Along with the rest of the gaming community, SPOnG has spent a significant amount of time shooting at aliens. Call it classic, call it clichéd, but either way the premise has gone unchanged. And it?s this that could have so easily been improved over the original. Halo 2?s alien nemeses are much the same as they were before, that?s to say, for the most part, entirely uninspired. The rank and file of the Covenant foes have graduated directly from the Jar-Jar Binks school of alien design, replete with absurdly estimated alien accents. The opening cut-scene introduces some alien overlord chap who purports to be some kind of ?big boss?. But instead of making him a bit scary, he looks like ET dressed as Widow Twanky for a community-centre pantomime. And what?s worse is that the designers have given him a ludicrous, posh British accent.
Prophet - early concept
The movie industry has dictated for some time that evil overseers are invariably English, usually sporting a strong old school BBC-style home counties accents. And again most of the heroes have American accents ? mostly in a gravely Vin Diesel, balls-dropped-right-through-the-floor style. Halo 2 is by no means the first piece of entertainment to build on these rather peculiar notions, but SPOnG is taking this opportunity to make a stance nonetheless. How about the evil, world-destroying alien super-power has an American (Texan) accent for once? It?s 2004 now and the landed British gentry are no longer a frightening force of evil. Americans (and specifcally certain Texans), on the other hand scare the bejesus out of all sane people?
Obviously, you can?t judge a game?s quality on the choice of character accents, but it is just a single detail indicative of larger creative shortcomings. Bungie has seemingly gone to great lengths to create cinematic cut-scenes that build up to tell a story, but these are inexcusably weak. Although many of the scenes are absolutely awesome visually, the slices of cut-scene that use the in-game engine are surprisingly shoddy. In fact, one of the very first scenes you encounter sees a captain bogged down in some kind of graphical glitch-disco: as he turns around to address you he remembers he?s not actually physically capable of doing so. So instead, this uniformed chap turns on a sixpence by doing a funky little dance. With a jig of the knee, and stuttering shoulders he eventually ends up facing the right way. We understand that FPS engines aren?t designed with dramatic or theatrical effect in mind, but when this is one of the first cut-scenes of the game, it does detract quite impressively from the game?s otherwise heady initial impact.
To be perfectly honest, we weren?t ever expecting any kind of goodness from Halo 2?s storyline. Inevitably it would be aliens, blah, united earth defense force, blah, guns, blah, aliens, blah, exciting twist, blah, save earth. And indeed it is. But we were at least hoping for a logical progression in the story, and something, however minor, to really make you feel involved. Instead, the incidental narrative is all just a load of tedious old nonsense. Even people who actually liked the first game?s storyline are criticising this weakness. As much as Halo 2 stuns and shines with its graphical supremacy it has fallen far short of presenting itself as a piece of interactive art. Very few games can, but thanks to its technical framework, this could potentially have been one. As great as it may be, Halo 2, with the assistance of some more cosmopolitan and capable creatives could have conjured up a much more appreciable fanfare to greet its release.
It?s just an idea, but we think it?s a good one: you?re making a game on behalf of one of the richest corporations in the world, and you?ve already got one and a half million pre-orders, and you want it to be a thing of revolutionary goodness, right? Then hire some professional script-writers and a creative director whose bespectacled visionary outlook isn?t entirely obscured by a wayward beard and unhealthy obsession with Babylon 5. It would be worthwhile in the long run