Halo 4 Spartan Ops has had its ups and downs, but here in the second half of Season 1, things have generally been on the upswing. Sure, Episode 8 felt a little like a step backward, but that’s only because it was preceded by the outstanding Episode 7. With Episode 9, it is clear 343 Industries is gearing up for the sprint to the finish.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: February 11, 2013
ESRB Rating: Mature
At first, the new episode feels pretty much the same as Episode 8, with you fighting big waves of aggressive enemies on the same maps as before. But what sets it apart is the return of those nasty Prometheans. Yes, we’ve fought them before, but they’ve been absent for a long time – and in a case of something old is new again, fighting bad guys other than Covenant feels refreshing. The tough Knights (who eat bullets like they were candy) are always a challenge, but fighting half a dozen of them while you’re being swarmed by packs of Crawlers will get your heart pounding and your palms sweaty. Yes, you’ll die a lot, and invent many new and colorful curses aimed towards the bleeper who created the annoying Watchers, but you’ll love every minute of it.
The best chapter of the episode falls smack dab in the middle, where you can merrily blast Prometheans into glittery oblivion in your very own Scorpion tank. Yes, everyone’s favorite treaded death machine is back, along with the pure delight of being ridiculously overpowered and blowing the crap out of every baddie in sight. You can even try the fun challenge of trying to shoot Watchers out of the air with the main gun, which is not as easy as it sounds. The only problem is that the tanks spawn on a map filled with narrow corridors, so there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver. This means if you are behind a teammate’s tank, you’d better make darn sure that you have an absolutely clear and unobstructed view of your target, otherwise you could accidentally blow the turret off the tank in front of you. Oops. Not that I learned this the hard way or anything – it’s, um, just something I heard … from a “friend” … yeah, that’s it….
The last two chapters include a great opportunity to burn around in Warthogs, and also introduce two new sections. I wouldn’t call them new “maps,” since they’re really just new areas added to existing maps, but the battles there are fierce, and even a small addition injects some much appreciated variety into the mix.
Storywise, the introductory cinematic continues the gripping narrative, introducing a new peril and objective that could easily carry forward to another whole season. However, the story still sits on the backburner during actual gameplay, which is again basically “wipe out the bad guys because it has something to do with what we watched in the cinematic.” Still, the story is set up for a great finish to the first season, and the way the gameplay has been steadily improving since the first five episodes, I am eagerly anticipating Episode 10.
Review Disclosure: Halo 4: Spartan Ops Episode 9 is available as a free download for owners of Halo 4. A retail copy of Halo 4 was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.