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Halo 5: Guardians

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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Halo 5: Guardians.

Transcript Edit

Is it me, or is the current slew of new installments to ongoing franchises even more of a flatline than usual? It feels like for years, consoles were slapping the same wet laundry against the same rocks over and over again, but then adventure called and they journeyed through a harrowing odyssey of motion controls and 3D, and the faint obligation to innovate that comes with a console generation. But now things seemed to have settled down and they’ve returned to the Shire to resume slapping the wet laundry against the rocks, blissfully unaware of the VR monster that’s about to leap up from the riverbed and make them all puke themselves to death.

But while we’re waiting for that, let’s take a look at Halo 5, the fifth installment of what was the original progenitor of the open-quotes “next-gen shooter,” i.e., nice skybox, shame about the game, or rather the second installment of the new trilogy developed by 343 Industries, after original creators Bungie decided, “Hey, this incredibly repetitive sci-fi shooter garbage with pseudo-mythical pretensions with the emphasis on "pretensions" got old pretty fast. Let’s move on to Destiny and see if we can beat our previous speed record.” And rest assured, this is going to be another trilogy, because without wishing to spoil, a sentence fast becoming my own personal "I’m not racist but...", Halo 5 ends in a cliff-hangery Empire Strikes Back kind of way. Oh yes, Microsoft see no reason to hop off this gravy train as long as it’s still moving, even if it’s at a fucking crawl across perfectly flat terrain lest its contents slop out and baste nearby cattle.

Although there is a little blip on the plot's heart monitor in that Cortana is sort of turning into the big villain now. Oh yeah, spoiler alert: turns out Cortana’s big dramatic death scene in the last game wasn’t for realsies, but one could kind of predict that from the mere fact that there is a Halo 5 at all; it doesn’t take a giant space protractor to calculate that Master Chief and Cortana are the only marketable faces of the franchise, which is not even because they’re good or interesting characters, it’s only because Mr. Chuffy is the protagonist and Cortana flaps her big blue knockers about like a gelatin dessert on a merry-go-round.

The funny thing is, even in-universe everyone seems to realize that Mr. Chuffy and his little blue titty monster are the only characters of any importance, so when Mr. Chuffy reports having a weird dream about Cortana being alive and calling him to a distant planet, not a single person so much as hazards the possibility that it was just a dream and maybe he’ll forget all about it if they buy him a new wank doll for Christmas. No, they’re all like, “Ooh, this is serious; we better go to that planet then!” 

But despite Mr. Chuffy knowing Cortana best and his grief affecting his work 'cause they had to install little windscreen wipers to get all the tears off his face plate, he is inexplicably disinvited from the mission. I guess his superiors thought they were playing XCOM and wanted to level up some of their rookies. And so Mr. Chuffy is given an excuse to go rogue.

The action is split between the four Spartans trying to hunt down Mr. Chuffy and Mr. Chuffy himself, who also has three finger puppets with him for no better reason than because his bits need to be four-player co-op as well; any potential that might have been here for some kind of tense or dramatic character interplay is lost by the fact that Halo continues to seem like it was written by a castrated slug.

The crime for which Mr. Chuffy is being hunted is so completely fucking weak that the two parties can barely summon the effort to be cross at each other when they do meet Two of them have a token punch-up about midway through that has more the air of two blind people trying to politely get past each other in a crowded restaurant. It might have helped if it had been playable, but Halo 5’s attitude seems to be that nothing ruins an action sequence faster than players.

The game opens with the four members of the B-team having a huge spectacular punch-up in a warzone, at which point I went, “Holy wow, look at that! The stain on the wall behind my TV is exactly the same shape as New Caledonia! If only this overblown footage of people I don’t know fighting other people I don’t know for reasons unexplained could be as interesting.” After all, I know the backstory for that stain: it was left by an errant jet of spunk after I watched Free Willy for the first time, and after this brief sequence of pointless spectacle, almost all the storytelling is done with two-sentence dialogue exchanges barked out in between samey combat arenas. 

“Hey, third finger puppet! here’s a quiet moment; you may now flesh out your backstory in a maximum of ten words.”

“Errmm.. I worked for six months as a seal clubber.”

And then I’m all like, "What? Sorry I wasn’t paying attention! Post-action sequence probably isn’t the best time to have important exposition, 'cause my mind’s in recovery mode and I’m trying to chug this Gatorade."

I don’t want no one trying to tell me the story doesn’t matter if the gameplay’s fine, because frankly the story is all that Halo 5 can possibly sell itself on. It’s the same shooting as always, no new weapons or vehicles -- and incidentally, Halo games could save me some time and throw my starting rifle and pistol in the bin as the level starts and give me something I could actually find some fucking ammo for. No new enemies either; there’s a boss character in that he’s functionally identical to certain standard enemies but twice the size and can’t shut his fucking face for five seconds, and you fight him, like, twenty times. The plot reason is that it’s one guy with, like, a million bodies and I thought, "Okay, that’s actually quite threatening as villains go since blowing him up over and over again isn’t going to help and that’s pretty much the only string to my bow", until what might as well be the final boss is just ten more of the guy. Psych! Turns out blowing him up over and over again is going to help!

Halo is the premature ejaculation of video games, and I’m not just saying that because Halo 5 feels shorter than Cortana’s laundry list. It took 'til Super Mario Galaxy for Mario to spooge his last and that was Halo’s fucking starting point: kick off with huge galaxy-spanning threats and giant fat-arsed space prostitutes with fanny cankers the size of small moons, and where the fuck are you supposed to go from there? Maybe you could breathe some life in by switching to a more focused character narrative, but the prerequisite for that is actually having characters beyond titty holograms and giant dustbins on legs.

The attitude of Halo 5 seems to be that if you keep chewing the bubblegum, maybe the flavour will eventually somehow come back. It’s just more meat for the grinder, more grist to the mill, more innocence lost to the 70s children's TV presenter, but at worst, it’s merely bland unless you plan to get into the multiplayer, at which point the threat level elevates to court-martial offense. If paying for the game and the subscription fee weren’t quite enough fun for you, the fun need never stop in the micro-payment shop as you struggle to compete with fat 13-year-old tit-fiddlers with Mum’s credit card and poor supervision. And $3.95's getting pretty bloaty for a micro-payment! If that’s a micro-payment, then my dick is comfortably petite!

Addenda Edit

  • Hey nonny lo: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • And here I thought the 'Guardians' subtitle meant Master Chief had gone AWOL to leak snooping data to left-wing newspapers
  • Come Mister Tally Man tally me Cortana
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

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