We’ve all been there. Three months after the release of our beloved game, we must then dig deep into our pockets and shell out $10 for our first piece of downloadable content. Over the past ten years or so, gamers have witnessed the rise of DLC and how lucrative it is for the video game industry. Now, I’m not going to get into this publisher mishandled this, or this developer lied about that. DLC is an integral part in shaping video games today. However, to say it has a set standard in terms of distribution and content would be inaccurate.
Very rarely do we get DLC that advances the game’s canon significantly. Even rarer is DLC worth playing that is free. Couple these two events together and you have 343 Industries’ Halo: Infinity. Halo: Infinity can be found under Halo 4’s Spartan Ops menu and is free to all Xbox Live Gold Subscribers. Clocking in at 10 episodes, 50 chapters in total, Spartan Ops makes a splash when it comes to extending your playtime in Halo’s universe.
Halo: Infinity takes place six months after the events of Halo 4 and do not include any playtime with Halo’s most recognizable protagonist, Master Chief. Instead, 343i relies heavily on transmedia material, specifically the novels, surrounding the Halo universe. While this may not sound great for a few, it is hugely rewarding to fans of the universe who set out to explore its characters and canon further than the games. I realize this is nothing new in the realm of different universes before video games, but this is however the first significant bridge connecting novels to video games. Spartan Ops doesn’t contain just a couple of hours of playtime and ten minutes of cinematics, then call it free DLC. It goes further, providing narratives, plots, and characters gamers aren’t usually accustomed to.
There are numerous examples as to why Spartan Ops is special. One of the best ones is its episodic structure. Gamers were treated to episodes every week, not including a mid-season break. These episodes had twists, action, and overall provide significant change to the universe. Fans of the Halo franchise cannot expect to have full knowledge of Halo’s universe going into Halo 5 without first playing Spartan Ops.
Each episode contains almost five minutes of cinematics and five chapters to play through. Each chapter’s playtime is extended on the level of difficulty and the amount of people you’re playing with, (four players max). The story is not presented entirely in cinematics, of course, as players get most of the canon by playing through each chapter. It should be said that Spartan Ops isn’t perfect. 343i could work on the variety of environments used within Spartan Ops. Still, gamers who share that view have little ground to stand on provided that Spartan Ops is not paid DLC. Others may argue that not a whole lot happens in each episode. Those who are bored during episodes is understandable, assuming that they are equally clueless of the backgrounds each character has in the novels.
While everything about Spartan Ops isn’t as perfect as it can be, it definitely paves the way for future DLC installments in Halo and other franchises. Developers and Publishers should take notice of the success Spartan Ops is earning. Some developers are already onto this. The closest franchises that produces DLC that advances canon would be Mass Effect. Of course, gamers would have to pay small amounts of money to get the full experience of the universe, however, gamers did not need to purchase the DLC to get a grasp on the happenings between installments.
DLC is evolving, and hopefully for the better. This evolution of downloadable content is one of the most exciting events to happen this generation. That said, I am incredibly excited for Spartan Ops Season 2.