This Is Not A Gaming Blog: Just-Halo

OK, so I obviously just don’t “get” Halo.

For those of you unfamiliar with the games, I regret that I am about to use an amount of game-world jargon and reference that might leave you cold. I am by no means an expert, but I have picked up a title or two. For the uninitiated, the games are first-person shooters in which you (mostly) play as the Master Chief, a bio-engineered super-soldier who finds himself in an extended conflict with an alien confederation of races known as the Covenant. There’s a lot of other lore and history to the tale, but I won’t bore you, even with the bits of it I understand. Anyway, on with the show…

I tried playing Halo: Combat Evolved when it was new on the old Xbox, but at the time I didn’t really play shooters and the first encounter with a Hunter (one of the antagonistic Covenant aliens’ hulking tank-creatures) just bored and frustrated me to resignation. I never touched another until I came across a cheap copy of #3 and gave it a go. Several times. It never grabbed me, never seemed to have any appealing ‘hook’ to make me want to put the disc in a second time. Even realising that one of the voices of the UNSC marines was provided by Mal Reynolds himself, Mr. Nathan Fillion, didn’t lure me back.

A brief flirtation with a relative’s copy of ODST failed to change my mind, so I went about my business…

Then #4 came out. My desire for a simple shooter and a surfeit of brownie points, weighted with the praise heaped upon it by a press that have hailed it as ‘the best Halo ever’ and this and that and other superlatives – as something new and different and exciting – brought me into ownership of a shiny new copy.

It’s very pretty. The light-bloom, the textures…all very nice. The control betrays the fine tuning of a franchise that has long-since found its footing. The design is consistent and adept, although I have to say that I just don’t _like_ it very much. There’s something about the Precursor architecture that leaves me cold and the whole Covenant aesthetic reminds me of a child’s imagination; lots of green and shiny things, flashing lights and strange shapes with no thought to the practicalities and realities of engineering and design – strangeness for the sake of strangeness, without any feeling of a cause behind it. Anyway…

Sound is excellent, the choral score is beautiful. There’s a lot of money behind Halo and you can see it in #4. It’s a very well rounded, beautiful package.

…which utterly fails to blow my skirt up. It’s just…Halo. When #1 came out I can see that it was something special, but we’re in a post-Halo world now and Halo 4 is…well…still just Halo; very pretty, very shiny, beautifully finished just-Halo. Run about, shoot, run about again, shoot some more. It’s entertaining enough, I suppose, but…
I don’t know. There’s obviously an appeal to it that I simply do not understand. Fans of the series always speak of it as if it’s ample charms are utterly self-evident and irrefutable, so I’ve never seen any actual discussion of what’s so great about it.

So, I will try to finish it off, to slog (I think ‘slog’ is a relevant word – it feels like a slog to me) through to the end of the campaign before Friday, when I suspect I will trade it in for Far Cry 3.

Fanboys may now flame me, but I welcome a genuine exposition of just why I am wrong.


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