Multiplayer Musings

Yes, yes, the rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated  Those about my procrastination abilities are not however. I have been picking away at this article for almost a month, and I felt I just had to spit the rest of it out and get it posted. Please forgive the lengthy and somewhat disjointed post…enjoy!

So, we’ve all had a good amount of time to mess around with the multiplayer in Halo 4. It’s been four months, and we’ve had two map packs, and numerous playlists and overall a good taste of what War Games has to offer. I’ve left my comments on Matchmaking until now because I wanted to give 343 a chance to show us what they truly had to offer, and because I wanted to see how long it would hold my interest.

I’ll start at the start. As soon as I jumped into the War Games after my fiction fuelled campaign and SpOps binge, I was having a blast. That’s not to say that I was doing well according to my K/D, but it sure felt like it. After a few days to familiarize myself with the maps, my K/D caught up with my enjoyment. Soon enough I had my standard loadout unlocked (thanks to some tasty Doritos and Mountain Dew) and I was in my way.

I realized rather quickly that I enjoyed (re: was better at) BTB. This came as quite a shock to me, as I regularly soiled the linens playing BTB in Reach. This illustrates a key difference for me between the two games. Halo 4 is more fun, mainly because I do better at it. This is likely because the game has been dumbed down to appeal to the masses, but you know what? I don’t care. Oh, I care that Halo isn’t what it used to be. Yes, I disagree with all the bells and whistles that have been tacked on, and look forward to something that is an actual innovation  rather than a bastardization (Destiny anyone?) I can certainly see where a lot of the naysayers are coming from. However I still find the game enjoyable and the story compelling, even if it has fallen somewhat, and that is what really matters to me.

Loadouts. If I can point to one thing that has improves both my skill and enjoyment of the game, I would pick this feature. No longer am I stuck with a useless AR start in all but a few playlists. In Reach, the only playlists that featured DMR starts were either the Arena (which had the ever hated bloom) or MLG, which I wouldn’t touch to save some level of pride. Now in Halo 4, I have the same weapon across any playlist, save those few that require set loadouts ( and even those sometimes have a DMR option). As a result I have a weapon I WANT, one that I am comfortable and practised with, and one that can actually do damage. If I have a bad run with it however, I can switch to any gun I want, I don’t have to “make due” with whatever junky weapon I start with, or find.

With that in mind I will say that the AR has been given a major boost, and in CQC is actually a very useful weapon. It took me about a week of getting destroyed by the AR to realize this. The ability to have both an AR and a DMR at the start of 4v4 matched has saved me many a time. The DMR also seems to be a little buffed, and I can see where some of the complaints came from. I find it much easier to control the “bloom” on the DMR than the recoil on the BR. The bullet magnetism is also quite helpful…

As far as the Armour Abilities, I have Thruster Pack on 3 of the 5 loadouts, with Autosentry and Regen on the last two for objective games. I get so used to thrusting away from a duel gone wrong, that I find myself tossing down an Autosentry at exactly the wrong moment, if I’m not careful. I would like to give Jet Pack a try, but I do not want to switch controller schemes again. I have already switched from Boxer to Bumper Jumper, and I don’t want to go through that again in order to use that ability properly. As mentioned previously, I enjoy Firepower (to have an AR) and Dexterity on smaller maps, while for BTB I use Mobility and Gunner. I love the Gunner mod, not really for the cool down time on the vehicle guns, but rather for the fast movement with a turret. I love me some turret.

The maps at first seemed to be less than spectacular, but I think that was mostly just the new map blues. Now that I have learned most of them, I have thrown down wicked games on almost every one of them. The exceptions would be Meltdown, Solace, and Wreckage. Those are the three worst maps in the game in my opinion, though that could be because I haven’t played them lots. I hated – hated – complex for the first month, but suddenly I found it was one of my favourites  Both map packs have been great so far, but the Majestic pack was outstanding. It contained the kinds of maps I had been wanting more of. Just stay out of the garage of doom.

I mostly play Slayer, so I have an obvious bias towards that playlist. For the most part I enjoy the Infinity variation, especially the instant respawn. The ordinance isn’t that big of an issue for me. I usually call down my drop, then get one kill and die. It does seem that once a team gets a good lead, it is hard to come back, because of the drops the other team is getting. Or maybe they are just that good. Or we’re that bad. Who can say…

As far as any other playlist goes, I love the new Grifball, fast paced, and full of action. I also like the new version of CTF. I usually stick to defense, but with randoms on the right map, I’ll see if I can just keep pulling their flag as much as possible. That’s as far as my strategy goes. Extraction can be fun depending on the map (Landfall), but it can be a bitch as well (Meltdown). I don’t play much regicide, be it the FFA or team variety, so I’ll just take a pass on those. Generally I stick to Slayer, unless I’m with a group. Objective games can be a bitch to win with randoms.

Some obvious fails for 343 were the Boltshot, and weak rank system. The Boltshot is a weapon that is quite frustrating to be killed by. However, it is also a weapon that I have been unable to master. Had I been able to get the hang of it, I might have felt differently about it. However, I often am killed and never kill with it, so I am on the “shotgun in the back pocket” camp. The bigger let down was the ranking system. With 130 being reached so quickly, I feel it is basically pointless. I know that sometime in the next three years, I am going to hit 130. Because I know I will get to the top, I don’t really care about the challenges anymore. Why have challenges if XP means nothing? Saying this, I understand that not everyone is going to  keep playing this game for three years. Neither does the average Joe have hours upon hours to spend in a day grinding towards a seemingly astronomical height. That said, some do, and in Reach it meant something to see someone with the top rank. I will leave what it meant up to you, but to me it usually meant I was going to get my ass handed to me. I’m not going to try and come up with some better system for 343, or try to sell you on one here though. That’s not my job, and I’ll leave it to those better suited. I just hope they come out with a little something extra.

So, for good or ill those are my thoughts on the Halo 4 Multiplayer. I look forward to the coming map pack, and am two “Strings” into Silentium, so watch for some thoughts on those. I might also finish my “Hero’s Journey” sometime…sometime…sometime…

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 10 “Exodus”

Well, it’s a little late but better late than never right? While Spartan Ops went out with a bang, some parts of the ending left me a little deflated. I was over inflated mind you, so a little deflation wasn’t a bad thing.

Cutscene

spops_10_hd.wmv_000042590

So as Jul initiates the self destruct sequence, we see the Didact symbol. Does this mean he is alive, or is it just a hold over from when he was around on Requiem? Is Jul actually following his orders, or simply using his name for his own devices? 343 has put itself into a good position in this regard, because they can either choose to use Jul as the big baddie, (re: Nemesis) or bring the Didact back. I personally think the Didact will be coming back in Halo 5, because of the old fiction adage: No body, not dead.

spops_10_hd.wmv_000088417 spops_10_hd.wmv_000098964 spops_10_hd.wmv_000093258

These couple scenes were really great. Rats off a sinking ship? The sheer number of Covenant jumping away from Requiem makes me think that this isn’t a splinter faction. I think it started that way, but Jul has reformed the Covenant under his leadership. I am waiting for the final novel in Karen Traviss’s trilogy, which I think will solve many of these questions. I don’t really like the way 343 has split up the timelines of both that story and the Didacts story, as far as the books are concerned. I realize they did it to avoid spoilers and such, but like releasing Halo 4 on the 360 instead of 720, it seems a little rushed.

spops_s1_epilogue_hd.wmv_000086147 spops_s1_epilogue_hd.wmv_000121028

The Pelican escape was a lot of fun to watch, as was the descent of Requiem into it’s sun. Very good effects all around.

spops_s1_epilogue_hd.wmv_000158978

I really wish Lasky wasn’t so scared to stand up to her and just say, “Yes I send them to stop you, CAUSE YOU’RE A COLD CRUEL BITCH.” I do like that she is back in her black jump suit thingy now that they aren’t in a theatre of war. It shows that though they NEVER wore their helmets, the Spartans were mildly prepared.

spops_s1_epilogue_hd.wmv_000183410

Interesting that the two pieces are joined on a molecular level..

spops_s1_epilogue_hd.wmv_000221095

Ok, a lot of stuff to talk about here. First off, we have the obvious missing arm of Halsey. when I first saw this it took my breath away. Yikes. Since Elites shun doctors of any kind it’s amazing that she didn’t bleed out as Jul suggested, especially since they wouldn’t have much experience with human physiology. Of course, while painful, Halsey will simply be fitted with a prosthetic, much like Kat’s in reach. We actually are close to developing these now, check that out here.

The other, and more sinister thing is that it seems like Halsey has fully defected after the attempt on her life. This was one of the deflations I was talking about. I thought to myself “After all she has done for humanity, all the terrible things and sacrifices, she does this?” I mean if she was truly selfish, I doubt she would have done all she did. Remember, despite what everyone else thinks in the Halo Universe, Halsey didn’t want to run the Spartan program. She knew it was wrong, but she did it to save humanity. Thin reasoning for some, but I doubt that someone who would go to those lengths to save us, would simply toss us to the Covvies, even over this. So it must be a ruse. I think she is baiting ‘Mdama, and will betray him again, as soon as she has her chance. What we have to remember are two thing: Halsey is an expert and vicious manipulator, and she always has humanity’s best interest at heart. That’s not to say she won’t get revenge on Osman, or even Palmer (oh, that would be heavenly…).

Missions

Ch 1: Artifact

Map:Harvester

Artifact

Shield world Requiem highly unstable and on trajectory to collide with sun. Fireteams Crimson and Majestic in pursuit of artifacts needed to halt planet’s course.

Interesting that we find out what this giant bug was digging for in the first place, though I wonder why the Covvies needed the other artifacts…

Ch 2:In One Way

Map:Warrens

In One Way

Shield world Requiem is highly unstable and on trajectory to collide with sun. Fireteams Crimson and Majestic in pursuit of artifacts needed to halt planet’s course.

Part of the thing I found most interesting about the second half maps was that each week, there was something new that we didn’t know about, this “connection” Being one of them.

Ch 3: Seize The Power

Map: Apex

Seize the Power

Numerous pelicans shot down trying to recover the power supply for the Covenant Harvester. Fireteam Crimson searching for survivors while recovering the replacement part.

Pretty cool getting to fight the Liche in Spops, I liked how it would spew out the baddies all around the area. The explosion was pretty standard, and should happen sooner, but that’s a minor complaint.

Ch 4: Out The Other

Map: Warrens

Out the Other

Pelican dispatched to retrieve Fireteam Crimson and the Harvester power supply, but Covenant forces are converging on their location in Warrens.

Obviously the best part about this one was the Mantis. I had quite a run on it, hiding under one of the rock bridges and taking out watchers. The Snipers at the start of the mission were quite fun also though.

Ch 5 :One Last Time

Map: Harvester

Try it Again

Requiem’s impact with sun is imminent. Spartans deployed to Covenant Harvester with replacement power supply

AKA “Try it Again” on the Waypoint website. I’m not sure why the titles are different on this one, but I’m guessing it was a minor goof. This was another example of how there were whole areas of maps we didn’t see. I really liked the messed up gravity on your way out of the whole! Very cool.

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 9 – Key – Full Review

The Cinematic this week was spot on, though some of the major stuff was “spoiled” by the trailer (Librarian, key smash, episode title) but it’s hard to have no spoilers for a five minute vignette in a 40 second trailer, so whatever. I still loved it. I especially liked Halsey’s facial expressions in this episode, and that speaks volumes for their quality. The missions had more of a tie in this week than last, and while they still felt a little unnecessary, they were quite fun, especially with the gunner mod!

Cutscene

spops_09_hd.wmv_000040587

Insubordinate bitch. Sorry but if you enjoy Palmer,you aren’t going to like this blog much. She is a commander, and her Captain just told her to stand down. Regardless of any order Lasky may have been given concerning Halsey, Palmer is still under his  command, and needs to understand that. It isn’t up to her how Halsey is taken down, ad Osman did not give her any orders that I recall. Like I’ve said many times before, the 4’s are much less than what the 2s were, and it starts with their commanding officer.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000083511

Lasky takes matters into his own hands and orders Majestic to recue Halsey. I like this, since he bypasses Palmer.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000095093 spops_09_hd.wmv_000095693

Halsey almost looks beatific meeting the Librarian for the first time. This is how the Greg Bear novels describe what meeting the Librarian would be like for a human, like seeing the most beautiful, wondrous vision. Does it speak to John’s brokeness that he didn’t react in this way? Or maybe he did, and we just couldn’t see it…

spops_09_hd.wmv_000120360

Hey, who is that?? I have no ide…OOHHHH it’s Palmer. I don’t remember her ever having a helmet on…

spops_09_hd.wmv_000163450 spops_09_hd.wmv_000165587

So it looked like Halsey had been transported entirely  but here we see the meeting with the Librarian is in her mind.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000168324 spops_09_hd.wmv_000174065 spops_09_hd.wmv_000179005

So.. Good thing the Didact didn’t get his hands on this “Jannis Key”. Yet. I notice that it’s two halves are orange and blue, presumably for the Didact and the Librarian. So we now have this “Absolute Record” to search for. I wonder if this will be part of Season 2, or Halo 5? I think we will get a season 2, the mode seems popular enough for it, and I think that may be the search for the Record, and will lead us into Halo 5.

Also, I notice here that the Librarian only has 5 fingers, whereas the Didact has six. Is this an oversight, or is the extra finger a result of his mutations or Rate?

spops_09_hd.wmv_000189986

Here you can kind of catch a look of smugness or satisfaction on Halsey’s face. Kind of a “Ha, I have triumphed again” look.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000219526

This scene reminded me of John placing his hands on the Reclaimer symbols that released the Didact. Could it be that Halsey is releasing something as well? Not physical like the Didact, but changing the course of the Universe? Upsetting the balance so to speak.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000245960

When Halsey tosses her half of the key to Thorne it seemed like a little passing of the torch. I was about to type that we aren’t anywhere near done with the Cheif, but do we know that? What if Halo 5 isn’t the Cheif, but Thorne? I’m sure 343 would never go that far, but it’s possible. In either case, I think Thorne is the future of the franchise, and I’m fine with that.

spops_09_hd.wmv_000251668

If you watch this scene closely, and slowly, you can see that Palmer ducks around, trying to get a shot at Halsey, Prometheans and Elites be damned. This makes me want to puke. Have I mentioned how much I hate her?

spops_09_hd.wmv_000273264

So where did ‘Mdama scuttle off to now? That guy has a way of slipping out of trouble…

spops_09_hd.wmv_000280841

This is another Palmer hate inducing scene. “What are you guys doing here?” You guys? Sorry but she sounds like she is their equal, which she is not. She also sounds childish, which she is. There are a lot of more appropriate things she could have said. It really seems like her anger towards, or hatred of Halsey has control of her.

Missions

Ch 1: The Search For Halsey

Map:Cyclone

The Search for Halsey

Jul ‘Mdama has abducted Dr. Catherine Halsey. All fireteams dispatched to investigate her whereabouts

A fairly standard firefight on Cyclone, though I really liked the intro showing the UNSC ships, and the defense section of the mission.

Ch 2: Clean Up

Map: Control

Clean Up

Fireteam Crimson dispatched to back up Boa Squad in holding UNSC base at Covenant Control.

Not a lot here either. This map has become a lot more fun since I found the lifts though. I’m not sure if they have always been there and I didn’t notice, or if 343 added them later. either way, they make moving levels much easier.

Ch 3: Science Mountain

Map: Apex

Science Mountain

Spartans deployed to investigate Halsey transmission at Apex. Scorpion tank drop requested.

I had the most fun on this mission in matchmaking. Solo it was ok, the end section with all the Prometheans being the most fun. In multiplayer, I chose the gunner mod, hopped into the turret seat of a tank and went to town. In the sections without tanks I tried to find a turret as soon as possible.

Ch 4: Revenge

Map: Lockup

Revenge

Covenant detention facility targeted for shut down. Spartans on the ground to level structure.

It was a nice surprise to see that there are sections of these maps we haven’t seen before, and the circle area on Lockup is on of my favorite areas to play so far. I like the height advantage, and all the turrets! Otherwise, I enjoyed the first two sections and the inclusion of the warthogs.

Ch 5: The Hammer

Map: Lockup

The Hammer

Numerous Covenant forces inbound on Lockup. UNSC ground teams are holding the area and request Spartan reinforcements.

In this mission we stick around this new area and battle against quite a few enemies. The abundance of Feul Rod Cannons and Turrets was a lot of fun.

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 8 – Full Review

I was initially extremely impressed by this episode. The cutscene was fantastic, with it’s action, betrayl, and new (important) characters. However after playing through the missions, my opinion of the episode as a whole went from a 9 to a 7 out of 10.

Cutscene

As I said above, an awesome cutscene, the best one so far. Yes, I know I say that about everyone, and from the trailer for next week, I predict I will say it again. That is the way it should be though, heading towards a climax of any show.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000013852

We start out with Glassman and Thorne walking through the desert. I like Glassman’s comment that he isn’t a Spartan. The difference between him and Thorne might have something to do with training, overall fitness, and how Glassman has been treated since his capture. However, it is interesting to think that Spartans are in that much better shape than ordinary people. Thorne’s suit helps,and we’ll see just how much in a few minutes.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000084712 spops_08_hd.wmv_000094359

This fight scene was spectacular, and Thorne is badass. we see just how large the Elite are compared to the S-IVs, and it shows off how the suit/augments let him lift the rock relativley easily. When the rock smashed on his armour, I went “woah.” Yep. “Woah”

spops_08_hd.wmv_000128904

Kind of guessed good ol Gek would get shot in the back when he did the classic “Ima stab you” move while kneeling on Thorne. I didn’t expect it to be the douche bag  crew however. Nice reveal for them, no matter what we think of their personalities…

spops_08_hd.wmv_000144259

That artifact can multitask! Communication device, surveilance device, transporter anchor! Is there anything it can’t do? Available at Walmart for only $19.95…

spops_08_hd.wmv_000153271

Dear sweet MOTHER OF MERCY, will Palmer die already. At first I liked her. Then I disagreed with her. Then she annoyed me. Now she must die. The first chance I get I am going to deliver a blue spider unto her bitchy, arrogant face.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000158545

HEY, BACK OFF SON SHE’S MINE!!!

spops_08_hd.wmv_000161615

So in my review of last week’s trailer, I speculated that Halsey had, at least inadvertantly, caused the invasion of the Infinity. I’ll assume that she planned it. Which to me is, just, wow. I’m all for doing whatever it takes, but she certainly seems to not give a shit about humanity anymore. Is it her thirst for knowledge that makes her this way, or her concern for “Her” Spartans? Also of note, the Reach Data pads seemed to imply that something was actually wrong with Halsey, and after this episode, I am inclined to agree.

<< In all likelihood, ORION’s limited success can be attributed to [03529-24450-EN’s] diminished, though still functioning, compassion. Conversely, [10141-026-SRB4695‘s] ruthlessness – which may be attributed to an undiagnosed, undocumented, or deliberately obfuscated chemical imbalance – was necessary for setting in motion the events that will eventually supply us with the optimal solution.

– Reach Data Pad #7

spops_08_hd.wmv_000185047

Whoah, that’s the last guy I’d give the sword to. “Hey ladies…Wanna see my sword?” This secene REALLY bothered me for one major reason. T Majestic again removes their helmets, this time in a hostile enviroment, where a Knight could pop out of thin air. Like, come on. Ok 343, we get it. We know who they are. I knew it was Madson talking in the last scene just by the sound of his voice. I’m not sure how this made it through so many people who most likely thought the same thing, but apparently it did.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000217623

When we see Lasky here, I knew he was going to get chewed out…

spops_08_hd.wmv_000219659 spops_08_hd.wmv_000237583

but it blew my mind when it was Osman that did the chewing, but at first I thought it was his mom!  I was literally jumping up and down with excitment. I said in my first impression that for me this was like seeing Halsey in Reach. Osman is a character much like Halsey. We hate her, but admire her at the same time. She definatley has a complex involving the good doctor, but can you blame her? She was a failed expeirament, cast out and forgotten. Being raised by Parangosky probably didn’t help her opinion of Halsey much either. I think they nailed her look, her confidence, and the way she talks is brilliant. Now I distinctly rememeber my heart fluttering for Palmer during her “Meet God” speech in episode one, so I hope 343 doesn’t make me hate Osman. Oh, I don’t like her, and I disagree with a lot of what she thinks, but I believe we are suppose to, that her character is designed that way. She’s not a brainless egghead hater with some armour.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000251368

Lasky looks quite troubled when given the order to nix Halsey. Why? What connection does he have to her, other than her betraying the crap out of him on his own ship? Shouldn’t he be a little pissed at her?

spops_08_hd.wmv_000296595

I wondered it the blue sphere wasn’t an “aliens keep out” sign.

spops_08_hd.wmv_000308711

She must have had some idea of what would happen when she stepped into the blue light. I hope she did anyway, or these 24th century scientist are just way to impulsive.

Missions

While the cutscene was fantastic, the mission brought my overall rating down this week. For me they seemed like first half missions. After the amazing playthroughs we’ve had the last two weeks, this one fell a little short. I still enjoy the maps much more than the first half ones, but these missions seemed to be more go here, do this, go here do this. Realistically this is probably what a Spartan does if he is actually working on Requiem, but it lacks the glamour of repelling an invasion of your ship, or trying to get back to that ship after being captured.

Ch1: Unfinished Buisness

Map: Apex

Unfinished Business

Fireteam Crimson redeployed to finish clearing out remaining Covenant hostiles at Apex

This mission was fun to play solo, mostly because I gots all da snipers. With a team it was good as well, I used mobility and a ghost to quickly move from on area to another. However, it was a throw away mission, with no point to it other than to “clean up the bad guys”/ wait, didn’t we have a mission called Clean Up?

Ch.2: Majestic Rescue

Map: Cyclone

Majestic Rescue

Fireteam Majestic faces heavy fire from Covenant artillery and are requesting backup. Fireteam Crimson is being sent in to kick some ass.

THis on was a little more interesting in that we had a couple of hogs, and had to destroy the giant spinning balls of doom. There didn’t seem to be a lot of covenant on this one however. Also, another mission with no real point other than to begin to set up Ch. 4. can we have the set up be the cutscene, and base the missions off of that, rather than having to waste two chapters in the missions themselves?

Ch 3: Lancer

Map: Warrens

Lancer

Fireteam Lancer has detected some covenant nests in Warrens. Spartans are inbound on their position

I liked this mission simply because it gave us a conclusion to the Switchback storyline, which was nice. Are we the only team that gets coloured armour? It must be because we are so awesome.

Ch 4:Crystal Ball

Map: Lockup

Crystal Ball

Fireteam Crimson dispatched to investigate how the Covenant have been anticipating UNSC movements.

Here we get the answer to the problem of the week, and have to destroy a pelican being used to monitor our communications. Generally I think this map is among my favourite because of it’s separate bowls, connected by a couple corridors.

Ch 5:Glassman

Map: Control

Glassman

Dr. Glassman has requested the assistance of Spartans in decoding a map recovered from the Covenant. Fireteam Crimson are inbound to assist.

While this mission was fun, and showed us what Glassman learned during his time with ‘Mdama and freinds, but why did Thorne need to show us locations? was it just a cameo?

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 7 – Invasion – Full Review

I really hate to sound like a broken record, but this might be the best episode yet. I will place this caveat on that statement however: While last week’s much improved gameplay over-shadowed the cutscene, this week was slightly reversed. I say slightly, because this week’s cutscene was spectacular in a lot of ways, much better than the last installment. The gameplay did not see much improvement  which means it stayed at a level I am fully satisfied with.

Cutscene

spops_07_hd.wmv_000005974

Our opening scene shows Dr. Halsey in her cell, perhaps feeling a little dejected, and sorry for herself after her interview with the Captain. She looks that way, but as we shall see, she is really contemplating something quite underhanded…

spops_07_hd.wmv_000030073 spops_07_hd.wmv_000033210

“Indid Irridium” translated from Latin means “Introduced Rainbow” (according to Google Translator). I have absolutely no idea what this means. However, we can assume that the phrase is either a back door into all AI’s, or only a back door into Roland. In either case, it seems to rid him of the “Smart”, and leave him as just another AI following orders. We have seen Halsey treat AI’s with little regard before, but in this instance it seems a little more personal, almost like she’s messing with Cortana (oh wait, she did that to…). I think this is because we have built a relationship with Roland during his work with Crimson.

This brings me to one of the main things I took from this episode. As much as we, and I in particular on this blog, have defended Halsey against all the crap being spewed at her from everyone on the Infinity, In this scene she proves that she deserves it. Here we do not have the benefit of her interior monologue to shield us from the fact that what she is doing is wrong. In every other instance, her wiping of Cortana’s mind, her kidnapping of Kelly, and even her involvement in the Spartan II program, we have heard what she has thought about her actions, and why she was doing what she was doing. Here, we see her actions without that filter, the way everyone else in the UNSC sees her, and I’ve got to say I don’t like it. I’m still a Halsey fan of course, I don’t really think anyone who has been with Halo from the start really can hate her, but I understand where the hate is coming from.

After this season of Spartan Ops, I may be willing to give Karen Traviss a pass on Glasslands. I said “may”. Part of me wonders how much of that really was Traviss taking liberties, and how much was 343 telling her how awful Halsey is/was.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000057810 spops_07_hd.wmv_000085614

When the Marines take Halsey from her cell, and when they drop her off, it seems like they know something is up.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000100100 spops_07_hd.wmv_000102770

In reality, if the UNSC had been upfront with Halsey, they probably could have gotten a lot more done. That is a major failing of the UNSC, on ONI in particular. the Paranoia within the organization leads to more problems than it will ever solve. She almost seems like Cortana in this scene, with her obsession with knowledge.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000126302 spops_07_hd.wmv_000131675 spops_07_hd.wmv_000132643 spops_07_hd.wmv_000132976 spops_07_hd.wmv_000135980 spops_07_hd.wmv_000139052

This was the best scene in Spartan Ops by far. When Roland Said what he did, and Halsey gasped and reacted that way, I thought “Wow, she didn’t know!” I guess I assumed that she knew for some reason. The CG in this scene is fantastic. If you slow it down, you can watch Halsey’s face go from shock, to thought, to having an idea, to acting it out by calling for a Pelican.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000163585 spops_07_hd.wmv_000175700

When she started talking with ‘Mdama I thought “Oh no, don’t go there”. That is what Halsey does however. Whatever it takes.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000190653 spops_07_hd.wmv_000193657 spops_07_hd.wmv_000197729

I wonder how far this plan of hers really could have gone if Roland hadn’t pulled himself together. This was actually a little disturbing, kind of like when Cortana was splitting herself in the campaign.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000220761

Lasky seems a little embarrassed  and a little pissed off here. I think there would be a lot less secrets floating around if he had his way.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000221295

Another great shot of Halsey, looking quite miffed.

spops_07_hd.wmv_000228637 spops_07_hd.wmv_000232844 spops_07_hd.wmv_000234712 spops_07_hd.wmv_000240821 spops_07_hd.wmv_000266255 spops_07_hd.wmv_000270828

Here we have some awesome shots of the firefight, including two of the best pics of Commander Palmer I’ve seen.

I really hope we get to see John in Spartan Ops. They have pulled through on almost every other fan wish for Spartan Ops in this second half, and I hope they don’t leave that one out. I would be entirely satisfied if it wasn’t a full episode, but just a ten second cameo at the end. Something. Anything!

Missions

While four of these chapters where just back and forth run throughs of the same map, I like them all quite a bit, so I didn’t mind. That map was also big enough that you didn’t feel like you were playing the same mission over and over. This was some of the most fun I’ve had playing Solo. I was actually surprised we didn’t get the Mantis run from the campaign, but I’m glad they went with all new spaces. Part of me wonders if we will ever see these areas again, as it’s not everyday the Infinity is invaded.

Ch.1: Backup

Map: Apex

Backup

All fireteams are recalled to UNSC Infinity to repel Covenant invasion.

This map was my favorite to play in Matchmaking. Even though I didn’t get the Mantis, I still had a good time. It was quite fun Solo as well, after I figured out where I was going. Some of these second half maps are confusing!

Ch.2: Home Field

Map: Infinity

Home Field

Infinity hanger bay is overrun by with Covenant forces. Fireteam Crimson routed to eliminate hostile force.

The hanger bay area of this map was my favourite area to play, solo or on a team. The height advantage, plus the rooms to dive into for cover made this really fun. There is also an area on one side where you can shoot underneath some platform to hit the Covvies on the other side, and they don’t seem to be able to see you very well.

Ch.3: Engine of Destruction

Map: Infinity

Engine of Descruction

Havok nukes have been detected near Infinity engine rooms

Perhaps my least favourite  as I spent a lot of time dieing, particularly in Matchmaking. I seem to throw caution to the wind when playing with others.

Ch.4: The Guns Of Infinity

Map: Infinity

The Guns of Infinity

Covenant forces en route to retake Infinity engine room. Spartans are to defend against further incursion.

Ironically, this is my second favourite “Infinity” mission. “What?” you say, “Didn’t you just say this area was your least favourite “. Yes, but this time it’s different. the addition of snipers, and the fact that I could sit back and pick off Elites distracted by my teammate’s bullets made this much better. this could have to do with my decision to sit back on this mission, or the height advantage, or both.

Ch.5: Victory Lap

Map: Infinity

Victory Lap

Covenant threat has been neutralized, but scattered hostiles remain onboard Infinity. Fireteam Crimson are volunteered for cleanup duty

A great way to wrap up a great episode. 343 know we like rocket fights, and they deliver almost every week.

Sorry for the late review, but I wanted to go through each mission both solo and in matchmaking so that I could have each experience to write about. I find I prefer solo much of the time, but I think that is because of my careful play style. If I was as cautious in matchmaking as i am solo, I’d have two or three kills per mission. Playing solo, these missions felt even more “Campaign-y” than last weeks, which quite impressive.

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 6 – Scattered – Full Review

Cutscene

 

Let me tell you, that was the best episode of Spartan Ops to date. The cutscene picks up where we left off, with Halsey in hot water, and does a decent job continuing the story. All in all however, the CG scene was pretty much on par with what we have seen before. That means that it was fantastic, but not what made the difference in this weeks episode. What made the difference for me this week was the gameplay, and most specifically the maps where that gameplay took place. They felt real and engaging, and a cut above the previous batch.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000126968

In this opening scene, I almost thought that we were hearing Cortana, and not Halsey. An easy mistake to make, since it’s the same actress voicing both. But if you listen to what she is saying, the same could easily be applied to Cortana. They both desire to know everything. I wonder if this was a conscious decision by 343, or if I am reading into something that isn’t there.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000134979

If you look behind Halsey in this scene, you will see the Halo 4 loading screen logo spinning in the background, which is a nice touch.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000168390

Roland Shows up during the interegation to let us know that Spartan Thorne is alive.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000180473 spops_06_hd.wmv_000199800 spops_06_hd.wmv_000184178

Next up we see a neat little flashback sequence, showing how Thorne took down some Elites. He probably could have taken them all out, IF HE HAD HIS HELMET.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000220561spops_06_hd.wmv_000229806spops_06_hd.wmv_000232376spops_06_hd.wmv_000238417

Glassman eventually figures out how to do something with the “Shrine”, but he isn’t really sure what it is. The Elites are sure he has awoken the Librarian, and as they kneel in awe, he sees his chance to escape.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000246529spops_06_hd.wmv_000247063

However, it seems he has erected some kind of force field around the shrine. I wonder if this is something designed to keep all but humans out? If a human tried to pass through, would the sheild allow them inside? Or is it just some kind of security system?

spops_06_hd.wmv_000252503

Raaagghhh? Did we really need a translation of this?

spops_06_hd.wmv_000274498

Again, Grrr?

spops_06_hd.wmv_000314052spops_06_hd.wmv_000321962

Glassman runs straight into the hands of the Elites dragging Thorne back to ‘Mdama, but the Spartan recovers and takes down the pair.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000330040

Glassman is so choked up to see Thorne, he can’t even speak. At first I thought Thorne should be angry at Glassman for betraying them, but then I realized that nobody knows what He has been doing…

spops_06_hd.wmv_000335146spops_06_hd.wmv_000344659

“Hmm, I don’t know where this bomb is, but I’m certain that blowing it up will be a good idea”, said Gek.

spops_06_hd.wmv_000347096

Sure enough, blowing it up was a good idea, just not for the Covenant side…

spops_06_hd.wmv_000364352

“Oops, my bad”, said Gek

spops_06_hd.wmv_000371161

“See you in another life, brutha”, said Gek

spops_06_hd.wmv_000386782

Here we see Glassman’s…glasses. Ominous.

If it seems like I am just playing “Caption this picture” here, it’s because I am. This cutscene was predominately action, and where there is action there is usually an absence of story, and not a lot of stuff to drill down into.

Missions

Spartan Ops finally feels like a mini-Campaign.

Ch. 1: Escape Plan

Map:  Lockup

Escape Plan

All contact has been lost with Fireteam Crimson. Last seen facing insurmountable odds, they were either killed or captured. Infinity will continue attempting to establish their status.

The one thing I said was that I hoped we would find out what happened after the cliffhanger we were left with in December, and 343 did not disappointing  We start this Mission bound to a wall in a Covenant camp. Particularly interesting is that we only start with a carbine, plasma pistol, and no load outs. I really liked this, as it made it somehow more real that we were captured, and didn’t have all our equipment. Hijacking a Phantom with the marines to escape was also a treat. Like I said in the intro, these maps are big, well laid out, and versitle, and this one is no exception.

Ch. 2: All The Secrets

Map: Control

All The Secrets

En route to rendezvous with Infinity, Fireteam Crimson has been forced to land at Covenant control facility. Spartans are investigating structure’s purpose.

Here we have another Campaign space re-purposed into a Spartan Ops mission, and it works quite well. These Missions have a definate Camapign feel to them, moreso than the first bunch. We also have a valid reason for being here, having been mistaken for an actual Covenant Phantom. The Rocket fight at the end was the highlight of this one for me, though the Phantoms could be annoying.

Ch. 3: Need to Know

Map: Warrens

Need To Know

Surveillance revealed an underground Covenant intelligence base. Fireteam Crimson is deployed to dig up information on Covenant operations.

Here we start to loose the straight storyline and start to be simply “Deployed” again. However, I will overlook this because of the fun stealth stuff in this mission. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I wonder how far you could get being sneaky here. I also really liked this map, to me it is the prettiestt of the group.

Ch 4: Search and Destroy

Map: Cyclone

Shut Down

In reaction to intel extracted from Covenant control, Fireteam Switchback is investigating a Covenant archeological dig while Fireteam Crimson disrupts a Covenant supply depot.

Here we have a re-purposed War Games map (Shatter), and it is my least favorite of this Episode. I enjoy Big Team on this map, and I did have fun on it’s SpOps iteration, but it just didn’t stand up quite as well next to the other chapters.

Ch 5: Switchback

Map: Harvester

Covenant employing a Harvester in their search for a mysterious artifact. Spartans are deployed to shut down its operations.

Switchback

Wow 343, just sneaking in the new vehicles all over the place. The first thing I thought when I read the description was “What the Hell is a Harvester?? Like, a Jotun?” Turns out it wasn’t anything of the sort. The Harvester looked like a Giant Scarab to me, and it even has Lekgolo in it, but the astetic of the monstrosity makes it seem less than Covenant. I am inclined to think that this is simply due to the redesign of the Covenant, however it looks radically different from the Lich in the Campaign level “Reclaimer” The walls look organic somehow. There is some discussion on Waypoint as to what exactly this thing really is, but whatever it is, it makes for a great set piece in the map.

I wonder what happened to Switchback? Were they taken by Covenant, Prometheans, or something else? I hope we get the answer to that question, and it’s not left hanging like science team Gargarin.

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24

Spartan Ops Episode 6 – Scattered

Check out the latest episode of Spartan Ops here.

Unfortunately I can’t seem to watch the cut scene on that page, but if you search You Tube you’ll find it.

Everything picks up right were we left off, and I enjoyed the CG, especially the Elites getting hoisted by their own petard with the bomb vest. The Gameplay this week sounds really engaging, and I can’t wait to check out the new locales.

My full review will be out Wednesday, to give me some time to play the missions tomorrow night when I get home.

See you on Infinity,
Justcal24