Halo: The Director’s Cut
Tonight, Maynard came over and we started and finished Halo 3. Scrapping the shrinkwrap to disk ejection took about 5 and a half hours, which is, honestly, pretty fucking shitty for a game that costs sixty-five bucks.
So, I had a crazy sense of deja vu kick in about halfway through the game: I think I’ve played this game before. And the further we got, the more solid the feeling got. Then, when we hit the level where the little floating robot eye that we trusted went crazy and attacked us with a beam laser, I realized, “oh, I have played this game before, only it was called Halo I at the time.”
The game really should have been called Halo: The Director’s Cut. The missions were very polished, but they were the same as in the original Halo: here is the mission where we try to get to the top of the tower in the snow. Here is the mission where we go through the jungle. Here is the mission where we try to get to the bottom of the Halo. Here is the mission where we fight the little robot guy. Here is the mission where we escape the exploding Halo on the warthog.
Now, the Halo series has always been the “short bus” of first person shooters. It’s so pathetically simple and every mission is the same: go from point A to point B, and kill everything in between. There are no secrets. There is never a boss monster that requires a specific weapon. You never have to remember a door code. It’s not complicated – the total opposite of Bioshock or System Shock 2. If you get lost, just go in the direction that there are guys to kill.
This is, in many ways, a strength: if this is what you expect, excellent! It’s brainless fun, and we had fun doing the brainless bits.
But they totally fuck this up by introducing this sort of “psychic” element where the bad guy (or the good gal, depending) STOPS the action and speaks into your head directly. And the worst part is, the dialog is soooooo bad. Just plain hideous. Like, you’re going to rescue a crazy artificial intelligence that you’re in love with, and she keeps beaming thoughts into your head:
I am love! I am death! There is nothing!
That’s the type of wanna-be gothic dialog we’re talking about. Stuff that sounds mysterious and cool to thirteen year olds but is, in reality, trite.
The first third(?) half(?) of the game takes place on Earth, but that’s really irrelevant. After that, we do some warp thing to a Halo object, and do the Halo-pokie and turn ourselves around. Maynard asked me at one point, “how do you know where you need to go?” and I responded, “I’ve played these maps before.”
Because they were the exact same fucking maps as the ones in Halo I. Some new spit and polish, but the same maps. Same missions! However, here’s where the “Director’s Cut” comes in: it is more streamlined. And if I had never played the original game, I would have thought it excellent.
But I have played Halo I.
The worst sin – and I mean, the absolute worst – is the last level.
In the original Halo, the final mission is this: you set a self-destruct mechanism on the Halo. And then you have to drive this crazy jeep-like vehicle (that handles like jellied shit) through a nightmarish landscape of explodo-tron in order to reach a starship and escape.
In Halo 3, the final mission is this: you set a self-destruct mechanism on the Halo. And then you have to drive this crazy jeep-like vehicle (that handles like jellied shit) through a nightmarish landscape of explodo-tron in order to reach a starship and escape.
Here’s the differences between the two missions:
1) In Halo I, the landscape is green. In Halo 3, the landscape is orange.
2) Uh, that’s it.
And it’s a tedious, shitty level. It’s really a “death avoidance simulator.” Someone took Paperboy and applied a “space marine” skin to it. We must have restarted the level 40 times, because there’s no way to predict when things are going to fall out from beneath you until it happens. And then you have to remember, “oh, this tile falls,” and restart.
What is laughable about this is I read a couple articles written about the usability testing for the game. How they built these huge labs, and reworked levels when players got frustrated and wanted to quit, and how they had “eliminated tediousness.” My ass. The only reason we finished that level was because it was the last level, and we’d already committed to it.
And then you have to sit through twenty minutes of credits before they grant you the achievements.
Maynard had originally come over with the assumption that we were going to be playing the game until four or five am, crashing for a while, and then playing all day Sunday. I had expected at least nine hours of game play; Halo I and II were short, but I figured we’d get at least that.
WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG YOU STUPID PERSON. WRONG!
Five and a half hours. For sixty-five bucks, which is fifteen more Ducats than Bioshock, which ate up a good thirty hours (which was again fifteen bucks more expensive than System Shock II, which ate up about sixty hours).
Halo II was the best in the series. It, at least, had variety in story and gameplay. I wonder where that went? Sometimes you played the Arbiter, sometimes the Master Chief. There was a real story that was engaging: hey, the Covenant have a civil war going on. Neat.
Now, lest one thinks I utterly hated the game, I have to say that I actually didn’t. I enjoyed myself while I was playing it (except for the last mission). The game is beautiful, and my favorite thing is that it actually uses real, solid color: most games for the 360 use the same palette of 60,000 dingy greys and browns. So to see bright greens and blues and oranges and purples: awesomeness incarnate.
So, yeah. Rent it.