Tag Archives: Halo 4

An AoE Grab Bag

You may have noticed that our content sections (Politics & Society for example) have been replaced with column titles. As part of a reformat, we’re moving The Cool Ship to a more author-focused approach to writing, set around a person theme or interest. In my case, I’ve commandeered “Area Of Effect” to tackle the space between politics, social structures, and escapism.

But since there was little in the way of geek related politics (unless you count how FUBAR Black Friday was), this week, I have three other things that deserve some attention. And since it’s my column, I’m going to write about all of them!

Missed Effect, Or Why Halo 4 Is The New Mass Effect

Something about the Halo 4 story (LOL, I know, who cares about the story?!?!) has been sitting weird with me. It was less like combat evolved and more like a reaper invasion.

For all the graphics improvements and combat upgrades (and you do get a lot of both), Master Chief has always been an enhanced dude in a suite of armor fighting aliens. He was never fated to be a Shepard or Neo.

And yet, it’s revealed in Halo 4 that Chief is actually an eventuality built into the human race after it took a beating from the Forerunners the first time it traveled to the stars. That’s right, humans have already been in space. We covered a huge swath of the galaxy until terrible aliens wiped out our civilizations and reset us to the stone age a la KOTOR, Mass Effect, and The Matrix Reloaded.

More than that, we’re destined to assume “the mantle” of what I assume is stewardship of the galaxy… or something. Can’t tell since words like promethium, forerunner, mantle, reclaimer, and on and on and on are thrown around, and I don’t remember a lot of what happened in Halo 3.

What I do recall from the previous game is that there wasn’t a singular, hardass alien villain that’s trying to re-annihilate human civilization by getting a bunch of Macguffins. *Cough Saren * And he has the crazy space armor that everyone, everywhere in Mass Effect wears.

He even narrates your fights with bullshit metaphors and wordy prose that are supposed to sound highbrow and elegant, but make no f****ing sense.

Watch the legendary ending, and listen to the shit he says:

In this hour of victory we taste only defeat. I ask why. We are Forerunners; guardians of all that exists [except humanity, apparently]. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun towards which all intelligence blossoms. 

And on and on he goes. What is he actually saying here? That the forerunners are better than humans even though they lost? That we got tricked and we’ll see in Halo 5? I don’t know, but using a paragraph that says nothing makes you sound dumb. And it’s something reapers did all the time when trash talking Shepard in ME 3.

Cost In Translation

I hate most anime. I used to love it as a teen, but now, I think it’s all awful. And I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until this week. For some reason, I purchased the first Vampire Hunter D novel on my Kindle and read it all in like two days. I recalled being fond of the movies as a teen, but reading a novel translated from Japanese to English makes one realize that some shit just doesn’t come across the language barrier easily.

Instead of trying to describe, I’ve found one of the many passages that made me, literally, roll my eyes while reading.

 The boy galloped off like the spirit of life itself. Doris turned to the still prone D and said, “Thank you. I know it’s the iron law of Hunters that they won’t lift a finger for anything but dealing with their prey. I’d be in a no position to complain no matter how you turned him down. You did it without hurting him… and he loves you like a big brother.”

“But I do refuse.”

“I know. Aside from you job itself, I won’t ask any more of you – what you said to him just now will do fine. I’ll handle my own problems. And the sooner you get your work finished the better.”

“Fine.” Not surprisingly, D’s voice was emotionless and bitterly cold.

Couple things. First, “galloped off like the spirit of life itself?” What the hell? Second, Doris is thanking this vampire hunter for lying to her brother about defending her from the villagers who are going to arrest her. How is that cool? How is it ok to lie to a child’s face about saving his sister?

Also, he’s totally lying about lying because he goes out, without hesitation, like three pages later and defends her from the mob. And he threatens to kill everyone in the village over it in the second act.

Apparently, Dan loves the hunter like a brother… but they met less than 24 hours ago. The dude literally met the kid yesterday afternoon. What is going on? Every page is a litany of awful phrases that could be replaced with a common phrase.

The killing lust in Larmica’s eyes was like a heat ray that flew at Doris’ face. Not to be outdone, Doris met it with a shower of sparks from her own hatred.

Um… what? The guy translating this does know English, right? Do you get these kinds of techniques from the Stephanie Myer school of writing?

And it occurred to me that a lot of this kind of clumsy translating comes across in anime as well. Granted, I also hate that every anime character has to explain their motivations to everyone – even and especially in mid-fight. Sometimes I just want people to do things and work it out for myself.

But the clunky translations are what really kill the genre for me. I think we need to get a place where translators imply cultural equivalents for the ideas and concepts the characters are screaming at each other, while they are hitting power level 1,000,000 or whatever. If J.K. Rowling can change a philosopher’s stone into a sorcerer’s stone for an audience that speaks the language she wrote the book in, can we get some of these translators to take these ideas we have no cultural context for and make them make sense?

Putting the DELETE in CTRL+ALT+DEL

This weekend, a web comic I’ve been reading for six years ended. Author and artist Tim Buckley concluded a near decade of character-driven narrative (interspersed with random gamer jokes and other oddities) with a definitive ending for his protagonist, Ethan, and supporting characters as part of a comic “reboot.”

Read the explanation here.

Mr. Buckley has, at times, been polarizing for his comic’s content, not the least of which included a story arc where Ethan’s wife has a miscarriage. Penny Arcade and others certainly do hate him for his work, but he’s been able to make a career out of a web comic…which is pretty impressive.

I thought it was worth mentioning because I’ve never seen that from a web comic before. And arguably, after 10 years, it was a more conclusive ending than Smallville.

If you can stand reading jokes about the original release of WoW or Half Life 2, I’d suggest going back and reading some of the series.

[[Featured Image from: http://www.zerochan.net/77223  ]]

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Cheating on Me

Caught in the act!

Last night, I had to leave my wife, kids, and best friend at my house to go to a practice for a Christmas program I’m a part of. On my way out the door, John and Gabrielle professed their intention to cheat on me…by playing Halo 4 without me.

I was, of course, devastated. My heart sank, and I slowly finished my dinner as if I was a condemned man. Then, I left my house… and drove to practice.

For the duration of the practice, I kept looking at my phone. I can check Halo 4 multiplayer stats, so I kept my eyeballs glued to what Gabrielle and John were playing. I saw that Gabrielle had an assassination. They were playing capture the flag. They were playing Big Team Slayer. My jealousy was bubbling over. I wanted to watch my wife play her first games in the wide world of multiplayer gaming!

After practice, I sped home. Cheat on me, would they? I burst in the door to see what was happening and caught them in the act!

John had his TV and Xbox 360 set up in the kitchen. He was using one of my headsets. ONE OF MY HEADSETS! Gabrielle was sitting on the couch, controller in hand and baby on lap. I looked at our TV just long enough to see her gunned down by an enemy. Then, our baby, obviously sensing the guilt prevalent in the room, began to cry. Gabrielle offered me the controller, and I snatched it away. She calmed the baby down while I got her a crazy high awesome score.

I may have been multiplayer game cheated on, but I’m proud of my wife for taking her first steps into a gaming world.  I just hope she lets me join in the fun with her next time.

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Confessions of a Casual Girl Gamer: I Beat Halo 4 on Legendary!

That’s right, suckas! I beat Halo 4 on LEGEND (wait for it) DARY!

I mean, I was all up in there, shooting bug robot thingies and monster dogs, running in for a tight melee! WHAM!

What’s that? Yes, Master Chief can punch you in the FACE!

My tendency toward Leeroy Jenkins-ing is well documented, and I will be the first to admit that I am not a patient person. Why wait behind cover, sniping at an enemy until you’re out of ammo? Just go in and get the job done! And if you fall into an impossibly deep chasm of some kind, there are benefits. That ammo you were running low on? You got it back!

There’s really no downside, here. Just keep at it until you get it done! Or until the guys you’re playing with get it done.

Me! Image courtesy of halowaypoint.com.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I dropped into the game via XBOX Live with my husband and our friend, John. I guess I should also say that I didn’t join until their second night of playing, and that I was used more for a spawning point than anything else. Oh, and I drew a lot of fire!

I’m helpful like that.

I like to think of myself as the wild card in these situations. They’re serious about the game, but so am I! I just play…differently. I play for the pure escapism and improbability of the situation! I’m a huge space man (Woman! I changed my avatar and everything.) with ridiculous strength and unending luck. How cool is that?

Giant aliens? No worries! Have you seen how hard I hit? I got this.

A turret? Zig-zag, zig-zag, hide, and pounce! (I totally did this, by the way. I pulled the Elite off the turret and killed it, post haste! Then, I sorta fell off the platform, but, that’s beside the point, right?)

I will confess to no skill at all when it comes to flying (Except for ghosts…I’m okay with those. But, they’re really not that high off the ground, so I don’t think they count.). Frankly, I’m terrible at it! There’s a level near the end of the game where you must fly into the Forerunner Didact’s ship. I crashed. A lot. Actually, I spent most of that level doubled over in laughter. I couldn’t help myself; I just kept crashing, and I found it hilarious!

My husband and John? They tolerated my jocularity rather well, but overall, I don’t think they cared; they were focused on their end goal, beating the game.

As was I! But, for different reasons.

For me, playing a great game like Halo 4 is about seeing where they take this beloved character and his bff/girlfriend/AI. Is Cortana finally going to freak out totally? Will she flip out and kill the Chief? Will the Chief ever learn to make friends?

That’s what it’s about. For me, it’s not about achievements and equipping your avatar with new armor and designs. (Although, I did give my lady Chief a female designation and fashionable red armor. I figured you can’t see all the blood if you’re already red, right?) It’s all about the story.

And button mashing.

There are those who disagree, and that’s fine. It’s their right to be wrong.

 

((Featured image courtesy of halowaypoint.com and can be found at http://www.halowaypoint.com/halo4/en-us/#!images/screenshots/ce74650a-bfc6-4126-a02d-d7db778eff25.))

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Halo 4: Review

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Halo, here. So, we’ve been pretty excited about Halo 4 and have been playing quite a bit of it since it was released on Tuesday.

(This is the part where I admit my bias and get that out of the way.)

I like Halo. A lot. I am, however, clear-headed enough to understand what’s good about the game and what’s not so great.

The Campaign

This is certainly the prettiest Halo so far. The set pieces are big, and the world of Requiem feels a lot like that first time you dropped onto Halo in the first game. The cut scenes are pretty great, too. 343 Industries’ decision to use motion capture for the cinematics was a good one. At one point at the beginning (there’s an interrogation scene with Dr. Halsey), I couldn’t tell for a moment whether it was live-action or motion captured. Seriously, it looked THAT good.

The gameplay, though, isn’t much different from what you’ve come to expect from Halo. You kill some dudes. You push a button. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes cut scenes are thrown in. It’s not a bad formula, but it might be getting a little stale. Though, honestly, I’m not sure what else you could do in the FPS genre.

The battles themselves are well done. Enemy groups are often overwhelmingly outnumbering, so it makes you feel like a true bad mofo when you mow them down. Ammo seems to be at a premium, but that forces you to constantly scavenge for weapons and make the hard decision between keeping your awesome weapon or grabbing a gun with lots of ammo.

Vehicle sections are always fun, but often too short. I really hate having to arbitrarily abandon a vehicle because I can’t boost up onto a platform that the Master Chief can easily bounce up to.

The story is what really keeps me interested, though. But, a lot of the larger plot is thrown at you quickly, and I would have liked it to come a bit slower, so I’d know exactly what’s going on. I’m behind on the books, so that would’ve been really nice.

The more intimate story of the relationship between Cortana and the Master Chief is great! It’s interesting to me how human the relationship between the giant cyborg and his computer girlfriend is.

The campaign is great fun. For the most fun, I suggest playing it co-op. I’m having a great time playing through the game with my wife.

Infinity Multiplayer – War Games

If the continuing story of the Master Chief got me to buy the game, multiplayer is what keeps me coming back. War Games is your typical shoot-other-Spartans-in-the-head goodness that you’ve come to expect…with a few new twists (Unless you’ve been playing Call of Duty for the last five years, that is).

At the beginning of your multiplayer career, your options are extremely limited in regard to your custom loadout, your character model design, and even your custom badge. As you level up, however, you gain Spartan levels and Spartan points. Spartan points are used to purchase stuff for your custom loadouts: guns, armor abilities, tactical bonuses. Spartan levels determine what armor your can wear, how many custom loadouts you can have, and what logos you can have plastered to your armor.

Even with all the custom stuff (and tactical bonuses), I’ve found nothing yet that is unbalancing about the matches. Even at level one, I had little trouble blasting apart combatants on the opposite team as I ran to capture their flag. In other words, skill still matters more in Halo than finding power weapons.

Speaking of power weapons, when you kill enough enemies, you are able to call in a weapon drop. It’s a nice little feature that helps keep everyone in the game. Power weapons are also randomly dropped around the map, and a blip on your HUD will tell you where they dropped. I like this feature because it de-emphasizes map memorization and keeps the battles interesting.

All-in-all, I really like War Games, and can’t wait to sink some serious time into it.

Infinity Multiplayer – Spartan Ops

I got a little sad when I heard that Firefight wasn’t going to make it into the game, but I think Spartan Ops fills the niche nicely. It’s a cool idea: Every week, 343 drops another episode of their Spartan Ops story on you, and with it comes five mini-missions. You can play them either solo or co-op. I’ve only played through them on solo, but I’m betting that co-op is the way to go with these.

Some of the missions resemble an objective-based firefight, and I like that. It scratches the itch for just raining wanton destruction on the bad guys.

Since it’s only the first week, there’s not a whole lot else I can say about it. I look forward into seeing what the story turns into.

I’m surprised that Halo 4 came out on the Xbox 360, but I’m glad that it did. I’m sure Halo 5 will be on the next generation of Xbox. Though the graphics are starting to look a little dated, especially up close, this is one good-looking game. We’ve come a long way since Halo 3. A long, long way.

So, my recommendation is to buy this game! Get some friends together either in-person or on Xbox Live, and go to town shooting dudes. It’s a ton of fun. I’ll be dropping a lot of time into this game.

9/10

And if you want someone to play with, you can always become my Xbox Live buddy! Gamertag: Spumis

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Is Halo Set In A Socialist Police State?

The Chief never has time to find love.

The last episode of Forward Unto Dawn (FUD), the Halo 4 prequel series, was fantastic. If anyone ever questions whether or not a Halo movie could work, look no further than this little YouTube series.

So it is with a sense of trepidation that I have to ask what’s up with humanity in the Halo universe. It occurred to me, while watching the last episode of FUD, that we have yet to see a complete family in any of the Halo… anything. I can’t really speak for all the books, but from what I read of the first 3-4, they are straight military science fiction.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I just can’t help but wondering where all the normal people are. Take FUD, for example. Thomas Lasky is the central character around which events transpire. Where is his family?

Parents? Dead.

Brother. Dead.

And during the course of the series his girlfriend also dies. So go the horrors of war. But we have never seen an actual family on screen during this series. Captain Jacob Keyes and Lt. Commander Miranda Keyes were never actually in the same place at the same time. She was more of a replacement for the previous captain, even going so far as to have her own tragic/heroic death.

Why are there no families in this series? What are these people fighting for? Are there even civilians?

That might be a fair question. Are there actual civilians in the Halo universe? I understand that they are known to exist. Some of the comics show regular folks and ODST hinted at people that didn’t work for UNSC, but we don’t actually see those people. They are implied.

This leads me to a weird conclusion

Everyone probably works for the UNSC or some contracting subsidiary of the military industrial-complex. Every single person might just be an employee of the state because all industry is geared towards maintaining control of the colonies and, later, fighting the Covenant. At the time we first see Master Chief (Halo: Combat Evolved) we’ve been losing the war for better than 20 years. Every single job might be going to the state, who’s only job is now to keep humanity from going extinct.

Families aren’t the point. No one ever talks about what they’re gonna do after the war or who they left back home because the war and, by extension, duty to the state is the point. Normally I would give a combat shooter some wiggle room here because it’s not an RPG. You’re not supposed to build a home, have kids, or go all Hearthfire with your character.

But Halo has been lauded for its amazing story.

The only reason these people fight is because they are honor-bound to do it for humanity and, again by extension, the state. A state that constantly lies and keeps secrets from its own people. A state that doesn’t seem to have any democratic institutions, even though we’ve been told it does. Instead what we see is a big-ass military making decisions in space.

I’m a student of political science and I have to say it isn’t often that socialism and fascism come together in so perfect a union.

Take Master Chief, for example. The iconic, faceless hero of four games as of November 6th. He is featured in Forward Unto Dawn, which takes place at the beginning of the Covenant war. And a few of the books put him in combat before first contact with the aliens as well. So we know he’s been fighting since before the beginning of the war.

A war that ran from 2525 to 2553! That’s a full 28 years! That doesn’t include the time he spent fighting insurrections. What kind of life is that? What does this guy fight for? Why hasn’t he retired yet? Has he ever had a girlfriend? Has he ever gotten laid? Does he aspire to do anything other than murder?

But John! He’s an exception! He was made to be the perfect soldier. Normal soldiers probably get to have kids and a house and junk!

Maybe. At some point Captain Keyes found time to have a kid. But that’s just never seen. FUD was the first Halo thing (though TJ says ODST had some) where two people engage in any romance. And I’m certain it’s the first Halo anything outside the expanded universe where people kiss.

What kind of life is this? Working under the heel of an oppressive government with an intelligence arm that will black bag you for looking at the wrong youtube video? You know what we didn’t see once Halo 3 was over.

It was the end of the greatest threat to humanity. EVER. No kissing? No baby boom? No white picket fence or WoW addiction?

Again, I have to ask. What the hell are these people fighting for?

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Forward Unto Halo 4

I’ve always liked the Halo series. First person shooters are always a lot of fun, and when you add a compelling story, I’m completely hooked.

Screenshot from the web series.

When Halo came out, I played it with my brother. He’s a sniper, and I’m a Leeroy Jenkins. I always have been! I consider it an alternate (gaming) lifestyle. I was born this way.

I was seriously dating my husband when Halo 2 came out. I wooed him with my button mashing skills, and we beat the game together in his parents’ basement. There was probably a celebratory make-out session afterwards….yeah. I know there was.

The subsequent games were eagerly awaited in our house. We’ve played them together, and they’ve been great!

When the franchise changed hands, and Microsoft took total control, I was a little leery. Would the Gates Gang know how to treat the Chief? Were they going to make it a soulless money-suck?

I guess we’ll find out for sure on Tuesday. But, Microsoft (and 343 Industries, the new steward for all things Halo) did do something that has me feeling pretty optimistic, if not down right eager for Halo 4; they made Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.

This five-part series has blown me away every single week! Today, the last installment came out, and it did not disappoint. At all.

If you haven’t watched all five parts, you must. You simply must make the time to watch this web series. I promise you it’s worth it!

Although, I will admit to a little bit of disappointment. What’s there to be disappointed about?

That this wasn’t a full movie!

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn did its job. I’m excited for Halo 4, which releases on Tuesday.

Now, the only problem I have is deciding whether to play Halo 4 or vote.

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