Late to the Party: Halo (Part VI)

Alright, I’m back, and I think I’ve purged most of the hate from my system so let’s try this again.

When last we met, we discovered that Halo, when activated, will kill everyone in the universe in a seriously misguided attempt to control the Flood. When we get it through our helmet-covered skull that this would be a bad thing and refuse to activate the installation, 343 Guilty Spark goes nuts and tries to kill you, ignoring the fact that he apparently needs us to activate the ring, as he can’t do it on his own. Why he thinks destroying his only tool is a valid game plan I’ll never know, but he proceeds to call up a couple of floating laser turrets and you fight for a bit. Once that’s done with, Cortana puts together a new plan:

You see, the Covenant are still apparently rather intent on activating Halo (though whether they know this will kill everyone I’m still unsure) and since we obviously don’t want that to happen we need to destroy it. Now, I’ve been lead to believe that only humans can activate the rings (for some reason that isn’t told to us) so the Covenant wouldn’t really be able to do squat about this, and destroying 343 so he can’t try and trick any other humans into turning the thing on seems like a much simpler task than blowing up something as big as Halo. But I suppose the Flood are still here and we don’t want them getting out so okay, I’m more or less on board with this “destroy a Ringworld” idea. Besides:

343 has plot armor so he’s untouchable. Alright, let’s make a big explosion.

First off, we need to buy some time in case 343 finds somebody else to do his dirty work. Cortana points us to the location of some of Halo’s firing mechanisms which give it the range necessary to do its morbid task. Destroying these will “buy us time” as 343 will then need to repair them, but with most weapons destroying the firing mechanism pretty much makes it worthless so this seems a bit fishy but fine: maybe he’s just a really good mechanic or something. To get to these mechanisms, however, we need to commandeer and air vehicle which is… less than intuitive to fly.

The biggest problem with the Banshee is that while it is ostensibly a powered fighter-style aircraft it operates much more like a glider. Despite levitation technology being apparent and widely-used in the Halo universe, halting your forward trajectory in a Banshee causes it to gradually lose altitude, meaning that you have to keep constantly moving if you want to stay in the air. Even today’s helicopters have long had the ability to maintain altitude while stationary so I’m not sure why this thing can’t do it, but it makes flying around and attacking anything on the ground a somewhat tedious affair.

But soon enough we get to where we’re going and Cortana gives us the skinny on how we’re supposed to smash Halo’s firing pins, as it were.

While it’s true that backing up the exhaust system of a car is a good way to get it to stop running, a 90mm shaped charge will do the same thing with a lot more fanfare.

Sometimes I hate video games.

Unlike the Covenant, the Flood do actually power up the further along in the game you get, and while this is sometimes irritating I actually really appreciate it. The whole “game gets harder as you go on” thing isn’t just a staple of video games but of storytelling in general. While the Covenant just keep shooting you with plasma for the entire game, the Flood start out fast and strong then get guns, then bigger guns, then we fight different types, and now they’re using explosives. This ramps up the difficulty of combat as we approach the end and actually showcases the thematic idea of the Flood: they just keep getting bigger. They’re a parasitic entity that get more and more powerful the longer they’re allowed to run free, and here we actually see and encounter them getting more powerful as the game goes on. This not only adds to the drama as we near the climax, but shows the player that if left unchecked the Flood could seriously mess up the galaxy’s day.

I don’t appreciate taking a rocket to the face any more than the next guy, but I definitely appreciate thematic concepts being tied directly into gameplay. This was good.

More bitching about the Banshee. Nothing to see here, move it along.

I’m actually going to rescind this one. I was skeptical about Cortana being able to suddenly teleport you wherever you wanted to go, but really we’d already seen Guilty Spark do it and he was presumably just using Halo’s tech to do so. And since Cortana was plugged into Halo I guess it makes sense that she’d be able to do this. It just seemed like kind of a sudden plot device at the time, especially when your dropship was presumably still flying around out there somewhere.

But man do I love this. You see, teleportation in its most simplistic form would only change your position in space. What it would not affect is your orientation in space. While I’m not a physicist and therefore probably shouldn’t attempt to describe the exact principles of gravitation that make this so, the short version is that if you were to suddenly move to the exact opposite side of any circular/spherical object with gravity acting upon it then to your perception, the relative values of “up” and “down” would effectively be reversed. Again, I’m sure actual physicists are cringing at that description but that’s the incredibly dumbed-down, probably technically incorrect version.

At any rate, when Chief teleports to the other side of Halo, only his position has been altered, not his orientation: which means that he appears with his head to the ground and his feet to the sky, which results in some probably necessary comic relief. And for a game that is decidedly not rooted in hard sci-fi, this was a fun little treat.

The place you teleport to has been mostly taken over by Flood, and the surrounding environment is presumably supposed to reflect the grim, kind of slimy aspects of this enemy. What it really looks like is a Six Flags Halloween event.

I should probably mention what we’re doing here: see, we’ve already determined that we need to blow up Halo, and the way we’re going to do that is to overload the engines of the ship we came in on, detonating the drive core and tearing the ring apart. In order to do that, however, we need to get the ship’s codes from the Captain (though I’m dubious that Cortana wouldn’t have them seeing as how she was the one flying the ship, but okay). This is a problem because the Captain has once again gotten himself kidnapped onboard a Covenant ship, and one that the Flood are trying to take over to boot. So we go in to bust him out but by the time we’re reach him he’s already been Flooded (see what I did there?). Luckily since the codes are stored on a chip in his head, we’re still able to retrieve them. But never one to waste time, Master Chief just punches straight into the skull and pulls the thing out with his bare hands. Sure, Keyes was already dead and everything but maybe show a little respect? Use a knife or something, at least, this was just gross.

I mentioned that the Flood were trying to take over a Covenant ship and that the Covenant were trying to stop them from doing so, because if they were to actually wrest control of the vessel then they could potentially use it to fly off Halo and contaminate the whole galaxy. This seems like just as much of a concern as the other problem we’re trying to solve so it seems kind of weird that Chief and Cortana would risk them getting away. Oh well. I’m sure it’ll all turn out fine and the Flood won’t pose a threat for the rest of the series, right?

Right? Guys? Why are you looking at me like that?

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