Halo 4

Chief Concerns

Halo 4 is a social game with an emotionally stunted hero.

By Drew Toal • November 5, 2012

“Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.” Die Hard’s John McClane was making trouble for Hans Gruber and his international band of terrorists when he spoke these words, but the line could also apply to Halo 4’s taciturn hero, Master Chief John-117. That is, if Master Chief had a sense of humor. When we last saw this indomitable supersoldier at the end of Halo 3, he was floating through space, half-dead inside an even deader ship, his fate unknown to all but his artificial-intelligence companion, Cortana. Although he had won the day against the alien aggressors known as the Covenant, the natural assumption was that the Chief was killed in action.

But legends aren’t so easy to kill, especially when they’re wearing full body armor and subscribe to the “Shoot first, shoot again, don’t ask questions later, throw a few plasma grenades for good measure” school of soldiering.

Halo 4 is the first in the series not developed by Bungie, whose last installment was the prequel Halo: Reach. In that game, you’re a cybernetically enhanced “Spartan” warrior like the Chief, but not so much of a maladjusted loner. Your group is charged with defending and evacuating the planet Reach as it falls to a massive Covenant invasion. Chief himself has been missing in action since Halo 3’s release in 2007.

Halo 4

As Halo 4 begins, Cortana wakes the Chief from his beauty rest. How long has he been out? Four years? Not so long for aimlessly drifting through space, all things considered. As Douglas Adams wrote, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Then again, maybe it’s not big enough. It seems Chief’s wreck of a ship has stumbled upon a rogue faction of Covenant forces—and a stronghold of mythical space demigods to boot. And here’s the Chief having not shot a single living thing in four years. This party is about to get interesting.

Halo has always felt like a bit of an antique, a series I’ll forever associate with the first generation Xbox. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that the game’s design hasn’t dramatically changed since the original Halo: Combat Evolved, more than 10 years ago. Sure, everything looks a hell of a lot better, but you’re basically playing with the same interface you were back then, shooting panicky, suicidal Grunts and agile Elites; looting alien corpses for exotic weapons; and letting chatty sidekick Cortana do enough talking for the both of you. Chief starts the game with all the tools he’s going to need. There is no leveling up or weapon upgrades. The new development studio, 343 Industries, honors that spotty legacy.

Most of the campaign is spent on the artificial planet, Requiem, an alien landscape that follows the Tron school of interior design. Bridges of light and translucent pathways make Chief’s battle-scarred armor all the more conspicuous as the bodies pile up along its brilliant corridors. There’s a machine-perfect symmetry to it all, and the only blight is the Chief himself, Like a virus, he’s the hostile invader here, and the alien intelligence sends wave after wave of antibodies to root out and destroy him.

Halo 4

However visually pleasing it is, the environment can be a little repetitive, even sterile. But it also serves to highlight the levels that take place out beyond Requiem. One mission, for instance, has Chief riding shotgun on what looks like a heavily armed version of the Jawa sandcrawler from Star Wars. This hulking mobile base offers plenty of amenities and even some human company for the friendless hero. It’s the closest thing John-117 gets to shore leave, but clearly he’s not much at home among other sentient beings, even other soldiers. Toward the end of the game, a sympathetic human officer offers Chief his condolences and is met with stony silence. Somebody please just give the man a hug already.

But they don’t. They dare not. And so the Chief doesn’t go through much in the way of spiritual growth. There’s no catharsis for Mrs. Chief’s little boy. He’s this gun-toting cipher, a faceless incarnation of pure duty and ultimate violence. It says a lot about him that his only connection is with Cortana, a small, blue—admittedly plucky—digital projection. As her very existence unwinds due to preprogrammed obsolescence, Chief promises her over and over again that they will get home safe and all will be well. His monotone assertions, though, belie his complete inability to connect with whatever it was that made him human.

Because of this emotional disconnect, it can be difficult to stay invested in Master Chief’s odyssey. He’s doing this thing because protecting humanity is what he’s programmed to do. Same goes for his vows to save Cortana. If he had been trained instead to peel potatoes or clean the military’s latrines, I’m certain he’d pursue it with the same grim tenacity. It’s merely an unlucky turn for the bad guys that Master Chief is a relentless psychopath who is better at shooting dudes than scrubbing toilets.

Halo 4

The Chief’s solipsistic universe is a funny thing when considered alongside Halo’s status as a hugely social game. Whole communities have sprung up, not just around the ever-popular multiplayer modes, but also in the realm of fiction and online video. Halo 4’s multiplayer Spartan Ops mode wisely sidelines the Chief in favor of a separate, parallel storyline.

In the multiplayer modes, teams of customizable, upgradeable Spartans get dumped into firefights on maps derived from the single-player campaign. These battles are presented in the form of “episodes,” meant to give some backstory for Chief’s quest, and also for contextualizing the otherwise monotonous “kill as many enemies as you can as fast as you can” missions. There are moments of levity. Killing 50 Elites gets you the “I am the 99%” medal, and one mission pits you against another, unseen platoon of Spartans in a good-natured contest of mass alien murder. But the whole thing is too one-dimensional, designed to satisfy 343’s conception of traditional Halo enthusiasts rather than experiment in ways that might stimulate a new breed of player.

At the end of the day, Halo 4 succeeds in making the single-player campaign less of an afterthought than usual, but it still feels like a step back from Bungie’s rather gripping story in Reach. Until Master Chief is honorably discharged from duty, that may be the best we can hope for.

Halo 4
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: M

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1,106 Responses to “Chief Concerns”

  1. Jakerface says:

    Seems that the biggest gripe in this review is with the story and character progression, which is typically huge for me in video games, but for whatever reason I have always had a blast with Halo despite it’s shortcomings in that department. How’s the gameplay? Multiplayer is where I spend far too much time in these games and I hope this one takes it up a notch.

    • HobbesMkii says:

       As long as they followed Bungie’s code, I’m sure the multiplayer is the same as it’s always been since Halo 2.

      • Ack_Ack says:

         I’m with you on the multiplayer – I think I owned Halo Reach for 6 months before I played past the first campaign.  Although once I did, I quite enjoyed it.

        From everything I’ve seen, the multiplayer is much the same with a few improvements made here and there.  A new points system, a few things borrowed from Call of Duty.  They haven’t reinvented the wheel, but in the case of multiplayer, they don’t have to.

    • rjonathon says:

      just like the av club review of halo reach, the reviewer spends 3/4 of the article describing the campaign…of an fps. as if anyone cares.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

         The campaign… of an fps… with a single player campaign.

        Some of us enjoy games for their interactive storytelling, not just so we can run around shooting each other over and over again.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           BioShock series, Dues Ex: Human Revolution, Half-Life 2 (and its predecessor and both Episodes), every iteration of Doom, Crysis, Rage, Dead Island, Duke Nukem 3D, Far Cry series…

          Huh, it’s like…there’s a whole bunch of FPS games that…either don’t have multiplayer or aren’t played for their multiplayer capability (because it sucks). Of course, what do I know? I just play a lot of FPS games, is all. I’m not an expert like @rjonathon:disqus. I must have been mistaken to play those games, caring about the single-player campaign.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         Yeah, fucking reviewers, having different opinions than I do, just because they’re a different person and have an experiential model of evaluating art. That’s why I like to read reviews, but, whenever I find a reviewer who differs from me, I like to post about how they’re wrong to be different, even though, ostensibly, the whole reason I have for reading reviews is to get a broad range of opinions about said game.

      • morley says:

        I’m not saying your point isn’t valid, but this isn’t Firing Squad or some pro gamer site; it’s the AV Club. It’s a publication that started reviewing movies and TV. Storytelling is important to us.

      • Raging Bear says:

        So this is what someone who never played an FPS before 2007 sounds like.

        • GaryX says:

          Shit, 2007? Half-Life was way back in 1998. These fuckers have had stories for ages now.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          I’m thinking you read that wrong, @GaryX:disqus . Someone who never played an FPS BEFORE 2007 would have never played Half Life, and i’m assuming @Raging_Bear:disqus was referring to that stereotype of the sort of gamer who populates XBox Live playing Call of Duty and the like.

        • GaryX says:

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus I did! Whoops, my bad. That’s what I get for letting work get in the way of my reading comprehension.

      • JoshJ says:

         I like campaigns in an FPS because I played videogames before there was online multiplayer. Taking my time through the levels is what I like about them. I’m like the master chief: fuck off, I’m not talking to you and have no desire to. Just show me the corridors with the enemies to shoot and a little cover.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Maybe the campaign could be forgotten if the multiplayer environment of Halo wasn’t littered with massive clods, pretty much necessitating a playthrough of the singleplayer campaign in order to have at least one positive experience from your purchase.

      • WorldCivilizations says:

        Wow the haters are really out in force to shit on this comment – I like this site’s point of view but I have to agree with the (spirit of the) comment. I’ve played 2 Halo games’ campaigns, and neither had a story or protagonist that I thought about for 1 second after turning off the game. This review is like criticizing the next Final Fantasy installment for having an overblown story and shallow gameplay. Well, yeah. Some FPS’s have depth, and responses have listed many of them; Halo doesn’t and it never will. It’s not really fair to review it without accepting the legitimacy of its goals. 

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I’ll refer you to further down in the comments, wherein we discuss that, in fact, improved story (and, ipso facto, the single player campaign) was very much part of Halo 4‘s stated goals and therefore a review that critiques the game’s success in that department is extremely warranted.

  2. rvb1023 says:

    My friends and I have been baffled by many of the positive reviews this has been getting, since I figured this is where the series would start to crash. I have never been a huge multiplayer gamer so the community aspect of Halo is mostly lost on me, but I do know that having a cutaway animation when performing assassinations in multiplayer is stupid.

    Also, Arbiter > MC.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

       I haven’t played it, but I imagine that it’s safe to assume that it’s a totally fine game that doesn’t add anything new or interesting.

      • David Mihocik says:

        Perhaps you should play it.  It’s safe to say that morons who assume things always look like the biggest assholes in the room.

        But you are just a stupid cunt, I guess, judging by your screen name.  So whatever.


    • Bad Horse says:

      For a reviewer, Halo is hard to knock. It has a sterling level of craft. Its gameplay, which really is its only concern, has been refined to perfection for over a decade. As a game design, it still works like a boss. Changing it too much is like changing basketball.

      Now, if you’re interested in more than a pure play type of game, it may not be for you, which I think is where most people here are coming from.

      • Girard says:

        Yeah, not having played it, the series strikes me as being to FPSes what Mario is to platformers: the sterling formal/mechanical exemplar of a game type. Likewise, both games are so focused on honing those formal aspects that concerns of content, like narrative and character, become kind of perfunctory.

        While an essay could critique the themes and narrative of those games, a review would probably be better off not addressing them (it would seem silly to knock a letter grade off of Mario for retreading the tired old “save the princess” narrative, but analysis of that narrative could be fruitful in discussing themes in that game or gaming in general).

        The reviews at GS are essay-style, though, so I appreciate the analysis, I think. There are more traditional outlets out there that can be more granular about the mechanical stuff.

    • GaryX says:

      The Arbiter was an incredibly compelling character that I think got the short end of the stick due to the Raiden-like backlash of the bait-and-switch which is a shame because he was far more interesting than either MC or Raiden.

      The reviews for this have been hilarious. The IGN one is particularly a joke. I think Giant Bomb’s has been one of the only level-headed ones I’ve seen.

  3. Juan says:

    This is a pretty crappy review.  I can’t defend the game since I haven’t played it, but the reviewer seemed intent on just harping over and over again on a few trite observations: the chief is anti-social, and an odd protagonist for a social game, at least a social game by his definition; the chief is like an organic virus infiltrating a perfect machine environment; the chief is a psychopathic killer.  Almost nothing interesting was said about the gameplay.  And seriously, saying that the protagonist of an FPS is a psychopath because he shoots everyone is not a novel or clever thing to say.  By that standard, you play a psychopath in almost every single freaking action game, let alone most shooters.

    • jarviscockblocker says:

      In all fairness, he does mention there’s no levelling or weapon upgrades, which gives me a pretty spot-on idea about the gameplay.

      • Eric Musall says:

         There are actually both of those things in multiplayer.  There aren’t in campaign, but seeing as he described it as “perfunctory,” it would hardly seem to matter.  Basically, I have no idea what he’s talking about in this review.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar says:

       “By that standard, you play a psychopath in almost every single freaking action game, let alone most shooters.”

      Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?

      • Girard says:


        I mean, it’s bad enough video games themselves want me to interact with them on a functional level, but now video game website expect me to interact on an intellectual level?

        I just want to watch a 20 minute commercial juxtaposing rapidly-edited scenes of in-game action with appetizing shots of Doritos and new Mountain Dew flavors.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          You forgot the occasional shot of a woman host who is quite clearly more attractive than the average human being, yet whose beauty I can denigrate in the comments section.

        • Captain Internet says:

          Can’t we all just get along?

        • PPPfive says:

           I think the point is why pick on this FPS for having a psychopath character instead of any other

        • Girard says:

          @Captain_Internet:disqus : Obviously not! As stated above, this is a video game website. XBOX Live is our barometer for civil conduct in the comments. Just be glad I didn’t pepper my comment with homophobic slurs.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @PPPfive:disqus I think the GS has pretty much picked on all psychopath characters equally in its reviews.

        • OldeFortran77 says:

          Considering the situations Master Chief is placed in, what response is there other than shooting lots and lots of things? I don’t think of him or most other FPS heroes as psychopaths. On the other hand, the protagonist of the game “Two Worlds”? Listening to his lines as the game went along was the only time I ever thought “this guy is a freaking psycho”.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           This reminds me of an article someone once wrote, and if I was a humble person, I wouldn’t link to it.

          Turns out I am not.

      • Juan says:

        Professor_Cuntburglar – Sure it does.  I just think that simply pointing out Master Chief is a psychopath isn’t an interesting point in itself.  Playing a killer in an action game has been a staple of the medium since the eighties, for the obvious reason that it’s easy to build a game around shooting things.  Same for unknowable, bad-ass protagonists in action stories.  These things are just taken as a given because they’re almost fundamental.  So If your going to call attention to the most fundamental aspect of an action game, playing a psychopath, as a point of criticism, then I need more justification of this other than “he shoots everything”.  Or better yet, as other commenters are pointing out, the idea needs to be unpacked and explored better, which is the opposite of what I’m accusing the reviewer of; making a statement that sounds sensational, and going no further than that.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I feel that Drew is something of a kindred spirit, so I’ll valiantly come to his aid atop my white steed.

      To my eyes, the reviews at The Gameological Society specialize in synecdoche- a technique in which part of a thing stands in for the whole. Drew chose to highlight Mr. Chief’s lone rangerism, his presumable psychopathy, and his unknowability because he believed that these elements of the character represented in miniature the game as a whole. Drew’s ruminations on the Chief’s single minded dedication to wholesale slaughter without nuance or second thought can be understood as a criticism of the game’s sloggy, samey nature, or of its unwillingness or inability to progress the series in any meaningful way (to Evolve the Combat, if you like.)

      As for the gameplay, he summarizes it perfectly: “everything looks a hell of a lot better, but you’re basically playing with the same interface you were back then.” In other words, if you’ve played a Halo title in the past, you’ve played this. Plus, as a matter of principle, although the mechanics of play are profoundly important, I don’t personally consider them the be-all end-all of a gaming experience. If Drew, or anyone at Gameological finds that something in the story, or design, or aesthetic of a game catches their interest and is more telling of the game as a whole than something in the mechanics, I’m happy to hear their opinion on it.

      And finally, as a passing thought, perhaps the notion that you “play a psychopath in almost every single freaking action game” is actually an idea worth exploring, unpacking, questioning, and criticizing, rather than tacitly accepting.

      • RCIX says:

        Hello! I’m new here, have been lurking on and off for a few months though. I really don’t need another forum-like timesuck, but whatever. 

        A couple of things, both talking about Juan’s point and the review itself:

        1. There’s a very good distinction between “games don’t/shouldn’t have a story” and “THIS game was never intended to be judged primarily on it’s story”. I feel the Halo series falls into the latter category, and judging a game like this on those merits feels akin to judging on how smooth it’s ride is or its MPG (may not be the best analogy choices but it gets my point across).

        Basically, if you’re interested mainly in the campaign, then sure, this is probably a good review (can’t say for sure without playing Halo myself). But it by no means covers the entirety of Halo 4.

        2. “And finally, as a passing thought, perhaps the notion that you “play a psychopath in almost every single freaking action game” is actually an idea worth exploring, unpacking, questioning, and criticizing, rather than tacitly accepting.” 

        I don’t think Juan was doing that, more that he was saying it was an obvious observation and having it take up most of the review was a waste of space. It would have been much better to use Halo as a launching point to discuss this, rather than being Captain Obvious. :p

        • Sean Smith says:

          Halo wasn’t intended to be judged entirely on its story, no. But the creators have strained every sinew to emphasize how they’ve stepped up the characterization and emotional connection for Halo 4 (and have been praised for such in other reviews).

          The big question mark with that re: the campaign is if it’s possible with the Chief as the center of the story. Based on Drew’s review it doesn’t sound like they changed the Chief at all as a character, likely due to not wanting to annoy longtime Halo fans. Or maybe they did add layers to him and Drew just didn’t get it. We’ll see tomorrow, I guess.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I think your point for #1 is pretty weak. Microsoft and 343 spent a lot of time and effort (and millions of dollars) to create levels and cinematics, hire voice actors, mo-cap actors, writers, programmers, then had them all do loads of publicity, including talking up the single-player campaign experience. 

          The first three games are much the same. Bungie may have helped pioneer the tradition of FPS games with multiplayer functionality with Marathon, but those games were also quite heavy on story. The studio is part of the same generation of developers who never had multiplayer in their games. They were just as focused on telling a story as anyone else. Halo has that in its blood, regardless of what studio it’s being produced at.

        • GaryX says:

          Welcome to the site!

          I get your first point, but, as others have stated, I think it kind of weakens as the series has gone on. The first Halo definitely has the “story is hear to tell you why to shoot things” vibe going on, but Bungie spent a lot time over the next several games ramping up the mythology of the series. 343 has gone even further to say this is the most story-driven entry yet, and that the characters are meant to be much more fleshed out. I think the advertising campaign has also suggested this–and segues into your second point–by showing MC having all sorts of flashbacks to his time as a kid and a spartan inductee. 

          I think if they had explored what it is that makes him tick, it could have been much more interesting, particularly parallel with Cortana’s rampancy arc. A story that pushed Master Chief to his mental and physical limits at the edge of space could have been incredibly interesting.

          Other publications and reviews have been raving about the story, and that there’s now a Halo title where you “care” about the people in it. In a lot of ways, I see Drew’s review as a tepid rebuttal of that notion.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Huh, I’d never looked at it that way. Gameological society, please reconsider! That way lies madness, man… soon your reviewers will start hiring reviewers to review their reviews… commenters will be their own trolls…. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere mindfuckery is loosed upon the world

         As for the psychopath angle, yeah, it’s a bit problematic, but I see it as a gaming convention like health pickups. It only becomes a problem when it jars with the story and characters the game is trying to introduce; I was completely put off by uncharted, for example, when the two main characters are introduced having a cute back-and-forth while murdering people by the boatload…
         I Halo, I think it actually fits the story and the game. Mr. Chief is a weapon, period. Granted, it may not make for a compelling story or an interesting character, but it definitely fits the tone and setting. At least, it did for the original trilogy.

      • Binsbein says:

        If we need an emotional Master Chief, let’s bring in Nomura for a consult. I’m not sure if the Chief knows about belts as a style choice, but he will. Oh he will.

      • Juan says:

         Well, okay, I’ll throw out my argument that the reviewer doesn’t say much about the gameplay.  Its Halo, I know what I’m in for, and I honestly love Gameological’s reviews because they go past that stuff and explore games in a more meaningful way.  But like RCIX say’s below, he was being “captain obvious” saying that Chief is a psychopath, and I think more about this needed to be said, because it’s a huge argument.  So many games are about killing things, even Mario stomps and kills an endless amount of turtles and goombas.

    • Girard says:

      The gameplay is touched upon when he describes the changeover from Bungie to the guys who made this game: mechanically, the game honors the “spotty legacy” of the prior ones, not changing much for the better or worse. He describes how there is no leveling or weapon upgrades, how the multiplayer is prioritized over the single-player campaign, and summarizes the multiplayer experience.
      In any case, I’d rather read a discussion of the shortcomings/strengths of the campaign and narrative – the only ‘new’ aspects of this game – than a review that goes down a checklist of mechanics and just says “Yep. The same as it’s been since Halo 2” for each one.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

      This isn’t a site for people who want to read a single review and let that decide for them if this is worth $60.  There’s nothing wrong with those sites, this just isn’t one of them.  If what you want is quick down and dirty by the numbers 3-out-of-5, plenty of sites will do that.  Gamelogical reviews are more like essays designed to say something other than a generic yes/no, graphics/soundtrack/gameplay scorecard.  I agree that it would be a little frustrating if I could only pick one review to read.  But the reviews here are pretty much guaranteed to pick up on elements of a game that other sites won’t, so I appreciate them as critiques and analysis that go beyond IGN or gamespot.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         if you want a thorough inventory of a game’s technical/gameplay merits, there’s still every other review site on the web.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          How about just changing “Review” to “Quality Review?”

        • Fluka says:

          NO!  Gameological must step INTO LINE!

        • Boko_Fittleworth says:

          The Gameological Revue!

        • Effigy_Power says:

           @Fluka:disqus: That is usually started with a throaty “NEIN”.

          I read this issue a lot simpler, maybe too simple. Gaming fans are amongst the touchiest I have ever seen and a good amount of them simply can’t take seeing a single bad review about their chosen idol.

          “Why doesn’t the whole internet get in line and understand that “FPS X” (it’s with glaring majority FPS’) is the best thing ever and everyone must love it?”

          It’s a ridiculous sentiment, but one that also tickles me with great amusement, because I have found another community online that uses the same complainy tone and overblown outrage:

          Little girls who like Justin Bieber.

          That’s right. You are like little girls who love Justin Bieber. I can think of no better way to describe, quantify and punish you for this.

          Peace out.

      • John Teti says:

        This comment is so perceptive it almost makes me cry.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Cheer up, John. He didn’t mean it. @Mercenary_Security_number_4:disqus ! Tell him you didn’t mean it!

        • We really appreciate what you all do here, John. You might miss the Metacritic hate-traffic when you’re eating off-brand frozen pizza, but you’ll always be welcome at my dinner table.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @twitter-493417375:disqus Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure that frozen pizza would cause John any undue angst.

        • Ack_Ack says:

          I think anyone using The Gameological Society as their only source for news and reviews is using the internet wrong.  There are thousands of sites where you can get a straight score on a game, and find out the basic ABC’s of gameplay.  TGS provides more thoughtful looks at aspects of the game often overlooked at IGN or Machinima, which I enjoy (although I happen to disagree with the above review).

        • Enkidum says:

          I just like making Teti cry. Bring on more perceptive comments!

      • groomingsam12 says:

        I agree with you saying essay over review but by essay standards it’s still lite.

        And has anyone really thought of the campaigns as an after thought?

  4. railwayrifle says:

    I thought r

  5. Professor_Cuntburglar says:

    “But legends aren’t so easy to kill, especially when gamers will buy anything with that legend’s face stuck on it.”

    Fixed it for you.


    jeez, it blows my mind to think Halo 3 was half a decade ago already

    anyway like everyone else I played and was blown away by the original Halo, don’t even deny it, you know you thought that shit was awesome back then 

    but neither of the sequels recaptured that same magic, the freshness of Halo 1 (it really was unlike anything you’d seen before back in the early aughts) was gone and in it’s place the whole franchise started to feel pretty boilerplate, I mean I had fun with 2 and 3, but after 3 was over I certainly felt like I had had my fill of Halo

    what I’m trying to say is half a decade later I’ve moved on past Halo and find myself surprisingly ambivalent about Halo 4, maybe I’ll pick it up down the road but for the time being I think I’ll save my money

    • Girard says:

      Maybe it’s because I wasn’t actually playing it, but the few times I’ve seen Halo being played (usually by a friend’s bro-tastic room mate in college), if anything it looked even more boring and generic than all the other FPSes out there which I found (and continue to find) pretty boring and generic.

      Maybe if I had been handed a controller I would have instantly been “blown away,” but I seriously doubt it. I just would have been playing another boring game of split-screen Goldeneye, except instead of getting to play as a blocky hydrocephalic voodoo god, I’d have a choice between faceless grey metal man A and faceless grey metal man B.

      • Raging Bear says:

        I played the first Halo, and it was decent. A year ago I played Halo 3 at my brother’s, and after an hour or two of weapons and enemies that were identical to what they were in the first game, I was thoroughly bored by its genericness.

        That may not hold true throughout the entirety of each sequel, but there nevertheless seems to be an element of “move the fuck on” going on here.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

           It was actually seeing Halo at a friends that convinced me to to buy an Xbox over a PS2 or Gamecube.
           I didn’t particularly care for FPS’s, but it looked so beautiful and… actualized at the time, that it had me believe Xbox was doing something interesting with the console that wouldn’t be seen on the other two.
           Which is strange, because I passed the first one once and never touched it or another game in the franchise again.
           Though the Xbox was still worth it for KotoR, Jade Empire, those Texas toast-sized controllers and the single-handed worst start-up animation and sound in the history of gaming consoles.  

      • GaryX says:

        I dunno. I don’t really love Halo, but I never found it generic. If anything, it’s become such a touchstone for FPS’s that it probably looks generic in hindsight. At it’s heart, it was always more of a puzzle game where you had to choose the combination of weapons to best suit the enemies. Granted, the returns of that have definitely diminished over several games. I think that’s why I enjoyed ODST so much as it had a lot of quiet moments in it that I thought at least gave it a unique flavor. Though, it probably helped that I skipped 3, so it had been years since I had touched the franchise.

        Though, the Flood were a terrible enemy. Great in concept. Terrible in execution.

      • uselessyss says:

        I’ve actually never really understood the argument that Halo is generic.

        Sure, space marines have been done to death, but Halo never struck me as being very similar to other such games, which play up the jingoistic triumph of the military.

        I always think of Halo as a pretty goofy game. It’s a big, fun romp – not nearly as self-serious (though it certainly goes there, especially in later games) as other sci-fi games (or movies). What other game has you fight enemies that will waddle away from you, shouting in a high-pitched voice “Oh no!” or something equally ridiculous when you defeat their leader? It’s pretty dumb, and something that (thankfully) has been retained throughout the entire series.

        A lot of the incidental dialogue is pretty funny – the marine dialogue in particular is very well-done, especially for the first game, when that kind of effort wasn’t put into throwaway VO.

        Even the character designs themselves are cartoony and kind of silly – see the Prophets, bug-eyed things with long necks and bright gold headpieces.

        I always thought Halo gave some character to what could have been a dull slog, something like Battle: Los Angeles.

      • Eric Musall says:


        Halo is basically an e-sport.  It’s a FPS that plays like pickup basketball.  If they changed it up too much or added lots of story and personality, it wouldn’t be what it is.  And the reason it appeals to “bro-tastic” guys is the same reason sports do: it’s a way to indulge your competitive side.  It’s about shooting the other guy faster and more accurately than he shoots you, and as a refined and elegant reduction of that basic thing that all FPSes should be able to provide, it manages to exceed almost all of them.

        At least, this was true up until Reach.  The more they try to emulate the popular aspects of Call of Duty (loadouts, leveling, weapon and character customization) the less simple and elegant the game becomes, and the less essentially itself it is.  Have yet to play Halo 4, but I really felt like Reach was undergoing a bit of an identity crisis – and they were only just touching on the loadout concept.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I’ve had loads of good times playing various Halo games with my bros, but I can’t say that I was ever blown away by any of them. Maybe playing Halo 2 online at my buddy’s was pretty mindblowing, if only because it was one of the first few games I played over the innernette.

      I always thought they were popular not because they were new, but because they were polished like mad. Sort of like Blizzard games, there isn’t anything new really, but every aspect of the game has been extensively tested and tweaked until it was just right.

  7. dreadguacamole says:

     That’s a seriously pretty sky up there in the first screenshot.
     Fun fact: the lead designer for this game cut his teeth as a designer in Planescape: Torment.

    • And the UI designer is the same guy who did all the UI for Metroid Prime.  This is an all-star team.

      • GaryX says:

        From what I’ve seen, the Metroid Prime influence on the game is crazy apparent from everywhere to the enemy designs, to the helmet UI, and even to the weapons. 

        I probably won’t play this game, but the screenshots do look damn nice for an Xbox 360.

  8. EmperorNortonI says:

    I never saw what the big deal with Halo was. I’ve never been a huge fan of single-player PC shooters.  I played a bunch of the originals, back in the day, when they were new and I was young, but I was honestly crap at them.  I slogged through 4 or 5 Wolfenstein campaigns, but couldn’t bring myself to beat Doom or Duke Nukem.  My interest was revived by Half-Life, and I enjoyed Half Life 2, but that was that.  Multiplayer was fun, though, and I came to dearly love Day of Defeat and Red Orc.

    That said, Halo just didn’t seem all that different or interesting.  And, the plot and story made me want to scream.  Taking one of the most awe-inspiring of Sci-Fi concepts, the Ringworld, and doing little beyond pretending it’s the setting for your otherwise ordinary maps?  Imagining an alien super weapon of that scale necessary to deal with a bunch of stupid and easy to shoot parasite thingees?  Going to the effort of creating such an immense superfluity of living space, with absolutely no intent of settling there in any way shape or form?  Futuristic weapons with a fraction of the punch of available conventional armaments?  Tank-like vehicles with exposed pilots, where the pilot and not the vehicle takes damage?  It’s all so, so, so stupid.

    So yeah, Halo wasn’t my cup of tea, for a variety of reasons that are really not the fault of the designers.  They didn’t do something that they weren’t trying to do – in much the same way that their failure to give any character to the Chief was a failure to do something that, it seems, they had no interest in doing at all.

    That they felt no need to create character is perhaps the biggest and most damning critique this review makes.  Gameological is on fire recently, with this and the Assassins Creed 3 review.  Wonderful writing and thoughtful criticism.


    • Sean Smith says:

      “Imagining an alien super weapon of that scale necessary to deal with a bunch of stupid and easy to shoot parasite thingees?”

      Always did seem to be a bit of overkill, yeah.

      “Tank-like vehicles with exposed pilots, where the pilot and not the vehicle takes damage?”

      I’m trying to think of what vehicles you mean here. Tanks have exposed gunners, but not pilots.

      • You can snipe the cover off a Tank pilot then kill him while leaving the tank in tact. I think that’s what he’s referring to.

        • Eric Musall says:

           In the original Halo you could 1-shot the tank driver through the canopy – there were slots in it.  That was what they had to do to balance it in multiplayer somewhat, since all the vehicles were indestructible.  It was a slightly odd decision (and of course highly unrealistic), but it worked OK from a gameplay standpoint.  Personally I prefer the destructible vehicles of H2 and later.

      • In regards to the super-weapon I would imagine there was a period of escalation, wherein the Raid stopped working on the parasites, so then they moved to Raid Max. Eventually the surviving parasites became immune to that, so then they hit DDT, organophosphates, and finally ryanoids. Afer they became immune to that they figured there was no choice but to blow up the damn universe.

        I get that, I’ve had apartments like that…

        • GaryX says:

          I think there was also something about the Flood transforming planets’ atmosphere to make them completely uninhabitable, and that they could remultiply from even a tiny amount.

          Now, why they built these giant stations to murder the species, but also locked them away on them, I do not know. Does not seem smart.

        •  It does kind of sound like putting the cart before the universe devouring, space-horse, doesn’t it?

    • Fluka says:

      My feeling, from years of media coverage and (like most early-2000s college students) playing it a bit in dorm rooms when someone offered me the controller is that it’s…fine.  Technically accomplished, made by top-of-the-line developers and designers, and of course, the multiplayer.  But it just feels so safe and boring.  It’s not really interested in changing that formula (the earlier comparison to Mario is apt).  It’ll keep doing what it’s doing, keep doing it better and better, but it won’t really aspire to be anything more.  As long as the gameplay doesn’t change too much for the worse, and the pixels keep getting shinier, people will still keep buying it.  And again, that’s fine, but why shouldn’t we try to question that bottom line now and again, and talk about it in a different way?

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Yup, that’s pretty much exactly how I feel about Halo. See also; everything from Blizzard. Though I actually kind of hate Blizzard because that’s ALL THEY DO. Nothing new, ever. 

        • djsubversive says:

          They go for the money. “Hey, this game sold well. Let’s do it again, make a few changes, add some new levels, and boom, sequel bucks.”

          There was originally a much longer rant here, but it basically boiled down to “I’m a curmudgeonly gaming masochist. Why the fuck do people play Calls of Duty or Halos when there are games with much tighter gunplay available? Also, I watched a video of the Pripyat level of whatever Modern Warfare game once and was not impressed. My opinion is totally valid, you guys. Something about how the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are super awesome.”

          My biggest gripe: so-called ballistic weapons that behave more like laser guns – little to no recoil and perfectly accurate up to infinity range, even when “hip-firing.”

  9. Girard says:

    Parts of this review remind me of an interesting bit of writing I saw a few years back that ruminated on Master Chief’s role as a male cipher, the significance of him having an outward-facing mirror instead of a face, his preposterous abstract macho name, and his only relationship being with a nude virtual woman (who might also be the only face we see in the game?). Lacan may have been involved, I don’t remember.

    I wish I could dig it up, but Google is not being helpful. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some preview chapter from Halo and Philosophy, which I just learned is a thing that exists. There are probably a jillion navel-gazing college essays on the semiotics of Halo out there, but there’s a remote possibility someone here knows what I’m talking about.

    • JoshJ says:

       I swear I’ve read exactly what you’re talking about and enjoyed it because it went a little deeper than you’d expect without doing the obvious comparison to the player being an antisocial misanthrope.

    • Sean Smith says:

      There’s faces right up der in dem photos.

      • Girard says:

        Well, this thing I read a few years ago came out before this game, and I don’t know if earlier games featured many or any helmetless characters, which is why it was a parenthetical question rather than a flat statement.

        • Merve says:

          The first Halo definitely has soldiers without visors on their helmets. In fact, in one of the most memorable cutscenes, you get to see the looks of terror on their faces before they get consumed by The Flood.

          But for most of the game, it’s just the Chief, Cortana, and that odd robot dude from The Library.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      What is abstractly macho about John-117?

      • Girard says:

        I (and the article) was referring to “Master Chief.” They might as well have called him “Big Kahuna” “Conqueror Lord” or “King Shit of Fuck Mountain.”

      • John 11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

        Sounds pretty manly to me.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Phsst. I get stoned with Jews all the time, and no one’s ever called me manly.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Also, on closer inspection of my Bible, John 11:7 is only the bit about going back to Judea. The stoney Jews bit is John 11:8. My gut tells me Bible verses is not where the name comes from.

      • Effigy_Power says:


        For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

        John, 1:17

        I don’t get it.

        • That one’s really talking about how it’s manly to be true to yourself. Moses is getting uppity, passing laws and such, trying to act powerful. But Jesus, he’s just graceful, and he’s comfortable with that. It’s true manliness.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I meant the connection to Halo, if any, but I like your explanation.
          Mind you, if being true to thyself is manly, I ought to have more body hair. ^_^

        • djsubversive says:

          Master Chief is “the law,” Cortana’s obviously the Jesus-analogue (Jesus-digital?), and Moses is… umm… let’s say Moe.

          I have only played 30 minutes of the first Halo game.

  10. Sean Smith says:

    I might be an “emotionally stunted hero” (or at least emotionally stunted) too if the military took me from my home as a 6-year-old, physically super-sized me and then did nothing but train me to be an ultimate war weapon. Then again, some of those Reach Spartans could have a laugh (about killing stuff) once in a while.

    If Master Chief remains a cold, killing machine cipher, I’m not shocked. Investing too much in his character development (even if that’s what 343 has said they’d do) probably risks annoying longtime devotees. Other reviews have given the game credit for upping its story game, though, so I’ll wait to judge. Campaign-wise, my favorite Halo games are Reach and ODST, so if 4 feels exactly like Halo 3 I’m gonna be bummed.

    • GaryX says:

      I think his background, though, is what could make the exploration of his character so damn interesting though.

  11. Reach did have the best campaign of the series up to that point but that had nothing to do with the characters, who even though we saw their faces, were just as much boring, blank slates as Chief is. It had to do with a story that wasn’t about saving the world, but about surviving as everything crumbles around you and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  It was a nice change of pace.

    Halo 4 seems like it might have an interesting story and I’ve heard good things from other outlets that aren’t as harsh on AAA titles as the guys at gameological. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I think somebody needs to stand up against the hype-train games like AC3 and Halo 4 ride).

    Really though, as long as there are still open-ended tactical battles ready for co-op, I’m on board.  That’s all Halo fans want at the end of the day. The story could be Chief wants some Papa Johns but it’s 8 miles away and the path is littered with Covenant.  That’d probably just as good of a game.

  12. grizzledyoungman says:

    One line of this review really stood out to me: “if Master Chief had a sense of humor.”

    Master Chief does have a sense of humor.  Or rather, he did once.  Consider the teaser trailer for Halo 2 (link here: which included lines like “Stop Destruction of Human Race: In Progress.”

    Halo 1 and 2 were funny, self-aware games.  Humor was present in the dialogue, design, animations, level titles and more.  Master Chief’s improbable swagger and blase attitude really worked for the series, rounding the rough edges off of the MC’s inhumanity while preventing the apocalyptic tone of the story from exhausting the viewer.  If anything, humor deepened the meaning of the war with the Covenant; it felt like these people were laughing so as to keep from giving up entirely.

    As Drew noted, the MC is not that much less alien than the Covenant.   
    There was a certain flirtatious, quippy cadence to MC’s banter with
    Cortana that provided real emotional weight for the first two games.  As
    a player, I was strongly motivated to fight not just for humanity and
    stuff, but for my little blue girlfriend inside my head, who understood
    the loneliness of being an eight foot tall tank-man.

    More than that, humor served to bring more casual gamers into the Halo community.  In college, playing Halo really brought everyone together because you didn’t have to be a hardcore gamer to find it funny and entertaining.  It permitted non-gamers to really give the title a shot, at least for long enough to get hooked on the sleek and competitive multiplayer.  For me personally, THAT is what Halo was about: a funny, smart game that you could play for hours with or against all your other friends, none of whom needed to be full-time gamers to be into this.

    In my opinion, this delicate chemistry began to falter around Halo 3.  Not only was Cortana absent for most of the game (an unforced error on Bungie’s part), but humor was almost entirely absent from that game.  Replacing it was poker-faced self-seriousness, with lots of quivering voice acting and grim determination to do whatever it was that needed doing at the time.

    Sure, there were moments of tenderness and humor – especially when the MC and Cortana were reunited – but for the most part Halo 3 was made out of violins and piano plinks and drums and feelings and all that other self-important shit that the simoleans mistake for emotional weight.  This unfortunate trajectory continued with Halo Reach (a humorless slog if there ever was one), and looks to have been dutifully imitated by the corporate robots at 343 studios.

    Man, I am dreading this game.  Tough to see something you once loved turned into a profit zombie.

    • GaryX says:

      I think a lot of the humor from the first two, though, had MC as the straight man to the wise-cracking of Johnson or the smart-ass of Cortana. He was kind of always in the “badass short response” mode. 

    • Brainstrain says:

      Wait, you’re dreading it? You haven’t played it? So what is the corporate zombie declaration based on exactly?

  13. Great review. Always love to read the analytical reviews here on Gameological.

  14. stakkalee says:

    Has anyone seen this interview with the Halo 4 devs at 343 Industries?  In the interview Kiki Wolfkill (awesome name!) and Bonnie Ross (less awesome), the executive producer of Halo 4 and the head of 343 respectively, made some statements that suggest to some people that Microsoft intends to crack down hard on sexist and misogynistic comments on XBox Live.  To me, most of what they said sounds like weasel words – they reaffirm MS’s commitment to enforcing the Code of Conduct, but they haven’t revealed any new mechanisms for how that enforcement might be carried out.  Instead they seemingly continue to rely on the same XBox Live enforcement mechanisms they’ve always used (Kotaku summarized the process here.)  I don’t know that I have a point – obviously I’m in favor of anything that will result in greater defuckwadification of online gameplay; I just thought it was “funny” (in a bitter and sardonic way) that the video game community is so desperate for a fix for the “sexism” problem that a publisher declaring they really DO intend to enforce their ToS results in a series of breathless articles heralding a new dawn in online gameplay.  Let’s just say, I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Fluka says:

      I actually just was going to post the exact same thing.  I’ll be very curious to see what happens…  From what I gather, the change is that sexist (and presumably racist, homophobic, etc.) comments will now result in a perma-ban instead of temporary suspensions, loss of microphone privileges, etc.  I’m a little more optimistic regarding it, and I’ll be curious to see if they actually follow through, but I admit it does make me a little more charitable towards the Halo folks.  (*Insert obligatory comment here about how they’re about to lose 90% of their player base, expressing continued terminally low expectations regarding gamers, etc. etc.*)  After so many other methods have failed, zero-tolerance may be the only way you’re gonna get people to behave.

      So…cautiously optimistic.  Also, even if I don’t care a bit about Halo, it’s cool to see that such a huge game is being produced by a lady.  (WOLFKILL.)

      • stakkalee says:

        I agree that a zero-tolerance policy is the most effective solution, but I think the perma-ban will only apply to Halo 4.  I’m also surprised that racist and homophobic comments aren’t ALREADY covered by the Code of Conduct, but reading through it again it seems like the CoC is a bit vague on that front (and the verb “harass” is doing some major lifting and signifying;) check the second and fourth bullet points under the “Don’t do the following” section.  Of course, if MS is making the CoC as broad as possible, sexist stuff should already be covered by the “including but not limited to” qualifier in point 4.

        • Bad Horse says:

          If they’re going to start passing out permas, which they should absolutely do because it is ruining their brand, then they need to say in big boldface letters “do not say some dumb racist/sexist/homophobic shit, or your $60 game is about to be your most expensive coaster”. It needs to be in big red letters when they sign on and accept the CoC, or there will be hell raised.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I normally don’t advocate for speech restriction, regardless of content, but I hope XBOX Live zero-tolerance happens (it’s just so awful, there’s no other way). 

        I’ve noticed that when zero-tolerance is on the table, the people charged with enforcing it become fairly recalcitrant about handing out permabans, though. So I’ll be pleasantly surprised if XBL is any friendlier a month or two from now.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

      I did read that article and had a more optimistic response.  Not that anything will change any time soon, but nothing happens if no one ever talks about it, and a developer willing to (sort of very softly) call out their own customer-base is something that hasn’t happened much in the past.  So even if it has no teeth at the moment, I see it as a step in the right direction.

      • stakkalee says:

        I DID like the part where Wolfkill(RAWR!) talked about the developer’s responsibility to change consumer perspectives on the video game industry, and I agree with the “step in the right direction” sentiment; it’s just that we’re coming up on a decade of voice chat features in XBox Live, and we’ve had a decade of jokes about the asshats that populate voice chat, and FINALLY Microsoft hits on the “zero-tolerance” solution?  They should have passed the “no teeth” phase 9 years ago.

        • I was doing some work last year in a rural middle/high school with “at-risk youth.” All that this one group talked about was Halo, it was everything to them. Every paper they wrote, somehow, tied back into Halo. These were kids who would have been 2 or 3 when the first game came out, but this was the be all, end all for them.

          I sat down with them one day and asked them what other games they play, and they all stared at me blankly. Finally one eventually admitted to playing Call of Duty, occasionally. He was mercilessly taunted, and excluded by the rest of the group for two months after that.

          I’ve been wondering, if this is just typical pre-teen viciousness, or something more endemic to the Halo/FPS culture that’s cropped up over the past decade. Or maybe those kids were just screwed up… I’ve yet to come to a conclusion.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @facebook-579674289:disqus Jesus, two months? Pre-teens are fucking animals. I’ll be you feel pretty guilty about screwing up that kid’s social standing, huh?

          On the other hand, he learned a valuable lesson: Never volunteer personal information.

        • Bad Horse says:

          @facebook-579674289:disqus It’s probably all of the above. That level of taunting is hardly limited to XBLA or at-risk kids – I remember getting some guff for not knowing much about Goldeneye back in the day.

        •  That’s an interesting idea Bad Horse, and I think most likely true. I do find it peculiar that it was Goldeneye that was the source of your grief.

    • Merve says:

      Some have suggested that it’s nothing but a ploy to attract more female players to Halo, thereby expanding the player base and increasing sales. I’m not nearly as cynical, but I do hope that XBox Live staff go after the rampant homophobia and racism – and any other kind of harassment, really – with the same fervour.

      • Fluka says:

        You know what?  I still like that they’re doing this.  It’s GREAT when a huge company realizes that women are an actual money-spending demographic worth pandering to.  I want AAA videogames to try to attract me with stupid marketing too.

        • Effigy_Power says:


        •  Enjoy the Booth Bros, Fluka.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Oh my lord I want booth bros to be a thing like right now.

        • Fluka says:

          @facebook-579674289:disqus Awww yeeah.

          I picture them looking like Kate Beaton’s Hunks.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          @Fluka:disqus: The fact that you are straight and in a relationship is a constant source of frustration for me. I hope you are happy.

        • Fluka says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus Worse, I’m actually a small furry grey cat!

        • PaganPoet says:

          @Fluka:disqus Hunk party! I want my living room to turn into the volleyball scene from Top Gun too!

        • PaganPoet says:

          But yes, I want an alt “tribal” costume for Chris Redfield wearing naught but a loincloth. And bulge-jiggling capabilities for Ryu Hayabusa.

        • djsubversive says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus “WHERE’S MY LOLLIPOP CHAINSAW?”

          In your case, wouldn’t it be an actual Tank Girl game? with Jet and Sub and lots of heavy armor and explosions and running people over in your tank and having sex with kangaroo-mutants and sometimes your tank?

          “Fucking her tank and having a baby half-tank” probably isn’t the best story arc, but I’ll be damned if I can remember any other ones. Oh, also there was a movie, but it had a distinct lack of tank-fucking (but did have Jet Girl and Sub Girl and a Cab Calloway song, which are all pretty awesome).

          In conclusion, tanks are cool. Don’t fuck them, though.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Or with them.

          Seriously though, we are still so far away from consistently okay female protagonists that I certainly won’t hold my breath for consistently good homosexual characters.

        • PaganPoet says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus  Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 is pretty cool, although they don’t explicitly confirm his sexuality, leaving it up to the player to decide (the game’s director’s opinion is that he is gay). Some people thought the handling was disrespectful because some of the other characters were so uncomfortable/homophobic around him, but I don’t think that was a problem as the characters ARE high school students. I think the game perfectly captured what it’s like being LGBT and confused about it in high school.

          Other than that…I can’t think of any positive portrayals of gays in video games. I mean…there are characters like Eagle from the Street Fighter series where the character’s homosexuality doesn’t even come up, I guess.

        • That’s odd, Fluka, I pictured them looking like HUNK from Resident Evil.

        • PPPfive says:

           The gay characters in New Vegas get praise

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Bethesda has some success, which is nice, and Bioware would also if the large majority of potentially gay characters wouldn’t actually be bisexual, and really only anyways if they are fodder for Shep’s magic genitalia.
          @PaganPoet:disqus: Have not played any of those, but I still have Final Fight’s (or was it Street Figher?) Poison’s ridiculous toss-around still in mind, who was a post-op transgender in the Japanese release and was turned into a dude for the American release in order to protect our delicate sensitivities.
          Good to see that some small headway is being made.

        • Fluka says:

          @facebook-579674289:disqus Total HUNK!  Clearly way into beach volleyball.
          (Spoiler: my booth bros are all dressed up like Alistair from Dragon Age, and Adam Jensen.)

          (…there is possibly a dude dressed like Garrus Vakarian, as well.)

        • Effigy_Power says:

           @Fluka:disqus: Why don’t you marry Adam Jens…

          Oh right.

      • ChicaneryTheYounger says:

        I don’t care about the motives behind it, I care that they seem like they want to remove the sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, brain-phobic shit.

        Hell, playing Red Dead Redemption online recently I got called “Mexican bitch” by a 12-16 year old Texan kid. I didn’t even know children still played that.

        • Merve says:

          That’s the problem, though. They’ve only spoken about going after the sexism. They haven’t said anything about going after the racism, homophobia, transphobia, or any other kind of harassment.

          Like I said, I’m not so cynical as to believe that they’re doing this purely for business reasons. Heck, with online harassment as rampant as it is, we need to start somewhere, and sexism is as good a place as any.

          But when Wolfkill and Ross are trotting out the same tired, long-debunked myths about online harassment, i.e. that it comes in large part from “adolescents,” it does look like they’re just paying lip service to the idea of getting rid of it. Tough talk is great, and it can even change attitudes. But I’ll be a lot less skeptical when the XBox Live staff put their money where their mouth is.

  15. Effigy_Power says:

    “But legends aren’t so easy to kill, especially when they’re wearing full
    body armor and subscribe to the “Shoot first, shoot again, don’t ask
    questions later, throw a few plasma grenades for good measure” school of

    I like you, Drew, but I think you’re still being too friendly.

    Edited version:
    “But legends aren’t so easy to kill, especially when they’re wearing full
    body armor and manage to pull money out of the pockets of screaming kids who love to infuse all their real world frustration into hip-thrusting marines and yell all those naughty words they can’t say with their moms around; to such a degree even that they won’t bother to realize that they have been playing the same game for a decade or more.”

    In other words, why make steaks if the cow keeps shitting gold?

    And yes, that’s embellishment. Hi, I am Effigy, I’ll be here all week.

  16. Seriously?… they named the planet “Requiem”? I, ugh, who?… ugh
    I had to stop reading.

    There’s no amount of “oh it’s just in good fun, it’s supposed to be dumb, don’t overthink it, durrpy-derp-a-dew, it’s an FPS, a game for dumb 14 year olds, see, explosions therefore derp” is justification for that. Who thought that was good idea? Likely someone who thought it sounded totally clever or cool, neither of which are qualities any believable adult would employ when naming a planet. Ugh. It…
    It’s worse than Unobtanium, not in that it tries to make a new and ridiculous word, just in that… Ugh.

    I’ll shoot straight: I’ve never played a Halo game (more than 20 minutes worth anyway) – now I never will.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Sure, Requiem, in the Dirge star system, in the Threnody arm of the Funeral March Galaxy.

      • Whether you’re joking or not (I don’t know), checkmate. I lose.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          They’re all names for mournful music. It’s a joke. Even astronomers aren’t that insipid (I hope).

        • Then it was an excellent joke.

          Still though…

          What, did you think I was too stupid to know what Thredoodenie was? *blue steel*

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @facebook-505242445:disqus Well, I didn’t know what threnody was until I wikipedia’d “dirge” to look at related terms, and I use myself as the baseline of human intelligence, so…


        • PaganPoet says:

          I have a bachelor of music in composition and I have no idea what a threnody is.

        • Yeah, I’ve actually never heard the word either. lol Just picked it up from context of the other words – and have now confirmed on That’s a good one for the arsenal, thanks.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      While I am generally on the same page with you (I can’t watch stupid movies for fun, for example), I think your last statement “Now I never will” isn’t what this is about.
      I mean, if that’s what you get out of the review, then yes, it’s totally valid, and you’re certainly welcome to do whatever you like, but I think in general reviews are given waaaay too much weight, which is why they became so commercially charged in the first place.

      A lot of people see the review by they chosen outlet, channel or person as canon.
      “And G4 went forth and sayeth: Thou shalt play Medal of Duty X3: Modest Riflegrabber and rejoice, for it kicketh thine brown enemies where it hurteth and they went forth and bought the game and it was good.”

      I truly believe that a lot of people, especially kids who just don’t know any better than to follow whatever popular fad that is thrust upon them, read reviews this way. After all, it’s hard to build a sort of cool persona at that age and gaming is the cool, easily accessible thing right now, where money can be exchanged for something to talk about with your equally insecure friends. PR people got wind of that, imposed their whims on a large majority of review-outlets through bribery or intimidation and there we are.

      Not that adults are any less susceptible to that, but gaming is still, for all its claims to maturity, mostly aimed at teenage boys and so it caters to that market with content, advertising and tone. And because teenagers will do anything if you only hammer it into their brain loud and often enough with a lot of hollow catch-phrases and utterly pointless fashion-terms, reviews have for a great part become almost insistent on their validity.

      They may not say that out loud, but I would bet that a lot of reviewers of the big outlets like IGN or Gamespot or whatever is around get a pretty big high out of being able to control the wallets of thousands of consumers based on their endorsement. It would be pretty hard not to become infatuated with that kind of power. Lots of critics are obviously in danger of that, but since we are talking about gaming and with that recent ugliness about PR-influence in reviews, I’d say that gaming is pretty strongly affected by it.

      In the end reviews are someone’s opinion piece. They are never invalid, because they are someone’s opinion. They are never wrong, because they are someone’s opinion. The only part of the process that requires validation is our reaction to them.

      I read reviews for fun. I don’t or at least try not to let them influence my decisions too much, but I do value them as a source of additional information. Reading a single review and basing your decision on that is just as folly as watching a single network news channel and basing your world views off that. And I like seeing reviews that are fundamentally different, because the more reviews look the same, the less I can take them seriously and the more they seem like press releases. I also don’t automatically take a review on IGN more seriously than one on a page like Gameological… if anything I probably take it less seriously, because I might suspect IGN to have a much deeper interest in keeping sponsors happy and therefore maybe being a tad dishonest at times.

      Reviews are advice. No more, no less. If I remember back well enough and nostalgia isn’t messing with my head, reviews used to be written that way. “I didn’t find X so great, but you might. Character Y was awesome, but I can see how people might not like him…” and so on. AAA-reviews on the big outlets read often enough like press releases, but even if not, they insist upon their validity, which makes them presumptuous and a bit arrogant. The best thing we can do is to give them the validity they deserve, and that is the validity of someone’s unfiltered advice. No more, no less..

      PS:I am not talking about you in this, @facebook-505242445:disqus. Your last statement is just something I’ve seen a lot and it reminded me of the point I wanted to make.

      • I think I mostly agree with you.

        My final statement wasn’t actually in response to the review (which I did eventually finish, after minutes of vibrating in hatred), I was just still harping on the stupid, stupid planet name. The dumb. It hurts.

        I gotta mention though, reviews can be objectively wrong, even if it is an opinion piece. Quality versus taste. They are two different things, both of which ought to factor into reviews, but not merge.

        For instance, you and a friend walk into a pizza place. Your friend gets ham and pineapple, and you get pepperoni, because fuck pineapple.

        That is an argument of taste.

        Now each pizza is made by a different cook. Your friend’s pizza gets all the love and attention of a professional chef, with precise measurements and distribution of toppings, well rounded edges, and baked to perfection.

        Your pizza, on the other hand, gets dropped on the floor, the crust is uneven, there’s a handfull of toppings and cheese and sauce just dumped into the middle like a mountain (which the cook has named “Mount Requiem Resurrection Redemption Retaliation”), and of course it gets burnt.

        That is an argument of quality.

        Reviewers generally tend to ignore this distinction, instead going in for just their gut reaction, which is ultimately another reason to regard reviews with a grain of salt.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          I take away from this that while we have different ideas of the process, we agree on what treatment reviews should expect from the reader.
          I can live with that very well. Both ideas have their merit.

          PS: See? That’s how you argue like a grown-up.

    • Eric Musall says:

       1. Unobtainium is an actual scientific name not invented for the movie “Avatar.”  Perhaps they were unwise to use it since, yes, it sounds stupid – but they didn’t invent it.  I like to think that the scientist who thought it up was making a joke.  Note: I’ve never seen “Avatar” and have no rooting interest here.

      2. Requiem doesn’t seem like that awful of a name in the context of Halo.  Partly this is because all the planets, ships, aliens and whatnot have these kind of somber names (e.g. “Truth and Reconciliation,” “Pillar of Autumn,” “Prophet of Regret”); Requiem might be one of the most thuddingly obvious and un-poetic of the bunch, but at least it kind of fits into the theme.  And partly this is because – I don’t know if this is canon, I’m not that deep into it to have read the books or whatever – I believe most of the names of alien races, planets, etc. are given to them by humans who are either roughly translating an alien tongue, or just giving it a name that seems physically or otherwise appropriate.  I can’t say for sure having not played the game yet, but it seems likely that Requiem is just the (again, thuddingly obvious) name given to the planet by humans who spot it and find out it’s a dead world that used to be populated by the forerunners.

      • 1. I learned something about Unobtanium (AND Threnodies) today. That’s pretty cool.

        2. Canon isn’t worth anything. It’s all made up my someone, no better than you or me, and those are all stupid names. I can’t get immersed in a world where everything is named thematically unless there’s a damn good point to it (and characters’ names are way easier to let slide than places, particularly entire planets) – because you have to buy into the idea that somebody within that world chose that name at some point, and that other people agreed to it. So, everybody in the Halo universe is always somber all the time…  deep, man.

        Did you know that thousands (and eventually millions) of people die on Earth every day? We ought to rename it The Plague-o-Sphere of Tears!

        They picked Requiem because it’s one of those marketable, dark and fancy words that make dumb people feel smart when they say them (see my totally not-dumb pizza mountain metaphor in a related post for more examples).

    • Merve says:

      I don’t care what it’s called. I just care about two things: 1) Does it look cool? 2) Can I blow it up?

  17. LoveWaffle says:

    Meanwhile, there is a trailer for new Skyrim DLC we should all be talking about.

  18. Brainstrain says:

    This is kind of a weird review. I mean, sure, we should criticize Halo for having a static, one-dimensional protagonist. That’s not okay. Call ’em out. But it is weird to go into a Halo game expecting anything else.

  19. BobSmith111 says:

    I got a chance to play the demo yesterday over at a co-worker’s house from DISH and noticed a lot of diversity and progression has been added to the multiplayer aspect of the game. I’m less of a “hit and run” type of player, so I appreciate some of the game modes that adds a layer of strategy which allows us mediocre gamers to play a key role. Obviously I haven’t played the game all the way through yet, but from what I’ve seen, it seems awesome. I decided I couldn’t go wrong by adding it to my Blockbuster@Home rental service from DISH. I would just buy the thing, but I’ve come to the realization that if I just rent games for a flat monthly fee, I save a ton of money in the long run.