartan Ops

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In Memoriam: Halo 4 Spartan Ops
Halo Nation

Back in 2012, "Halo 4" released with a substantial weekly addition to its PvE that I feel is grossly under-appreciated: Spartan Ops. The mode had plenty of drawbacks to be sure, but it had a slew of fun moments that could be shared with three friends over Xbox Live.

For those of you who don’t know, Spartan Ops was 343 Industries’ first and only attempt at a “second campaign,” giving players a perspective as to the repercussions of the Master Chief’s return in the galaxy. Taking place six months after the end of "Halo 4’s" Campaign, Spartan Ops chronicles the aftermath through two simultaneous plot-lines. The first is told in the form of 11 cinematics, one for each chapter (and an epilogue for the finale) of Spartan Ops’ first and only season. The cinematics start by following Fireteam Majestic, a five-Spartan team of the latest generation of the illustrious supersoldiers, and then quickly shift between the perspectives of Doctor Catherine Halsey, Captain Thomas Lasky, Commander Sarah Palmer and Storm Covenant Supreme Leader Jul ‘Mdama.

Jul 'Mdama - aka The Didact's Hand

The second perspective consists of the actual gameplay. Fifty missions encompass the amount of content that players can take on in Spartan Ops. Although the player assumes the role of unnamed members of Fireteam Crimson, their custom Spartan appearances will be the player models for this game mode, which is incredible in terms of immersion. Players can take on these missions alone or with up to three of their friends, and the difficulty of the enemies can be set to one of the same four settings of the Campaign: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary. Fire Team Crimson gets constant updates over the coms from Commander Palmer and Spartan Miller, and they even get some funny moments with Roland, the ship AI of the UNSC Infinity.

And the Cheekiest A.I. Award goes to...

Why is it that Spartan Ops was received so poorly back when it first launched? Admittedly there was not a lot to complain about, but the mode itself was far from perfect. Let’s start with the positives.

PROS:

First off, the premise was great for welcoming new and old "Halo" fans into the universe after 343 Industries took the reigns from Bungie. For the older fans of the lore, it showed how much of a comeback humanity has made after nearly being driven to extinction by the Covenant. After four short years of recovery, the UNSC has quickly made itself a force to be reckoned with in the form of the Infinity, first of its class as well as being the flagship of the Navy and headquarters of the Spartan-IV program. The story also shows how fanatical and dangerous the Covenant have become, especially with Jul ‘Mdama, a former Elite general with an undying vengeance for humanity even after his species has formally made peace with them.

Infinity doesn't just sink the Battleships...

I definitely loved how the writers introduced new characters as well as take the time to revisit character arcs previously teased in the Campaign. Spartan Ops made me appreciate Commander Palmer as a leader with attitude, as opposed to a sarcastic and headstrong Spartan wannabe in the Campaign. We also get to see Captain Lasky advance seamlessly into the fearless and respectable Captain of the largest and most infamous ship in UNSC history. The Spartans of Fireteam Majestic were an enjoyable bunch as well, especially Spartan Gabriel Thorne. He was given a considerable amount of backstory, and it is revealed he has a personal connection to the New Phoenix incident, which resulted in the death of his family and motivated him to join the Spartans. His character is well complimented by the supportive Tedra Grant, and his natural leadership skills shine through on more than one occasion, even to the chagrin of Spartan Paul DeMarco, team leader of Majestic. While this batch of Spartans can be immature and far from the standards Dr. Halsey had intended (aside from Thorne, as even she would admit), they had realistic and enjoyable interactions, as strong characters always need. I would be excited if they showed up in a game of their own one day, and hopefully the "Halo: Escalation" comics will not be the last story to feature them.

Spartan Gabriel Thorne

Gameplay is also solid in certain areas of Spartan Ops. The high points of the functionality include the ability to use custom loadouts, which were shared with certain multiplayer modes that permitted them. I will agree with most in saying custom loadouts in "Halo" multiplayer were a very, very bad idea (You could actually spawn with a DMR and a Plasma Pistol with this system in place… Gross!). But I felt they were a perfect fit for a mode like Spartan Ops. It increased the likelihood for giving missions a second or third try with different weapons and strategies, which always help in giving games a healthy lifespan. And the weapon variety was not limited to starting weapons either. Most of the missions had a healthy palette of UNSC, Covenant and Forerunner weapons to work with.

Many of the missions would unfortunately blend together as far as memories go, but more than a handful of them were actually quite memorable. Sometimes they were even more fun than certain sequences in "Halo 4’s" Campaign. Destroying the Lich in Chapter 10 of Spartan Ops was way more fun than boarding the same vehicle in the Campaign. There was also a fun mission in Chapter 5 that allowed the player to just go to town with Mantises and Gauss Warthogs against wave after wave of Covenant soldiers trying to take down two generators. The entirety of Chapter 7 was one big fun ride, considering it revolved around Fire Team Crimson helping to fend off a boarding action against the Infinity. The second half of the first season may have reused the new spaces, but a few of them, such as Apex and Harvester, would be revisited in later missions to reveal extra spaces that players never knew were there! It was genuine surprises like these that made me love Spartan Ops and disappointed that 343 had to pull the plug on future productions.

CONS:

As much as I loved the new game mode from 343, Spartan Ops had a number of glaring mistakes that understandably turned off a lot of players, even myself on occasion. Many of the missions, from beginning to end, were very memorable and enjoyable. But the fact that most of them were recycled spaces from the Campaign and multiplayer gave the impression that either funding for designing new spaces was unavailable, or 343 might have gotten lazy. However, dialogue during the missions and cut scenes give the impression that the recycled spaces were intentional for the story. That being said, it left a bad taste in players’ mouths, although 343 truly delivered with a vast majority of original spaces for the second half of the season.

Apex - Introduced in Chapter 7 of Spartan Ops

The AI in Spartan Ops definitely needed work, as they were almost as frustrating and inconsistent as they were in the Campaign. On easier difficulties, the Covenant were painfully weak and predictable, requiring little strategy to take them down. But on higher difficulties, all of a sudden they were crack shots with automatic weapons and could mow you down from across the map. The Prometheans, on the other hand, were very annoying to encounter. Crawlers could swarm you at any moment, and there were hardly any counters unless you had a SAW equipped. Knights were rather balanced foes, albeit very tough to kill, but they had the ability to spawn Watchers, arguably the most annoying enemy to fight in "Halo 4." These little b******s had the ability to spawn even more Crawlers, provide Hardlight Shields to just about any other enemy, and could actually revive the Knights you already killed. Congrats on killing that Knight Commander on Legendary – now watch as this Watcher magically brings it back to life so he can blow your a** up with an Incineration Cannon all over again!

You have no idea how unfair this is on Legendary...

This last note can be folded into the problem with the AI, but Spartan Ops had a bit of a specific problem with variety in gunfights. Even with a slew of different weapons to use, fighting the same enemies throughout fifty missions could get very monotonous and boring. This is a big reason as to why most of the missions tend to blend together in hindsight. It would have definitely helped if 343 had attempted a boss fight or an escort mission every now and then, or something else other than missions that involved simply slaughtering every member of the Covenant in what felt like a five-mile radius.

All in all, I still miss Spartan Ops, and I tend to enjoy when I take the time to revisit some of my favorite missions. I could get into the action almost immediately, and the lore of the game actually made me feel more invested in this mode as compared to the “War Games” that was "Halo 4" multiplayer. I actually made max rank almost exclusively on Spartan Ops. That is how much I loved taking on the Covenant and Prometheans more than my fellow Spartans. Perhaps we will see if 343 can consider refurbishing this mode for a later title, but only time will tell.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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