This review is written in memory of the brave men and women of UNSC marine squad Hacksaw, who boldly met their end this afternoon not far from Requiem landmark the Fortress, a giant pointless pile of silvery girders.
Gentlemen, ladies - I never had the chance to learn your names, but I can all too easily imagine your distress when I and my Spartan fellows came to your aid, waving Fuel Rod cannons around like those big foam hands you see at ice hockey matches. Spartans are capable of many things, but they are not capable of delicacy, and Fuel Rod cannons are capable of but the one thing, and that is blast radius. Still, at least we gave the Covenant what for, eh? Your deaths were almost certainly not in vain.
Halo 4's second Spartan Ops episode - also an on-disc affair, unless there's some extraordinarily well-hidden background downloading process I've missed - sees the crew of the UNSC Infinity contending with the effects of a mysterious Promethean artefact, lugged on-board so "the eggheads" can poke it with spanners. Well, that's what the cutscene at the beginning's about, anyway. The actual missions involves yet more trips to the surface of Requiem to attack dug-in Covenant and Promethean troops, push buttons, fight off waves of reinforcements and generally, you know, roll up any red triangles on the HUD.
It's a shame that we aren't given the opportunity to defend the Infinity itself against Promethean assault, but then again I spent most of last Wednesday complaining that I wanted to see more of Requiem, so I should probably count my blessings. The most exciting mission is the first, The Gate, which is odd given that it's also the smallest and buggiest - at one point, a Promethean unit somehow teleported beneath the map and we spent five minutes alternately carpet-bombing and teabagging an innocent boulder. The combined effect of two commandeer-able turrets, three routes through a low-lying rock formation and some canny spawning creates a frag-fest of pleasant intensity.
Pelican Down is less good, mainly because it's basically Sniper Alley from Episode 1 in reverse - you climb a hill against stiffening resistance, then push a load of buttons at the top of it to trigger a crescendo of high-ranking Elites and Hunters. The Gate is, in fact, the only new map introduced by Episode 2 - the others merely show you familiar assets from different angles, with slight variations in the form of unlockable areas. The repackaging is cunning enough to be forgivable, and there's some zesty audio banter 'twixt indefatigable ball-buster Commander Sarah Palmer and her underlings. But as with Episode 1, it's hard not to miss Firefight Mode, where repetition was the point rather than a byproduct of limited resources.
It's also a bit disappointing that there's no effort to make up for main story's shortage of vehicular action. Sure, you get to pilot the odd Ghost but they're never more than bonus extras, equivalent to swiping a heavy weapon for brief spot of marine murdering. Sorry, I meant "Covenant killing". There are only so many holes you can pick in free content, of course, but then again, Spartan Ops has been sold as an integral component of a full-priced shooter. And for all the lush introductory trappings, the missions ring a little hollow.
Episode 2 is available now via the Spartan Ops lobby screen in-game.
Another serviceable but unexciting combat tour