This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Halo: Reach.
This might sound a bit weird, but hurdy gurdy bobbily boo.
This also might sound a bit weird, but the thing that bothered me most about Halo: Reach was that no one ever wore seatbelts. It started early on when I was wondering why the standard video game aircraft have to keep the side doors wide open all the time, when you think a military vehicle should be designed to protect its occupants from enemy fire, when someone perched themselves loosely along the side and the thing took off before he could strap himself in, the camera presumably cutting away moments before the guy got hurled off and landed in somebody's hedge. And after that I couldn't stop noticing it. There were several moments when people were standing or sitting on the end of the open ramp at the back of a large transport as it took off, staring meaningfully at the retreating scenery and apparently having nailed their feet to the floor. This is the kind of bullshit that really takes me out of the story. I could barely enjoy the horrible plot, clichéd characters, and repetitive gameplay.
So rend your Master Chief t-shirt and sob wetly into your limited-edition Cortana wank rags, Halo fans, because Halo: Reach is the last Halo game. You'll just have to console yourself with Halo 1, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo Wars, the toys, the comics, the expanded universe novels, the colouring book, and the his and hers matching beach towels, most of which you will apparently need to have gone through to understand what the fuck's going on in this game.
I do respect Bungie for so firmly drawing a line under their popular series, which sits just above "refuse a second helping of pancakes" on the list of things George Lucas will never do. But anyone who thinks this is the last we'll see of Halo clearly has no ambitions of joining the Microsoft game division strategic planning department. I'm sure they'll be stashing this particular elderly corpse in the crawlspace and cashing its pension checks long after Bungie have tottled off to make their long-awaited sequel to Oni.
So Halo: Reach is a prequel installment depicting the beginning of the Human-Covenant war, and as such should be virtually impossible to spoil, because whenever Reach gets brought up in the other games and media and everything, it's referred to as a place where a whole lot of shit got fucked up. And everyone in this prequel seems to be fully aware of their ultimately doomed status, too. No one's particularly surprised when the Covenant do show up (with, incidentally, all human characters immediately being totally familiar with the operation of Covenant weapons and vehicles - you'd almost think they've just built the engine of this game off a previous one or something), and the story is focused on a small commando unit whose members spend the entire game having a prolonged "Who can have the noblest death?" competition.
Oh, come on, this isn't a spoiler. They wouldn't characterize this many NPCs if they weren't gonna pick them off like After Eight mints. The very first image in the game is a brief flash-forward depicting your helmet lying discarded in the dust of battle-scarred terrain. What the fuck do you think happens in the end? Your character thrillingly and climatically gets a little bit hot?
Halo and I haven't always seen eye-to-visor, me having in the past called it a boring, repetitive shooter with an impenetrable plot and a fanbase consisting of cunts who have survived so many cunt filtration attempts that they have evolved to a state of hypothetical meta-cunt. But I feel suddenly inclined to be charitable towards Halo: Reach, because it's the first shooter I've played in quite a long time that doesn't have cover-based combat and iron sights aiming, the two faces of the giant scrotum monster that has settled on mainstream gaming like a deflated hot air balloon.
So I was ready to meet Halo: Reach halfway, but you have to give a little for this relationship to work, Halo! For a game that styles itself "combat evolved," you seem to have done very little of the second word since 2001. Same weapons, same enemies, same beach level, same grass level, same alien spaceship level, same horrible habit of suddenly insta-killing you every now and again, like when you have to reload and a bloke with an energy sword runs up and hacks off your courageously outward-thrust nipples or when a fireball from an artillery unit drops out of the sky and flattens you because you'd dropped into cover for three-quarters of a second to have a little cry.
Having said that, there is some variety, but it comes and goes faster than an erection in a Bangkok strip joint. I'd heard there was some spaceship combat, which I was looking forward to because the endangered genre of spaceship combat is my personal equivalent of the giant panda. But it consists of one measly token dogfight with a single enemy fleet, and then it's back on the ground in boring old gravity again. Well, that's not strictly true. There's also a bit later on where you can hop around in a jetpack. But again it's over before your brain can get as far as the second "o" in "ooh, this is fun."
The jetpack is part of a new system where you can swap out the sprint function in your armour for other abilities, usually a shield that means you can't move or attack while it's on, so it's about as much use as a cheeseburger at a fashion model convention. And if you've removed your sprint function, that just makes you doubly fucked when the energy sword nipple fiend is on the prowl.
"But isn't there multiplayer as well?" Shut up! Mouth shut now! We've been over this. A full-price game has to stand up on single-player, because there are always factors in the way of multiplayer the game can't help, like its servers becoming tumbleweed-haunted ghost towns three months down the line or the aforementioned meta-cunts doing what they do best at full volume in my ear.
But the thing is, Halo: Reach sort of does stand up on its single-player. It's not within spunking distance of "classic" territory, but there's nothing particularly offensive about it and at least makes an effort. I was actually somewhat impressed by the game's ending, just because it's a neat little example of gameplay and story mixing. You hold out as long as you can against the horde, but it's abundantly clear that it's only a matter of time before you have to take home the coveted first prize in the "Who can have the noblest death?" competition.
I guess what whether Halo: Reach is worth the price depends wholly on your level of disposable income. For example, if you have willingly parted with money for PlayStation Move, then feel free to go nuts, because apparently you already have done.
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say Halo: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
So the squad was called Noble Team, and they all die noble deaths. Holy shit, I just got that
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