Once again, this is a recap of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops. This week, we’re going to be talking about the cinematics and chapters of Episode 2, “Artifact.” If you missed last week’s recap of Episode 1, here’s a link! There may be spoilers for the Halo 4 campaign from this point forward. Like last week, we’ll try to keep the spoilers restricted to cinematic discussions, since that’s embedded after the cut and we’re still expecting you to watch it before reading the text that follows it. We’re going to be a little bit better about not spoiling the chapters, but there will still be some spoilers.
Majestic is in Sniper Alley, shooting some Prometheans. Knights teleport in, then Hoya goes gung-ho and charges them with a shotgun. Who’s the coward on the other side of town now, DeMarco? He’s presumed dead as the title rolls and the Pelican returns to Infinity. Although, come on. He was bound to die sooner or later. Madsen—the sniper—is a terrible sniper! He wastes a sniper round on a Crawler. At point blank! He probably wouldn’t have been able to pop the Knight attacking Hoya. Hell, he’s probably the one who shot Hoya.
When Majestic returns to Infinity, Hoya is alive, on a stretcher—wait, what happened to his back shoulder wing plate things? They should be clipping through the stretcher, unless the equipment to remove that module exists on the Pelican. Palmer is walking along the Pelican as it lands, and she’s not wearing a helmet. Given the way the pelican’s exhaust is blowing, that seems like a very bad idea. She’s going to need a lot of product to keep the hair damage at bay.
The artifact Crimson recovered is being transported off in the distance, which catches Thorne’s attention. Palmer calls the scientists ‘eggheads’ as she explains what the artifact is to Thorne. Great show there, Palmer. Just settle right back into jock mode not even two minutes into the episode. I bet you’re longing for the days when you were the All-Star quarterback for your team and could stuff nerds into lockers.
Anyway, the artifact is being supported by anti-gravity plates. These are likely similar to the anti-gravity devices that the Drones used to assist their flight capabilities, or the ones sometimes used by Engineers (floating gas bags) who weren’t buoyant enough. It’s likely to be based off of these technologies rather than equipment like the thruster packs Elites wear, because these are not emitting any thrust. It’s also likely to be based off of Covenant technology, if not repurposed technology altogether, because the UNSC still uses forklifts.
Oh, and then the plates break down. This activates the artifact which then emits a pulse that travels through the whole ship. Multiple decks lose power, and Roland is visibly affected by this. Lasky wants the engine room on the line.
The glowing blue lines outside of the Infinity flicker and then fade. That aesthetic is very becoming of Forerunner technology. I considered pointing this out last week, but the exterior of the Infinity was barely shown and didn’t linger on the engines. These Forerunner engines have now shut down. The ship loses gravity. Glassman says: “if you take engines, built by aliens 100,000 years ago, and hire a war criminal to bolt them onto the ship, [then] you can’t expect predictable behavior!” Who’s the war criminal? That would be telling, but you already know who it is if you’ve watched the prologue cinematic for the main campaign.
Palmer approaches the artifact with magnetic boots engaged. It should be noted that there is some power left in the ship, probably emergency power. I say this because the hangar is open and there isn’t sudden decompression. Nothing is being sucked out into space. In fact, it looks like the hangar bay shield thing didn’t lose power at any point during this. Palmer also doesn’t have her helmet on, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong in the hangar. This seems very strange to me.
Palmer asks Roland, “what is this damn thing?” Wait, this thing looks vaguely familiar…hey, isn’t that the artifact that Crimson recovered? The thing that you just showed Spartan Thorne not 30 seconds ago? Roland says, “unknown, Spartan.” Gee, what a big surprise there! It’s almost as if the damn thing hasn’t been on the ship for any longer than a minute and scientists haven’t had a chance to scan it yet! Palmer, disgruntled, runs at the artifact and gives it a mighty kick. It was the kind of kick that sent the pigskin out to the stands and right into the unprotected pockets of the high school science club. At any rate, that shuts the artifact off, restoring power and gravity to the ship. It stops drifting into the planet.
Some time later, Lasky and Glassman approach the Palmer and the artifact. Lasky says, “do you have something, Sarah?” Ooooh, first name basis.
Palmer responds with, “Further attempts at… physical persuasion haven’t had much effect.” I think Palmer is flirting with Lasky there! A little bit of innuendo. And with a kick like hers, you know that relationship would- wait, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Unless Lasky is into that sort of thing.
Glassman approaches the artifact, and Palmer and Lasky surround it. Glassman touches glowing pulses on the artifact, and it reacts. There are traces of energy left cackling on Glassman’s fingers. “This is amazing,” he says, as the energy spreads down his hand. “I’ve never seen anything like this…” Word of warning, if the thing you touched not only stays on your hand, but spreads, you really shouldn’t be fascinated with that. That’s usually a sign of a very aggressive infection and you should be more concerned with matters of next of kin.
“Doctor Glassman!” Lasky calls out. Glassman turns around as he begins to digitize, like the humans in Ivanoff Station when the Didact used the Composer on them. However, a slipspace rupture also opens behind him. Lasky rushes to Glassman and reaches out to grab him, while Palmer moves to Lasky while calling out “Tom!” She tackles Lasky, leaving Glassman to be digitized into the slipspace rupture. If you played the co-op campaign, you’ll notice that the effect looks very similar to another player jumping into a slipspace portal.
Man, this Palmer-Lasky relationship got physical really quickly. I’ll be surprised if Lasky lived through that. Having half a ton of power armor slamming into you can’t possibly be healthy, even if Lasky was into that sort of thing.
There’s not much to say about chapter 1, “Clean Up.” It takes place at The Gate, a location taken from the second level of the campaign. This is the only chapter this episode that introduces a new location. In this chapter, there are Covenant with anti-air guns. The opening cutscene also has Palmer telling Crimson to hit the Covenant fast and hard, and not to leave anyone standing. However, early into actually playing the mission, Spartan Miller will call out mounted turrets. Palmer then remarks, “Take it slow, Crimson. No need to rush.”
Chapter 1 also introduces Spartan Dalton. Or, perhaps more accurately, makes it very clear what Dalton does. Unlike the rest of the cast, we never got a proper introduction for this character in Episode 1, so he was just a guy who did stuff. Dalton, as it turns out, is in charge of ordnance. He’s in charge of sending transportation and supplies—on Palmer’s command, of course.
At the end of “Clean Up,” Miller informs Palmer that a science team has sent out a distress signal. Palmer, true to form, calls them eggheads, and sends Crimson on their way. In the opening of “For Science,” however, Palmer almost sounds concerned as she briefs Crimson on their mission. It’s strange because she’s concerned for the scientists. My guess is that it’s a territorial thing; no one beats up Infinity Science but her. Also in the running is that she feels guilty about what happened to Doctor Glassman, but that’s just crazy talk.
“For Science” is strange because it also has Palmer painting targets for Crimson to destroy—Covenant comms equipment. Typically, this is something that is relegated to Miller. Also making this chapter strange is the subdued music. This helps set the chapter up as an investigation subplot. What happened to the scientists here? It makes the encounters feel tense, which is something I can’t say for Neil Davidge’s campaign scoring. However, audio design falls short and the music switches over to a combat beat when Crimson gets near the scientists’ IFF tags—only near it, mind you, not after the IFF tag has been picked up and when more Covenant land to attack Crimson. It ruins the tension.
The third chapter, “Hacksaw,” is a straight firefight. Clear a structure, dispatch the drop pods, move onto the next structure, repeat. It’s short and sweet. Also, it’s fun to point out that in the opening cutscene, the Marine calling for support says they’re being hit hard on all sides, but he’s walking around casually with his finger pressed to his ear. It sells the scene as the Marines being incompetent, and this is reinforced by (who else) Palmer telling squad Hacksaw to “man up.”
There’s something cool here: if everyone dies, then Palmer comments how this was supposed to be a rescue mission. If there are survivors, then we get a good job, pat on the back. Honestly, I like the “everyone dies” bit better. Crimson is, and will always be, Palmer’s go-to team. We kick ass. Hell, Palmer says “that was a textbook example of kicking ass” if you save everyone. We’re infallible like that. It would be nice if this came up later, but it won’t. Crimson and Hacksaw board the Pelican, which sets up the start of the next chapter.
Between chapters, Crimson’s Pelican is shot down. So, did you save Hacksaw? Because they’re dead now. Good job. “Pelican Down” takes place in Sniper Alley, and unlike “Sniper Alley” from episode 1, this is actually a decent sniper mission. For one, acquiring a beam rifle is easy. Second, there will be a Phantom which rushes the player shortly afterward, making the beam rifle a liability if the players aren’t careful. Third, Dalton sends Crimson a sniper rifle. This is an actual sniper mission!
Also, Miller calls out Jackal snipers firing on you, to which Palmer remarks, “freakin’ campers.” She must have been a veteran of the Delta Halo campaign.
“Pelican Down” opens and ends by mentioning a ‘Gagarin Team.’ In the opening, Palmer says Gagarin will have to wait as Crimson takes out the cannons that shot their Pelican down. In the closing, Crimson is near a transit tunnel that will take them straight to Gagarin’s location, which is codenamed “Refuge.” The next chapter takes place in “The Refuge,” so that must mean that every other location name is a codename.
The next chapter is ‘Gagarin,’ by the way, and it opens to silence. The establishing shots show no activity, feature no noise, and it’s all quiet until Miller ruins the mood by saying, “It’s awfully quiet down there.” And then Palmer, being genre savvy, replies with “we know how that always goes.”
Again, there’s no music, which sells the effect of there being something not quite right here. Unlike ‘For Science,’ the music doesn’t change suddenly to prematurely ruin the tension. The question you end up asking yourself as you go through this chapter is “what happened here?” You start investigating consoles and start seeing how the story will unfold.
Of course, once Crimson downloads the first log, Prometheans teleport in. Palmer has her ‘I told you so’ moment and then wishes Crimson a happy birthday. Aw, Commander! How did you know my birthday was chapter 5? And you got me a bunch of Prometheans to shoot instead of breaking the mold and having them be eerily absent? How sweet of you!
Overall, Episode 2 marks an interesting turn for Spartan Ops. Episode 2 is everything that Episode 1 should have been. There is more plot being delivered, the pacing is better, and the narrative is actually worked into the mission structure. However, it’s still rough in some places, and there’s still a lot of unnecessary combat—especially in the first chapter.
And it’s all downhill from here. See how ridiculous it gets next week when we cover Episode 3.