Late to the Party: Halo 2 (Part II)

While there are most definitely times where having a larger-than-life hero jump into the middle of a fray guns akimbo can be all kinds of cool (case in point: Hard Boiled) on the whole I think dual-wielding is incredibly stupid. Ask anybody who’s ever spent any time at all around firearms and they’ll tell you that dual-wielding is about the dumbest possible thing you can do with your weapons. The human eye can really only focus on one point in space so you’re only ever going to be able to shoot at one thing at a time, and if you’re doing that then why not just use a two-handed grip that allows for more precise aim and recoil control? And then what if you want to reload? And this is just in regard to handguns. It reaches a whole new level of stupid when you start talking about doing this with weapons that absolutely require two hands to be used effectively and have automatic fire capability. It’s just not practical and usually just makes you look like a mall ninja at best and a hyped-up adolescent who likes to say “badass” a lot at worst. Good camera work and setup can make a dual-wielding scenario look fun and impressive but in a game where you’re a rather bland character who’s really just a camera attached to a gun in a structured military setting it just feels flat and kind of silly. You need to go way over the top and have some good visual tricks up your sleeve to make me accept dual wielding. Max Payne 3 can do it, but Halo 2 can’t.

I stumbled across the pistol shortly afterwards however, which made me feel better.

The fact that it appears to have been debuffed to have the approximate killing power of a fluffy kitten, however, is less than nice.

For whatever reason, a lot of sound guys in the game industry have really latched onto one particular sound effect for machine gun fire. It wouldn’t normally be something you’d notice except that this sound effect is so unbelievably quiet compared to what a real machine gun sounds like. Fire off a burst from one of the turrets during this sequence and you’ll see what I mean: the sound is roughly equivalent to that of the action cycling on a belt-fed machine gun, only without the actual blast of the ammo being fired. Listen for it and you’ll hear this sound effect being used all over the place, in strange contrast to the over-dramatizing trend of using shotgun blasts to stand in for pistol shots.

Once again, a ludicrous level of ego stroking for the player. You’re a gigantic super-soldier, you’re the savior of humanity, you wield automatic weapons in each hand, the soldiers under you lavish praise on you (“Sir, you are awesome” is more or less a direct quote) and now the female characters can’t even talk to you in a voice that isn’t dripping with suggestive inflection and kind of uncomfortable sexual overtones. Let’s ignore the fact that women do indeed play games and this ego-stroking would be kind of insulting and uncomfortable for them and just focus on the more immediate implications: as far as I’m concerned I’m no longer playing a space adventure story but Halo has basically become a masturbatory juvenile power fantasy at this point.

I really am pretty upset that the game opened with such incredibly promising characterization for otherwise bland antagonists and then proceeds to give us… this. I have no idea how these two tones can possibly exist within the same game.

But once again, the game attempts to distract me with shiny things. Because my hopes of having a developed narrative were pretty much dashed at this point I had to take what I could get and at right then, that was jet packs.

Alright, so you never actually get to use one of the jet packs. It’s probably for the best, though: if the previous game is any indication all I would have seen for miles around were repeating tiles of corridors and implausible arena-rooms.

As I soon found out, though, you apparently don’t need a jet pack in this game because Master Chief is already flight-capable, needing only a gentle tap of the A button to send him rocketing towards the heavens.

A lot of games these days don’t allow you to jump, instead eternally gluing you to chest-high walls and linear corridors which, when confronted with the element of vertical movement, would result in the breakdown of your rigidly-defined play experience. Granted, Halo 2 isn’t a whole lot different since all they did was make all the walls a lot higher (though I still regularly hit my head on the ceiling when jumping which I find somewhat hilarious) but sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss a simple activity like being able to jump.

At this point I was crawling around on the outside of the station (which apparently still has gravity) and was legitimately about 20-30 feet away from a ridiculously huge rail gun seemingly designed to destroy capital ships. Firing some kind of small arms weapon is loud and can kick pretty good. Firing even a basic civil-war era artillery piece is louder and needs to be locked down before firing. Larger modern guns are cacophonous and are on record as having killed with concussive force alone. Now imagine standing at the base of what is probably the largest single weapon ever made by man. Seeing as how we’re somehow not actually in the vacuum of space at this point (being as that we’re not floating away and can hear things) Master Chief should probably be deaf and possibly dead from being this close to a weapon discharge of that magnitude.

Yes, I’m nitpicking but this still seemed like a monumentally bad place to be standing.

So the whole reason I’ve been traversing the outside of Big Bertha is I need to get to the hangar bays where our friends the Covenant have left us a giant bomb. Unfortunately, it’s in the wrong color so I have to take it back to them and ask for a refund. But when I get there I find that the bomb is only about 40% bomb and 60% morning star. This thing had more spikes on it than a seismograph reading from Krypton. An abundance of small, sharp objects are common in smaller, usually home-made anti-personnel explosives in order to create a more devastating “shredding” effect is common enough but putting them on an explosive device meant to destroy vessels or structures is a colossal waste of time. They’ll be vaporized instantly as the size of the explosive is so great that it doesn’t send objects flying outward but really just removes things from existence. This is the kind of thing you’d see in a fantasy story, just to make the bomb look scary. It’d also make it difficult as hell to handle as the team is trying to deploy it in a combat situation.

My previous tweet was meant as a joke but of course the first thing Master Chief does with the spike-bomb is pick it up, jump into space, and practically throw it at the Covenant ship that delivered it. I half-expected him to just swing the thing like a spiked club and destroy the ship that way. It probably wouldn’t have been any more ridiculous than what we saw, anyway. I kinda felt like the whole sequence was designed just so Master Chief could give an over-dramatic one-liner (actually, I think his only lines of dialogue in this game are all over-dramatic one-liners). To top that off, Black R. Lee Ermey quips that he flies pretty good “for a brick”, which was probably meant to reference Chief’s armor but I chose to interpret as a concise summary of his personality.

Next time: Take earth back.

And if I ever use that painfully forced and mediocre tagline again I want one of you to shoot me.

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