Eyes on: Halo 4's Spartan Ops
- — 25 June, 2012 22:00
|Name||First-person shooter: Halo 4|
|Summary:||Spartan Ops morphs gaming and TV and offers more to fans.|
|Games Info:||Developer: 343 Industries; Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios|
|Test Platform:||Xbox 360|
For gamers who are vehemently opposed to paid DLC, Halo 4 should be the holy grail. Halo has kept gamers hooked on multiplayer long after each game's release, but the new developer, 343 Industries, has extended that even further by introducing Spartan Ops.
Halo 4 begins where the legendary ending of Halo 3 left off, with Cortana and Master Chief drifting through space. They arrive a new planet, which they learn is a Forerunner planet called Requiem. Requiem will be the setting for much of Halo 4's campaign.
"But for the first time what we've done is connected the fiction of the campaign to the multiplayer," said 343 Industries' Josh Holmes.
Spartan Ops is a co-op, online multiplayer game mode that expands on Halo 4's story. After you finish the campaign, you move on to Spartan Ops to learn more about the life of a Spartan and build your Spartan's career. (As an aside, we're sincerely hoping that some of the characters from Rooster Teeth's Red vs. Blue will make appearances.)
The thing that sets Spartan Ops apart from other games' co-op multiplayer modes its episodic nature. Every week 343 Industries plans to release a new Spartan Ops episode to play through, and each episode will have five all-new missions. The missions tie into the overall story arc of the episode. Some missions will be combat-based, and some will be story-focused. All of this is being made available free of charge for those who bought Halo 4 and have an Xbox Live gold subscription.
"That's sort of a key thread, having that narrative weave through all parts of the game experience, and certainly innovation in multiplayer is a hallmark of Halo, so that's an area where we really pushed," 343 Industries' Kiki Wolfkill said of the new game mode.
In the 'war games' multiplayer mode, which will feature well-known game modes such as Slayer and Capture the Flag, you are a Spartan training aboard the UNFC Infinity by fighting other Spartans, between doing real missions. In Spartan Ops, you're actually carrying out those real missions.
The episodes are released in a 'season', just like a TV show.
"The way it works is it's essentially like melding a TV series with an ongoing co-operative game experience," Holmes said. "So each week there's a new episode of a series - a CG series that's set aboard the UNFC Infinity - that follows a group of Spartans called Majestic King."
Spartan Ops will give players a look into what life is like onboard Infinity, and give them the ability to customise their Spartans even further than in Halo: Reach.
"This is obviously important when you're deploying in competitive, but perhaps even more important when you're deploying in Spartan Ops, because each of the decisions that you make have a really big impact within the mission," said Holmes.
Each mission will take 10-15 minutes. Story is expected to take up about seven minutes of one five-mission episode.
What we saw at the demo
At E3 this year, Holmes and Wolfkill took a group of journalists through one of the first Spartan Ops missions, and showed how customisation affected gameplay.
Different missions will encourage you to make different choices about how to customise your Spartan. Players can change primary and secondary weapons, grenades, armour ability, and a new armour modification system that allows then to tweak their Spartan more subtly to optimise certain skills and abilities. For example, Holmes used an armour modication that allowed him to equip two rifles for the mission, the DMR and the battle rifle, which is essentially the assault rifle. He also assigned a 'support upgrade' that gave him more ammunition.
After both Holmes and Wolfkill had customised their loadouts, the demo showed a cutscene explaining Infinity multiplayer, followed by a moving storyboard narrative segment for the mission. Holmes said the final version of the game would have a full CGI intro, however.
343 Industries also showed off the fact that many of the locations in Spartan Ops would be brand new locations that hadn't been previously visited in the campaign mode. However, the new locations will still feature Promethean enemies like the newly introduced crawlers.
Crawlers are easy to deal with one-on-one, but tend to attack in swarms. They can also jump high and run along walls and ceilings. There are also 'watchers', which support your enemies by shielding them, throwing your grenades back at you, and more.
There are also new weapons to pick up, like the Forerunner's shotgun, the Scattershot. The Scattershot appeared to be even more powerful than the shotgun in previous Halo games, as it essentially incinerates enemies - they appear to dissolve into fire.
One thing that was clear, watching the demo, was that all the elements that make Halo fun are still there. There's a lot that's familiar, although the environments are enriched with more colour and there are new enemies. It seems 343 is trying to build on what Bungie created, rather than revamp it. We're big, big Halo fans, and can't wait until November to see the full package.