Saturday, May 25, 2013

my thoughts on halo

I've come to realize I pretty much said all I really wanted to on assassins creed, there's a bit more I could add but not a lot and if I tried to write the whole thing out like I had planned on I would just be forcing myself to just to fight the idea of a "review" and if I'm having that much trouble writing it, then it's not going to be that interesting to read. so once again the format is changing to just my general thoughts on a game/franchise. so today I bring you my thoughts on Halo.

I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, and I've only played the first three games (which in my opinion don't have much you even could spoil as story isn't the priority of this series)  however in order to illustrate my point a few small bits from the first three games (as well as lore I've simply heard) will likely make it through.

in the past I've been really tough on Halo, I usually justify it by saying that it doesn't have a story, or characters, but I tend to be harder on halo then I do those other games, and after listening to miracle of sounds "reclaimer" a few times I started to think about why.  and in the end I think it comes down to one thing. the shallow games I give a pass to have story and characters that do just what their meant to, provide the most basic context for what your doing and why. Halo does just a little more, not a lot more, but just enough to gain a glimpse of the potential it had.

so lets start with the hero himself, the Master chief. as he is in the games he's pretty much a textbook empowerment fantasy, non-offensive in his portrayal but shockingly one dimensional.  however there are a few things that stick out, for one he's incredibly wreckless, carrying a bomb into space and possibly the most wreckless move of all jumping from a spaceship to a planet, something which resulted in him being unable to move till a group of marines were fortunate enough to find him and had to be retconned in the novels and comics to add him using a piece of metal to act as a shield for re-entry.  yeah it's probably best not to read too much into that aspect but it still makes an interesting contrast to how many of the soldiers see him as a symbol of hope in a loosing war (and that bit has more or less been there since the early moments of the first game). and though I'm not sure if this is ever stated in the games after Halo 3 but supposedly he was kidnapped as a child to be raised in the spartan program that gave him his special training and forced him to accept his cybernetic enhancements. 

backing away from the chief himself, and taking a look at the humans in the game. they have a branch of their military that is formed from kidnapped children, this doesn't seem to be the type of world that worships the military enough to let it get away with that (though they are very militaristic), to me that would indicate it's either a very secret or the war is getting that desperate, and people are willing to look the other way and chalk it up as a "necessary evil".  and from what's seen in the game I think I think it's more the later then the former.  there's other evidence to support the idea that the war is a desperate, the second game opens up with what appears to be an invasion of earth, it starts in orbit before finally being brought down to the surface, and despite what the chief himself is able to do the overall impression is that the covenant are pushing through.  then it's revealed that the covenant weren't expecting any humans to be there.  then to cap it all off the military gives permission to one of it's ships to 'jump" despite the fact that it's hovering over a city and it's heavily implied that this jump will result in the destruction of the city.  there's a lot more including ones that show that the soldiers have started seeing the chief as some sort of symbol of hope.

last but not least is the lore of the Halo universe.  the human-covenant war isn't the only conflict in the series there are two more factions, the flood, and forerunner tech.  the flood is presented as part disease part zombie as they are nearly impossible to destroy, as they can grow from tiny spores and then they take over the bodies of other species (living or dead) in order to spread and attack, and long ago a race called the forerunners fought the flood and grew so desperate that they decided the only way to eliminate them was to build a series of rings to eliminate all life in the galaxy and then re-seed the galaxy.  the forerunner rings are still active and they have several machines that attempt to run the extinction process again once it's discovered the flood are active again.  and these machines mistake humans has for the forerunners, even giving the chief the title of reclaimer while prompting him to activate the rings. the covenant also worship the forerunner tech and believe it will lead them to salvation.

admittedly none of that stuff on it's own is particularly compelling and I did do some reaching for the chief himself.  but what you should keep in mind is that all of this is presented within the series and even though the interesting bits are given so little time their done in a way that shows someone thought about how all this stuff would co-exist and interweave, but not enough time is spent on them for the audience to get how these things work, they are briefly shown the shoved aside for more shooting aliens.  and that is what I feel is the true problem of Halo, not that it doesn't have a story but that some one began crafting a great story for it but it was shoved to the side for more shooting.

ultimately Halo had great potential to be a great sci-fi game, Instead it became an action game, were the setting was barely used and seemed only their to provide the most basic context for you actions.  It is that failure to live up to it's potential that caused me to be so hard on Halo, and why I remain so tough on it today.