26 February 2013

FWS Topics: HALO 4 SPARTAN OPS Season One

On Monday, February 18th, the bold experiment in Military Sci-Fi and video games came to close, with the last episode of HALO 4's SPARTAN OPS dropping. While DLC and expansion packs are nothing new to the world of video games, SPARTAN OPS was much different. Season One was offered for free, as long as you had Gold-level Xbox Live, and bought HALO 4, and it was just not a taste, but the full meal...ten episodes consisting of five chapters per episodes, along with a cut-screen episode introduction. This allowed players to experience events six months after HALO 4, and to keep playing a story-driven HALO game active in the community of gaming, even after beating the campaign. For those that were expecting the blogpost on Space Piracy, I must confuses that the research and the writing is going slow. I hope to devote some time to the Space Piracy blogpost this weekend and get it out.

SPARTAN OPS...the Bold Experiment in Gaming
Some websites maintain that SPARTAN OPS is nothing more than a rip-off of Call of Duty's Special Ops game mode. It is my opinion that 343 Industries did indeed mimic the Special Ops missions from Modern Warfare 2, by including extra content for solo or coop play that was separate from the campaign and multiplayer experiences. Also, 343i was attempting to plant their flag into, rather than same old Firefight mode we've had since HALO 3: ODST. 343i had to set themselves apart from the godlike work done by Bungie on the HALO series, and I believe, that SPARTAN OPS was that answer. But, SPARTAN OPS was much than just a few mission or a static replacement for Firefight. SPARTAN OPS was more like HALO 4.5. For those of us that are oddballs and want a complex story-driven campaign, HALO games are one of the only shooters, and SPARTAN OPS extended that campaign...for free. The setup for these DLC were different, they were scheduled, much like a TV show, and were much more than just a map pack.

My Impressions of SPARTAN OPS
I was original excited about the prospect of continued content after the game dropped, and waging a war on this new Forerunner shield-world against a faction of the Covenant with no frakking Flood! After beating the campaign, I sat down with SPARTAN OPS and...was unimpressed. While it was more HALO and it used the jaw-dropping HALO 4 engine, there was a disconnect between the storyline of the 2nd Battle of Requiem being presented in the cut-scenes and the missions that Fireteam Crimson. From Episode One to Five, this plagued SPARTAN OPS from achieving the normal high standard level that most HALO products, and negative reviews followed.
After the Xmas break, 343 Industries (finally) integrated the cut-scenes storyline and the missions allowing for the full usage of this experiment. I actually put down MW3 and BO2, for the fresh SPARTAN OPS missions.
After all is said and done, I do believe that SPARTAN OPS was a great way for 343i to keep HALO 4 in the spotlight after its drop, because November is a brutal month for video games. Most shooter fans and Xbox 360 users would have bought HALO 4, played the teabags off of it, beating the campaign, and waging war on multiplayer. Then one Black Ops: II dropped later that month, we shooters, would have drift over to that COD game, while only the diehards and COD haters continued onward with HALO 4. Unfortunately, for HALO fans (like me) and 343i, the multiplayer is much more flat than the COD experience, there is little or no weapon customization, but SPARTAN OPS being story driven allows HALO to shine were it is superior to the COD games, in story telling.

The Story of SPARTAN OPS=MSF Greatness?
Since 2001, HALO has been one of the most visual and vital MSF properties, that has populated from video games to books, to live-action  videos, and even badass toys (yes...I have a few!). Most of the HALO stories have surrounded the Master Chief, but much like Reach, ODST, and Wars, SPARTAN OPS shows us some different, but still badass. After a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, it seems lately that there is a lack of balls in MSF works. But, when I watched the cut-scenes for the UNSC Infinity storyline, and was engaged in the mission during the 2nd Battle of Requiem, I thought to myself that this game has balls!
The cut-scenes are brutal, detail the horror of the war against the aliens and the valor of the SPARTAN-IVs. There is some solid writing here, with all of the elements of why we love HALO fully on display and Also, seeing how a space-based special operations units would operate on planet-wide scale holding operations was very cool and well-done. I only wish that more MSF works would be filled with has much enjoyment and iron as SPARTAN OPS...and cute SPARTAN-IV female soldiers!

SPARTAN OPS...will there be a Season Two?
There is no official word yet from 343 Industries on the fate of a second installment of SPARTAN OPS. From what I read online, there had to be a 70% threshold for positive reviews, and the episodes being played for 343i business development team. If there is to be another season, it will no longer be free. Rumors are putting the price at around $20 for another season of SPARTAN OPS. Other rumors say that it has run its course, because 343i doesn't want SPARTAN OPS to run-over the storyline for HALO 5, and for the series not to become HALO 4.5. Personally, I hope so. It is also great to have more HALO, and I enjoyed the storyline behind SPARTAN OPS, allowing for the games to have some time away from John-117. Also, adding to my desire for another season, was because I very much enjoyed the character (and staring at) SPARTAN IV Commander Sarah Palmer.

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