Alright, so we’re on Deep Space 9 and we’ve gotta link up with Sisko so we can take down the Covenant.
But first, some repetitive exposition:
If I were to create a drinking game wherein I took a shot every time someone explains that the Halo array will kill everything in the galaxy, I would be incapable of writing this right now because my liver would have failed at this point. I just can’t shake the sense that the game is somehow talking down to me by constantly reminding me what the Halos are supposed to do. We know what they are supposed to do. The Halos are the central threat of this entire series, and it’s not a particularly complex threat: the rings were made to kill the Flood, but they’ll kill all of us too. That’s it. This is not a nuanced political drama where we need to pay very close attention to follow the plot. It’s an action/adventure story in space where we shoot things to save the day. Star Wars is basically the same in principle, and we only needed to be shown the threat from the Death Star once. After that the characters and the audience totally understood what they had to do and just went out there and did it.
But I guess they’re just trying to re-affirm our purpose in the game, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea at all. If we don’t have a clear vision of what we’re doing then we lose interest, so I’m pretty sure they’re just trying to keep the player focused on a central goal, which is fine. I just wish they’d done it in a way that wasn’t so obtuse.
Anyway, we move on a bit and OH LOOK WHO IT IS.
I am ever so shocked and surprised that the Flood have tracked me literally outside of our own galaxy.
Now, I know the Flood are pretty the main antagonists of this series. I know it would be kind of terrible to not include them at all in the closing stages of this game and seeing as how the Flood have a very vested interest in how this whole Halo thing turns out it does make some sense but just… these guys are like Wesley Crusher. Serious stuff is going on and then they come out of nowhere, act annoying, and ruin everything. Haven’t played Halo 4 yet but I can only hope the Flood don’t grow up like Wil Wheaton.
This is the kind of thing that you just never say outside of a game. Ultimately the only thing that makes this seem even remotely acceptable is because Pope-related stupidity already reached its zenith in Assassin’s Creed 2.
While of course I can understand why the Flood might want to play nice with us for a bit seeing as how they are on the brink of extinction (and so are we) I just don’t really see how this could possibly be a sound strategic move. I mean, are the Flood really going to go out of their way to kill us instead of the Covenant that are actively trying to exterminate them? No? Then why is an alliance necessary? We tried this in the last game and when the Flood got what they wanted THEY TRIED TO MURDER US. So wouldn’t this be a very ill-advised plan of action to then do the exact same thing? Oh right, sorry, I forgot, Chief is an idiot who has no forward-thinking ability whatsoever, his thought process consisting entirely of “do whatever people tell me to, run forward, shoot things”. Maybe that really is the default attitude of a SPARTAN but it doesn’t make a very good protagonist.
But fine, whatever, we’ll work with Little Shop of Horrors again, but this is approaching Mass Effect 2 levels of rail-roading bullcrap.
So we go to put a but to the ass (or alien equivalent) of the Prophet of Truth, but before we get there he captures Black R. Lee Ermey. Luckily Commander Keyes is there to launch an ill-advised and ultimately fruitless rescue operation and only succeeds in getting herself surrounded after wrecking her only source of transport. With no way out, she concludes that the only way to stop the Covenant from firing the rings is to kill both herself and Johnson.
And here we hit the same problem that I mentioned near the end of Halo 2: WHY ARE THE HUMANS THE ONLY ONES THAT CAN ACTIVATE THE RINGS? That is never, ever explained in any way at any point in the games, and here this bit of obviously important but completely neglected bit of information is going to result in the death of two major characters.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most stupefying failures of storytelling I’ve ever seen. When you kill off major characters you have to have a better reason than “no reason at all”.
So when I come out of the small seizure that bit of idiocy gave me, Keyes is pointing a gun at Johnson but before she can pull the trigger she gets impaled from behind (not a euphemism) and dies, leaving the Covenant free to force Johnson to push a button, thus dooming us all. But wait, here comes the second, much more effective cavalry.
Chief, remembering that the Halo array has a takesies-backsies policy when it comes to activation, rides in, kills everybody, and slaps the button again, thus saving the day. Ignoring the fact that this is still kinda dumb, I’m wondering why Johnson, who was unobstructed as soon as we showed up, couldn’t have just pushed the button again himself. He was literally sitting right next to it. Oh, but I guess that would mean somebody besides Master Chief got to bask in the glory, huh? Well, we can’t have that.
But wait, there’s more!
(Ben Stein voice) What an unexpected and totally original twist (/Ben Stein voice).
This is why we can’t have nice things, Chief.
I guess the upside is that Truth got Flood-ed in a somewhat poetically just death, seeing as how he left his last Prophet buddy to get killed by them in the last game.
So with the Flood on the loose again it looks like we need a way to stop them, meaning its time for our old friend Contrived Plot Convenience to make an appearance.
The Ark, much like the other Halo rings we’ve been to, appears to be completely devoid of any kind of life. I haven’t even seen a Monitor for the Ark like there were for the other rings, so there is quite literally nothing here that could have been constructing this. Is the Ark automated to construct (and presumably somehow transport) replacement rings in the event of one’s destruction? How? How fast do they work? Where are they? This really, really contrived blow could be softened a lot just by having a character say “The Ark must have an automated assembly area designed to maintain the network” or something like that. That’s literally all it would take, is one line of dialogue to acknowledge this in some way. But instead I guess it’s just space magic.
At any rate, Chief makes the decision to activate this particular Halo in order to eliminate the Flood threat. This is a good plan, as the ring is outside of our Galaxy and wouldn’t be able to reach and destroy life in populated areas. Of course, that’s entirely dependent on this ring not yet having been synced to the rest of the Halo network, which I don’t think we have a way of knowing. If it is, then we wouldn’t be able to activate it individually and we’d be out of luck again. But then we couldn’t have a plot device to get rid of the Flood here so I guess it has to work.
Before we do that, though, we need to go get Cortana off of the recently-arrived High Charity because… I dunno, friendship or implied creepy romance or something.
So we get there and the place has at this point been under Flood control for quite a while. They’ve done some re-decorating.
Everything is coated in a weird, organic-looking orange goop. It’s not only not very pretty to look at but makes this already strangely laid-out environment even more difficult to navigate because everything looks the same. I think there was a real chance here to drive home the nature of the Flood again by making the ship look similar enough to what it did before but just changed and wrong enough to really emphasize the way the Flood corrupt everything they touch. That would have been a really cool artistic note, but instead the ship is totally unrecognizable from what is was before so the weight of that reality is lost and it really reminds me more of the Inside of Jabu Jabu’s Belly level from Ocarina of Time.
Hey, it even has the obnoxious pseudo-love interest chick inside it, too. It’s practically a dead ringer.
And on one more aesthetic note:
Remember, this place is supposed to be spoOoOoky, so here’s some skeletal remains lying out in the open to remind you. Feeling scared yet? You should because, y’know… bones.
Anyway, we finally find Cortana and after a slightly awkward reconnecting (not a euphemi- actually, maybe it is) she gives us the Index for the Halo ring from the first game.
This thing hasn’t been talked about since the original Halo, and now it’s apparently the thing that’s going to save our lives. The problem I have with this particular Chekov’s Gun, though, is that I’m pretty sure the firing pin is broken.
See, in the original game (and its sequel) the Indexes are shown to be actual, physical objects. They are real keys that need to be held, plugged in, and turned in order to be used. They are not software. Yet apparently Cortana has one. As software. Because narrative consistency doesn’t mean jack sh*t to the people who wrote this game. First Cortana is software, then she’s treated like hardware. The index was hardware, and now it’s treated like software. YOU PEOPLE WORK IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT. YOU SHOULD REALLY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
But whatever, the last hour has been such a charlie foxtrot of nonsense that I’m almost incapable of anything more than a shake of the head at this point so I grab Cortana and get out of there, but not before setting the vessel’s engines to overload because that’s apparently the only way to destroy anything of reasonable size in this game universe. Or at least I’m assuming it is because this is something like the third or fourth time I’ve done this.
I think that’ll have to do it for now. Next time we’ll put this thing to bed and I can finally see a doctor about this concussion I’ve received from pounding my head against this series’ impenetrable plot.