Late to the Party: Halo 2 (Part VII)

So when we left off, the Arbiter had been knocked off a ledge into a bottomless pit.

Huh, that doesn’t seem to be nearly as compelling a cliffhanger when you write it out like that.

But anyway, we somehow survive the fall and are apprehended by…

… the giant evil plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

I mean, really look at this thing:

 

The only thing missing was the voice and the duet number with Rick Moranis.But really though, I’ve heard since finishing the game that there was quite a bit of negative feedback in regards to Audre- er, the Gravemind. And really, out of all the things I can think to complain about in this game (and which I’ve done so extensively already) this isn’t one of the most egregious by a long shot. Sure, it looks kind of silly but it’s better than the Human Reaper at the end of Mass Effect 2, at least. Honestly the only real issue I can think to bring against this thing is that it looks a bit too plant-like. I mean, I guess it’s hard to create a distinct visual design for the leader of what is basically a hive-minded disease, but this was kind of their chance to get creative and create an intelligence that wasn’t really centralized, maybe just have it speak simultaneously through a lot of different Flood specimens, or take over one prominent figure in the narrative (this would have been a great time for Keyes to make a comeback, though that probably wouldn’t be possible given his fist-induced head trauma) or at least do a knockoff of Starship Troopers‘ Brain Bugs. Instead the Gravemind looks more like a talking venus flytrap.

That said, a visual design decision that’s a bit out of place is hardly the worst offender in this story. I may have done a lot of nit-picking in this series and I’m sure I’m pretty far removed from most of the Halo fanbase but still, “the bad guy looks dumb” should not be the foremost complaint you have about Halo 2.

I guess I should have known there’d be more of those little buggers. After all, multiple rings presumably require multiple caretakers. Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, though.

Also, “Penitent Tangent”? Did they just draw random words out of a hat to name these guys?

How many major characters can we cram into the same room at once for a tedious infodump? Let’s count:

So earlier when Master Chief fell into that lake (which somehow saved him from being killed by giant lasers) and got grabbed by the Gravemind’s tentacles he got pulled in here. When the Arbiter got knocked off that platform (and also somehow survived) he fell in here too. Also joining the party are the aforementioned floating Ball and a Flood version of the Prophet of Regret. And then of course we have the Gravemind itself. The gang’s all here!

And actually, I shouldn’t say this is an infodump. It’s more like a bit of exposition to continue to push the plot along only it consists largely of information that we already know because at this point we’ve been told that the Halo rings will kill everything about a dozen times and it’s probably safe to say that we get the idea. Really all of this serves as the tipping point for the Arbiter as he now has to turn away from the faith that he’d devoted his life to and side against the Covenant to stop the activation of Halo. So we get a nice little arc for the Arbiter, and it is actually rather rewarding to see him come around to our side. The only thing I might change about this is perhaps force the decision a bit earlier: break his foundation a bit and then give him strong indicators that the Covenant are wrong, making his decision feel more like a risk to him even though we the audience would still have the dramatic irony of knowing exactly which side is the right one. As it stands Arby has mountains of evidence indicating that the Covenant are off their collective floating rockers and the decision is painfully obvious. Furthermore, the decision isn’t really made under stress: he just goes along with it in a conversation. Compare this to Vader’s final act of redemption in Return of the Jedi, where he needs to suddenly decide between 20 years of devout service and his own estranged son. It’s not a bad turning point, really, it just lacks the personal internalized struggle that it could have because it’s such a blindingly obvious decision.

But now we’ve got Arby on team good guys and he’s gonna team up with the Chief to take the fight to the Covenant.

You smell that? That’s the smell of a buddy cop premise.

So the Gravemind is apparently capable of teleporting us basically wherever (yaaay plot magic) and for best results, sends Chief and the Arbiter two separate locations to stop the Covenant from firing the rings; one of us goes to the control room of this Halo installation, and the other to the Covenant home city/ship/planet/thing to retrieve the Index.

What’s weird is that he doesn’t send the alien who could easily blend in to the alien ship, oh no: he sends the seven-foot-tall Marine who is formally recognized by the aliens as being a “demon”. As to why anyone thought this was a good idea I’ll neve-

Oh, right, this is a game built entirely around shooting things. Guess it’d be pretty boring if we made the reasonable choice here because that wouldn’t lead to more killing. Luckily, the way events unfold we have killing in spades and for the heart of Covenant operations this place didn’t seem to be very well defended. It’s pretty easing going as you mow your way through level after level of their city-ship thing and I started to wonder if I couldn’t just end the war right here. It was like charging into 1945 Berlin and having a few dozen guys with sticks there to oppose you.

One thing that could have been making the whole process easier, mind you, was that the apparent civil war between the Brutes and the Elites was unfolding at the same time. I’m not sure if word about the Prophet’s suicidal plan got out or if this was just a natural breaking point brought on by the fact that the Brutes were being kind of usurping jerks, but in any event you stumble across a few fights here and there where Elites are engaging the same targets that you are, which is sort of cool. It also led me to believe that I might legitimately be able to fight alongside these guys for a fun change of pace.

As it happens, I was wrong.

Once again, I shake my head at the music selection in certain parts of this game.

That said, I still apparently managed to recognize it so that might say more about me than it does the game.

Okay, I guess I know why there’s Flood here. Obviously the Flood don’t want the rings activated because it’d kill ’em, it just so happens that we don’t want to die either so of course we have to go along with Gravemind’s idea. There’s really no other option here and it’s not another issue of the protagonist being too easily tricked into something stupid. And the fact that the Flood would immediately take advantage of the damage you inflicted on the Covenant to wreak havoc and create more Flood forms is equally understandable. So actually everything here makes sense. I guess once again I was just annoyed that I had to fight them some more. Damn things just won’t leave me alone.

Y’know what’s weird? Thinking back, I can’t really remember why I was so frustrated with this part of the game. I mean, everything seems to make enough sense in the writeup here so I have to assume it was just another instance of virtual combat fatigue. This was fairly late in the evening (or early in the morning, rather) and I’d been fighting so many long battles against the same enemies in the same hallways that I guess I was getting a bit fed up. This is why people who work tedious office jobs get irritable.

But we’re almost done with the Covenant city and to leave me enough content to do one final entry I’m gonna need to break here. On Wednesday we’ll finish up Halo 2 with the last few tweets and where they leave us in preparation for Halo 3.

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