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I'll give you my picks to start this thread off, and remember you don't have to be as verbose as me ;)
This has a really strong concept that is very memorable. A big setpiece animation that happens in-gameplay (missile to the cruiser) and a unique battle (4 Mantis vs. Banshees and Phantoms) and lots of action.
It's let down by being a little long and featuring enemy spawns that are just 'strewn around.' It also has illogical plot points (why not retrieve Crimson instead of delivering Mantises?) and some plain-old dumb AI (the Phantoms at the end should have come into the valley). The same concept on a custom or different map, with limited Mantises in a safe spawn could have been exceptional.
A unique, powerful and memorable introduction with a unique and strong concept. There is an actual punishment for death in that you only respawn with a PP, a small amount of Carbine ammo and lose your AA. This gives it a unique challenge and makes it rewarding to stay alive and/or retrieve on-field weapons.
It's let down by being a little linear, packing a few too many enemies into tight groups and has a very punishing start on Solo. A slightly more complex map design, with an initial safe area in the 'cell-block' to fall back too, could have made it better.
A fresh looking and pretty map with freedom to approach battles from different angles and in different ways. You can even take physically separated and different paths through the area with their own unique challenges and battles! The first half of this chapter seems designed like a Halo campaign mission in the truest form: with a minimal amount of required objectives and enemies that are only obstacles, not the objectives themselves - leaving you freedom to kill or avoid them at your leisure. Because of this, it was a joy to strategize on and play.
The end of this mission is what lets this chapter down: it devolves into a holdout in a Mantis (which we already have too many of in Halo 4) in an especially uninteresting terrain (wide open plain) that is altogether too easy. Honestly, it's OK to have missions that are short every once in a while as long as they are still fun to replay. It also seemed odd when your ally dropped off a vehicle rather than picking you up when the fictional backdrop was that you need to leave ASAP to go to another mission. Having more faith in the core replayability and fun and introducing a few more useful items mid-mission to complicate strategy design could have made this better.
Again, back to the very pretty map Apex which is revealed to have an additional and even prettier hidden area! This new area gives you lots of space to maneouvre and attack infantry targets from different angles and in different ways - it is reminiscent of some of the best moments from Halo campaigns and some of the best MP maps. IMO, whoever designed Apex wins 'Best Spartan Ops Map Design' for sure.
You also get access to a number of invincible Spartan IV allies (whose number varies dependant on number of players) giving you useful backup throughout the entire mission and making them seem a little less inept than... well, every other Spartan IV except yourself. The mission also has a strong and memorable moment with a mass aircraft fly-over in-game and only the 2nd appearance of a Lich in the entire game.
Finally, it ends with a fun little downhill escape moment with an actual sense of urgency aided by the freedom to go straight past the enemies there.
This chapter is let down in a big way by artificially restricting your access to subsequent objectives. Just before you get to the unique area, you cannot activate the button to open the door until you kill waves of enemies. Once inside, the shields do not go down until you kill all the initial enemies. Finally (the big one) you are not allowed to board the Lich until you kill an inordinate amount of enemies which drop from it due to an excruciatingly placed invisible ceiling.
Considering it took me 21:28 to do as-is Solo Legendary without dying, it is arguably over-long anyway since this is more time than most campaign missions took me. It would be improved by giving the player freedom to access objectives naturally as they physically have access to them, and giving them freedom on certain objectives like the Lich boarding. If that meant a player could Jetpack up to a Lich loaded with 20 enemies packed shoulder to shoulder, so be it. Alternatively, engineer objectives so they are more naturally restricted (such as raising the height the Lich hovers at, or putting the drop location slightly remote, and flanked by Phantoms so a player has something that they need to work through).
Possibly the best Spartan Ops chapter in the entire season for one simple reason: no re-spawning, drop-podded, delayed-phantom dropped enemies. Everything seems to already be there waiting by the time you get there (for Covenant enemies) or just spawns once as you get there and then that's it (for Promethean enemies). This easily wins 'Best Mission Design' for me.
Despite being pretty difficult and the ammo scarcity when trying to no-death this mission, and an overall very linear nature, it has a clear objective from the start and logical progression from each subsequent point. It's fun because the challenge is clear and laid out well and you can just concentrate on knocking it down, free from frustrations (mostly).
It has good set-piece moments in cutscenes (middle cutscene firing the Harvester and final cutscene with the Pelican and falling debris), in architecture (the melted-cave entrance and the room with the artefact).
I didn't much care for the moment towards the end where the 'gravity starts getting distorted' and you're flung around the cave. This felt like gimmicky, frustrating delaying tactics that didn't introduce anything to gameplay at all. At nearly 20 minutes on my solo legendary no death play-through, they certainly didn't need to make it longer by throwing us around for a few seconds.
Finally, at the end you get one final group of Elite Rangers and Spec-Ops when you are exiting the cave. You can run past them (as would seem prudent with a planet falling into a star) but cannot trigger the Pelican to come down: you have kill them. You are told these Elites will re-activate the Artefact and re-bind infinity to Requiem. However, the Rangers barely move from their spawn, and although the Sword Elites will run all the way to the artefact, they won't interact with it. They should have made this a real threat (i.e the Elites re-activate it and then defend it until they're all dead). This could have been a unique gameplay moment in itself - but it's a missed opportunity.
These 4 levels as a whole are memorable due to their drastic change of pace, scenery and the very strong plot ties. However, the levels themselves are let down by dull, often dark, repetitious and simplistic architecture. The gameplay moments featured are often over-extended for the variety they actually provide (such as the long hold-out in the 'core' room).
A number of contrived plot-points (the attack ending when Knights just teleport in and take Halsey anyway) and the requirement that all these areas are connected (why is the core so close to an easily-attackable hanger?) makes the whole sequence seem a farce and the chapters blur together.
Taking a few more design cues from levels such as Pillar of Autumn/Maw (H1) and Cairo Station (H2) could have helped make the spaces feel less dull. Additionally, splitting at least a couple of the chapters into different levels entirely, making them physically separate parts of the ship, and simply sharing art between them, could have helped.
Finally, the whole motivation or progression of the attack needs revising, with Crimson (the player) more clued in to the bigger picture. Perhaps Covenant forces have to search the ship, disable the engines so the artefact can bring Infinity closer to the planet. Crimson re-activates them and this halts the descent. But they're now close enough that Prometheans can warp directly into the ship (maybe this did happen? It's was really vague to me. Blurry, as I said). And/or make Crimson defend Halsey themselves, and when she is abducted (possibly even in-gameplay), it's a personal failure (even if an unavoidable one), and not something that happened 'somewhere around us'.
Well that turned out longer than I expected. Still, I enjoyed writing about it!
Let me know yours :)
|Top 5 Spartan Ops Chapters? +my picks *SP*||RC Master||3/24/13 10:30 pm|
|Re: Top 5 Spartan Ops Chapters? +my picks *SP*||ZaneZavin||3/24/13 10:42 pm|