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Say what you will about 343 Industries' (343i) and their work on Halo 4, there is one thing that even the most hardcore gamers cannot deny or take away from 343i, and that is their amazing revitalization of the derelict game mode firefight, from Halo: Reach, into the captivating episodic campaign, Spartan Ops - with stunning graphics and visual effects that are so realistic that you couldn't be blamed for thinking it was actually live action!
What I am about to say next will probably be considered blasphemous by some of the more passionate fans. But, for those who were there from the beginning of Halo 4's production, long before its dramatic and visually captivating adverts hit TV screens everywhere, you might remember 343i's announcement that there would no longer be any Firefight game mode in the following Halo titles. It brought shock and anger to a vast number of fans, causing some fans to even threaten to quit - though the actual number of people who kept to this conviction is unknown. However, I personally believe that this is one of the best and most crucial decisions made by 343i for Halo 4's success. Shock and horror, I know ...
In Halo: Reach I actually found firefight extremely boring, and redundant. The gameplay was repetitive and hardly a challenge for a well rehearsed player who was seasoned in the art of conservative playing. I was often left in sore moods when I would find out that an entire day's challenges were firefight challenges alone - as I detested playing the game mode. 343i's removal of Firefight allowed them to revitalize the boring linear gameplay into a graphically stunning miniseries with it's own captivating story-line vital for the transition between Halo 4 and Halo 5, which still maintained some of the more enjoyable features of Firefight, including the co-operative gameplay so many thrived on.
A lot of Halo fans were clearly upset by the ending of Halo 4, not only because of the heart wrenching loss of one of Halo's most critical and cherished characters, Cortana, but because the end was so abrupt with no room for fans to anticipate about what would happen in Halo 5 - the enjoyable part of having to wait between titles. Spartan Ops is the clear answer to this conundrum. The reason why there was no cliff hanger at the end of Halo 4's storyline is because it's not complete. Halo 4's campaign continues, kept alive by weekly installments of Spartan Ops; and for those who have yet to see the climatic ending of season one, I urge you to go watch it now as it will leave you yearning for more!
But by far, the most exciting and farfetched aspect of Spartan Ops is that it's the first of its kind in such a big gaming franchise, and has so much room to expand and improve when guided by the right hands. It's definitely a game changer for FPS gaming, and possibly for the gaming industry all together! Halo 4 has set the standard with Spartan Ops, giving fans a new way to experience Halo's vast and intricate universe. I have high hopes for Spartan Ops, and I think that competing franchises are now going to have to put a lot more effort into their next generation of games to catch up with the amount of effort 343 Industries has put into blowing their fans away with Halo 4. Developers who think they can carry on with creating the same linear campaigns with recycled gameplay are going to struggle in this rapidly evolving industry.
We may have discrepancies with some of 343i's decisions, but we cannot deny that as developers, they have put more thought into their fan base's wishes, and more heart into creating Halo 4! It's easier to point out a developer's flaws than admit their successes, especially when you expect them to live up to the same expectations as their predecessors, Bungie.