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the frustration of lazy writing

I like to combine tasks when possible. Multitasking isn’t a real thing, but some tasks involve a lot of skimming. Two tasks that combine well are watching moderately entertaining videos and responding to email.

At the moment I’m watching the Halo 5 story because I doubt I’ll ever find the time to play through it. I enjoyed the Halo games and enjoyed the story enough to read many of the books that fleshed out the universe. For the most part the story has always combined rule-of-cool military science fiction with character and plot. Crazy, unbelievable situations happen around grounded, believable characters.

The writing quality of this new story from 343 Industries is downright annoying. They want to setup a man-vs-man between Master Chief (THE Master Chief) and some guy named Locke. That’s fine, I guess. It can be done well. However, the first time they confront each other we’re treated to a moronic slug-fest. It’s like the writers literally banged two action figures against each other and described the noises.

I assume they wanted to demonstrate that Locke is a match for MC, but they did it by throwing out everything that built up to this point. Let’s count the ways…

  • MC is about as experienced as it’s possible to get, but he uses none of that experience. Even if we assume MC is too much of a blunt instrument to cover his tracks or lay traps, he still could have locked some doors or disabled some teleporters or blew up some floating platforms. You know, do something to slow down the people who are obviously going to chase after him.
  • Locke has been given a magic hockey puck that instantly freezes Spartan super soldiers in place. Leaving aside how f*****g lazy that is, it means that he only has one way to arrest MC. Locke has to get into arm’s reach of one of the most dangerous soldiers in the galaxy. Does he think about that ahead of time, maybe plan how to get it done? No he does not. He just wanders into arm’s reach, almost like he didn’t realize he was that close, and lets MC disarm him.
  • The team with MC go on ahead, because they’re like “it’s MC, he’ll catch up in a minute”. The team with Locke just stands there gawking as their mission fails. Like, why did anyone even bother pointing guns at MC? Were they planning to shoot him? They brought the magic hockey puck specifically because it’s impossible to stop MC with normal options. They didn’t even bother to bring any gravity weapons, which would have at least pushed him around. Or were the guns useful and they just didn’t feel like tossing Locke another one after MC disarmed him?
  • Oh my god the magic hockey puck. So, you’re Locke. You must be one hell of a clever badass because the UNSC sent you to arrest MC (THE MC). They must think you have at least a tiny chance of success. The magic hockey puck is probably the only reason you have any chance. Presumably, MC doesn’t know about it. Either way, when you get the chance to use it, what do you do? I’ll tell you what you don’t do, you don’t pull it out slowly and show it to MC. This is a guy who’s lived through uncountable hand-to-hand fights against instant-kill weapons. The only chance you have of landing something on him is surprise or overwhelm him. So what happens after Locke shows MC the magic hockey puck? Exactly what you’d expect to happen: MC takes it away and uses it on Locke.
  • In between we get to see two Spartan super soldiers punching and kicking each other. F*****G WHY? They’re both basically invulnerable. MC has literally survived falling from orbit to the surface of a planet and punching his helmet is supposed to accomplish something? The only chance either of them has to actually hurt the other is to break their armor, which they should be intimately familiar with seeing as how they live inside it. Do either of them attack the armor, maybe press some buttons, or rip off a helmet, or something like that? Nope. Locke does manage to crack MC’s visor, but that’s only because the writers wanted to scar him to show character progression.

Both of these characters, and their teams, are like one-in-a-billion soldiers. Each individual is a match for an entire army. Put them together and we should see something more interesting and world building than one idiot punching another idiot. There’s so much to work with; the background is immense. This first interaction could even be kept short, more like a teaser. Maybe Locke catches up to MC, but MC does something clever to elude him. Maybe Locke does something clever or brave to almost lay a hand on MC, but not quite enough. Maybe the two have a standoff and a brief discussion/exposition helping us understand their motivation so we can either root for both or identify a bad guy. Maybe Locke could have tried something psychological to trick MC.

Nope. Instead MC is too stupid to cover his tracks and Locke is too stupid to even try something more complicated than punching. They didn’t even fight in a way that demonstrated any particular skill, and fighting is the bare minimum. We don’t even know who the protagonist is! It’s just the writers going “and then this happens I guess.”

Also, geebus, “stand down” doesn’t mean “freeze” or “stay where you are” or “don’t go through that teleporter” it means “stop fighting.” The writers couldn’t even be bothered to use a phrase that makes sense in context.

And, seriously this is the last one, there’s actually a part where Locke kicks MC in the chest and MC staggers backwards flailing his arms. MC doesn’t flail. I don’t care if you hit him with a spaceship, even if it does knock him backwards, even if it manages to somehow knock the wind out of him, MC doesn’t flail. He’s just not a flailer.

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