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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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

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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…

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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 9: Key

Spartan Ops Episode 9 is live!

I didn’t think it was possible to hate Palmer any more, but yep, it is. She sounded like a ten year old at the end of the episode.

I see the setup coming for either a Spartan Ops season two, or Halo 5, provided we get the second half of that key. I also agree with the speculation that Thorne looks to be the heir apparent to the Cheif, and I’m actually looking forward to that, as it is a logical way to continue the franchise without having an immortal Chief.

Full review to come later this week!

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.

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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.

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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”

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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…

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

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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.

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HEY, BACK OFF SON SHE’S MINE!!!

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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

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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