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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Halo 4.

TranscriptEdit

I feel sorry for 343 Industries, the company Microsoft brought in to do Halo because the company's champagne fountain needed refilling and Bungie escaped from the basement. It's always awkward replacing someone everyone's gotten used to, isn't it? This must be what it's like for new popes. "Oh sorry, the old pope always prefered golden syrup in his porridge." "No, it's alright. The old pope and me had this little understanding. I'd fuck altar boys and he'd hush it up." Still, you can't say 343 aren't grateful for the opportunity.

Funny how Halo 4 was released on election day as part of some sinister Republican conspiracy to make people who write game FAQs stay at home, 'cos at the start and end of the game, there's a little personal message from the new developers that has much of the acceptance speech about it. "Ooh, thank you so much for accepting us, o handsome and wonderful consumer. We promise not to completely diddle Halo over a doghouse, slurp slurp, fawn fawn." It's just a fucking aging shooter franchise, 343 Industries. You're not the fucking UN Secretary General, stop trying to altar-boy me.

Anyway, we return to the life of Master Chief, a faceless socially awkward bellend with a post-graduate degree in being in charge of shit. After successfully concluding whatever the fuck was going on in Halo 3, he was left to drift in space with no company but his naked hologram lady. So after four solid years of masturbating, he wakes up to find himself smack in the middle of a hostile enemy fleet and being pulled onto a mysterious planet and Covenant Forerunner Arbiter Promethean I know what all these individual words mean, but together they make no sense.

By Halo 3, I was feeling like a Cub Scout at an S&M club, lacking the capacity to comprehend the things around me and wondering if I was supposed to call the police. So I was grateful that Halo 4 seemed to be kicking it off with a fresh new story but by halfway through I was lost again. Nobody ever adequately explains anything to Mister Chief. His entire role in life is to get to the next USB port so he can plug in his wank hologram and she can run sort_this_shit_out.exe. It's something to do with some asshole who wants to kill all humans and Mister Chief is the only one who can stop him because he downloaded only_one_who_can_stop_him.dll from a ghost.

So the broad plot sniffs its own farts a wee bit, but video game story is like a carpark: it has multiple levels and is more expensive near the exit. The dialogue and characterization level show some improvements and people are finally capable of exhibiting emotions besides inspiring military courage. The big thing is that Cortana is going sexy senile and alternates between whinging about it and doing what's technically known to artificial intelligence experts as "going off on one", which is obviously going to become a problem because Mister Chief doesn't know how to run sort_this_shit_out.exe; he can't even change his ringtone.

And there's an asshole military captain who's perhaps quite reasonably iffy about working with someone whose pet AI keeps going off on one and a more sympathetic Kevin Spacey type with sad eyes and a twatty haircut. They're all quite nicely rounded. It's kind of a shame that they all have to orbit around Mister Chief though, who is about as engaging as a fucking totem pole with an upturned bucket on the top can be. He always struck me as the result of two developers arguing over whether or not to have a silent protagonist meeting each other halfway and now they have to figure out how to make him look sad without resorting to drawing little tears on his visor with Tipp-Ex.

I suppose the thing about Halo is that it's a bit...what's the word, sexless?? You can never accuse it of being spunkgargleweewee, because it is quite organic with big open levels that are all like "Just gonna leave this vehicle here. Maybe using it to drive around the level would be freaking sweet, but if that's not your bag then you know what they say about rocks: they're nature's bouncy castle," while something like Battlefield 3 forces you into vehicles like it's stuffing dough into a toilet roll tube. "Get in! You must experience the next ten to fifteen setpieces exactly as was intended from a vehicle being pulled along the rail like you're on the fucking Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland."

But while Halo doesn't frustrate me that way, it's just kind of boring! It reminds me of playing Space Hulk or one of those other tabletop games where you have a box full of generic prefab rooms and have to clip a bunch of them together to make a level. Enemy structures are like franchised burger chains stamped onto the landscape every now and again and it's all too fucking clean! All polished shimmering cuboids glued together with magic glowing space glue. It's unreal, it's plasticky, it's like fighting inside a giant Masters of the Universe playset!

And there are several things about Halo combat I've never liked, even while it eschews chest-high walls. Most of the guns look and handle like they taped glowsticks to something manufactured by Super Soaker or Nerf and literally make the sound "pew-pew-pew". And you fight the same handfuls of enemies from USB port to USB port and even on normal difficulty, one has a rather mean-spirited tendency to be killed very very suddenly and without warning, mainly because of the many brightly coloured glowing projectiles one must avoid, about half of them plink off your armour like a sparrow in a glittery dress, and the other half blast your buttock plates off like a night on bad Mexican. If this is Combat Evolved, then it's an evolutionary dead-end; it's a fucking gay African Mammoth!

And the best you could say about 343 Industries at this point is that they're certainly not making waves. No Michael Bay they, taking intellectual properties with one hand and dipping a paintbrush in sick with the other. The new weapons are more shiny Fisher-Price toys and the new baddies are the innummerable twin siblings of the same two glowing bullet-sponge dangletwats and nary so much as a boss fight to liven things up. So rejoice, Halo fans! Your stale pretentious franchise for twelve-year-olds has had just enough embalming fluid injected to keep it riding high on the level of stagnant as opposed to dead!

Single-player campaign's bloody short and all. We track down the final USB port of the gods--well, the two final USB ports of the gods because if it's worth doing once, it's worth prefabbing to pad the runtime out, finish off the baddie with one quick-time event, enjoy the spectacle of Mister Chief looking sad and off we tot! "But don't worry," says the game. "We took all those shiny environments you just disinterestedly buzzed through and prefabbed the balls off them so you can frolic forever in the Elysian Fields of multiplayer."

I think I see how this works. The story campaign is basically the Ikea showroom and the multiplayer is all the Ikea funiture in your house now that you actually have to live with it, but it never looks quite as good as it did in the shop, does it? When it was under the carefully arranged showroom lighting and it didn't wobble when you leant on it and you'd just eaten some lovely meatballs.

AddendaEdit

More like Fail-o Snore: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Would Cortana have used less processing power over the years if they'd maybe put less polygons in her big fat perfectly sculpted arse

I dread to think what Master Chief's buttock plates must smell like by now

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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