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'Halo 4' community playlist, new Spartan Ops and new Specializations are live

Screenshots from Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 6.
Screenshots from Halo 4 Spartan Ops Episode 6.
343 Industries, Microsoft Game Studios

"Halo 4" received its first significant update of 2013 on Monday with a new multiplayer playlist, a new episode of Spartan Ops plus two specializations unlocked for everyone.

The "Community Forge Test" playlist is now live with six new maps created by "Halo 4" community members in Forge and selected by 343 Industries. All six maps - Despair, Garrotte, Relay, Scythe, Shutout and Simplex - are small to medium-sized creations for 4 vs 4 combat in Infinity Slayer, Capture the Flag, SWAT and King of the Hill.

Please note the "Test" qualifier in the playlist's name as this is 343 Industries' way of working out any bugs or issues with the maps before possibly adding them to regular multiplayer playlists. A Halo Waypoint forum thread for each map will be created for feedback as well as a bug reporting thread. Update: Here are the forum threads for each map - Despair, Garrotte, Relay, Scythe, Shutout and Simplex.

Those waiting for the final five episodes to Spartan Ops will finally get their wish with the launch of Episode 6. The latest episode brings five more missions that pick up with the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 5 before the series took a break. 343 Industries is promising more variety in locations and missions with the final five episodes including the likelihood that the setting will move off of Requiem.

Expect a hefty 2.21 GB download from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Spartan Ops Episodes 6-10 before you can start playing.

Monday's update also finally unlocks two more armor Specializations for everyone that has reached Service Rank 50. These were previously only available to those that received unlock codes for playing "Halo 4" early.

Pioneer: Spartan optimization for deployment into uncharted, hostile territory (such as uncolonized worlds or Forerunner constructs like Requiem) for the purpose of gathering and relaying information. The Fast Track armor mod allows Spartans to gain more experiential data from each encounter, effectively ranking up more quickly during the process.

Pathfinder: Spartan optimization for deep, unconventional deployment within unknown enemy territory and with little to no assistance from command. The Gunner armor mod decreases the time of weapon overheat when occupying a vehicle weapon position, and increases Spartan speed while carrying a detached turret.

Two more Specializations will be unlocked next Monday with he final two unlocking for everyone on Feb. 4.

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