Is it Friday already? I guess that means it’s time for another installment of our Spartan Ops recap. I apologize for the lack of content this past week, but between my cold, the holidays, and Super Secret Stuff™, it’s been kind of difficult to get anything done. There will be non-Spartan Ops content next week. It’ll be sick, unlike me, because I’m kicking this cold’s ass.
This week we’re looking at Episode 4, “Didact’s Hand.” You should know the drill at this point; this review will show you the cinematic, a discussion about the cinematic and the chapters, commentary bashing/praising the episode, and an invitation for you to come back for more next week. That’s all happening below, after the jump. “Didact’s Hand” isn’t going to be nearly as bad as Episode 3 was, but it’s not going to be quite as good as Episode 2 was either.
So this week Spartan Thorne gets some screen time. We haven’t seen too much of him yet. Turns out, he’s a better guy than DeMarco and Madsen, given how he treats Doctor Halsey with respect.
Speaking of Doctor Halsey, here we get to see her having an actual conversation. We learn more about her through her conversation with Thorne than we do from Majestic’s gossip last week. Having Halsey interact with others is a better method of storytelling than having other characters talk about her. It tells us about how the world sees her, sure, but that doesn’t tell us anything about her. For contrast, consider the first time we saw DeMarco and Madsen: we see them being rude, tough-talking, self-absorbed egotists— what I like to call “dude-bros.” Show, don’t tell.
Similarly, we learn more about Thorne through his conversation with Halsey. He’s still bothered by the New Phoenix Incident and he’s trying to find justice on Requiem, but all that remains are the Prometheans and the Storm Covenant. He’s not able to be the big hero because the Master Chief already took care of that.
The two scenes between Halsey and Thorne are rather interesting. In the second scene, we see Halsey go into a tangent about Prometheus, who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humanity, thus allowing human society to grow. She’s wondering what fire the Prometheans have to offer. Then it cuts to Jul ‘Mdama and Glassman, who are talking about the Librarian. The two scenes mirror each other quite well, cinematically speaking.
I have to wonder at this point if we’ll rediscover the Librarian and claim the Mantle of Responsibility—something she casually mentioned to the Master Chief when she told him that the Didact is evil. It’s not too clear exactly what the Mantle of Responsibility is, other than something the Forerunners jealously guarded. As far as I can tell, it is an authoritarian protectorship; the bearers of the Mantle are the protectors of the galaxy. It reminds me of something Cortana says in Halo 3 while the Master Chief is escaping from Crow’s Nest: “You will become protectors of Earth and all Her colonies.”
Let’s talk a little bit about the interstitial scene breaking up the two Halsey/Thorne conversations. Palmer and Lasky are standing in the bridge, K-I-S-S-I . . . digress. They’re talking about supplies being taken to Copernicus, which is a base. The hologram depicts a base that looks exactly like Galileo base. Either the UNSC Infinity has prefabricated bases that it can deploy, or the cinematic team is reusing one of the eight Spartan Ops environments. The scene closes with Lasky somehow able to identify a generic looking Elite as Jul ‘Mdama. Then the next scene opens with Halsey looking at her datapad which features a mysterious entity communicating with her. Spoiler: it’s Jul ‘Mdama. That was the whole purpose of the previous scene.
Lastly, Jul ‘Mdama’s speech at the end of the cinematic is rather interesting. He’s so certain that the Librarian will aide him. Then he talks about finding Forerunner technology—that’s what I assume he means by miracles—and making those his own. He sounds less like a terrorist (the absurdity of that label still makes me shake my head) and more like a pirate. After all, we started the Halo 4 campaign with his Storm Covenant salvaging the Forward Unto Dawn. So what are we supposed to do with space pirates? That seems like something outside of Crimson’s area of expertise. We need don’t need a group; we need a solitary badass. We need a true protector of the Galaxy. We need…
…the baby? I’ve mulled the situation over, and Crimson works just fine. Let’s send Crimson after the space pirates.
The first playable chapter this week is “Hairy Call.” It’s Sniper Alley, so that means it’s time to run around in an orange canyon. Today’s fixture is turrets instead of snipers, which is a change of pace. I’m not casting judgment with that statement, because it’s still Sniper Alley.
Something that stuck out this chapter is that Hunters are comparatively tame this time around. Not just for the chapter, but for Halo 4 as a whole. There’s an ammo crate at one end of the map, and I just stood next to it with an Assault Rifle. All I had to do was point at one of the Hunters, hold the trigger, and jump every time it fired at me. It was more than content to just stand there and soak all that damage until it died. Then, when the first one died, the second moved up to where it’s bondmate had died, and just stood there and let me shoot it. In literally every other Halo game, the second Hunter would become frenzied; they would recklessly charge forward to smash the player with their shield, shoot faster, and/or start throwing crates and vehicles.
Hunters in Halo 4 don’t do that. It makes fighting them really boring because they’re heavily armored and can soak a lot of damage. Now, I could try circle-strafing and shooting them in their weak spot, but unlike previous Halo games my bullets don’t bounce off of their armor. They’re bullet sponges, which making them a little more difficult to kill, but their total lack of aggression makes them boring to kill too.
Let’s move on to Chapter 3. Here’s the setup: Crimson is following the space pirates through portals, and that brought them to Fortress. Spartan Miller is trying to figure out what’s going on, and then Roland says he’s bored. Palmer reprimands him for filling the channel with nonsense. He points out the forts and the towers (the towers in Two Giants, which Crimson just came from) are portal nexuses. He says the following with such candor and attitude, “I thought it would be obvious by now.” He asks if he can turn on the waypoint for Crimson—“it’s so exciting being part of an Op,” he exclaims—to which Miller gives the go ahead; Palmer reprimands Miller for breaking protocol. Roland then zealously commands Crimson to go to the waypoint, following it up with a solemn, “now I’m bored again. Bye.”
After Crimson jumps through the portal and we move on to the next mission, Roland enthusiastically says, “I tell ya, I don’t know why I run a starship when running Ops is so much more fun.”
This behavior is rather unbefitting of an AI. If you’ll recall, he was visibly affected by the power surge in the cinematic for Artifact. He may have gained a new level of sapience, or is beginning to enter rampancy prematurely. However, since Palmer’s response is to reprimand him about transmission protocol and not shock that Roland is not behaving like an AI, then I may just be overthinking this. However, given that the focus of the campaign is on Cortana’s rampancy, it seems unlikely that 343i would miss a great opportunity for Spartan Ops to have such thematic resonance.
In “The Chase,” Palmer requests a targeted airstrike that she can fire at will. Dalton hands her metaphorical keys to a Suppressor Drone. Palmer tells Crimson to keep up the chase, and then she starts firing on you. Although, to be fair, I was sprinting forward (to keep up the chase) and then she started firing on me. Thanks, Commander. Come out onto the field sometime and I’ll show you how well I can frag. My enemies, that is. Not talking about team killing at all.
Jul ‘Mdama drops an artifact known as ‘the Didact’s Gift’ as he jumps into yet another portal. Crimson recovers the artifact and brings it to Copernicus, err, Galileo. Sorry, the two bases look the same. The Covenant attempt to retrieve it, but Crimson holds them off. Majestic is brought in to deliver the device back to Infinity, because Crimson is never allowed to get a moment’s rest. It sure would be nice to get our feet out of the dust and eat a hot meal. Maybe take a shower in water instead of a plasma bath.
You’ll find out what the Didact’s Gift is next week. Spoiler alert: it will bring the end of our recap series.