When I first started playing Halo 4’s Spartan Ops, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with what I saw. Everything I read about the mode leading up to the release of the game suggested that Spartan Ops, or SpOps as I like calling it, was going to be something special. The original Firefight mode in Halo 3: ODST was just wave after wave of enemies. It was an arcade mode. Halo: Reach expanded upon the options somewhat, but it was mechanically more of the same. SpOps was supposed to be different. It was supposed to weave in narrative elements to continue the campaign.
Episode 1 was an exercise in tedium and monotony. It left a very sour impression upon me. I played through each episode as they came out in the following weeks, and I remained unimpressed. When I sat down and played through each episode again in preparation for the Recap series, I found something different. Episode 1 was still as boring as I remembered it, but Episode 2 was different.
Before, my expectations were being tempered by 343i’s hype machine. When I sat down to replay the first five episodes, my expectations were tempered by reality. That is to say, yes, there is going to be a lot of running around and a lot of killing Covenant. I knew there wasn’t going to be much in the way of story content for each chapter. So I paid more attention to what little content I thought there was.
Surprisingly, I found more than I expected.
In the weeks leading up to Season 1.5’s release, I knew I wanted to write about SpOps again. I wanted to cover each episode the week it came out, instead of starting two months late. I didn’t care for the Recap format—I dreaded each week as I sat down to play Spartan Ops all over again. Each week I would write, “I’m going to do something different this week,” before the cutscene, but each article just returned to formula. It was unrewarding work. It felt like I was just going through the motions when I wrote each article.
I needed change. I wanted a creative outlet. My solution was to try a new format: the Spartan Ops After Show. In the Recaps, I had said that each location had more similarities to a TV set than a part of the larger game world. I expanded on that metaphor and created four characters that would be portraying the fictional Fireteam Crimson. In the After Show, they would talk about their experiences “filming” SpOps.
Two weeks in, I found that there are only so many ways you can say, “and then I pressed a button.” It was an unexpected pitfall of discussing what it’s like to actually play the missions. I quickly found myself just wanting the rest of the season to be over.
After playing Episode 10, I couldn’t really talk about it. The Episode was released just that week, so I didn’t want to spoil the finale. The After Show format wouldn’t really allow for that. As a result, my attempt at discussing the ending was stilted and left me unsatisfied. One reason I’m returning to the Recap format is to correct that mistake.
Another reason I’m returning to the Recap format is that when I wrote the Episode 5 Recap, I was sort of excited about the possibilities of Season 1.5—but I still felt like I was just going through the motions. When I re-read that article earlier this month, I thought to myself, “woah, did I actually write this?” It was enjoyable for me to read. I liked it. It was good.
So I’m returning to the Recap format. Next Friday will yield Episode 6. (You can see part of the draft in the header image.) And this time, I assure you, I will be doing something different.
I’m going to enjoy writing these.