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Battlefield 2042: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This strength test is all about what Battlefield 2042 does to your computer, and not what your computer does to Battlefield 2042.” –J. Neilson, Forged in Fire

Entering the Battlefield 2042 open beta, the biggest question on my mind was whether or not my aging rig would even be able to run DICE’s latest Battlefield title at passable frame-rates. The minimum requirements had called for an Intel i5-6600k, which overall, has about a five percent edge in terms of performance over the nine year old i5-3570k I’m currently running. The open beta represented the best way to, without charge, test whether this CPU stood any chance of opening Battlefield 2042, and after I finished my preload in Tuesday night, I went about the remainder of my week as usual. When I was granted access to the open beta on Friday, I promptly opened my client after the day’s work hours ended, and immediately found myself faced with sluggish, choppy performance: after joining a match and parachuting over to the rocket hangar at capture point bravo, I came under fire from some enemy players. I ducked away into cover, then got the jump on one of my pursuers as they turned away, and after aiming down the M5A3’s iron sights, I dumped the magazine into my foe to earn my first kill of the beta. All of this happened at around 24 FPS, and it became clear to me that my eight-year-old machine had hit its limits. I subsequently headed over to a remote corner of the map, away from the combat, set all of the visual effects down to medium, and was met with a surprising result: Battlefield 2042 began running at a still-choppy, but playable 40-50 FPS (dropping to about 30 FPS on a small handful of moments). I thus finished my first match and went on to unlock a range of weapons to experiment with. During my play-testing, I found that my GTX 1060 was at around 60 percent usage, but my CPU was struggling the entire time in-game: the k-line of i5 processors have a feature called “Turbo Boost”, which kicks in whenever the CPU requires additional horsepower. The hardware automatically overclocks the CPU, raising the clock speed to give this extra performance while at the same time, keeping the assembly within safe temperatures. However, running Turbo Boost for prolonged periods still places a bit of a strain on a CPU that is eight years old, and it is clear that either this build of Battlefield 2042 still needs to be optimised before launch, or the time might be approaching where I will need to build a new rig. While my machine did encounter difficulties with the Battlefield 2042 beta (I suffered two blue screens in total), I was otherwise very impressed that the beta ran at all, with the frame rates that it did. Overall, my rig survived: this is equivalent to a blade taking on a few rolls during the infamous strength test on Forged in Fire, but otherwise, remained intact. My machine passes the strength test, although whether or not it will KEAL is a different matter entirely (albeit one that I’ll have to wait until after launch to find out about).

Because of periodic performance drops, my own experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta are not complete or wholly representative of my performance in the game. Lag led me to miss shots, fail to respond quickly enough in a firefight, or even waste ammunition on what I thought was a player (but was actually a player model that hadn’t been updated properly). In spite of this, the beta was still immensely enjoyable. The first thing I noticed was that the scale of battle is larger than ever. It makes sense as to why Battlefield 2042 would require more CPU power to fully experience: the chaos of 128-player maps is a massive step up from the 64-player maps of previous games, corresponding with an increase in the processing power needed to calculate and keep track of everything. Moreover, gun-play was satisfying, and weapons handled very consistently: after getting used to their recoil patterns and learning to position myself better in firefights, I began rediscovering my old enjoyment of tap-firing down a distant foe. Every kill is satisfying, and Battlefield 2042 appears to have altered things so the kill system is more similar to Battlefront II’s, where dealing appreciable damage to an enemy is rewarded the same amount of points as scoring the kill itself. Similarly, the movement system was relatively smooth: features from Battlefield 1 and V, like crouch-sliding and vaulting return, creating more options for moving around the map and escaping otherwise deadly situations. The core mechanics of Battlefield 2042 appear to work well for the game. However, it is clear that this is a three-month old build: the UI is unwieldy, and critical features did not work in the beta. I was unable to issue squad commands, thank players for reviving me or open the map at all. These issues are something the team indicates that the release build will address. The specialist system is a larger issue for Battlefield 2042: during my games, I noticed that teamwork was practically non-existent: the lack of dedicated medics and support players meant no one was topping off health or ammunition, and there was no incentive to do so. The lack of restrictions on weapons and gadgets allows a sniper to constantly top off their own ammunition, and assault players can easily heal themselves. One possible fix for this would simply be to restrict gadgets to certain specialisations, and similarly, every specialist should have access to one unique weapon class, and subsequently, there can be all-class weapons, much as how Battlefield 3 and 4 had done so. The specialist system is ingrained in the game, but if these minor adjustments aren’t too tricky to implement, their addition would define specialist roles more clearly and return team-play elements to the game. One element that currently is a deal-breaker is player visibility: this was an issue in Battlefield V and favoured campers. Battlefield 2042 has not addressed this issue, but this time, players can blend into their surroundings even when actively moving. Moreover, the lack of clear team indicators introduces new problems: I found myself shooting at teammates in some firefights because there hadn’t been anything to show they were teammates. While I’m very much in the minority who thinks this way, I find that the return of 3D spotting would be helpful. Players should always be able to spot for themselves, and then recon players can spot for their teams as a class perk. The inclusion of 3D spotting would reward players for thinking tactically ahead of a firefight, and force players to consider how they move around a map, as well. Overall, while Battlefield 2042 shows promise, it is still early to be determining if DICE has properly learned from the aftermath of Battlefield V.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If there were a single screenshot to sum up my experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, this would be it: a stunning view of the Guiana Space Centre as a storm rolls in. Battlefield 2042‘s theme is climate change and its impact on conflict, but unlike its predecessors, which featured a single-player campaign, Battlefield 2042 will launch without a campaign, with its story being told by the maps’ design. The large-scale effects of climate change means that Battlefield 2042‘s maps can be set across the world and need not be tied to any one region, as with previous Battlefield maps.

  • The first kill I got in Battlefield 2042 came with the M5A3 assault rifle, a fictionalised version of the SIG MCX series that is chambered for the 6.8mm SIG cartridge. I ended up choosing a different screenshot for my first kill because that moment had been too dark, and because I am a little superstitious in games, I believe that I’ll have a better experience in a given open beta if I get my first kill before my first death. In practise, the M5A3 has a good firing rate and high accuracy, especially when equipped with the extended barrel, Cobra vertical grip and the Maul Hybrid 1.5-3x sights.

  • I didn’t have too many opportunities to play armoured vehicles in the open beta; pilots were being much too aggressive, and the lack of teamwork meant that shoulder-fired anti-air weapons weren’t too effective at taking them down. Land-air balance has always been an issue in Battlefield games: good pilots can single-handedly control entire matches, and some design choices in previous Battlefield games, like the Ilya-Muromets, were downright broken. Modern settings means a wider range of anti-air options, and Battlefield 2042 will need to give players more options against air vehicles in order to balance things out.

  • The infantry combat is generally my favourite aspect of a given Battlefield game, and here, I help the team to defend against capture, capitalising on the high-ground to mow down a player running along the catwalk below. Orbital is the map featured in the beta, and despite being a very large, open map, there’s enough variety in the map design so all weapons can be effective, depending on where one is. The M5A3 is probably the most versatile weapon available in the open beta, having enough accuracy to pick off enemies at range (especially if one tap fires and runs the right attachments) and enough firing rate to react quickly to someone at close quarters.

  • During matches, the rocket on the launchpad will sometimes launch, creating a particularly impressive visual spectacle for players, comparable to the rocket launch of both Five Centimeters per Second and Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve seen my favourite Battlefield YouTubers attempt to board the rocket, and they ended up phasing through the geometry before learning that the rocket tops out at an altitude of five kilometres. This resulted in many laughs. For me, I didn’t have anything quite so exhilarating: I witnessed two rocket launches during my run of the Battlefield 2042 open beta, and after dying to a sniper during my first launch, I decided to take cover so I could view the second launch in peace.

  • Battlefield 2042‘s hitmarker system is quite unlike anything I’d previously seen: they appear to be much more subtle and difficult to spot. However, every kill was satisfying to earn, especially those longer-range shots. One nifty feature about Battlefield 2042 is that the Maul Hybrid optic has an integral red dot sight attached to the main optic, making it easy to switch between 1.5x magnification and 3x magnification with the push of a button. The dynamic attachment system reminds me a great deal of how Crysis handles things, and I imagine in the completed game, players will unlock multiple attachments, and then pick four they want to carry into battle at any given time.

  • Since we’re now back in the modern era, a wide selection of effective LMGs are finally available again. The only LMG available in the open beta was the LCMG, a fictionalised version of the Knight’s Armament Company LAMG; in reality, this was meant to be a lightweight and modular LMG that could adapt to a variety of situations. Despite its promise, the LAMG never saw any military use, although I have seen this weapon before in The Division 2, where it is called the Stoner LAMG and was one of my favourite weapons in the endgame, at least until the Hunter’s Fury gear-set became available.

  • I’ve always had a fondness for LMGs in Battlefield: early in every Battlefield game I play, I am not so familiar with the recoil patterns on assault rifles, and tend to waste my ammunition hitting air in firefights. However, with their larger ammunition capacity (offset by a longer reload time), LMGs are a bit more forgiving and allow me to lay down sustained fire. More rounds in the air means an increased probability something will hit my foe (i.e. “spray and pray”). The LCMG can be customised with AP rounds to increase its efficacy against light vehicles: one of the stranger design choices in Battlefield 2042 is the fact that weapons can have different ammo types. While cool in theory, I’ve actually never felt any need to switch out the standard ammunition.

  • Here, I score a kill with the Kriss Vector, known as the K30 in-game. The K30 resembles its counterparts from other games in that it has a high rate of fire and therefore, is particularly well-suited for CQC. The base K30 comes with a 20-round magazine, but DICE was nice enough to provide the extended magazine option, which allows for a total of 40 rounds per magazine. I ended up scoring a pair of kills in the rocket hangar with it while making my way to the top. The scale of the buildings in Battlefield 2042 are immense, and capture point bravo is a particularly fun one to fight over, since the rooftop is open to helicopters, and the team holding it must be cautious of players sneaking in from below, as well.

  • Ribbons finally make a return in Battlefield 2042: DICE had gotten rid of them in Battlefield V, but they had been present in earlier Battlefield games as an incentive for teamplay, as well as rewarding players for doing well. I’ve had a fondness for ribbons, since accumulating them gave insight into what kind of tendencies I had as a player. Medals were also fun to earn, although I also remember that the big frustration with them comes from being killed while attempting to take a screenshot after earning one: because of the way my key mappings are set up, I need to either take my hand off the mouse or keyboard in order to capture said screenshot.

  • While I’d never been effective with anti-armour weapons in Battlefield 3 and 4, after Battlefield 1 and V, I’ve become much more comfortable with equipment in this category: a little bit of teamwork can mean that, even on foot, vehicles are not unstoppable threats. Battlefield 2042‘s brings back the M2 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle from Bad Company 2 as the main anti-vehicle option. It has a very slow reload, but can devastate light vehicles and even take a third of a tank’s health away in a single shot. I imagine that more anti-vehicle weapons, like the RPG-7, SMAW and AT4 could be available in the full game.

  • Here, I score a kill on someone calling themselves “Shizuka_hiratsuk”, evidently named after Oregairu‘s Shizua Hirasuka, using the DM7 (the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 in real life) marksman rifle. This semi-automatic rifle reaches out a little further than the M5A3 and is a solid precision weapon that fits my play-style. Although the ACOG sight and its chevron reticule was a bit tough to use, the weapon can nonetheless deal excellent damage at range, making it a solid option. Players with anime names have always stood out to me in multiplayer first person shooters, especially when they get the upper hand over me.

  • However, this never happened once in Battlefield 2042: normally, after dying to another player, their name is clearly displayed for me to check out, and Battlefield also indicates how many times we’ve gotten one another. However, the UI meant I never got around to seeing names in prominence, and moreover, I never found myself antagonised by a single player because of the fact that maps are so large. Rather than facing 32 players, I’m now facing 64, so it’s less likely to run into the same person twice. The larger player count has had one additional side-effect on my gaming, and I’m actually a lot more relaxed when I’m being beaten by different people.

  • I’m not anywhere as competitive as I was seven years ago, which was when I was really getting into Battlefield 3, but a part of me still enjoys getting back players who got me. In one entertaining moment during the beta, I was killed by a sniper at capture point alpha. Realising he was chilling on one of the geodesic domes, I promptly changed my kit out for the SWS-10 and managed to shoot him in the head. I’m rocking the recon specialist here, which comes with a spotting drone, C4 and my personal favourite, a passive radar that indicates whether or not there are any hostiles nearby.

  • The assault specialist is equipped with a grappling hook for getting around quickly: like the Q-Claw from Agent Under Fire, the grappling hook is a fantastic tool for ascending buildings and gaining a vantage point quickly. If memory serves, the assault specialist’ perk is being able to have more mobility compared to the others. This high-mobility play-style means that one might actually be better served running with a PDW or shotgun for close-quarters dominance. On the topic of Agent Under Fire, Thanksgiving Long Weekend has proven to be the perfect time to dust off the old GameCube and enjoy some old-fashioned humans vs AI bots on Town and Castle. Unlike yesterday’s blue skies and sunshine, today’s been grey and snowy, making it perfect for gaming, and since the global health crisis kicked off, I’ve been doing a lot more with the GameCube, so we actually ended up faring moderately well against the AI bots on maximum difficulty.

  • Had the open beta come out in October 2018, I probably would’ve been happier for it: by October, the Xamarin project had been deemed ready for release, pending a few bug fixes and tests. Conversely, back in September, the Xamarin project was in dire straits; there’d been a large disagreement about what constituted as HIPAA compliance, and it was put forth that HIPAA compliance demanded a 26-digit alphanumeric code that was given to users on sign in. In the end, the firm’s CEO stepped in, determined that the 6-digit code I was proposing was still compliant and allowed me to continue with my work. The resulting sign-in and onboarding became an order of magnitude simpler for my troubles, and I returned home just in time to spend a few days on the Rotterdam map in Battlefield V‘s open beta.

  • My experiences in Battlefield V‘s beta led me to pick the game up in November 2018, and by that time, I’d received an offer for a new iOS developer position, allowing me to leave behind my first start-up’s woes and its connection to the computational oncology firm in the US. That time period was characterised by relief to be setting aside work that was beginning to tax me more than it excited me. Out of vain curiosity, I decided to take a look to see what became of the app I finished, but as it turns out, the app has been stricken from both the App Store and Play Store.

  • While the computational oncology firm has advertised that mobile app would be a major part of their ecosystem, it is a little disappointing to see no advancements on the mobile side of things in the past three years. Reminiscing about these moments makes me immensely thankful that with the Battlefield 2042 open beta, I am afforded time to enjoy the beta without worrying about whether or not the JSON responses coming from the backend would arbitrarily change without warning: this time around, my main concern was whether nor not my machine could even run the open beta, speaking to its age.

  • One of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments I had during the entire beta was when I saw my first tornado: I had spawned on a squad mate, but the tornado changed direction and immediately headed for us. The tornadoes that strike Battlefield 2042‘s maps appear to be EF0 (or EF1s at most): while they’re capable of lifting vehicles into the air and easily carry players, the tornadoes don’t do any appreciable damage to the map’s buildings, creating a bit of inconsistency (a tornado capable of throwing vehicles would also uproot trees and shred roofs from houses, which is EF3-level). However, as a gameplay mechanic, I’ll let this one slide and note that here, as I seemingly glide towards my death, a bolt of lightning also strikes very close to my position, creating a surreal moment.

  • Lightning strikes in Battlefield 2042 have EMP effects and will disable vehicles, as well as scramble the player’s HUD; this is a clever effect that speaks to the dangers of how relying on complex electronic systems can leave one in a tough spot should said systems go down. Fortunately for me, I ended up steering myself away from the tornado, which also changed course at the last second, and after landing on the ground, I immediately set about trying to help my team turn around a losing match even though it’d been too late.

  • In a different match, I’ve switched over to the support specialisation and are running with the PBX-45, a copy of the LWRC SMG 45 that actually proved to be unexpectedly effective and fun to use. The SMG 45 was first introduced in 2015 and entered production in 2019. Firing .45 ACP rounds, the SMG 45 is a newer weapon and accordingly, has not appeared in many games. Battlefield 2042‘s PBX-45 marks the first time the SMG 45 appears in Battlefield (previously, the SMG 45 was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as the Striker 45).

  • In the days of Battlefield 3 and 4, PDWs and SMGs were hipfire machines whose small size made them laser-accurate and perfectly suited for close-quarters combat. In fact, during my Battlefield 3 days, once I unlocked the MP5K, it became my default go-to weapon: with the laser sight and extended magazines. Battlefield 1 featured SMGs as the primary for the assault class, and by Battlefield V, SMGs were the default weapon for medics. Although their applications have changed, all Battlefield SMGs (and PDWs) retain excellent hipfire performance.

  • The PBX-45 is a remarkably entertaining weapon to use, and one more thing that I’m particularly fond of its the reload animation: if one isn’t reloading from empty, the operator will pull the old magazine out and swap it for a new one, but keep the old magazine in hand to stow it. However, if reloading from empty, the old magazine is discarded. Cool reload animations have been a part of Battlefield since Hardline, where DICE really began having fun with the reload animations, but in Battlefield 1 and V, DICE upped their game by providing unique reload animations based on a weapon’s ammunition state.

  • I managed to capture this beauty of a lightning bolt while a tornado was tearing up the far side of the map here. In reality, taking stunning lightning photos is a skill and requires familiarity with the techniques. Professional weather photographers like Warren Faidley have taken some of the most iconic pictures around, and as a child, I was always fond of checking out weather books from the library to admire these images. In games like Battlefield 2042, lightning lingers on the screen for a fraction of a second longer than it does in reality, and that means so long as I hit the screenshot button quickly enough, I’ll have myself nice photo.

  • The weather patterns in Battlefield 2042 aren’t anywhere nearly as disruptive as the snowstorms of Battlefield V, and while visibility lowers whenever a storm blows in, it’s not bad enough to interfere with gameplay: even though the screen does get covered in water droplets from the rain, visibility isn’t severely degraded. Having said this, the tornado can be quite disruptive, and once the novelty wears off, it’ll become something that can negatively impact a match for players: the tornado locks down a large section of the map, and under the right circumstances, might even disrupt things enough for the other team to mount a comeback, meaning that the outcome of a given match can come down to chance rather than skill.

  • Here, I quickly reload the G57 pistol after drawing it and scoring a kill to save myself from certain death. Modern shooters tend to provide players with a sidearm as their secondary, a weapon to switch over to it when their primary runs dry. I imagine that the G57 is modelled after the Heckler and Koch Glock G17 (evidenced by the grooves on the slide’s rear. Battlefield has historically treated the Glock line of pistols as a fast-firing, moderately hard-hitting and reliable pistol. Pistols can be customised on the fly, as well, although during the open beta, there was no option to attach a suppressor.

  • While I only had six hours in the open beta, I did put in enough time to unlock the M44 Revolver, which looks like the Model 44SS6 .44 Magnum. Unlike the G57, whose strength lies in its accuracy, ease-of-handling and rate of fire, the M44 kicks like a mule and hits like a truck, dealing massive damage when it lands a successful hit. During the height of my Battlefield days, I used to run with the MP-412: this revolver still dealt excellent damage, but had a slightly faster firing rate than the .44 Magnum, meaning it could be counted on in a pinch.

  • Altogether, I played twelve rounds of conquest during the open beta, and of these twelve rounds, I only won three of them. I’m not sure what the story is, but even though I was playing the objective each and every around, I was more likely to wind up on the losing team than the winning team. However, I will note that 12 games is too small a sample size to draw meaningful data from. During earlier Battlefield games, some days, I’ll go on the most ridiculous lucky streaks where I’d play three winning games in a row, and then after a break, come back to play two more victorious matches.

  • Then, on other days, I could go and play three losing matches in a row. The law of large numbers states that over time, my victories and losses will trend towards an average and approach 50 percent from either the left or the right. However, my tendency to play the objective meant that in general, I always won slightly more often than I lost. In Battlefield 2042, outside of determining if my machine could run the game at all, my other goal had been to try as much of the infantry firearms as I could. Because of the way the Battlefield 2042 beta worked, I was able to get a very good idea of what the different weapons handled like, and here, I’ve brought the LCMG back out.

  • Owing to the haste of my deployment, I dropped right into a firefight and didn’t have time to change out my optics or underbarrel options. In spite of this, I managed to score a few kills while pressing forwards with my team into the hangar. In modern military shooters, I’m fond of equipping optics right away, since having a red dot sight or ACOG can make target acquisition much easier. However, I found that in moments where I only had iron sights, I was having considerably less trouble with them than I had before. This is like a consequence of the fact that playing so much Battlefield 1 and V in the past five years has meant that I’ve become accustomed to using iron sights for tracking targets.

  • Back in Battlefield 1, most weapons were actually better off without the crude sights available in a WWI setting, and some weapons had highly clean posts that made finding targets straightforward. Similarly, some weapons in Battlefield V had decent iron sights that could be used without much trouble. Since iron sights no longer bother me, when I play through other games like Call of Duty, I can be comfortable trading off the sights for other attachments. Of course, where sights are available, I’ll still use them: here, I’m running the PBX-45 with the K8 holographic sight, which is clear and easy to use.

  • Just for kicks, I ended up switching over to my M5 Recoilless rifle and shot a player with a rocket, since they were out of my PBX-45’s effective range. Had I attempted to engage them at this range, they would’ve noticed me throwing rocks at them and ducked for cover. Conversely, by expending a M5 round on them, I was assured of the kill, which I’m sure would’ve been a shock. I used to do something similar in Battlefield 1: since the assault class’ SMGs didn’t have much reach, I would use the AT rocket gun to pick off foes that I couldn’t otherwise reach without alerting them to my intentions.

  • Here, I managed to headshot a player calling themselves Gryphin2004 (a Family Guy reference, perhaps?) using the PBX-45, at a range that I didn’t think the weapon would work at. This particular player had killed me several times in a row by camping in the building, and it was with great satisfaction I managed to get him back one before the match ended. There weren’t many frustrating moments during the beta, but if I had to name one, dying to this camper was one of them. I’ve long disliked players who camp, since it shows excessive concern for one’s KDR over the team results, and in fact, campers are only second to cheaters in my books, when it comes to players who shouldn’t be in the game.

  • Here, I managed to score a double kill with the M5 Recoilless Rifle on a tank below: by the end of the beta, I was right at home with the M5. Players also have access to an anti-air weapon similar to the FIM-92 Stinger, and while I never got much use out of these weapons, developers have indicated that to balance them, they might make them a one-hit kill against air vehicles. If this is true, this would be a boon for folks on the ground: air vehicles are an annoyance, and in every match I played, enemy pilots went unchallenged, while for the most part, pilots on my team were not anywhere nearly as effective. Knowing that anti-air weapons could swat them out of the skies in a single hit would force pilots to play more cautiously: aircraft are equipped with countermeasures, but they have a cooldown, so a part of the skill in flying would include knowing when to back out of a fight.

  • Out of curiosity’s sake, I also ended up giving the AK24 a shot. This weapon appears to be the AK-12, a modernised AK-47, and in Battlefield 2042, hits harder than the M5A3. On the flipside, it also has a much larger recoil: I found the weapon to be quite uncontrollable when the Maul Hybrid sights were equipped. On the other hand, the iron sights, K8 and Fusion Holo sights don’t accentuate the recoil too much, making them my preferred choices for combat. Overall, however, I did prefer the M5A3 over the AK24: the M5A3 is laser-beam accurate with the right attachments, and I’ve had success with this rifle at ranges I didn’t think possible: one of my most exciting moments was burst-firing down a foe at over a hundred metres with the M5A3.

  • My experiences in the beta suggests that weapons of Battlefield 2042 are going to handle in distinct ways, and then the attachments will further accentuate a weapon’s strengths (or mitigate its weaknesses). The ability to switch attachments out on the fly is actually a pretty clever mechanic, since players with foresight can add to their inventory the attachments that they feel will work for them, and then in between matches, they might be able to customise their inventory to fit a particular play-style. Unfortunately, because of where this beta was, no deeper customisations were shown.

  • Since DICE has advertised that Battlefield 2042 will have a deeper progression system than that of Battlefield 1 and V, I am hoping this translates to something that was more similar to that of Battlefield 3 or 4‘s: Battlefield 3 had the perfect amount of unlocks, while things in Battlefield 4 felt a bit overwhelming. Documentation from DICE indicates that players will have unlocked everything they need to be successful by level 100. At the time of writing, I have no idea how long this journey would take: with earlier games, it took me about a year to get everything unlocked, and this was assuming an average of two to three hours of play every week.

  • During one match, I spawned onto the hangar rooftop at capture point bravo and decided to equip the SWS-10 for some sharpshooting. This is the TRG M10 in real life, a bolt-action rifle manufactured by the Finish company SAKO. Chambered for the .308 Winchester round, the TRG M10 can also fire .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, as well: the M10 is an upgraded, modular design that was introduced in 2011, and one of its most noteworthy features is that the toolbox for changing out the rifle’s barrel, bolts and handguard is built into the weapon itself, allowing it to change between different calibres with ease.

  • In Battlefield 2042, veterans have reported that the sniping is a little off, but during moments where long-range shots connect, it is immensely satisfying: I managed to pick off foes on the ground below from up here, and it felt incredible to fire a shot, watch it sail over to the target and strike them in the brainpan. Unfortunately, Battlefield 2042 doesn’t display the distance a headshot was made from in its beta, but these shots were incredible to land. It took me a few shots to get a feel for how the SWS-10 handled, especially with respect to bullet velocity and drop, but one thing I did find strange was the fact that the weapon appears to already have a straight-pull bolt, removing the need to scope out and chamber a new round in after one round was fired.

  • In a later match, I ended up running into a player called “not_alexus_marie” and promptly pasted their pate several times into the ground: curiosity got the better of me after I collected these screenshots, and I’m now wondering if this is the small-time Twitch streamer from Illinois that I wasted so casually. Battlefield 2042‘s lack of scoreboard, and an unusual UI in the death screen meant that during this beta, I remember those whom I’ve felled more vividly than those who outfoxed me in combat. While some gaming journalists are suggesting that some players are already using cheats in the beta, I never once felt that my foes were using software to gain an unfair advantage over others. Any time I died was a consequence of my own lack of spatial awareness, poor positioning, or the fact that my reflexes are no longer what they used to be.

  • On occasions where players looked like they one-shotted me or shot me through walls, it became apparent that my aging hardware might’ve created that discrepancy. Indeed, when I began playing more cautiously, I found myself staring at the spawn screen with a much lower frequency, and here in the beta, I do not believe I’ve run into any cheaters during the course of my six hours. DICE has stated that Battlefield 2042 will use Easy Anti-Cheat, a well-known and robust system which, in conjunction with its in-game reporting system, and an implementation of both an IP and hardware ban, should be enough to deter cheaters, which have run rampant in games like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Warzone.

  • Cheaters were responsible for my increasing disinterest in Battlefield V, more so than any other shortcomings of that title (whether it be the poor enemy visibility, inconsistent TTK/TTD decisions, decision not to visit iconic WWII Theatre in favour of obscure ones), and what was baffling was the fact that players on my own team would adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they were playing against a cheater, despite said cheater going 120-1 five minutes into the match. In this day and age, the desire to cheat in a multiplayer game is a consequence of a desire for notoriety, for a bit of extra internet fame.

  • By yesterday evening, I’d become quite familiar with all of the open beta’s weapons and had a passable idea of how the mechanics had worked, enough to be scoring consistently well. In the last full game I played, I ended up 19-19 despite having fallen into a 2-10 hole early in the game. The team I was with was still defeated, but my own personal performance suggests that, if the time allows for it, I could probably still have a good time with Battlefield 2042‘s main game modes. Towards the end, I began running with the engineer specialisation, which brings with it an automated turret for locking down certain areas by creating a distraction.

  • During the chaos of one firefight, I ended up accidentally switching off my M5A3 for a SWS-10, and since players were swarming the capture point, I was able to pick a few off with headshots. Observant readers and players who participated in the open beta alike will have noticed that Battlefield 2042 has sectors that must both be held before it can be considered to be under one team’s control. This approach would be a fantastic way to improve team play, although speaking truthfully, the lack of a working command system meant that in the end, I lone-wolfed things for the entire duration of the beta.

  • While my approach means that any squad will make short work of me, I was a little surprised to find individual players running around the map without any support, such as this individual here. I found them on their lonesome and proceeded to make short work of them before they even got a single shot off. In a squad with good communications, as soon as one member is fired upon, the squad can move in to defend one another, secure the area and revive anyone that was downed. I’ve only ever played Battlefield once with friends during an office team building event five years earlier, but I still remember how effective we were: we topped the scoreboard, was the best squad and ended up carrying our team to victory despite none of us being particularly exceptional FPS players.

  • One of the biggest challenges I faced in the beta was with the gunner seats in vehicles: they were extremely jittery, and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot off on a target. During one of my final matches, I spawned into an Apache attack helicopter’s gunner seat and manned the 30 mm cannon with gusto, helping to clear the ground for my team in a round my team had no hope in heck of winning. I’ve never been much of a pilot myself, but I do have a fondness for manning the gunner seats in vehicles. With a good pilot, I am able to really do damage in the gunner’s seat.

  • It suddenly strikes me that the more recent Battlefield releases have all coincided with a milestone in my life: Battlefield 4 launched after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and Battlefield 1 released after I finished graduate school and begun the transition over into industry. Battlefield V launched right as I got a new job, and Battlefield 2042‘s launch date is going to be very close to my possession date. At the time of writing, there’s a few more things I have to tend to ahead of this, but I am very excited about things.

  • Truth be told, I am surprised that things had happened as quickly as they did; even back in August, I’d only been house hunting and never thought that a property meeting all of my requirements would become available on the market this soon. A lot can happen over the course of a year, and while 2021 saw its share of challenges, the year also saw numerous positive changes. I’ve been incredibly lucky in many regards, and this is something I am immensely thankful for. If I were making decisions on the basis of emotion alone (as opposed to reason and logic), Battlefield 2042 would be an easy purchase simply for the fact that it coincides with a major life event, much as how Battlefield 41 and V did.

  • However, this isn’t how I roll: instead, whether or not I end up buying Battlefield 2042 will be determined by how well the game runs at launch and whether or not Battlefield Portal fulfils my requirements. Provided the game can run well, and Portal offers what I am looking for, then Battlefield 2042 will be worth the cost of admissions. The game has most certainly been fun during the open beta, and here, a solitary kill with the LCMG marks the last one I got before the servers shut down; I had just started a match, but it was getting late, so I decided to call it quits after getting one more kill.

Having put a total of six hours into the Battlefield 2042 beta, the main deciding factor now as to whether or not I’ll pick up the game after it launches, or if I will wait, is determined by a few things. The first is whether or not DICE does indeed optimise the game so it’s not pushing my CPU to 100 percent utilisation for extended periods. I’ve heard that people with more recent CPUs still experienced the same issues, so it is possible that building a new PC might not be the solution to this. Waiting to hear from early-adopters who buy the game will allow me to gain more information before making a decision. Similarly, the open beta has only shown one game mode (Conquest) on one map (Orbital). Battlefield 2042‘s biggest feature is Battlefield Portal, a full-scale sandbox mode that allows players to have full control in designing games for themselves. On first blush, this mode appears even more enticing and immersive than Battlefield 2042 proper. Depending on what is available and possible within Battlefield Portal, this alone could be worth the price of admissions (assuming my machine can run things smoothly). Finally, the open beta evidently is an incomplete build of the game that is not production-ready: numerous issues do need to be addressed, from UI layout, functionality and performance before DICE can have a smooth, satisfying launch. Historically, DICE’s records with launches are mixed: Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but Battlefield 1 was exemplary. Overall, my position now is simple: I will wait until around the holiday season to determine whether or not Battlefield 2042 joins my library. Building a new PC is straightforward enough, and my current machine still runs Battlefield 2042 in a satisfactory manner, so the main deciding factor now is going to be primarily seeing how well Portal works in practise. The prospect of being able to play bots on a private session to experiment with outrageous scenarios (like how well a single M1A2 fares against 20 Tiger I tanks), or join servers with outlandish game modes designed for relaxation rather than competition, is most enticing. Similarly, I am getting up there in the years to be squaring off against youth with faster reflexes: the ol’ fingers and brain no longer move as quickly as they did when I was a university student. Gone are the days where I could survive a firefight against an entire squad, so on days where I don’t feel like fighting real players, having the choice to mess around in Battlefield 2042 maps and modes at a more relaxed pace would also be welcomed. As such, this Battlefield 2042 open beta has been very informative for me: I know my rig can (just barely) run Battlefield 2042, the setup is still fun enough for me, and once I have a little more information on things like features and Battlefield Portal following the game’s launch, I’ll be able to make a more informed decision on things.

Halo Infinite: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This is my last fight; a true test of legends! Our story…will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart, Spartan! Bare your fangs! Fight hard! Die well!” –War Chief Escharum

Originally set for launch in November 2020, 343 Industries ended up making the decision to delay Halo Infinite‘s release to December 2021 to ensure that their latest instalment of Halo was functioning as expected. While at launch, Forge and co-op will not be available, 343 Industries decisions demonstrates the level of commitment to quality that is expected of developers; in recent memory, games like Cyberpunk 2077 and No Man’s Sky had illustrated the price of launching games on schedule even in the knowledge the game was incomplete, with inevitable results. For me, since I’m in no particular rush, these delays are acceptable: in fact, as far as gamers go, I’m quite unconventional in my habits, and news of Halo Infinite‘s launch date, as well as the presence of a technical test, drew my attention primarily because I am running a machine that is now eight-and-a-half years old. As such, the concern for me was a matter of whether or not Halo Infinite would even run on this machine: the game requires an Intel i5-4400 and GTX 1050 Ti at minimum, along with 8 GB of RAM. On paper, my machine’s GTX 1060 and 16 GB of RAM should be sufficient. Moreover, the i5-3570k is supposed to be around eight to fifteen percent faster than the i5-4400k under real-world conditions despite being older. However, it isn’t until one actually attempts to run a game that performance can be tangibly ascertained: this was my primary goal with Halo Infinite‘s technical test, and after around four hours of gameplay spent in the open beta, playing against both AI bots and other players have given me a much clearer picture of what the way forwards looks like. On my aging setup, Halo Infinite is generally very playable at 1080p, maintaining a consistent 60 FPS with the visual settings set to the “high” preset. There were frame drops on occasion, although I did not find that they occurred as a result of activity on the screen (e.g. entering a crowded area with many players, or the result of visual effects resulting from weapon fire and explosives usage). The client testers were provided with was generally stable, although I did experience a two separate instances where the build did freeze or crash to the desktop as a result of bad memory access. Outside of these issues, I have satisfied myself with the fact Halo Infinite appears to run with reasonable smoothness on my machine.

Looking beyond the fundamental matters of performance and stability, Halo Infinite‘s technical test gave me a chance to try out the gameplay mechanics for myself. Trailers had shown that Halo Infinite would feature the return of equipment that had previously been employed in entertaining ways during combat, including a grappling hook and shield wall. However, the most critical element in any Halo game (or shooter, for that matter) is the movement and weapon system. Halo Infinite delivers on both. Player movement has been refreshed to be in line with more modern games; besides the return of a sprint system, players have slightly faster movement than the Spartans did in the original Halo titles, and there is now a vaulting system that allows players to grab ledges, making navigation through maps easier than before. Altogether, modernising movement in Halo Infinite means maps can similarly be updated to utilise creative elements that weren’t previously possible. The gun-play in Halo Infinite is similarly excellent. Weapons feel powerful, and the time-to-kill is reasonable. Players being shot at have enough time to react and get out of a situation. Keeping cool under pressure will allow one to win a firefight even if one did not start shooting first, but players who start a combat engagement with a sure aim and utilisation of the right timing and equipment will come consistently out triumphant. The weapons themselves are fun to use: the basic assault rifle has come a very long way from the Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation and is now reliable, while the Halo 2 battle rifle returns as the BR-75. Players are given feedback in response to landing shots on an enemy, and scoring kills. While quality-of-life adjustments in Halo Infinite makes every successful kill more visceral than in earlier Halo titles, the core gameplay largely remains untouched: everything still feels like it did with Halo 2. Overall, the gameplay mechanics of Halo Infinite are satisfying and consistent, retaining all of the elements that made the original Halo games great, while simultaneously bringing some of the best features in contemporary shooters into Halo.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I’ve had two weekends to try the Halo Infinite beta out, these days, I’m don’t spend the whole of that time in game: the weather of late’s been gorgeous, and I’ve been greatly enjoying all that the autumn weather has to offer. I ended up spending the afternoon yesterday walking out to a grove of trees that turned golden-yellow, and then swung by an overlook at the park’s southern end. Shortly after spawning into my first-ever match on Live Fire, the original map that August’s Halo Infinite technical test featured, I immediately snapped up the S7 Sniper Rifle and got a double kill with it against the bots. My intention in this open beta was not to see how much gameplay I could experience, but rather, to see if my machine could even run Halo Infinite, and so, having the option of playing against AI bots was most refreshing.

  • One of the drawbacks about open betas are that some players deliberately use their vacation time to experience the beta, and consequently, have put in upwards of eight hours before I even finished downloading the client. Playing against these individuals means being annihilated in the blink of an eye, which would’ve degraded my ability to run the game for longer periods of time. Conversely, with AI bots, I was able to stay alive for extended periods and properly stress-test my machine, as well as see what happened whenever many grenades were thrown and equipment deployed.

  • On the whole, Halo Infinite runs very well, and there were no player actions that seemed to cause any performance issues. However, during one match, my client began stuttering and then outright froze, forcing me to quit (and incur the early quit penalty). After I finished and quit another session, my machine suffered from a blue screen of death, with the error code indicating my GPU had been overtaxed. DOOM Eternal has done this to my machine on occasion, where the computer would display a blue screen and force a restart after I’d quit the game.

  • These sorts of things happen infrequently, but I imagine that it is a driver problem more than anything; even people running more recent GPUs, like the RTX 2080 Ti, have reported this issue on some occasion. However, as noted previously, these events are infrequent enough so that they’re not super-disruptive. Here, I’ve switched on over to the Recharge map, which is located inside a hydroelectric plant. I’m armed with the basic MA40 Assault Rifle, a capable all-around weapon for close to medium range combat, and the MK50 Sidekick as my sidearm.

  • The MK50 is more similar to the M6C line of pistols, being a compact and lightweight weapon compared to the hard-hitting magnum pistols of earlier Halo games. In most matches, I discard this weapon straight away for a different secondary weapon: here, I’ve got the VK78 Commando, an automatic tactical rifle with a twenty-round box magazine. Accurate and reliable at range, the VK78 replaces the DMR, reaching further out than the battle rifle, but firing more rapidly than the sniper rifle. This weapon very quickly became a favourite for me; while I used to be a big CQC person in Halo, my experiences in Battlefield has meant that medium range engagements are something I’m more comfortable with.

  • This strange-looking weapon is the Ravager, a Banished weapon that fires arcing plasma rounds that can deal damage to vehicles and infantry alike. The weapon is not reloadable and utilises a battery, but built-up heat is not automatically dissipated, so players must use the reload button to vent the weapon. During the open beta, I found that the UNSC and classic Covenant weapons proved to be the most reliable and consistent in firefights; the new Covenant Pulse Carbine, for instance, is a burst-fire plasma rifle with the Carbine’s form factor, although its behaviour was a little difficult to get used to, so I ended up ditching it. Conversely, the Plasma Pistol and Needler still work just as I remember, making them excellent secondary weapons.

  • Bazaar is a map set in Old Mombasa and therefore, is reminiscent of Halo 2‘s “Outskirts” mission in terms of aesthetic. This arena-like map is laid out in a manner most similar to Counterstrike‘s classic Dust and Dust II maps, featuring a central open area and two “bases” that make the map suited for two-team battles, like CTF. These sorts of maps bring back the memories I have of playing Halo 2 on Windows Vista: back then, I had considerably more time than I did today, and I remember (with a twinge of regret) that I spent the most of my summer, prior to starting university, playing custom games in Halo 2‘s multiplayer.

  • In retrospect, I would’ve been better served spending that time with a summer job, specifically, at one of the local bookstores: while the work experience here wouldn’t be relevant to the undergraduate research experience I did end up picking up, and the pay isn’t anything to write home about, it would’ve been nice to get out and do something constructive with my time. Once I did enter university, I spent my summers doing research instead: this was both relevant and engaging. On the flipside, I also remember that most days, I also went for long bike rides on the best of days.

  • The new CQS48 Bulldog is a combat shotgun fed from a rotary magazine. Compared to the old pump action shotguns, the Bulldog has a much faster reload and can fire faster, but does considerably less damage than its predecessors. Here, I used it to decimate an AI bot at close quarters, earning myself a Running Riot spree in the process. The bots in Halo Infinite‘s training mode can have their difficulties adjusted, but during the online matches where I teamed up with other players against the AI bots, said bots appeared to have had their difficulties set to the easiest level: every match I played was a blowout (or, in Halo terms, “Steaktacular”).

  • Here,  I stick a bot with the plasma grenades. The keen-eyed reader will have spotted that the evergreen trees in the background look a little blocky and low-resolution; I originally wondered if this had to do with the fact that I was running Halo Infinite on the default low settings, but even after turning the settings up, the trees remained of a low quality. It is probably the case that not all assets or visual effects have been finished at this point in time: 343 Industries sent out a stable build to test their server capacities and see how things handle under load for this test flight.

  • After switching over to higher visual quality, I did not notice any appreciable improvement in the visuals. Fortunately, there was also no degradation in performance: 343 Industries intended this test more for their servers rather than for us players, and I imagine that the build we were given, while ready for play-testing, is not optimised yet. Assuming this to be the case, it could mean that I’ll have no trouble running the launch version with reasonable settings.

  • While some elements of Halo Infinite are still works-in-progress, others are remarkably polished and look production ready. Here, after scoring a double kill on some AI bots, I made to reload my weapon and happened to capture a screenshot of the reload, which highlights the level of details that went into the weapon models. Reloads have come a very long way since the GoldenEye 64 days, where the animation simply involved ducking the weapon off screen and raising them once the reload finished.

  • The HUD in Halo Infinite has been modernised so that its layout is identical to that used in contemporary shooters. Previous Halo games put the ammunition display counter on the upper right of the screen, and the grenade inventory on the upper left. However, more popular shooters like Half-Life and Counterstrike had their ammunition counters on the lower right. Call of Duty and Battlefield follow the same layout, as do other well-known shooters, so it made sense to migrate the ammunition counters over to the lower right.

  • The shield indicator firmly remains at the top of the screen, and players will have noticed a small health bar underneath that also recharges. This bar was originally hidden in Halo 2 through Halo 4, only returning in Halo 5 to provide a visual indicator of how much health a player has once their shields are drained. Health can be depleted very quickly if the shields are dropped, and players traditionally can fall to a single headshot if their shields are down, so as soon as the upper screen flashes red in response to shields being low, one’s first move is to get to cover as soon as possible (or finish off a foe and then get away when safe to do so).

  • During the beta, I had a plethora of double kills, but owing to the map and team sizes, I never got around to getting any triple kills despite coming close on a few occasions (teammates would finish off the enemies before I could). It has struck me that 4 on 4 matches mean that the coveted Killtacular would be exceptionally rare. Back when I was a secondary school students, some of my friends were absolutely determined to get a killtacular and so, hosted LAN parties every other week. Since graduating from university, everyone’s gone their separate ways, although right up until the global health crisis started, we were still able to gather on some occasions for LAN parties.

  • A big part of the fun about LAN parties was that, since we didn’t do them often, they always took forever to setup, as we fumbled with wiring all of the Xboxes together using Ethernet cables. This was one constant that remained with us no matter how many times we did the LAN parties, but we never minded; while waiting for setup, conversations would turn towards all manner of topics. Of course, during LAN parties, the folks with Xboxes back home would tend to do the best, and the remainder of us would be lucky to get a few kills here and there. This never mattered, though, since LAN parties were always fun.

  • Here, I’ve finally come upon the BR-75 Battle Rifle: a burst-fire weapon that was introduced in Halo 2 and subsequently became the most recognised MLG weapon in the games. With its three-round burst, the battle rifle was a reliable four shot kill at medium ranges (three bursts to strip the shield, and then a headshot), making it a highly consistent and dependable. On consoles, I’ve never been able to make use of the weapon properly, but with the mouse and keyboard, the battle rifle has very much become my favourite starting weapon in Halo.

  • I’d like nothing more than to have fun and relive the glory days of the old LAN parties in a comfortable chair at home. However, when I returned to The Master Chief Collection‘s multiplayer last year, I found that the design paradigm behind Halo‘s multiplayer today is completely incompatible with what I am looking for. I expect to be able to drop in and out of matches without penalty and play in a relaxed fashion, but 343 Industries have a quit penalty, and players in the so-called “social” tier are still aggressively competitive.

  • In conjunction with the fact that players will universally plug in a controller to capitalise on the fact that controller have full aim assist and increased bullet magnetism, playing with the mouse and keyboard set up leaves me at an immense disadvantage, so I ended up calling it quits by the time Halo 3 joined The Master Chief Collection. Here, I managed to swipe the SPNKR rocket launcher and blew up an enemy. Playing Battlefield and Call of Duty has changed my usage of explosive weapons somewhat: in modern military shooters, anti-armour weapons don’t have enough splash damage to be effective in an anti-infantry role, but in Halo, the rocket launcher is meant to be a power weapon, possessing limitations but otherwise, remains highly effective against personnel and vehicles alike.

  • For Team Slayer matches, the AI bots are more than fine, but it turns out that the bots are also present in smaller games of CTF and Territory Control: the very fact that the bots do work suggests to me that it would be possible to include a mode with bots only so players can get used to the maps and weapons without affecting their stats. For players like myself, bot-only matches would also represent a nice way to simply go mess around for ten minutes and play at my own pace: the days where I could dedicate a few hours towards ranking up my character and items are long past, and I prefer games where I can pop in and drop off whenever I wish.

  • Towards the end of the open beta, my old skills began returning to me, and I managed to get a double kill off the bots with the battle rifle. The bots, while far easier than human players, still have the same shields and health as players do, making them a great way to get a feel for the TTK against human players. I elected against playing real players for as often as I could for the open beta, since the aim of this exercise had been to test the game. I won’t have this luxury during the Battlefield 2042 beta; DICE had announced their beta to start on October 8 and will run through the ninth.

  • However, players who preordered or have EA Access will be able to start their test on October 6. Preloading begins on the fifth, and here, I will note that while I am a Battlefield fan, I’m not so dedicated as to preorder the game yet. Instead, I will sit down for a few sessions on Friday night and throughout Saturday where I am able. Similarly to Halo Infinite, my goal will be simply to see how well my machine can handle Battlefield 2042. Unlike Halo Infinite, however, Battlefield 2042 won’t have a campaign, and what determines whether or not I end up buying it will be how extensive Battlefield Portal‘s AI bots are.

  • Back in Halo Infinite, I start a match on Behemoth, a larger map more suited for Big Team Battles rather than infantry-only matches. Vehicles are available, and this makes the match particularly suited for the larger matches of CTF or territories. I’m actually not too fond of these larger maps, since the vehicles disappear almost the moment the match starts, leaving me to hoof it across the map. Conversely, the smaller, arena-like maps are my favourite, since their focus is on infantry combat. In Battlefield, maps are designed so players can spawn onto points allies have already captured, on squad-mates who are out of combat, or on special beacons, so larger maps aren’t a problem.

  • The Volt Piercer (informally, the Shock Rifle) is one of the most exotic weapons I’ve seen in a Halo game and would not look out of place in something like Planetside 2 or Tribes Ascend. Firing an electrolaser bolt with a range of up to 300 metres, the weapon functions similarly like a sniper rifle and can kill with one headshot. However, it can also arc off nearby enemies, and two shots can temporarily disable a vehicle. I’ve not had the chance to try the plasma pistol’s overcharge against a vehicle, but in Halo 4, the overcharge could disable a vehicle and render it vulnerable to boarding.

  • Overall, the modes against AI bots were fairly compelling, and I had a great deal of fun here: the weapons of Halo Infinite definitely retain the handling and feel of the classic weapons. Of course, the most fun for me will be seeing where all of these weapons come into play during Halo Infinite‘s campaign. Towards the end of my time in the open beta, I hopped on over to Fragmentation for a Big Team Battle match up, marking the first time I’d fought human players during this open beta. I admit that I was a little reluctant to join such a match: back when 343 Industries was flighting Halo 3, I ended up with a miserable experience owing to the fact that the game openly favoured controller players.

  • However, when I joined my Big Team Battle match, I was fortunate in that the size of the map meant that players were spread out enough so that I did end up with a chance to explore the map and get a few kills here and there, as well as work out where all of the weapons were. I’m not sure if Halo Infinite will bring back the old loadouts from Halo 4, which allowed players to spawn with a primary and secondary (non-power) weapon of their choice. If given the choice, I’d almost always pick the battle rifle and magnum in Halo 4. However, since the battle rifle and Commando tactical rifle are found on the weapon racks as pickups, I imagine that Halo Infinite could be going back to the basics.

  • For some reason, Halo Infinite describes the Commando as a light machine gun: while the Commando is automatic, its smaller ammunition capacity and description as a precision weapon means it doesn’t satisfy the definition of what makes a light machine gun: LMGs don’t necessarily fire full-sized cartridges, but their function is to fulfil an infantry support role (e.g. providing covering fire). The small magazine on the Commando is too small for the weapon to be used in this role, so I am wondering if 343 Industries are going to continue referring to the Commando as an LMG once the game launches.

  • I managed to pick up another Shock Rifle and began firing on distant enemies, but because the weapon’s handling is unlike the UNSC weapons, I wasn’t able to place the best shots on my opponents, who were trying to steal our flag. However, I did land two hits on two different foes, and my teammates astutely picked them off. This match ended up being a game of attrition: players were very much focused on defense and felt reluctant to go on offense, which makes sense, since everyone is still new to the map: I did make one attempt to take the enemy flag, but died instantly, since half their team was hanging back.

  • As the match drew to an end, I ended up picking up the Heatwave, a Forerunner hard light weapon designed for close-quarters combat. The weapon is most similar to a shotgun, and in its default mode, fires a horizontal pattern of projectiles. However, it can be altered to fire in a vertical pattern. The former sounds good for crowd control, and the latter has proven to be excellent against individual targets. The weapon resembles the UNSC Rail Gun (Halo 4), and indeed, when I picked it up, I was expecting the weapon to handle like the Rail Gun.

  • During this final map on Fragmentation, I ended up going 13-16 and helped my team to win the game with a score of 1-0, and to cap things off, I’ll show that it is possible to get kills with the Sidekick even though it is a sidearm meant for use if one’s starting primary weapon is out. All things considered, this wasn’t a bad first time playing against real players, and I did have fun just running around on the map and engaging lone players before ducking away. With this, Halo Infinite‘s open beta comes to a close, and I imagine that the next time I play Halo Infinite will be once the campaign launches.

Having now had the chance to experience Halo Infinite for myself, it is clear that my aging machine will run Halo Infinite in a passable manner, and the gameplay itself retains everything that made the original Halo games so enjoyable. As such, my final verdict on whether or not I will pick this game up is simple enough: I have seen enough to know that I will have a good time with the game once it launches in December. The multiplayer aspect to Halo Infinite is actually free-to-play, and revenue is to be generated by a seasonal battle pass: 343 Industries will have seasons, and players can purchase the passes for seasons they wish to unlock cosmetics for. Unlike other developers, who have time restrictions, Halo Infinite‘s battle pass system will be such that one could buy the first season pass a year later and still be guaranteed a fair chance at completing everything. While my main interest in Halo has always been with the campaigns, a free-to-play multiplayer gives another more opportunity to see how my desktop handles Halo Infinite before I step into the campaign should the need arise (otherwise, if the footage of gameplay looks promising, and the benchmarks look good, picking up Halo Infinite will be an easy decision). The sum of my experiences here in Halo Infinite‘s technical test have been positive. If the final product can iron out the more serious of the issues I experienced, as well as optimise the game to further improve performance, 343 Industries will have made a very compelling case for me to pick up the single player campaign at launch price. With this being said, the multiplayer alone is not something I see myself playing extensively; in this day and age, I no longer have the time to play through multiplayer games with a lengthy progression system. The appeal of having a single player campaign is precisely that I can experience something at my own pace. However, if Halo Infinite were to include the ability to play AI bots in all of the same game modes and maps that are available to in PvP modes (complete with match score and time limits), I would be ecstatic; the AI bots seen Halo Infinite are actually pretty convincing when set to the higher difficulties, and while they understandably should not contribute to one’s completion of progression items, being able to go into a private server and mess around with the AI bots would be immensely enjoyable, perfect for folks who are interested in having a more laid-back opportunity to have fun in their own manner of choosing.

The Relevance of AI Bots in Contemporary Games, and A Case Study in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War

“What will limit us is not the possible evolution of technology, but the evolution of human purposes.” –Stephen Wolfram

While Agent Under Fire today might be counted as unremarkable, it was revolutionary for its time: tucked away in the multiplayer menu was an option to play against AI bots. If one’s friends were unavailable, or one wanted to learn the multiplayer maps that way, one could add a few bots into a match, set their difficulty and aggression, then enjoy a match against the AI, whether it be to explore the map or warm up prior to a split-screen session. In this area, Agent Under Fire completely raised the expectation for what games could accommodate, offering single players additional choice even if they did not have additional friends over at the time. Against the bots on iconic maps like Town or Castle, one could spend an hour just learning the map and its tactics, facing AI of difficulties one found appropriate. This feature would later make its way to Nightfire, which further allowed the bots’ AI to be customised. Bots could be team players, focused on grabbing power weapons or simply care for kills. When friends weren’t available to visit, I used to still play Nightfire‘s multiplayer with bots for amusement, marvelling at the fact that I could still learn the maps and weapons without needing a second player. When properly implemented, AI bots provide players with more choice and more options: some folks might want to explore maps and blast enemies at their own pace, without angry teammates screaming at them about what to do. Others simply don’t enjoy the frustration of excessively serious players ruining sandbox moments. However, it is rare for modern multiplayer games to feature bots; the idea behind multiplayer is that one is fighting human opponents, the ultimate foe in terms of strategy and skill. As such, most games don’t bother with implementing offline bots: writing pathing algorithms and decision trees to give the AI the proper level of sophistication is a demanding process, and studios would, understandably, prefer to focus on their core mechanics so that they can provide the best possible experience for players interesting in squaring off against other players.

The emphasis on always-online games is not without inherent risks for players. For one, if one’s connection goes down, or worse still, if the servers go offline, then an entire segment of the game is rendered unplayable. This is a longstanding problem that always-online games face: they are absolutely dependent on a stable connection and uptime. While servers and internet connections now are generally reliable, if a company decides the time has come and pulls the plug on their servers, that’s pretty much it. This sort of thing happened with Halo 2 during the Xbox Live days, and again with Halo 2 Vista‘s servers; I spent countless hours in the latter honing my skills and generally having a good time, but when Halo 2 Vista‘s servers were shut down, I was more or less left with half a game. Had Halo 2 included a bots mode, I would’ve doubtlessly spent many more hours after that on Lockout, enjoying an iconic experience. The addition of AI bots also opens the floor for creativity. After my time in Halo 2 ended, I ended up finding a replacement in Battlefield 3: this was a fantastic large-scale sandbox experience, but it was fully dependent on populated servers. On filled servers, it was non-stop, engaging chaos as players fought for objectives, and whacky emergent behaviours created some of Battlefield 3‘s most iconic moments. However, quieter servers were less exciting, and some days, I was met with empty servers where the match was awaiting enough players to join. Having AI bots to fill servers would doubtlessly had made matches easier to find, lessening the time I was waiting for things. Indeed, Battlefield 2042 appears to have learnt from this and will utilise bots to fill the void. For players looking to get the most of things, finding a server will be no problem, and as more humans join a server, the bots are simply replaced. The setup in Battlefield 2042 therefore helps players looking to enter the action as soon as possible, but the presence of bots also has a significant implication: it might be possible to spin up a local server with nothing but AI bots, and then spawn in with one’s mates and have a good time trying to kill helicopters with a bike or running around with terrible loadouts.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve not spent a minute in the online multiplayer of Cold War, but upon learning that there was an offline mode for bots, I was convinced to give things a go: overall, Cold War‘s multiplayer does feel a little less finessed compared to something like Battlefield V or Halo, and as such, playing against other players could be quite frustrating. On the other hand, against AI bots, the experience becomes much more relaxing and casual, making it well-suited for someone who has around an hour to game.

  • What I enjoyed most about Cold War‘s multiplayer was the fact that the weapons could be extensively customised, allowing a given primary weapon to feel like a completely different weapon with the use of a few customisations. This creates variety, and players can use the AI bots to play with things before hopping into a real match. Here, I’m running the MP5, which was known as the KS-7 in Agent Under Fire. Unlike the KS-7, which was a peashooter, the MP5 in Cold War is a solid submachine gun and can be reliably used at close quarters to down enemies.

  • Agent Under Fire players will know the AUG as the UGW. However, whereas Agent Under Fire treated the AUG as an automatic weapon with good accuracy and damage, but a lower firing rate, in Cold War, the AUG is a burst-fire tactical rifle that can take an enemy out in as few as two bursts. In keeping with the aesthetic seen in Agent Under Fire, I’ve opted to keep the default sights on a given weapon, modifying the barrel and underbarrel for slightly improved performance.

  • The Moscow map is one of my favourites in Cold War, showing off things like water reflections and lighting. If memory serves, I tried out the bots mode back in May after installing the multiplayer component; originally, I’d bought Cold War thinking that I’d go through the campaign, but after hearing about the AI bots, I became curious to try out a mode that could extend the longevity of this game. Having played a few rounds against the AI bots, I conclude that this is indeed a nice way to spend half an hour on weeknights if I’m ever in the mood to blow stuff up in a more relaxed environment, away from the aggressively competitive players out there.

  • I’ve switched on over to Yamantau and have decided to run with the basic AK-47 here. Cold War‘s AK-47 feels particularly powerful, being a reliable and hard-hitting weapon. In most games nowadays, the AK-47 is portrayed as a slower-firing assault rifle that is less accurate than the M-16 and its counterparts, but otherwise does more damage per shot. This is reflecting on the fact that the Ak-47 fires a 7.62 mm round, as well as the fact that the weapon was manufactured with lower precision compared to their NATO equivalents.

  • This, together with the fact that the AK-47 is made of very few moving parts and has a robust construction, contributes to the weapon’s legendary durability and reliability. In video games, this translates to NATO weapons being portrayed as more accurate and having a higher rate of fire, while Eastern Bloc weapons deal more damage but will fire more slowly and be less accurate at range. In older games like Agent Under Fire, the AK-47 (KA-57) is depicted as an entry level assault rifle that does intermediate damage.

  • Agent Under Fire had been built around its campaign, and so, as the players got further into the campaign, the weapons became more powerful. This was appropriate for the single player mode, but it meant that some weapons were evidently better than others in the multiplayer. Nightfire ended up addressing this by making weapons more specialised (for instance, players have access to a suppressed burst-fire SG-551 in the first mission, but later, the unsuppressed, full-automatic version appears). Today, weapons have a wider range of attributes, and weapons diversity means that developers must balance everything against one another.

  • Agent Under Fire‘s Windsor FSU-4 is the M16A2 armed with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher and sports a 40-round magazine. It’s an upgrade from the KA-57 and is introduced later in the campaign, featuring more firepower. The FSU-4 is a fully-automatic weapon, but in Cold War, the M16 is another tactical rifle with burst fire capabilities. Burst fire weapons have typically not been too popular, since players prefer to spray on full automatic or pick their foes off one shot at a time. However, Halo 2‘s implementation of a burst-fire weapon, in the BR-55, allows for versatility: the weapon can be controlled for longer range combat, but fires quickly enough to deal with foes at closer ranges.

  • During the Electronic Arts era of James Bond, all of their titles (Agent Under FireNightfire and Everything or Nothing) featured the SPAS-12. This Italian shotgun has a very distinct appearance because of how it looks when its stock is folded up, and while it’s a pump-action shotgun in reality, Agent Under Fire gives the weapon the more useful semi-automatic mode to increase its rate of fire. In Cold War, the SPAS-12 is a two shot kill, but has a good firing rate, making it easier to land follow-up shots.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that three years ago, I wrote about Battlefield V‘s open beta. I’d been home from Winnipeg for five days now, and while that assignment had been tough, what followed was nigh unbearable. When August had drawn to a close, we’d closed up our office and began working from home, although I was still required to meet with the founder and other staff. Because of a lack of accommodations, we ended up utilising my access to the university’s facilities to meet. During my downtime, I spent a fair bit of it playing the Battlefield V beta, which had opened the day after I returned and ran for five days.

  • Although I was knocking out work items daily, the fact that the backend’s team was essentially creating make-work (e.g. arbitrarily changing JSON responses and bouncing code reviews for choice of variable names) meant that the project continued to be delayed. I recall a cold, grey morning where I was scheduled for a live demo with the Denver team, but thanks to the backend team altering the names of JSON keys, the app crashed the moment I opened it during said demo. Fortunately for me, I’d done a video capture of the project and was able to show that, but the way the Winnipeg team worked made it an incredibly stressful environment.

  • Having the Battlefield V beta to look forwards to after hours really helped me to de-stress and gave me something to look forward to after a long day of sorting out bugs and dealing with headache. In the present day, I was expecting that Battlefield 2042‘s open beta to be this week, but scuttlebutt was that there’s some delays owing to development challenges, pushing the beta out to September 24. This is, incidentally, when Halo Infinite‘s open beta is scheduled to run.  I’ve never encountered a situation quite like this before, where two betas were running concurrently, but assuming that both betas happen on the same weekend, my priority this time around will be to get a feel for how both games perform on my system.

  • Previously, I primarily played betas to gain insight into how a given game handled from a mechanics standpoint, but with my machine now entering eight and a half years of service, it’s important to determine whether or not any games I have an interest in can even run on my system before I sink any coin into it; Cold War represents a situation where I’d jumped the gun, and while upgrading an OS is comparatively straightforward, outright building a new rig is going to be more involved. Under the best of circumstances, I could purchase a new custom rig and get it up and running in two weeks or so, but with the ongoing microprocessor shortage and crypto-mining causing GPU supply to be limited, building a new computer isn’t viable (it’s still possible, but not cost effective).

  • Here, I open hostilities with the Milano 821, which I’ve got standing in for Agent Under Fire‘s Ingalls (itself a facsimile of the Ingalls MAC-10, which I haven’t bothered unlocking because that would entail playing actual multiplayer matches). The Ingalls is a step up from the KS-7 in Agent Underfire, but is overall inferior to the PS-100 (P90). Conversely, the Milano 821 in Cold War is a decent weapon, handling like a submachine gun version of the AK-47 in having a lower rate of fire and higher damage per shot compared to the MP5.

  • On the other hand, the CARV.2 (a fictionalised version of the Heckler and Koch G11) was a weapon worth unlocking: late in June and early July, I spent my weekends farming long-shot kills in Cold War‘s Zombies mode to earn this weapon. This burst-fire weapon fires 4.73 mm ammunition and is very accurate, making it a great choice for medium to long range encounters. After several weekends, I finally unlocked the weapon, and subsequently kitted mine out with the Axial Arms 3x optic, which is considered to be the best optic one can use for medium to long range combat.

  • The bonus is, of course, that the CARV.2 is Cold War‘s equivalent of Agent Under Fire‘s D17. Agent Under Fire portrays the D17 as being the ultimate weapon, a combination of high accuracy, rate of fire and damage with the largest ammunition capacity of any assault rifle in game. The weapon is only available during the final campaign mission, Evil Summit, and handily beats out all of the other weapons in-game during multiplayer. I’ve spent many a Christmas getting mowed down by the D17 because we’d fight the bots on maximum difficulty and aggression.

  • Conversely, when we returned to the GameCube for kicks more recently, working out how to corner the bots and stop them before they could grab the D17 was instrumental in allowing us to win. Agent Under Fire‘s AI bots might not be the most impressive in the world (they occasionally get stuck and fail to notice when one is sneaking up on them), but at full difficulty and aggression, they are monstrosities that can utterly wreck players. This creates numerous hilarious moments where bots achieve kills that seem supernatural, contributing to the fun factor in Agent Under Fire.

  • The combination of D17 and bots in Agent Under Fire is entertaining enough so that one could spend hours at a time just blasting the AI for fun without ever needing to hop on an online multiplayer match, and having spent the bulk of the past twenty-one months playing bots, I came to realise that these offline modes are essential parts of any game that wishes to have longevity. The idea here is that, even if the servers are offline, having the map assets and ability to fight bots locally lets one play multiplayer even when support for the game stops.

  • The other reason that bots are now something to look for in a game is that, at least for me, online gaming has become a most undesirable place to be of late. I noticed this in Battlefield V, where cheaters ran unchecked, and the community encouraged unsportsmanlike behaviours during matches. These actions ranged from pushing players using AA vehicles out of bounds to kill them and free up a vehicle slot for themselves, camping, and players not utilising their classes’ abilities (e.g. refusing to revive, heal and drop ammo).

  • Calling out these players was met with a flood of insults in the text chat, and since Battlefield V automatically censored out expletives, players would resort to making up new insults that were far more annoying and offensive, creating a new sort of meme culture in the process. I’ve heard that online gaming has only gotten worse: Fortnite players insult one another for lacking cosmetic items, and in Warzone or Apex, cheating is even worse than it is in Battlefield V. With online games are looking more and more unplayable these days, AI bots can fill that void and provide players with a quasi-multiplayer experience.

  • Here, I’m rocking the Pelington 703 (modelled after the Remington Model 703, standing in for the SSR-4000, known as the SSG 3000). In Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer matches, I never set the SSR-4000, since my aiming skills with a controller is non-existent (and in matches where I’ve tried, the bots end up steamrolling us). In Cold War, the opposite is true: while I’m nowhere nearly skilled enough against human players, I can make the sniper rifles work in matches with AI bots to have a phenomenal time. The Pelington is particularly fun to use because it feels like a hunting rifle.

  • I’ve played online multiplayer titles for about a decade; my experience started with Halo 2: Vista in 2009, and when the servers shut down in 2012, I switched over to Team Fortress 2 briefly before becoming a Battlefield fan. My first proper Battlefield experience began with Battlefield 3 in 2013, and I’ve played every Battlefield since then. I’ve noticed that antisocial behaviours weren’t really a problem in the Halo days. Trolling was definitely a present even back then, people rarely perpetrated disinhibited behaviours that we see today. For instance, the worst trolling I saw in the Halo days were players teabagging one another in matches, or people begging for Unusual hats in Team Fortress 2.

  • It was only with Battlefield V where I really began noticing hate speech, harassment, griefing and other unsportsmanlike behaviours. The uptick in antisocial behaviour coincides with the rise of in-game microtransactions and the battle royale genre’s popularity; younger players have gotten into their heads that one’s appearance in-game is directly correlated to their social status in real life, and are willing to use any method necessary to win in a given match so that others can remember who they are. Moreover, said players have taken to bullying players running “lesser” cosmetics, with hostilities spilling over to real life.

  • Video games are intended to be fun experiences that, at best, help players work on visual-spatial reasoning abilities, split-second decision-making and resource management, but recent trends have turned games into a demoralising experience and meme factories. Games like Fortnite thus become a pain to play, and multiplayer shooters with more conventional game-modes are no better, with people spewing insults and memes into the chat whenever they’re called out for unsportsmanlike behaviour. This is what made Battlefield V particularly unenjoyable for me, even more so than DICE’s constant messing with the game’s mechanics.

  • It is not particularly meaningful to have shouting matches with people who likely don’t contribute any taxes to their nation, so after Battlefield V ended, I began playing single player games exclusively. The resulting change in my well-being was profound: I became much more relaxed, and gaming returned to being a hobby I could unwind to. Single player modes further have the advantage of being titles that I can play at my own pace. If, mid-match, I need to go tend to something, I can pause the game and resume later without penalty.

  • The real joy of games is being able to immerse oneself in a different world, and enjoy things at one’s own pace, so moving forwards, I imagine that how single-player friendly a given game is will greatly impact whether or not I am likely to pick it up. Here, I’ve decided to open a match on one of the Miami maps and have loaded out the Stoner 63 LMG to look like a futuristic weapon. As it turns out, Infinite Warfare also has offline bots, and I’ve recently been getting back into that, as well: released in 2016, Infinite Warfare‘s requirements aren’t steep at all, and the game handles very smoothly.

  • I imagine that the multiplayer scene of Infinite Warfare is likely to either be depopulated, or else infested with cheaters, making it unplayable. Even though this is probably the case, because Infinite Warfare has AI bots, I am able to create a match and play against bots that are moderately challenging (and therefore, fun to fight). The shooting mechanics of Infinite Warfare are not as visceral or polished as those of Cold War, but they remain solid overall: in conjunction with the fact that the maps and weapons look rather cool, I am finding myself having a great deal of fun in a game I was otherwise only going to get twelve hours out of.

  • In this way, Infinite Warfare shows how AI bots dramatically improves the longevity of a game. Another title that did something similar is Star Wars: Battlefront II. While the original launch was plagued by lootboxes and a poor progression system, towards the end of Battlefront II‘s lifecycle, DICE added Instant Action to the game. Battlefront II thus went from being an unplayable disaster (compounded by try-hard players who already have all the best upgrades) to being an open Star Wars sandbox that allows players to kit their character out however they’d like and immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe without aggressively competitive players ruining the atmosphere.

  • These bot modes are excellent because they allow for players to enjoy an element that is often forgotten when competitiveness takes over: the game’s aesthetics and atmosphere. While I might’ve had the time to improve my skill in competitive multiplayer games ten, even five years ago, other obligations now mean that it is no longer feasible for me to do so. I don’t wish to spend hours every week trying to keep up with players half my age when there are bills to pay, and in the time that I do have, I’d much rather have fun. This is why Battlefield 2042‘s upcoming Portal mode is so interesting; if there is a full-fledged AI bots mode and all weapons, attachments and gear are unlocked for experimentation, this mode will allow me to explore Battlefield 2042‘s sandbox capabilities in a way that previous titles had not accommodated.

  • I’ve heard that today is National Video Games day, and I intend to capitalise on this by playing games in the manner of my choosing: in a private space away from all of those who believe that cosmetics equates to skill. DOOM Eternal‘s The Ancient Gods looks a good place to begin, and having just finished a delicious dim sum lunch, the afternoon is open to me. Since I’m not honour-bound to squad up in a game where the goal is to win and show off a crude victory dance, there’ll be time to iron a few things, read a few more chapters of Harukana Receive, and then make my way into The Ancient Gods, all at my own pace.

The idea that Battlefield 2042 might permit a fully-featured AI bots mode might very well be a reality: DICE has indeed announced the presence of something known as Battlefield Portal, which allows players to create their own game modes, utilising weapons and vehicles from different eras. It will be possible to pit 50 Tiger Is against a single platoon of M1A2s, or run a hundred soldiers with defibrillators versus a hundred soldiers with knives. Battlefield Portal is billed as the ultimate sandbox mode, a place where players can try out exotic and unique setups before publishing them to the community, and this means that for players seeking a single-player option against AI bots, Battlefield Portal might just be the answer. Being able to create an offline match with AI bots means being able to play Battlefield 2042 even if the servers are offline, and more importantly, being able to play in peace if one wanted to try driving a tank or messing with unusual weapon setups. Bots provide players with a highly cathartic and relaxing experience. They don’t insult the player, have no qualms with one quitting as a result of real-world obligations or become idle at inopportune moments. Games with bots remain highly playable long after the community has moved on to the next best thing, allowing a game to continue offering replay value well after its prime, and this gives the game value. In a case where Call of Duty holds the edge over Battlefield games, Black Ops: Cold War, Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered all have bot modes. Similarly, Battlefront 2 features Instant Action, an offline bots-only mode. These modes offer me amusement, an experience that can’t be had when I’m playing against try-hards half my age who have more free time than responsibilities; video games are about having fun, first and foremost, and I play to immerse myself in different worlds, not to elevate my blood pressure because some kids decided they’d spend the entire match spamming the chat with frog memes and insulting everyone who isn’t camping. I do see myself continuing to drop into Black Ops: Cold War bot matches because it’s amusing, and if Battlefield 2042 is offering full-fledged AI bots in Portal (which, on top of the game’s base maps, will also feature iconic maps from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3), this gives me plenty of things to be excited about. Being able to play Battlefield at my own pace, away from the try-hards and cheaters, would be a breath of fresh air and a return to the age in gaming where the object was to have a good time.

Halo 4: Spartan Ops, A Reflection On Part Two

“Spartans, looks like there’s one more quick job before you get to come home.” –Sarah Palmer

After being captured by Jul’Mdama’s forces, Fireteam Crimson manages to escape and seize a Phantom, using it to infiltrate Covenant operations and search for another Spartan team, encountering a Harvester machine. Crimson quickly discovers that the Covenant managed to acquire UNSC HAVOK missiles and begin launching an assault on the UNSC Infinity. After clearing the lower decks of Covenant, the AI Roland reboots the Infinity’s systems and secure the engine room, deactivating the nuclear warheads in the process. Dr. Halsey is captured, and Crimson is first sent to close the portal system. Crimson learn that Jul’Mdama’s forces managed to salvage a Pelican and had been using it to listen in on UNSC communications. After the Pelican is destroyed, the UNSC test their ability to read a Forerunner map with an operation, and prepare an operation to recover Halsey before the Covenant can learn anything of value. However, despite being unable to locate Halsey, Crimson determine that the Covenant have been using another Forerunner artifact to anchor the Infinity to Requiem; Jul’Mdama orders Requiem’s self-destruct to activate, but once the UNSC determine that the artifact is controlled by several anchors, they destroy this, allowing the Infinity to leave Requiem moments before Requiem’s collision with its star causes a supernova. Halsey, meanwhile, agrees to help Jul’Mdama’s Covenant. This is where Spartan Ops‘ second part ends, and the story is continued in Halo: Escalation, which covers the events between Halo 4 and Halo 5. Spartan Ops ultimately ends up being a loosely-written campaign that bridges the gap between the two Halo games, expanding the lore of Halo while simultaneously providing more for players to do outside of the campaign and multiplayer. On the whole, Spartan Ops is a reasonably enjoyable, if time-consuming experience.

More so than the first half, Spartan Ops‘ second half strikes a wonderful balance between gameplay and humour: firefights are punctuated by the hilarious exchanges between Spartan Miller and the UNSC’s internal AI, Roland. Halo had remained very serious and focused throughout its campaign, and humour has never really been what I’ve known Halo for. However, with Roland’s wit and enjoyment to show off his capabilities, his dialogue with Spartan Miller adds a considerable amount of light-hearted banter into otherwise serious communications chatter. This gives the Halo universe a new dimensionality; marking the first time that players can openly laugh about something while fighting off Covenant and Promethean forces, the humour in the second partof Spartan Ops was meant to show that humanity has now reached a point where there are things to laugh at again. While the Covenant and Forerunner forces remain a threat, that humour is present suggests that humanity is capable of holding their own, and that dealing with superior forces has become enough of a routine such that we can laugh at unrelated things during combat with said forces. The end result is that the second half of Spartan Ops, while ending with a much grimmer outcome, comes across as being very similar to Portal 2 in style, striking that balance between light-hearted comedy and events that have a much larger implication on events in future games, creating intrigue for what was to come. Of course, Halo 5 proved to be a disappointment in its story, but having what was essentially a second campaign in Halo 4 to set the stage did represent a bold new idea at the time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For the second half of Spartan Ops, I largely ran with dexterity and shielding, plus the jet pack: suicide plasma grunts are always a challenge to deal with, but the bonus shielding conferred by this setup meant that I was able to often survive such suicide attacks with still ten percent of my shields remaining, allowing me to remain in the fight longer. Of course, being stuck by a plasma grenade is still instant death, but I found that overall, improved survivability made a great deal of difference in many solo firefights. The jet pack simply makes it easier to get places more quickly, and I find it an indispensable armour ability that made missions much easier.

  • In the absence of a Spartan Laser, rocket launcher, Incineration Cannon or Fuel Rod Gun, Hunters can be a nightmare to take out. Spartan Ops does not provide dedicated heavy weapons when Hunters are encountered in pairs, and my usual strategy is to get close and attack its unarmoured back until it goes down. I’ve found that the energy sword can actually work well against Hunters; a single lunge will bring one down very quickly. Similarly, using the Scattershot on a Hunter is also quite effective if one can hit the exposed orange areas.

  • The episode to clear Covenant off the UNSC Infinity was easily my absolute favourite of the Spartan Ops assignments, feeling like a mix between Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2‘s first missions. Fighting through the hangars and corridors of the Infinity, backed by UNSC marines and soldiers was great, and UNSC weapons were always plentiful. For Spartan Ops, I run what’s called the “n00b combo”: the battle rifle is my primary weapon, and I equip the plasma pistol as my secondary. Most enemies can be felled by a three-round burst, while Elites and Knights die after hitting them with the plasma pistol’s overcharge and then following up with a headshot.

  • The plasma pistol is probably the most valuable of the sidearms in Halo 4: while the weapon is the weakest weapon in the game on a per-shot basis, the fact that its overcharge can completely strip away shields and even stop vehicles briefly makes it incredibly valuable. In a pinch, the battle rifle-plasma pistol is enough to get one through almost any situation in Halo. In a standout episode, the most exceptional chapter comes when Fireteam Crimson must sweep the engine room for nukes: while the Covenant are using cloaking devices to conceal them, once Roland figures things out, they’re conveniently marked on one’s HUD for deactivation.

  • The cavernous space is very conducive towards sniping, and there’s a rack of sniper rifles close to the Infinity’s central reactor. In practise, while the sniper rifles are excellent weapons, there’s hardly any chance to snipe in Spartan Ops, so having the space and positioning to do so here was a welcome experience. The UNSC sniper rifle remains my favourite of the sniper rifles: it has the greatest capacity of the long range weapons and allows for making follow-up shots. The Binary Rifle, the Promethean equivalent, hits the hardest per shot and vapourises enemies on a kill, but is balanced by a low capacity and rate of fire.

  • Ever since Halo 3 brought back the single Needler, being able to pump enemies full of needles for that super-combine explosion is once again a reality. The Needler has limited homing capability and is surprisingly effective against Elites: the needles seem to ignore shielding. To offset its power, Needlers wielded by enemy forces can also super-combine: rushing carelessly into a firefight and being hit with seven needles will be enough to instantly kill players. While quite unrelated, here, I note that today marks the one year anniversary to the day that Toukairin was banned from AnimeSuki – his political commentary ventured into the realm of extremism and drowned out more moderate perspectives. I took no joy in orchestrating his ban; it was an unfortunate but necessary action, and if given a choice, I wouldn’t do it again.

  • The consolation was that after Toukairin was banned, political discussions became more civil and less frequent, less likely to agree with radical standpoints; the AnimeSuki community has become better for this, which is a win in my books. Back in Spartan Ops, after bringing the Infinity’s guns back online, players can watch as a Covenant cruiser explodes from sustained fire: it’s great to see that the UNSC can now fight Covenant ships head-on, and this was something about Halo 4 I’ve long been fond of – when Halo began its journey, humanity had been on the back-foot. Lore told a one-sided story where humanity often needed to fall upon exotic strategies or employ an entire fleet’s resources to beat back a single Covenant cruiser, and even then, at a heavy cost to themselves. By the events of Halo 4, however, considerable advances have allowed humanity to put up a considerable fight in fleet combat.

  • I continued pushing the fight against the Covenant: having run dry on my battle rifle, I’ve swapped over to the Covenant Carbine, which, while lacking the same damage per shot as the DMR, makes up for it by being exceptionally accurate. I generally prefer the battle rifle for ranges where the Carbine is effective, though: despite being quite accurate, I’ve found that the three-round burst on the BR is generally more consistent. Of course, these are merely my preferences, and different players find success with different setups.

  • Here, I managed to board a Wraith: Wraiths are occasionally seen in Spartan Ops, and while it appears that they can only be destroyed (boarding to kill the pilot causes the entire thing to explode and be rendered unusable), it turns out that the best way to commandeer one is to immoblise it using a plasma pistol, and then kill the gunner. This causes the driver to get out, leaving the Wraith free for players. In possession of a Wraith and its plasma mortar, everything up to and including other Wraiths can be easily destroyed. During co-op, things get even better, as one player can operate the plasma turret while the other drives: when my friend and I figured this out, we likened it to stealing a Gundam, turning the Wraith’s firepower against the Covenant to great effect.

  • While I’ve devised a strategy against Watchers since starting Spartan Ops, this doesn’t make them any less bothersome to deal with. Spartan Ops spawns entire flocks of them, and while individually weak, Watchers are able to move in erratic ways that allow them to dodge gunfire. They’re surprisingly durable and take a few bursts from the battle rifle to silence, as well: coupled with the fact they can fly off to regenerate, and even a group of five Watchers becomes a serious threat. I found that getting up close and personal with automatic weapons tended to work best.

  • On my own, having a Scorpion Tank meant being able to use the 90 mm cannon to devastate enemy forces. With a friend playing alongside me, it means either being able to have a gunner in an anti-personnel role or fulfill this role myself. However, when Spartan Ops gives us two tanks to work with, it means being able to absolutely demolish whatever challenges stood in our path: sustained fire from Scorpions is enough to bring down the Phantoms, and speaking to how long I’ve been around Halo for, I remember a time when Phantoms were simply vehicles that showed up during scripted events.

  • If it were not apparent, the co-op aspect of Spartan Ops was one I enjoyed greatly. My friend and I are rocking older computers without microphones, but even without voice communications, we were perfectly in sync: his DMR and assault rifle loadout complemented my battle rifle and plasma pistol loadout, and we generally had no trouble clearing out areas that had individually taken us longer. Having said this, that Spartan Ops can be completed solo attests to the fact that Halo 4 allows players to play in the manner of their choosing.

  • This, coupled with the loadouts and armour customisation options available in Halo 4, makes the game a textbook example of what video games in general should be like. Many games today place an undue emphasis on lootboxes at the expense of gameplay, hoping to make a quick buck, but back in the Halo days, Bungie placed a particular emphasis on world-building and immersion. I’ve always held the belief that if a game developer needed microtransactions to sustain themselves, then their games were never worth playing to begin with: a good game will compel players to successfully recommend that their friends pick the game up for themselves, and this is what Halo did.

  • Having spent most of my youth playing Halo with friends at LAN party, it speaks volumes to the series’ staying power that I picked up The Master Chief Collection as soon as it became available. To be honest, The Master Chief is easily worth 160 CAD, and the fact we got all six Halo titles for a mere 50 CAD is nothing short of excellent value. Beyond having some of the most consistent and balanced gameplay mechanics, The Master Chief Collection also properly demonstrates how to handle cosmetics in a video game.

  • For instance, here, I’m rocking a golden assault rifle, and for good measure, I’ve also got the gold skins for my magnum, battle rifle, DMR, plasma pistol, the Storm Rifle, Covenant Carbine, Light Rifle, Boltshot and Suppressor. These skins are unlocked simply by playing the game and completing weekly assignments, which yield experience points and season points that are used to unlock various cosmetics, from weapon skins to armour variations. All of this stuff is earned without any trouble, and never impacts gameplay: players rocking the basic recruit armour and weapon skins are just as effective as the blinged-out players with a Mjolnir helmet that resembles the RX-0 Unicorn’s head.

  • I’ve been running a golden gun in my games simply for the cool factor, and here, fight my way to the top of Lockout in order to unlock a map for analysis. A combination of Covenant Elites and Promethean Knights were my enemy, but since there was a stockpile of Scattershots here, I capitalised on their presence to great effect, vapourising Elites and Knights alike while waiting for the map to fully activate. The lighting in Halo 4 is interesting, and there have been cases where the bloom has been overwhelming, especially with the golden gun skins.

  • Liches make a return in Spartan Ops, but unlike their fearsome reputation in lore, can easily be destroyed by boarding and destroying or removing their power supply. The final set of missions in Spartan Ops involves calling out a Lich and stealing its power supply for the derelict Harvester, which had been disabled a few episodes earlier. The verdant vegetation and azure skies of Apex made it one of my favourite of the maps in Spartan Ops‘ second half.

  • Having a Mantis against the Prometheans turned an annoying enemy into something that was completely fun to play: as soon as one boards the Mantis, hordes of Watchers and Prowlers swarm the player, but armed with the Mantis and its high RPM cannon, Watchers are swatted out of the sky without effort. It was an excellent choice on 343 Industries’ part, to give players a chance to finally take it out on the Watchers. The goal here is to destroy several power supplies, which force the doors to the next area to open, and one of the things I did notice in Spartan Ops‘ second half was that sometimes, the waypoints for these generators did not line up exactly, making them hard to find. Fortunately, they’re visually distinct, so for scenarios where following waypoints didn’t work, it was a matter of finding these floating spheres.

  • The last mission in Spartan Ops involves reactivating the Covenant Harvester to punch a hole into a cavern where a Forerunner artifact is held. Countless Prometheans are here, but now, experience allowed me to make short work of them, and in the process, I found that the Promethean Scattershot is actually a superbly enjoyable weapon to use in very specific scenarios (at extreme close range, when all of the beams connect): if one can get behind a Hunter and hit the vulnerable areas with all of the beams, the Hunter will be vapourised. After deactivating the Forerunner artifact, it’s time to beat a hasty exit, fight through a group of elites, and wrap up this last mission. With this done, I’ve totally finished Spartan Ops: I’ll also be looking to write about my experiences as a Blood Elf warlock in World of Warcraft and a solid mod for Left 4 Dead 2 that made things even more amusing than I’d thought possible.

  • Beyond this, I am looking to venture back into Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in the very near future to pick up a journey I’d put on hold since 2013. I’m also considering picking up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered. My decision to do so will be determined largely by how much progress I make through Skyrim Finally, with most of my winter anime done, the only series I have left to write about is World Witches Take Off!. I’m still finalising the list of anime I’ll be watching over the spring season. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and Super Cub are high on my list, and Hige wo Soru. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru Churutto! and Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou are also of note, so I’ll be checking those out to see where they go. This list is subject to changing, but three series and one short seems pretty reasonable for my current schedule.

With full-fledged cut-scenes and visuals, plus unique voice acting, Spartan Ops ultimately proved to be a tricky thing for 343 Industries to continue implementing: Spartan Ops had been a full-fledged campaign in its own right, and 343 Industries only ever released one full season, choosing to instead focus development on Halo 5 rather than expanding these side-stories further. However, even though only one season was produced, it added nearly ten extra hours of content to Halo 4‘s single player and co-op experience, and this was furthered by the fact that I did go through the Spartan Ops missions twice: once on my own, and once with a friend. In the latter, missions that had given me some trouble became much easier to handle. Between the two of us, we could carry different weapons for handling combat at different ranges, and we could cover one another. Having an extra player meant being able to fill the gunner seat of a vehicle, allowing vehicles to provide anti-personnel functions more effectively. Altogether, while Spartan Ops has its limitations (most notably, overwhelming enemy numbers and segments that require waiting, both of which pad out game time), the overall gameplay never grew stale, and there was always a fun opportunity to fight both Covenant and Promethean enemies across a wide range of locales. While Requiem’s rocky deserts were recycled, other locations (Lockup, Apex and Warrens) proved immensely fun to fight through: some maps may have been adapted from multiplayer maps, but many were purpose-made for Spartan Ops, possessing vivid details and rich skyboxes that make them distinct, unique locations. This experience was greatly augmented by the fact that I was able to co-op with a friend, and some of the biggest highlights include using a pair of Mantises to crush Covenant forces, rolling on enemy positions with twice the firepower thanks to having two Scorpions, saving one another from certain doom during firefights, and my personal favourite, hijacking Wraiths from the Covenant to grant ourselves additional firepower on missions that called for it.

Halo 4: Spartan Ops, A Reflection On Part One

“Spartan Sarah Palmer, Infinity Commander to all Navy, Army, and Marine forces, you can relax. The Spartans are here.” –Sarah Palmer

After Master Chief defeats the Didact, the UNSC Infinity is deployed to Requiem again to mop up remaining Covenant and Promethean forces. This sets in motion the events that would become known as the Second Battle of Requiem. The Infinity smashes through a Covenant armada and lands on the surface to begin a land invasion. Fireteam Crimson secures a landing zone and heads off to disable Requiem’s teleportation grid, allowing the UNSC to begin deploying power stations and laboratories for science teams. Covenant forces begin hassling the science teams, and once the UNSC learn that the Sangheili Parg Vol was responsible, send Fireteam Crimson to assassinate him. By this point in time, the Covenant manage to access Requiem’s teleportation grid, and Covenant Fleet Master Jul’Mdama arrives to oversee operations. While unable to kill Jul’Mdama, the UNCS manage to acquire a Forerunner artefact known as the Didact’s Gift, which revealed that Prometheans were synthesised from human memories. Fireteam Crimson manages to shut down the teleportation grid and defends the extraction team who’ve come to retrieve the remaining scientists. After reaching a cache of UNSC equipment, Fireteam Crimson fends off the Covenant and secures the gear before being deployed for another location, but are shot down. Spartan Ops‘ first season draws to a close here, depicting the events following Halo 4‘s campaign and providing an expanded insight into the lore of Halo while simultaneously allowing players justification to continue blowing up Covenant and Prometheans alike outside of the campaign and multiplayer modes.

Because Spartan Ops is a different game mode, it handles like a cross between Halo 4‘s campaign and multiplayer: there are objectives to complete, but players are given a lot more freedom in how they can go about completing them thanks to the availability of loadouts. Being relatively new to loadouts, I found that being able to create weapon and equipment configurations for a range of scenarios added a considerable amount of depth to Halo 4, allowing me to choose weapons, perks and armour abilities to best fit a given scenario. Different loadouts are therefore valuable: I might need something for dealing with swarms of prowlers one mission, and then return to fighting Covenant forces in the next, so being able to swiftly adapt made this a fun experience. My experiences in going through missions was largely pleasant, and while perhaps facing more enemies than I’d seen in the campaign, I was still able to complete the first season solo: despite being intended for groups, seeing that Spartan Ops could be done without a squad shows that the challenge within the mode is still fair. It helps that one has unlimited lives, and that the mode features persistence (if one neutralised five enemies in a group of ten and then died, upon respawn, there’d only be five enemies left in that group). The only real strike I have against Spartan Ops is the repetitive maps, which use a combination of recycled campaign and multiplayer levels, but this is a very minor gripe, and I am finding the mode to hold my interest in Halo, for the days where I’m inclined to shoot stuff without being in a campaign mission.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To my surprise, Spartan Ops required that halo 4‘s multiplayer be installed. In retrospect, this makes sense, since Spartan Ops makes use of multiplayer maps and assets. The first few missions were straightforward, being set on the desert maps that the Reclaimer mission took place on, and while not conducive for the best screenshots, gave me a chance to familiarise myself with the setup. Unlike campaign missions, there’s a bit more freedom in Spartan Ops and players occasionally have access to vehicles, which changes the way the game is played.

  • The biggest importance of setting up a good collection of loadouts becomes obvious. Halo 4 does not allow players to spawn with any of the power weapons, and while some missions will provide weapon drops to help players out, having options is always important: I typically find that against Covenant, starting with the Battle Rifle and pistol is a good choice: Covenant forces also drop the Storm Rifle, which is a solid automatic weapon for cutting up Elites. Conversely, against Prometheans, the assault rifle is how I prefer to play: the Watchers are perhaps the single most irritating enemy in the whole of Halo, and a good automatic weapon is needed to fend them off.

  • Of course, when the moment calls for it, Spartan Ops is very generous with weapon drops: during one of the earlier missions, I was given an endless supply of Spartan Lasers to clear the skies of Phantoms. Having now used the Spartan Laser, I find it to be my preferred anti-vehicular weapon owing to its power and lack of travel time: the Spartan Laser will instantly destroy any Ghost or Banshee in one shot, can take down a Wraith in one shot to the rear, and a few shots will be enough to bring down even Phantoms, although it’s usually not a good idea to expend the Spartan Laser on these aerial vehicles.

  • Conversely, the M41 SPNKR rocket launcher is rendered obsolete in an anti-vehicular role – its 102 mm rockets, while powerful and capable of dealing an impressive amount of splash damage, have a slower travel time and cannot reliably track vehicles as its Halo 2 incarnation could. I prefer using it against large groups of infantry and Hunters. With this being said, at close ranges, the rocket launcher is more forgiving than the Spartan Laser, since one can quickly follow up with a second shot if needed.

  • For my preferred loadout against the Covenant, I originally took a battle rifle and pistol with cloak, faster shield recharge and dexterity. Eventually, I transitioned over to the jetpack for the ability to reach places more quickly. Having a battle rifle as my starting weapon generally gave me a decent all-around survivability on maps with Covenant forces: Grunts and Jackals both fall quickly to well-placed headshots from the battle rifle, and the weapon can deal with Elites in a reasonably effective manner, as well.

  • However, on maps with Promethean enemies, the battle rifle did feel considerably less effective: against Crawlers and Knights, the battle rifle fares well enough. However, the Watchers were a constant source of frustration – before I could land the finishing blow with the battle rifle, they’d hover away into cover, regenerate and come out good as new. Against Prometheans, I typically run with an assault rifle or suppressor simply because their high rate of fire makes it much easier to deal with these airborne threats more readily, while at once remaining useful against both Crawlers and Knights.

  • While I found some of the maps a tad repetitive in Spartan Ops, Two Giants was always a source of enjoyment: this canyon is home to two spires that act as communication beacons, and is supposed to be a remake of Halo 3‘s Valhalla, itself an update to Halo 2‘s Coagulation maps. With its blue skies, evergreen trees and green grass, Two Giants was easily my favourite of the Spartan Ops maps,

  • Initially, I ran with the M6H pistol – Halo 4‘s pistol retains the stopping power of its Halo Reach counterpart, but allows players to melee, switch weapons and throw grenades faster than if another weapon were equipped. As a secondary weapon, it is a decent all-around weapon, acting like a pocket-sized DMR in practise in that it is great for picking off Grunts, Jackals and Crawlers with ease.

  • Spartan Ops‘ story was meant to be a continuation of the story in Halo 4 and introduces the AI Roland, who has a central role in Halo 5. While the lore covered by Spartan Ops was enjoyable, the main draw behind Spartan Ops for me was the Firefight-like gameplay where I’d be pitted against a large number of enemies to fight. Firefight is a very enjoyable mode for me all around, providing a sandbox-like space for me to square off against foes. I’ve come to greatly enjoy sandbox-style modes in games of late, since they allow me to play at my own pace. This stands in stark contrast with PvP multiplayer games, which are comparatively stressful.

  • Ever since support for Battlefield V ended last June, I’ve not done competitive PvP multiplayer: as much fun as it was, there was also a frustration component brought on by the fact that my reflexes are not what they were back in my Halo 2, or even Battlefield 3 days: revisiting older articles here and on my old website, I’ve done things that certainly feel unfeasible now in multiplayer games, whether it’s getting a Killimanjaro on Lockout or going on Combat Efficiency streaks in Battlefield 3. My favourite recent achievements in Battlefield include abusing the Ilya-Muromets to score Killionaire in Battlefield 1, and going on a 34-streak with the Ka-Mi in Battlefield V.

  • Cheating continues to be a problem in multiplayer games: I’ve heard that Call of Duty: Warzone is rife with cheaters, and Battlefield V certainly had a cheating problem. This is the primary reason why I’ve pulled back from PvP multiplayer games of late; while they can be very enjoyable and give rise to emergent moments that can only happen in the chaos of online gaming, the prevalence of cheating means that this experience is greatly degraded. Halo‘s multiplayer has a different problem: controllers are given aim assist and bullet magnetism to offset their reduced precision, but bad choices on 343 Industries’ part means that the aim assist and bullet magnetism handles more like an aimbot.

  • Consequently, while having a great deal of fun in Halo 2: Anniversary‘s multiplayer, I’ve not really gone back into the Halo multiplayer experience as I imagined that I would: there is a gap between playing players who are legitimately skilled, and playing those who are using hardware the game mechanics favour. I’ve always been a firm believer in a fair, honourable fight in games: given a set of constraints and rules, those who have the skill and knowledge should generally hold out alright. As such, when this skill piece goes out the window, a game is no longer properly fun.

  • This is why the single-player experience is so important for me: in an environment where it’s just me and the game mechanics, my skills are properly tested. Spartan Ops, despite being more challenging to solo, remains fun precisely because even if the deck is stacked against the player (especially through armadas of Watchers and Knights capable of teleporting at will), the game doesn’t actively punish players for dying. As a result, while I’ve had very rough matches in Spartan Ops, none of them were ever rage-inducing because I knew I’d be able to come back and whittle away at my foes.

  • One of my best friends had the tenacity to solo Spartan Ops on legendary, and for this effort, was met with a special achievement. The most challenging traits of Halo are brought out on this difficulty, and I remember sharing several lengthy conversations about the idea of balance in Spartan Ops: my friend is even more of a Halo fan than I am, having gone through all of the campaign missions on legendary solo. With this level of experience, I have no trouble taking their word that Spartan Ops does have mechanics that are, compared to Halo 4‘s campaigns, make things more difficult (e.g. Elites and Knights seem tougher to kill in Spartan Ops than in the campaign).

  • Having said this, the foes in Spartan Ops are AI enemies with a finite set of behaviours, and that means over time, it’s possible to learn them well enough to have a suitable response. In my case, I found the Watchers to be the most problematic, so equipping an automatic weapon and fighting them up close gave me a fighting chance. This sort of thing is why PvE will never be as frustrating as PvP: in the former, I can response to any mission giving me trouble by taking a break and re-attempting later.

  • There had been such a mission in Spartan Ops that required me to defend a pair of relays from a Promethean onslaught, and while it was challenging, I managed to succeed with some perseverance. Patience and knowledge are key in PvE modes, making them suited for folks such as myself. While as a student, I possessed the time and reflexes to improve in multiplayer games, a combination of shifting priorities and slowing reflexes means that I have a decreasing inclination to play such games. Conversely, games that allow me to explore and progress at my own pace remain highly engaging for me.

  • Having now completed the first season of Spartan Ops, the aforementioned friend has expressed interest in running through all of the missions co-op: I immediately see the enjoyment in doing this, since it would mean we now have four different weapons between the two of us, allowing for a greater versatility in different combat scenarios. During February, the two of us had revisited Halo 4‘s campaign together and blasted through areas of the game that took me longer to individually complete: it was immensely valuable to have a gunner while I was driving, and my CQC style complimented their sniping perfectly.

  • I would expect that in a co-op scenario, we’d probably equip a setup that allows us to be a bit more specialised for our preferred ranges, and this could prove remarkably entertaining. At some point in the near future, I would also like to recount our Halo 4 co-op experience: while the two of us had been familiar enough with the other Halo games so that teaming up made things somewhat easier, in Halo 4, playing co-op was dramatically different to the point where we’d actually completed missions in under the par time.

  • For Spartan Ops, I ended up using the power weapons like the sniper rifles and rail guns for handling Elite and Knights. While I originally was quite conservative with ammunition, it turns out that so as long as one doesn’t drop their weapon, they can continuously top off at resupply stations, and as such, I was able to deal with threats a lot more quickly. Having vehicles around on a mission also helps, although one should be mindful that if they should ever die, their dropped weapons will de-spawn very quickly, leaving one at a disadvantage. It is for this reason that I tend to save the power weapons for moments that really call for it, lest I lose them at critical moment.

  • My favourite moment in Spartan Ops‘ first season was the final mission to the fifth chapter, during which an entire armada of Hunters are deployed against Fireteam Crimson. While this sounds daunting, the UNCS also calls in a supply drop that provides a nearly endless supply of Spartan Lasers. On standard difficulty, one shot from the Spartan Laser will kill a Hunter, and even the Wraiths that the Covenant deploy become reduced to smoking piles of rubble on short order. Spartan Lasers had been comparatively rare in Halo 3 and even Halo: Reach, so I relish the chance to use them. With the first season now in the books, I get to turn my attention towards Spartan Ops‘ second season, and also look towards finishing off the last of the Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns.

Spartan Ops, when it was first announced, represented an exciting new direction for Halo 4: it would add cooperative missions in which Fireteam Crimson, a squad of Spartan IVs, are sent to Requiem to handle the aftermath of Halo 4‘s events. Here, players get to participate in a Firefight-style battle, except each chapter is driven by a story and has objectives to complete. The missions were evidently designed for the co-op experience, and while only adding tangentially to the lore in Halo, allows players a chance to blast Covenant and Prometheans alike in the manner of their choosing: players do have access to their loadouts for Spartan Ops. Altogether, while perhaps not technically impressive, Spartan Ops ends up being a fun excuse to shoot things in environments beyond what was seen in the Halo 4 campaign with a bunch of friends. Levels are objective based, but in practise, things end up more like Firefight in that one has to contend with waves of enemies. I found that missions were geared towards full squads and do not scale for solo players: the sheer number of enemies one must deal with were far greater than anything I had seen in the campaign, and besting missions required a combination of patience, reflexes and map knowledge. Altogether, Spartan Ops represents a fun addition to Halo 4 that provides players with another option (in addition to the enjoyable campaign and expansive multiplayer), one which is especially nice to have for days where one just feels like fighting Covenant and Prometheans.