Angry Robot

Finish the Fight… For Now…

…this single player was brutal. I went in with low expectations, and I was not disappointed. The game play/control was good, I’ll give it that. But A.I.? Level design? Storytelling? Two words: Phoned in. All those things aside, though, it’s the ending that irks me the most. Halo 2 has immortalized itself for me as the only game to give Soul Reaver a run for its money for the worst cop-out-ending-to-make-you-buy-the-next-game ever. Only one thing keeps it out of the top spot: Soul Reaver’s ending actually said “to be continued…”

Is it just me, or are cliff-hanger endings the worst media creation ever? Honestly, there was nothing good about the entire summer we had to endure to find out what would happen next when Picard was turned into Locutus – It was probably the worst summer holiday ever. And nowadays, this torturous practice is commonplace in television; I think every show I watch ended their respective seasons with a “to be continued…” Film is notorious for throwing in an after the credits hook to remind you that, yes, there will be a sequel, and yes, you will pay them to see it. But our videogames, they’re immune to these underhanded marketing ploys, right? No sir, they are not.




Why can’t a game be strong enough on its own that you WANT to buy the next one ‘cause the last one was just so much fun to play? Instead we’re forced to buy the next game to find out how the story ends. Halo 2 is a prime example: it didn’t need to be Empire Strikes Back’d, there’s just not all that deep of a story there. I understand that there are a slew of novels that really delve into the ever expanding “Halo mythos,” but a game shouldn’t need the support of external materials to give us a complete story. In the context of the game, the story is generic, underdeveloped and intentionally truncated. This last move is just to make sure that those of us who aren’t plugged into the H2 multiplayer machine will still buy our copies.

And that’s what frustrates me the most. There are plenty of game series out there that get by without the cliff-hanger and keep us coming back – The Legend of Zelda, Ghost Recon/Rainbow Six, Resident Evil, just to get the list started. You don’t rush out and get the next game in these series’ because you need to know what happens next – that was taken care of in the LAST game! You rush out to grab these games because the last one rocked, and you’re hoping the next one does too.

If my decision whether or not to play Halo 3 was based solely on how much H2’s single player “rocked,” I guarantee it wouldn’t see the inside of my Xbox 360… I doubt I’d even pick up the box to read the back. Sadly, however, their marketing ploy has grabbed me by the nostrils and is now leading me where it wants me to go. I mean, how can I not play H3? I can’t just assume that Master Chief is going to go out there and kick some ass – maybe take a few names – and save the day. I have to play it to find out for sure (and no, I can’t just read about what happens somewhere else – everyone knows that’s just not the same), and that means THEY win. I hate it when they win… Fie!

Fortunately, rumour has it that Bungie has beefed up the single player for round three – I can only hope. But I won’t be at all surprised if my Halo 3 experience ends with the image of Master Chief standing on some rocky outcrop, facing a whole mess o’ the Covenant, and saying, “Okay then! NOW I’m going to finish the fight. And this time, I mean it!”


5 comments on "Finish the Fight… For Now…"

  1. Nadine says:

    It’s so weird for me when I have to face the fact that not everyone feels the way about the single player story as I do.

    See, when I first played it was with my ultimate Halo partner Helena and we played through both games together and would always replay levels. It was the most fantastic co-op gameplay I’d ever experienced up to that point.

    I’ve always pretty much been a watcher, like my older sister would always play games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill and I would just watch. I did the same thing with Prince of Persia Sands of Time, Helena played and I supervised. So when Halo came along, it just changed the way I played. I remember hearing about a sci-fi shooter where one person could be a gunner and the other drive and I was like “I must play this”. That first time in a Warthog was rough…but I can’t imagine my life without it now!

    Anyway, loving hearing this totally different side of Halo life.

    And yes, that summer was bawls.

    Super bawls.

  2. D says:

    This had me thinking about how I feel about cliffhangers. I thought about The Wire and how any given episode of the show would technically be a cliffhanger since it’s an ongoing story, but the seasons themselves always came to satisfying conclusions.

    I also wouldn’t want to rule out the feeling I had as a kid walking out of Empire Strikes Back – confusion to the core. There’s something psychologically disruptive about a cliffhanger, which is probably why you mention you think it’s unwarranted in Halo since the story isn’t deep. I disagree on that point (I think it’s got a good, deep story but it’s told confusingly in Halo 2), but I see what you’re getting at. A cliffhanger is sort of a ballsy move, a little showoffy.

    I think ultimately I’m ok with cliffhangers as a category, but the Halo 2 ending wasn’t a particularly well-executed one. Ending the story with an Arbiter level doesn’t feel right. (I heard there was supposed to be a Master Chief level afterwards but it didn’t get done on time.) Also, it could be that expectations need to be in line. The Empire Strikes Back’s title pretty much spells it out that things aren’t going to be all that rosy. Whereas the marketing for Halo 2 put player expectations in a place the game didn’t live up to (barely any Earth, not a lot of fight-finishing). If they had titled it Halo 2: The Chief Fails to Achieve His Goals, maybe that would have helped.

  3. emma says:

    Ok, I feel an emotional response to this post.

    and be warned…it gets catty. for serial.

    Yes cliffhangers can be the super sucks. Yes the summer spent with Picard as Locutus was strange, ‘why would they do this?’, ‘just what will happen next’, ‘when will this summer end???’

    And I agree with D they can be somewhat psychologically disruptive.

    But Halo has a wonderful story, it is really a fantastic tale, and it is such a beautiful experience to play the campaign with someone you really dig. and it is something that while you aren’t playing it yourself you can still really enjoy its adventure and action, and sexy cortana (like on the advent of H2 when I watched the story unfold over the course of a saturday in st cat’s while my sister and cousin played it in one go…ah double needler, yours is such a mystical pinkness…how I want you)

    In Halo’s case I don’t really care that the ending was flat, that it was an emotional let down, like getting to third base only to have your grandmother walk in to the house calling out to you to come and have some freshly made muffins; killing the mood and leaving you frustrated and feeling a little dirty.

    But remember that there are muffins, warm wonderful muffins, and you can eat them and find some joy in them.

    So to bring this analogy to some sort of close,
    remember that the muffins are the sweet campaign levels that you can play over and over again, with peeps or alone to pass the time, and the mulitplayer is still oh so intensely tits. and please don’t forget, we get to double wield…remember how before H2 there was no double fistin’ shooty mckill. you had a gun and a hand free to chuck ‘nades.

    so they ran outta production time and the story and game play ended too soon and earth’s great fight didn’t really happen on earth and it didn’t really get finished or started enough or whatever…

    well guess what, our long summer of locutus is nearing its end. and no amount of bitchin or attempted sullying of halo 2 can stop the signal in my pants. grandma is away and halo three and I are soon to play.


  4. GigerHR says:

    I think the real disagreement here stems from the fact that I found the single-player campaign tedious and repetitive from start to finish. I really didn’t enjoy it. The level design was poor and unimaginative (save for the very infrequent out-of-doors areas), and I can’t even count the number of times an enemy would stand stalk still, out of cover, and just let me mow them down – and I’m talking Brutes not Grunts. Then, to top off the tedium by denying us a final Master Chief level AND leaving it at a to be continued? There’s really only one word for it: Shenanigans! 😉

    In spite of all that, I am looking forward to H3. I’ve heard enough people say the campaign has really been improved that I believe the single player mess that was Halo 2 can be redeemed. I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.

  5. Nadine says:

    After just playing a marathon of the two I will always want to play Halo 1 more than Halo 2 from now on…Halo 2 was just not as fun as the first one and that’s from playing them back to back. I dunno, the levels are repetitive in both but I just love so many of the levels in Halo 1. Reunion Tour, Truth and Reconcilliaton, Assault on the Control Room…Good times and I just really love the feeling I get from playing them.

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