So after meeting up with roughly 1/4 of the crew of Serenity I apparently got a little bit too excited:
I really don’t know what to tell you guys here. I mean, I jumped on top of this tank, I started melee attacking it and it exploded. I guess there’s a mechanic where as part of the “punch out the driver and hijack the vehicle” sequence you can press the B button and shove a grenade down his throat. Normally that’d be the end of this little mystery if it hadn’t been for two things: 1.) I did not have any grenades left and 2.) I did not press B. We already established in the first game that Master Chief’s fists need to be registered with the ATF, and county officials need to be notified whenever he moves, but… goddamn man, this is just crazy. I’ve played multiple multiplayer matches where my best weapon was my own right hook, but it feels like your overpowered melee is less of a mechanic and more of a narrative recurring joke at this point. Or at least that’s how I choose to interpret it.
During this part of the game you’re on a Kenyan highway advancing towards your next objective. There’s actually a lot of problems with this entire setup because it’s shrouded in so much vagary that not only am I not sure what I’m doing, but I seriously doubt that the characters in the game have any idea what they’re doing either. As near as I can tell the situation is thus: the Covenant have discovered an ancient Forerunner artifact buried under the surface of the Earth somewhere here in Africa. It seems that neither we nor the Covenant are entirely sure what this artifact is or what it does. However, with basically no evidence whatsoever, UNSC high command tells us to assume that this artifact is the Ark, mentioned briefly at the end of the last game as the thing that now is the only way to activate the Halo array: the Covenant want to do that, and we want to stop them, so we’re both trying to find it first.
My problem here is that there’s not really any evidence suggesting to anyone that this thing is the Ark, apart from the fact that it’s a Forerunner construct (which if previous experience tells us anything is practically everywhere). Everyone just plays off the assumption that it is indeed this Ark, and after a little while they abandon the “let’s just assume” facade and start directly referring to it as the Ark. I mean… are they reading the script? Do they know they’re in a fictional narrative? Because they’re operating on the assumption that this discovery is what they’re looking for because that would be the kind of coincidental event that would happen in a dramatic story. I mean, they do eventually turn that idea on its head because we later discover that this device isn’t the Ark at all but then that really just makes everybody in the UNSC look like idiots. It’s all kind of strange and confusing but I appear to have gotten sidetracked. My original point was this:
There are a lot of Brutes on this highway and they are hard to kill.
Cortana has been popping in and out of your subconscious every now and again in what I think is a really terrible attempt to provide dramatic monologue and foreshadowing. It’s all been disruptive and a little odd so far, but now it’s gotten downright unsettling. She suddenly starts talking like a fantasy villain on a power trip, claiming how she’s defied gods and demons, and that’s basically a direct quote. I keep talking about how I haven’t trusted Cortana since the end of the first game and everything I’ve seen since has only solidified that opinion. If I hadn’t had meta-knowledge that Halo 4 was a kind of creepy love story about Cortana and the Chief then I think I would have assumed that Cortana was going to end up being the end boss for this game. I’m almost positive this wasn’t what Bungie intended its audience to think and feel but… damn guys, I don’t know what you wanted me to think, then. You painted one of your most prominent characters as a dangerously unstable villain. That’s on you.
Yes, on the one hand this is outrageously absurd; while I think certain teams with the US Army and USMC do actually use off-road motorcycles in operations, this is mostly for their ability to quickly traverse mountainous terrain in places like Afghanistan. In reality, firing any kind of rocket launcher from a vehicle like this would be unstable and incredibly dangerous. You hit a bump: you fire the rocket into the ground or into the driver’s head. You fire at too steep an angle: the backblast probably isn’t gonna do anything nice to your rear tires or your stability. You wanna reload: have fun handling a 102mm explosive projectile at 60 mph while perched on the back of a dune buggy. It’s just all kinds of dumb and impractical.
But on the other hand it’s totally f*cking awesome. I don’t know why I was able to shut my brain down more easily during this sequence as opposed to some of the equally absurd ones that came before and I haven’t cut as much slack, but this was a pretty well put-together encounter. You’re in a somewhat open but still enclosed arena with various hills, dips, and jumps to navigate the ATV through all while maneuvering for a shot on one of those Scarab walking tank things as it stomps around trying to either blow you up or crush you to death. I had fun here, even if it did require me to shut off the part of my brain that regulates slack-jawed drooling.
One would think that in an arena this size I’d have plenty of places to go to avoid getting caught in the blast of an exploding vehicle. But apparently I have a death wish, so it was not to be.
So we blow up the Scarab and proceed on down the highway where we need to dispatch a large Covenant anti-air battery which is preventing our ships from moving in and engaging the Covenant forces that are digging down toward the Forerunner artifact. I’d like to point out here that the way they are going about this digging is by blasting the planet’s surface with laser beams. I’m no expert or anything but I’m pretty sure this is a big no-no when it comes to preserving the archaeological record.
But anyway we shut down the gun, allowing UNSC ships to fly in low and start shooting, doing an even worse job of protecting this undoubtedly valuable piece of history. As the main guns start landing hits on the artifact, it suddenly springs to life and creates some kind of rift/portal thing that the Covenant ships all harmlessly fly into, but inexplicably leaves our ships hopelessly adrift (as to how they’re “drifting” in an atmospheric environment I have no clue but oh well). So either the Prophet of Truth was just sitting around waiting for the most dramatically appropriate time to activate this portal or the artifact was somehow keyed to respond to Earth-based explosive projectile weaponry. I’m unsure which of these two options makes the least sense, but at the time I was actually somewhat busier contemplating what this thing was exactly if it wasn’t the Ark as everyone had previously assumed. Was this a portal to the Ark? If so, what was it doing on Earth? Was it the only one, or are there others? If there are, then wouldn’t the Covenant have used one of those instead of trying to uncover this one in the midst of a military invasion? How did nobody notice multi-kilometer wide construct sitting below one of the most populous cities on the planet? Sure it was deep down there and all, but surely we had to construct subterranean facilities for water, power, and transportation that would likely have been preceded by ground-penetrating radar scans or something of the sort to ensure the ground underneath was viable for construction, right?
But as confusing as all this is it is quickly overtaken by a new but oh so familiar feeling: anger.
Because remember: we can’t have a single plot-relevant event happen without the Flood showing up and seeing if they can play too. They’re like that annoying kid from middle school who always tries to tag along and can’t take the hint that he smells weird and tends to horribly mutilate everyone he comes into contact with, assimilating them into his creepy bacterial mind-cult bent on universal domination.
Really though, the way they keep showing up at horrible times is kind of like an inverse Deus Ex Machina: they come out of nowhere but only ever make things worse.
And as if I didn’t already hate these guys enough, then they do something unforgivable:
THEY HAVEN’T FINISHED FILMING DR. HORRIBLE 2 YET AND IF CASTLE GOES OFF THE AIR THERE’S NOTHING ELSE I CAN WATCH MOLLY QUINN IN.
I went to a very dark place at this point in the game. Tears were shed, curses were screamed, and a desperate perusal of Twitter was enacted to ensure the Captain was still making Game of Thrones jokes with his followers. You do not mess with a beloved nerd icon and just expect to have that go unanswered.
Somebody get me a shotgun: it’s on.