Firefight vs. Spartan Ops

With yesterday’s unveiling of Halo 4′s Spartan Ops trailer, it became apparent that 343 Industries is committed to retaining the flavor of Halo 3: ODST’s and Reach’s Firefight. But instead of merely copying what has worked once before, 343 is instilling their own twist on the already very popular cooperative format. A natural evolution of sorts, the new mode, called Spartan Ops, is more strategic and mission based in nature than its predecessor, yet still appears to capture the spirit of the beloved Firefight. But based on what we know, will it be better?

All initial signs point to yes. In Firefight players take on waves of increasingly difficult enemies. They share a pool of seven lives that would be replenished after five rounds. The mode is designed for up to four players via friends on Xbox Live, system link or split-screen and while it is great fun, Firelight lacks strategic bite, and ultimately comes across as a bit shallow. Really, it’s little more than a glorified high-score game that awards you for killing enemies in splendorous fashion. Skulls that either buff enemies or nerf players add a thin layer of depth, but beyond that Firefight doesn’t offer much in the way of advanced tactics – something that some fans of the series sorely desire. To be frank, Firefight is quickly becoming a means to which players acquire credits, and little more.

Don’t get me wrong, Firefight’s “less is more” philosophy worked brilliantly, but as is the way with things, some fans demanded a little bit more. Seeing as 343 Industries has big shoes to fill, many wondered if they would merely copy and paste the multiplayer modes from ODST and Reach or try something radically new and face the potential scorn of Bungie faithfuls.

They did neither. 343 went for the middling approach. By building on and refining a proven multiplayer mode, 343 exhibited a fair bit of savvy. Spartan Ops looks and feels awesome. Thankfully, it will fully support matchmaking, so finding a game should be a breeze. If you prefer to play solo that’s fine too. Instead of merely wiping out the Promethean and Covenant, Spartan Ops encourages a more strategic approach to gameplay, that will force players to think more intuitively before melting alien face.

The nature of Spartan Ops is episodic. In addition to providing players with new missions on a semi-regular basis, 343 plans to weave a full cinematic narrative into the mode, paralleling the one found in the single-player campaign. A currency called “Spartan Points” will be incorporated, and will be used to purchase new armor parts and upgrades. As expected, new Spartan missions can be unlocked by accomplishing certain tasks. Oh, and the array of available weapons that pay homage to Halo’s of old yet still feel decidedly fresh and new, are awesome.

We initially had our reservations about 343 taking the reins from Bungie, but the more we see of Halo 4, the more we can’t help but fall in love.


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