Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Pillar of Autumn




Upon inserting the disc and starting the game, I am forced to choose a difficulty to play on. Easy, Normal, Hard, and Legendary.
This is the Legendary insignia:

GAHHH!! Who... Who would choose this?

Seeing that pure terror right there, I quickly decided to choose the opposite. Easy. Excellent. With my difficulty chosen, I press "begin game" and am greeted with the most aggravating loading screen I've ever encountered. I really hope it doesn't take ten minutes to load every time.

The level opens up to find the Pillar of Autumn (some sort of mega-ship) in a state of crisis. It is being boarded by some sort of alien race (or worker's union, I'm unclear as to which) called the Covenant.

A man I assume to be the captain of this space-boat starts talking to a holographic chick he calls "Cortana" (more on her later) about some boring space politics. This is where I zoned out and came back in five minutes later, when prompted by a space cadet to "look around using the left thumb-stick." Wow, the subtle blending of instructions and storyline is fantastically done. Pitch-perfect.

He runs me through some more controller-related "Diagnostics tests" and I patiently follow along. For some reason, the Master Chief of the Space Marines has forgotten how to move. Soon, however, I am sprinting around the place like a sixth grade Track and Cross Country champ. Also, I can jump over people.

After we have finished our "special tests," the cadet leads me out the door and promptly stands in front of a second door that explodes and kills him. I am noticing a disturbing amount of sliding doors on this ship. A door from one room to a hallway, from a hallway to another hallway, from another hallway to a big room, etc.

Without my chipper young companion, I feel lost. I wish I would have paid attention when he told me specifically where we were going and how to get there. I go down one of the thousand hallways on the Pillar of Autumn (I swear, there are about three rooms on this ship. The rest is hallways). I run through corridor after corridor, weaponless, and quickly realize how poorly made this space boat is. The invasion is happening on the other end of the vessel, but walls are randomly exploding all around me.

My exploits have led me down a series of dark hallways. I am lost. Why, God, oh why have you led me astray like this? My controller keeps vibrating uncontrollably, perhaps in an effort to tell me how bad I suck. I turn around, and follow a new path toward more unholy blackness. There is nowhere to go. I am lost. I am hoples-

Wait a minute! What was that? Light at the end of this hallway? Salvation has been delivered for me! I bounce down the corridor toward a beautiful, glorious light. Almost there! Here I am!
And then, this greets me:
Hey, cutie-pie.

Turns out, this guy hates Master Chiefs. And Space Marines. And Space Cadets. I'm going to conclude this guy is not a fan of humans at all.

Luckily, a Marine was standing right next to this creature, presumably making agreeable small talk as they waited for me to come trotting out of the wretched darkness like a frightened rabbit.

Yeah, I can see the similarities.

Anyway, the Marine proceeded to blow this alien's (called an "Elite") brains out. I imagine the dialogue went something like this:

Marine (pointing weapon at Elite): Hey, I'm going to kill you in a second, ok?
Elite: What? No... Why?
Marine: Partly, it's because it's my job.
Elite: Oh... Well... Ok. What are you waiting for?
Marine: I'm pretty sure the Master Chief will be coming down this hall any second now, and I really want to make a good impression.
Elite: Understandable.
Marine: Hey, would you be so kind as to stand right next to the door and jump out at him so that he messes himself and thinks I saved him from certain imminent doom? That'd be swell...
Elite: Uh... Sure. I'll do that.
Marine: Aw, thanks, man. You're alright.
Elite: As are you.

Then they stood in silence for five minutes until I leaped in.

I decide that this guy saved me from imminent doom, and therefore I will follow him to the place I'm supposed to go. He leads me through a dozen or so rooms where the Covenant are massacring a crew's worth of unarmed space cadets and doesn't bat an eye. I find that disturbing, so I try to run ahead of him, but he is all "Awww, heck no" and I'm all "Fine, I'll keep following you, then. Jerk."

I am led through eighty-some more sliding doors (Yes, I understand that those are a huge technological leap, but how many doors does a giant space boat need? Answer: Not that many) and eventually to the control room where I find the Captain in a conversation with Cortana. The Captain is called Keyes, and spends a distressing amount of time smoking from an old fashioned pipe. It's unclear why, in the twenty sixth century (when simply stepping over a health kit heals you), tobacco must still be smoked from a pipe. What if standing next to this guy for so long gives me cancer from second hand smoke? Then I have medical conditions to worry about in addition to a huge alien clan trying to kill me. Screw you, Captain Keyes.

As I try to stop breathing until this encounter is over, he tells me some boring technology mumbo jumbo about how, basically, this creepy holographic girl is a microchip that he is going to plug into my brain, so that she can talk to and "help" me all the time. She is some sort of super advanced artificial intelligence database, who can explain anything to me.

At this point, I find myself wishing for a way to skip these lame cut scenes. Finding none, I close my eyes and lean back, my ears plugged and shouting "LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" at the top of my lungs. Twenty or so minutes later, after my vocal chords have become hoarse and my ears have started to bleed, I look up at the screen. A big blue message box commands me to "Please Turn on Xbox Controller." I do so, and find that the captain is now just staring at me as he smokes his pipe. Creepy old pervert.

I run out of this place to find that I am now holding a huge pistol. I begin to feel pangs of disappointment as I realize that this may be how all guns look in this game: Clunky and unrecognizable.

Ooooh, look, a pleasant piece of abstract art has appeared in my hands. How pret- Wait a minute...

I run down yet another corridor with that firearm abomination in hand, and meet another type of alien enemy: the Grunt.

It's... adorable!

Soon, however, this little bugger's adorableness runs out. This is one of the most annoying things I've encountered in video games, ever (and I am including that glitch on the fourth level of "The Mummy" that made it impossible to finish the game). The first problem is their senseless chatter, producing such gems as "Ahhh run away" or "Bad cyborg," said in a high pitched helium voice. It's hurtful, too, because I'm not a cyborg. I'm a man wearing a super-advanced mechanical suit. The second thing that makes these little guys so annoying is that they ever so rarely actually shoot me. I run into a group of four or five and they all start running away and firing blindly at the ceiling. If this is what the Covenant army consists of, then why is everyone I encounter so terrified? This is easy. It's like shooting into a box crammed full of small bunny rabbits (yes, that is the second bunny rabbit reference in this post, if you were wondering).

So I blow a few Grunts away and gallop down a few more halls, into a large room with four of my comrades, and join in on the fire fight. After all the Covenant in this room have been dispatched, I test my new assault rifle out on one of the space Marines. He whines something about "ow stop oh god you're killing me" and then dies. What a baby. Then I use the pistol on another guy. Deciding to stop there, I turn around to make sure the other two are right behind me, and they show up as enemies in my crosshairs. To investigate (because I am also a space Detective, and I can't let a mystery like this go unsolved) I walk up to one of them, and he starts shooting at me. Luckily, I have a special upgraded Master Chief assault rifle, and he only has a wimpy little Space Marine one. I rip him up in two seconds flat. Then I take care of the other guy, who tells me to "Cut it out, I'm with you," and continues to (try) filling me with lead. I have no choice but to kill him.

With no partners, I feel a bit of remorse for what I've done, choke it down, and decide to take it out on some of the mentally challenged grunts. Turns out, I can beat them to death with the but of my guns, which turns out to be much more satisfying than shooting. Except that they have purple blood. That's just plain lame, Bungie.

That bullet didn't even hit him. It went behind him.

I soon meet up with some more Space Marines, and save one from certain doom at the hands of an Elite by closing my eyes, screaming obscenities, and holding down the trigger with the barrel pointed in the general direction of the enemy. However, word seems to travel quickly on a space boat being invaded by an evil alien force, because these guys also want me dead for my prior actions. One guy even goes so far as to call me crazy. I kill him first, choking back tears.

After this dreadful encounter, Cortana alerts me that "We need to get off the ship" and "We should hurry." I can already tell that she will be a pleasant companion to share my brain with. I am forced to crawl through maintenance tunnels, dark ones, but this time I have a flashlight. Where was that twenty minutes ago when I was navigating a dark section of twisty turny inner corridors unarmed? That's what I'd like to know.

I also learn how to perform a stealth kill, by sneaking up on enemies and hitting them squarely on the head. However, as the grunt I try this on falls, he pulls the trigger on his plasma weapon a few times, alerting everyone within a radius of some large amount of feet. I gear up for a huge fight ("gear up" in this case means: back into a corner and pray that any Elites come to investigate pass right by) but am only greeted by another Grunt. Half a bullet later, he hits the floor, spewing creepy purple blood everywhere.

Walking through a thousand and seventy four more hallways, I meet a group of soldiers who decides not to kill me. "Thank you," I try to say, but they run off and just assume I want nothing more than to follow a group of low-ranking Marines through a dangerous war zone. As we run through some sort of escape pod launch room, Cortana informs me "Now would be a good time to leave" in a PMS-ridden tone. Great. The programmed circuit board in my head gets "that time of month." Glad that the Captain forcibly beat her into my body.

A part of me wants to say, "you know, I think we should stay" just to be defiant. However, that seems like it would be a bad idea, so I get on the pod and leave.

That's it for now.

2 comments:

  1. Very funny. I love the bunny and all the similarities that ensue!

    ReplyDelete