Sic Semper Tyrannis

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1st, 2011 by bl1y

As an American, I believe that all people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and my desire to feel warm and safe does not trump another person’s rights.

Take for example the freedom of speech.  If the options were listening to nothing but angry, obscene, idiotic, diatribe (aka: Avatar), or having the government ban such speech, I would much rather just have to learn to deal with the idiots.  Freedom means accepting that other people will use their rights in ways you don’t like.  I’d rather live in a world with Avatar than a world in which the government bans uninspired plotless films with an overbearing hippy message.

I don’t see the democratic revolution in Egypt any differently.  Setting aside for the moment that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t look poised to win the presidency of Egypt, and its leader has publicly stated that they will not even seek the office, even if none of that was true, I would still support democracy in Egypt.

That’s right, I would rather live in a world in which Egyptians voted in free and fair elections for a government that publicly advocated for terrorism and open war against the United States than one in which we support a dictator who oppresses his people.

Never mind that democracies do not go to war with each other or that supporting dictators has generally gone very poorly for the United States in the past.  Democracy means the right to vote for people that other people hate.

Could you imagine if the tables were turned?  Imagine a presidential candidate who advocated war with North Korea or Pakistan, and the international community rallying to disenfranchise the country and keep in place a dove president.  No chance we would tolerate that, and there’s no reason why we should support doing the same thing to other nations.

Remember, it’s life and liberty, not life then liberty.

Congratulations, Pay Me

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28th, 2011 by bl1y

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail telling me about a mandatory CLE for all newly admitted attorneys in Alabama.  It’s 6 god damn hours.  Well, 6 hours of instruction, the total program lasts 2 hours, I assume there’s some time for breaks and whatnot.  8:00am-4:00pm.

The cost is $279.00.

Each year, the University of Alabama, Cumberland, and Jones Schools of Law produce about 440 graduates.  The combined pass rate of these three schools is about 92%, so we’re looking at about 400 newly minted attorneys every year.  Sure, some people will practice in other states, some people from out of state will come to Alabama, and some people will take the AL bar as their second or third state.  That’s too much math this early, I’m going to keep it simple.  400.

400 x $279 = $111,600.

And we don’t even get printed materials.  We get a fucking CD.  A CD?  A fucking CD?!

Who the fuck uses CDs?!

No paper, and a fucking antiquated piece of technology that’s just going to take up space and get scratched before I ever use it.  Thank you very fucking much.

And they don’t even validate your fucking parking.  Fucking $9.

Battle of the Pelennor Fail

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27th, 2011 by bl1y

I know you’ve all been waiting very patiently to hear my thoughts on this, what with Hu Jintao’s visit and the State of the Union and all that.  …The cavalry charge at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King is freaking retarded.

I’ll be going with the movie version, not the book, because, well, the movie is more fun and more people are familiar with it.  Besides, it’s a lot easier to just post a link to YouTube than find the text in the book. (Embedding is disabled, sorry.)

So, the entire strategy was some of you go down the left, some down the middle, and some down the right?  What?  Oh, man, that’s just a plan that can’t be beat!  Now, you might be thinking that in a movie it’s pretty difficult to explain complex battle tactics, especially while keeping it entertaining.  Maybe.  But, The Last Samurai did it. Gladiator did it. Return of the Jedi did it. Hell, earlier in Return of the King you see that the strategy for defending Minis Tirith is to fall back and force the army of Mordor to conduct a siege at every level of the city. This strategy would make a lot of sense to people who saw in Two Towers Saruman’s army get wiped out by the 600 defenders of Helm’s Deep without a single Oruk reaching the top of the wall.

But, nope, just a simple left, right, middle plan is called for here apparently.  And of course, when the actual charge happens, it’s basically just a big wall of cavalry moving straight ahead.  A simple “everybody just go forward” would have worked.

Anyways, on to what really makes this retarded.  At the start of the battle there are 200,000 orcs, against 10,000 Gondor defenders.  Gondor looks way better defended than Helm’s Deep, so by the time Rohan arrives, I think we can estimate that Mordor’s army has been reduced by a good 50,000 or so.  That still leaves 150,000 orcs, and that’s a big number to charge your 6,000+ cavalry into.

So, here’s how a cavalry charge works.  Your guys get going really fast, on big heavy horses, with really long lances, and try to just plow into the enemy, trample all over them, and hopefully disorganize their ranks and send them into a quick retreat.  But, as you engage the enemy, you get slowed down and lose that momentum.  That means that whoever is behind you also has to slow down, and the guy behind him slows down and so on, and if you have a cavalry formation 20 ranks deep, about 75% of your guys will have come to a halt without even being able to see the enemy.  They’ll just be staring at the back end of another horse.

That is, in a best case scenario.  What’s more likely is that the guys in the middle and back will have too much speed and not enough room to stop, and will just end up trampling on your own guys.  You’ve just charged the guys in the back of your army into the guys in the front.  It can work when you’re trying to get that extra yard in football, but not really a good move in war.

In addition to running into the enemy instead of just running into your own dudes, choice of weapon is important in a cavalry charge.  As the Rohan army is lined up, we see a lot of lances out in the front.  That’s exactly what you want.  Lances are really effect when charging, while swords and axes and stuff are better once you’ve slowed down and are fighting man-to-man.  But, once the army gets on the move, those lances seem to be disappearing.  And, by the time they actually crash into the orc army, there’s not a lance to be seen.  The axe and sword dudes are in the front.  I guess that means that when the guy behind you slams into you because he didn’t have room to slow down, he’s going to slam into with a big ass sticking-pole.  Ouch.

Here’s what should have happened.

Rohan divides its army into 3 groups, each with a specific task, instead of 3 all doing the same thing.  First group of 1,500 cavalry line up in 4 rows (instead of 20) of 375 men each (or, 374 men, 1 woman, and a hobbit).  These are all your guys with lances.  They charge and do exactly what you saw in the movie.  Then after they have hit the orc line, they push as deep into the orcish army as they can.  Why?

Because all the spears and things that are good at killing horsies are on the outside of the formation.  The easy pickings, like archers and catapults will be in the middle.  Now, to protect the orcses getting slaughtered by the horses, the spears on the outside will have to turn around and pursue the cavalry.

At this point, group two with 3,000 cavalry lines up in a formation 4 rows deep, 750 long, and they charge into the backs of all those spear orcs that just turned around.  The spear orcs will either get slaughtered, or will have to break off attacking the first group, or, more likely, will end up some going one way, some going another, and just completely disorganized.  But wait, there’s more.

When we get the nice overhead view of Rohan’s charge, it looks like there lines of about 300 troops long present a front the same length as the orc army.  A line 750 troops long is going to be way bigger than that, so won’t a lot of the troops just end up running on empty field, going straight past the battle?

Yes.  This is called flanking.  They ride past the wall of orc spears, and then turn and charge.  With far more orcs taking the full force of a cavalry charge, as opposed to fighting a traffic jam of horses, and the fight coming to them on two fronts, morale will be shot and there’s a good chance the orcish army will break ranks and flee.

But just in case they don’t, you still have group 3 in reserves.  That group of 1,500 cavalry breaks into 15 subgroups of 100 each, form up in 4 lines of 25, and wait to reinforce parts of group 2 that need help.

Now, maybe not all of this will translate into film exactly, but it doesn’t need to.  The audience might not follow the details of what’s going on in the battle, or why certain troops are doing different things, but you’ll at least be left with the understanding that there was an actual strategy, and not just a battle orchestrated by a 9 year old.

SOTU Drinking Twitter Game

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25th, 2011 by bl1y

Here are the rules:

1.  Turn on the State of the Union.

2.  Every time Obama says one of the key words or phrases, take a drink.

3.  Every time there is a standing ovation of at least one third of the audience, Tweet your thoughts on what Obama just said.

Here’s the list of key words and phrases:

Little Drink

Congress

Growth

Bipartisan

Tuscon/Arizona/Giffords (in reference to the shooting)

Reform

“Every American” / “Every Citizen”

TSA/Airport Security

Some random Joe who is not an office holder (whether elected or appointed)

NASA

Any unfunny joke

Big Drink

Pakistan

Arizona (in reference to immigration)

“Average American” / “Average Worker”

Transparency

Supreme Court

House of Representatives

Hu Jintao

2012 Election

Ares/Constellation

Any funny joke

Chug

Haiti

Super Bowl

Renminbi

Sputnik

Shotgun a Four Loko

State of the World Address

5 Day Legislative Comment Period

Punch Westboro Baptist Idiots in the Gut Really Hard

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12th, 2011 by bl1y

So, the Westboro Baptist Idiots are at it again, this time planning to protest the funerals of the people killed in the Tuscon massacre.  State governments are considering laws that would ban protests at funerals, and independent groups are forming to make a human barrier between the Westbubbas and the funerals, so they can’t be seen by the people in attendance.

I like the second solution better than the first.  I’d much rather live in a country where idiot bigots can protest funerals than one where the government can tell me what parts of the public space I can and cannot exercise my freedom of speech in.

But, there’s an even better solution.  A “democratic” one if you will.  Sticklers will call it “extra-legal.”

Punch their leader in the gut really hard a couple times.

Yes, I am advocating assaulting these idiots (Sarah Palin’s metaphors have nothing on me).

You’ll get out on bail pretty quick (I’m sure tons of people will show up with cash in hand to help you out).  A legal defense fund will cover all your bills.  And, given what these guys are doing and the unanimously bad opinion the nation has of them, you can probably rely on prosecutorial discretion to help you out a bit.  If not that, you’ll either get probation or a suspended sentence.

There will be a civil suit, of course.  But let that go to a jury.  Punches to the gut hurt, but don’t injure much, so you’ll have minimal medical bills.  The jury won’t award much in terms of pain and suffering to someone hurt while attempting to inflict pain and suffering on others.  And again, legal defense fund to the rescue.

You’ll have a misdeamenor assault on your record, but probably won’t serve any jail time.  I think this is a fair sacrifice to make to shut these idiots up.

Just make sure that right before you punch this dipshit that you should very loudly (loud enough for the camera to hear you clearly), “I don’t want to injure you, but I sure aim to make you hurt real bad!”

Helm’s Deet Dee Dee

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12th, 2011 by bl1y

Okay, yeah, I know, I’m a bit late getting to this, but the battle at Helm’s Deep in the Two Towers is freaking lame.  Great visuals, but it insults the intelligence of the readers/popcorn face stuffers.

The battles are considerably different in the movies and the books, but since more people are familiar with the movie, let’s start there.  The size of the armies is given to us by Legolas, who has a habit of pointing out the obvious, “What can 300 do against 10,000?”

Fight in the shade, of course.

Wait, no, that’s wrong.  Was thinking of 300.

Oh, wait, no, that was right actually.  The battle at Helm’s Deep is a siege, so we’re looking at a largely archer battle.  This is especially true after the elves show up.  The nerd patrol at the LotR wiki puts the number of elves at 200.  But, there’s a shot of Aragorn giving orders to fire where you can see (just from what’s visible in the shot) 100 elvish archers behind the wall, and there’s another shot with the elves’ leader Haldir, in which you can see at least another 100 elves.  I think it looked more like 300 in the movie, but let’s just go with the conservative nerd estimate of 200.

So, we’ve got 500 against 10,000.  Haven’t really improved things much, have we?

Yes.

By the time the first of of the Oruk-hai gets atop the wall we learn that Legolas has killed 17 of them.  There are 200 other elves.  Now, there’s a few ways to interpret the skill of the other elves.  First, we can say that Legolas is quite extraordinary.  You don’t just send any old elf to the counsel at Rivendale.  So, he probably does better than the other elves.  Or, we can say that the other elves appear to be freaking trained soldiers who fire off arrows like they’re machine gunners.  Because, you know, that’s how they’re portrayed in the movie.  So, they would have killed a lot more than Legolas, or at least as many.

So, going with the fairly conservative estimate of 200 elves on average as good as Legolas, then by the time the fighting at the top of the walls starts, the Oruks have lost 3,400 troops.  Err, 3,417, gotta count Legolas too.  This is a full third of their force.  In most battles out in the real world, if you lose a third of your army right out of the gate, the battle is over.  Your men are disorganized, morale is shot to hell, troops are going to break rank and flee.  But, these are oruks, let’s say it takes more to get them to retreat (it is possible though, we see that at the end of the battle).

Oh, wait, forgot that there were also human archers in the battle.  It’s not clear how many of the 300 were archers, but let’s say half?  Realistically, all of the soldiers who were part of the garrison would be trained as archers, since it’s a freaking fortress and you expect to defend it with bows and arrows.  But, let’s be nice to Isengard and just say half.

And how good are they?  We hear about how the troops are mostly either too young or too old, but I think this refers to the soldiers drafted from the peasant refugees, not the professional garrison.  But, they’re also no elves.  Let’s say they can get 5 oruks killed before the sword work begins.  That’s another 750.  So, we’re up to 4,117 dead oruks.  Cripes!

But then they’re on top of the wall, and the the oruks’ number advantage should easily wipe out the defenders, right?  No.

They’re getting on top of the walls using ladders.  In a siege, ladders only work en masse, or if used in an undefended position.  It should be obvious why.  Just try climbing a ladder using only one hand.  Pretty damn hard.  Now, do it with your off-hand, because your good hand is holding your sword.  Even harder.  Now, imagine you’re at the top of a ladder, climbing with just one hand and somehow fighting with the other.  You are going to die very quickly.

Ladders basically turn the fight in to a kung fu movie cliche, where an army of whole gang of bad guys surround the lone good guy, but then only attack him one at a time.  Second dude on the ladder doesn’t get to fight until the first one is either dead, or somehow makes it on to the top of the wall (where he is immediately surrounded by 5 defenders and promptly killed).  Like I said, you need either a whole lot of ladders at once, or you need to put them in a portion of wall that is undefended.

But the oruks are really big and beefy, they should be able to fight their way on to the wall from a ladder, you might say.  Yeah?  Well the elves are 1000 year old immortal veterans of the first war of the ring.  The oruks were, quite literally, born yesterday.  Advantage elves.

Now, the giant ladders would be more effective.  They’re wide enough for multiple oruks to reach the top at the same time, and come pre-stocked with a bunch already halfway up.  It’s at this point where the oruks can really start butchering the defenders of Helm’s Deep.

But not really.  By the time the first crappy ladders showed up, 4,100 of the 10,000 oruks were already killed.  Half the elves draw swords to defend the walls, but the other half are behind the wall, and would keep firing away.  We also see portions of the wall that aren’t under siege, where the elves can keep shooting freely (such as when they fire on the oruks trying to batter down the door).  So, let’s say one fourth of the elves have gone to the sword.  We still have 150 elves mowing down the legion of oruks who are just hanging around the field waiting for their chance to die on top of the wall.

If the time between the battle starting and the first crappy ladders showing up is the same as the the time between the first crappy ladders showing up and the good ladders finally getting used, the elvish arches will have killed another 2,550 oruks.  Now we’re up to 6,667.  Wow, that’s actually a nice, exactly 2/3rds of the oruk army.

Except that it ignores all the oruks who have died by the sword attempting to take the walls.  Probably closer to 7,000 casualties.  But, at it’s not 3,000 against 600, a few of the defenders have been killed.  Realistically, it’d be about 3,000 against no fewer than 550.  Still advantage to the oruks, right?  6 to 1 ain’t bad.

Nope.  At this point the 3,000 remaining troops will have a hard time getting those big ladders all up at the same time.  Most of your ladder putter uppers are killed, so you have to go find your second string ladder climbers and get them to put the ladders up.  The oruk army would be slow to get reorganized (remember, they’ve only been training for like half a day), and even if they get everything together, they’re still fighting from the tops of ladders.  It’s better than the crappy first ladders, but still not ideal.

By the time the gunpowder is lit and the drain in the base of the wall is blown wide open, the oruk army would be spread thin, disorganized, their morale broken, and they’d be fleeing into the woods.  By the time Gandalf arrives to save the day, the battle would be over.

But, that’s just the movie.  Surely the book gives a more realistic battle at Helm’s Deep, right?  After all, in the book it’s just men defending against the oruks, the elves aren’t there at all, and the oruks even have men allies fighting with them.  In the book it’s an army of 10,000 oruks plus 2,000 men against the meager defenses of Helm’s Deep.

Except that in the book, the defending garrison isn’t 300, it’s 2,000.  That 2,000 man garrison would be almost entirely archers, and if they killed a measly 6 troops each before the ladders hit the wall, the entire attacking army would be killed, down to the last man.  If they killed only half that, it would be 2,000 troops on top of the wall, against 6,000 trying to scale ladders.  Again, Gandalf arrives just in time to see the final score.

But wait, it gets dumber.

After the battle at Helm’s Deep, Rohan musters an army to helm defend Gondor against Mordor’s army.  In just two days, they get together a force of 6,000 cavalry.  6,000 soldiers come to fight to defend a foreign power?  Where were these guys before? 6,000 cavalry would have shredded the oruk army.  Maybe Sauron’s meddling had something to do with it.  Let’s say that.

They also mention that 6,000 is less than half of what they expected.  Jesus, there’s at least 12,000 cavalry scattered around Rohan, but they could only muster 300 men to defend Helm’s Deep?  What is this shit?

Okay, calm down…

Anyways, after noting that they didn’t get as many men as they want, one of the idiots says that 6,000 men isn’t enough to break the lines of Mordor.  What?  How do they know the strength of Mordor’s army?  They speak as though they know they’re going to get slaughtered.  But, cavalry are freaking deadly against crappy goblin infantry.  With a little decent planning and maneuvering, cavalry ought to have kill ratios of 5-10 : 1.  6,000 cavalry could cut down somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 orcs.

But they think they’re marching to their doom?  Just how many doods does Mordor have?  Let’s ask the nerds at LotR Wiki.

…Oh.  In the film, it’s about 200,000 orcs, and in the book it’s 100,000.  Maybe 6,000 really isn’t enough.  Gondor has about 10,000 troops though.  And again, it’s a siege, so the defenders are going to be mowing down the attackers.  The 10,000 defenders might knock off 50,000 orcs before the city wall is breached and Rohan’s reinforcements show up.  It shouldn’t be as decisive a victory as Helm’s Deep should have been, but still no reason for a mopey king of Rohan.

Regal, Regal, Roll Damn Eagle!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 11th, 2011 by bl1y

It is the beginning of the football season.  Brick and Bubba, regulars of the same bar, are discussing the upcoming season.

Brick: Say, Bubba, if you know that Alabama was going to lose a game this season, would you rather them lose to the team that becomes national champs, or just any ol’ team no one cares about?

Bubba: Champs. We ain’t gonna lose to no pussies!

Brick: That’s what I thought.  So, if Alabama loses to Auburn-

Bubba: Fuck you say?!?!

Brick: Hold on, it’s just a hypothetical.

Bubba: Don’t stick me with no needles!

Brick: What? No.  I mean, it’s just pretend.

Bubba: Oh.  Go on.

Brick:  Just pretend Alabama loses to Auburn, wouldn’t you rather have Auburn go on to win the national title.  Better to lose to a great Auburn than a crappy Auburn, right?

Bubba: What? Hell no! I don’t want Auburn winning no national title! I hate them so much!

Brick: But you just said if Alabama has to lose to someone, it’s best that it be the national champ, right?

Bubba: But can’t they lose to someone else instead?

Brick: Oh, they will.

THE END.

[Author's Note: I'd also like to point out that BCS standings are largely dependent on the quality of the teams in your conference.  When there are multiple undefeated teams, the quality of your conference makes all the difference.  A one-loss team can even get in to the championship game over an undefeated team with a very weak schedule.  Having a conference rival win the national championship makes your team more likely to go to the title game next year. RDE!]

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10th, 2011 by bl1y

I Have Cancer. (Or Virgo, or Scorpio.)

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10th, 2011 by bl1y

The December issue of Cosmo came with a 32 page 2011 astrology insert.  I had ignored it at first, but eventually curiosity for the better of me, so I opened it up and took a look.  Turns out in addition to giving exactly what you’d expect to find, Cosmo also includes a month-by-month guide to guys based on their signs.  Mine is surprisingly spot-on.

Now, those of you who are at all familiar with how astrology “works” know that readings just give out vague details that apply to almost everyone, and rely on you focusing more on the hits while ignoring the misses.  Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising at all that this is pretty accurate.  So, after going through the analysis of my own “Cancer Man” reading, I’ll tell you how well the other signs apply to me.

He’s intuitive. This perceptive dude can often tell what you’re thinking or desiring before you say a word.

With my obsessions in evolutionary psych and behavioral econ, I tend to be able to read people well, especially when it comes to their motives and desires.  The skeptics will point out that this means I’m good at generalizing, and am not perceptive as Cosmo says.  But, being able to read people is actually a mix of both skills, knowing generalities, but fine tuning your assumptions based on observation.  I’ll give Cosmo full credit.

Him give up?  Never. He’s as focused on his career as he is on the number of Os he can give you per bed session.

Oddly, this is true.  You may be thinking “but you aren’t focused on your career at all!”  And, you’d be right.  So is Cosmo.  Think about it.

He’ll take care of you. Foot rubs, breakfast in bed, checking in if you’re sick–he’s so good to you.

Foot rubs only if you have nice feet, and never food in the bed.  But, I do make sure to keep a glass of water on the nightstand, and am very good with sick girlfriends (har har).  I’m pretty maternal, so yeah, this is pretty accurate.

By the way, guys, taking care of your sick girlfriend is a great way to leverage your effort.  Wowwing a fully healthy girl takes a lot of time and energy.  But, scoring points with your girl while she’s sick just means getting tissues with lotion and a bowl of hot soup.  That would land you in the dog house any other time.

The Sex Trick He Craves: Ultraclose Missionary.  Wrap your arms and legs around his torso, and gaze into his eyes as you both climax.  Nothing thrills a Cancer more than a tight physical and emotional bond.

This is accurate for me.  I will say no more.

How To Win His Heart: This low-key guy is impressed by tiny yet thoughtful gestures.  So make a mental note of his favorite brew o sports team, for example, then surprise him with a six-pack or a team tee.

Guinness, and I prefer the retro Bama logos on my t-shirts, thanks.  Yeah.  This couldn’t be more appropriate for me.

What Turns Him Off: Privacy is so important to him.  Posting tons of pictures of you two together on Facebook or tweeting about every cute thing he does for you will only irritate him and make him want to hide away.

There’s only one picture I’ve let someone tag of me on Facebook, and it’s of a boat (that I was on, but you can’t see me).  Pretty true.  And I’m really private about my stuff.  I can’t stand anyone going through my stuff, not because I have anything to hide, but just because I like the privacy.

Way to go Cosmo, batting 100%.  But, we have to test the others.  After all, maybe they just named 12 sex positions pretty much every guy likes?  Each month has 6 different things about the guys (three things that make him “irresistible,” the sex trick he craves, how to win his heart, and what turns him off).  I’m only going to be posting the score for each one; if you’re really that interested in me, you’ll have to buy the magazine yourself, and figure it out on your own.

Aries: 4/6

Taurus: 3/6

Gemini: 3/6

Leo: 4/6

Virgo: 6/6

Libra: 5/6

Scorpio: 6/6

Saggitarius: 2/6

Capricorn: 2/6

Aquarius: 5/6

Pisces: 3/6

The average score was a 4.1.  Obviously with a small sample set, we’re not going to reach any real conclusions here.  3 out of 12 were spot on, but two of them didn’t even make 50%, which is hard when you include stuff like “he enjoys receiving sexy texts throughout the day.”

Oddly enough, the category that struck out the most was the sex tricks.  I suspect this is because for a lot of the descriptions, you could spin it one way or  the other (I was generous in my spin, to offset the confirmation bias), but with sex stuff, you know what you like, what you don’t like, and what you just don’t care about.  It’s harder to trick yourself into agreeing or disagreeing.

A Noble’s Reach Should Exceed His Grasp, Or Else What’s a Halo For?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6th, 2011 by bl1y

Yesterday I got Halo Reach for the X-Box 360. And today, I’m done. I could have finished yesterday, but I knocked myself out with cold meds. Reach has received some very impressive reviews, and won a few awards. I think this says a lot about how little we expect from games.

Since the game didn’t bring in a lot of new material to the Halo franchise, the praise has been largely aimed at Reach’s story line and “emotional engagement.” Or some shit.

You play as Noble 6, an elite super solider, and the sixth and final member of Noble Team. Here’s one of the first problems. In a first person shooter, there’s isn’t a ton of time for in depth character development. Having five other main characters just dilutes each of them, makes them each less relevant. Four of them die while courageously defending Reach from the Covenant invasion, and I guess it’s their sacrifice that is supposed to get you all misty eyed.

Yeah..no.

The first team member to die is killed by a sniper. There’s never before mention of a threat of snipers. It even looks at first like she is killed by friendly fire (you’re linking up to another group of soldiers when she’s shot). But nope, we then see that the sniper was actually on board a Covenant ship, which promptly takes off.

Yeah, they just show up, shoot one person, and leave. There’s little hope of emotional involvement when my first reaction is “that was gay.” Or, little hope of the emotion they wanted.

The second guy dies while staying on board a Covenant ship to detonate a bomb when the remote trigger fails. This one comes the closer to evoking a little feeling. We meet the character’s mother earlier on in the game. But then he proceeds to toss you out of the ship (your escape vehicle is damaged), and you then… Actually, it’s not clear. I was expecting a friendly ship nearby to pick you up, but it seems that you fall through the atmosphere (without burning up), and drop all the way to the ground. …And survive.

Again, that was gay.

The third member of your team to die gets injured piloting a helicopter to drop you off on a mission. He’s too badly hurt to go on foot, so he provides air cover, eventually kamikazeing into a giant spider tank (Scarab) that’s blocking your path. It’s been blocking your path for about two seconds.

Your character says they can try to get by on foot, the other character says no way, and then rams it and kills himself. Maybe this would have been interesting to the plot if the Scarab had been a menace earlier on? Instead, it just pops up, and suddenly someone has to die to destroy it.

That was gay.

Even gayer is that in the previous game, Halo ODST, it’s entirely possible to board the Scarab, kill its crew, and destroy it from the inside. I did that as one guy. I’ve got another computer controlled guy along for the fight, as well as my buddy in the helicopter to provide cover. We could totally have taken it. The difficulty was only set to Normal.

The fourth teammate to bite it decides to stay behind on Reach, operating a giant turret so that the ship you’ve been racing to for the past hour can take off. Covenant elites find and kill him, and so you have to get off your ride, fight through the elites, and then take control of the turret and let the ship escape. Your character is left behind, and post-credits you fight until overrun.

That last bit is the only interesting plot element, that you think you’re going to escape, and then your buddy bites it and you’re left to die fighting while everyone else gets away (including one other member of your team, who was pulled off on a side mission).

Here’s what would have made the game about 1000x better: In addition to your main objectives, you also have side jobs. They could be things such as locating and eliminating snipers who are on the rim of a battle field, destroying a Scarab under a certain amount of time, or making sure a base is completely clear of enemies before leaving one lone person to man a turret. The objectives could be announced like the main goals, or could be things the player has to figure out on his own.

Hey, those snipers are annoying, but we don’t really have to kill them to move on. Is it worth the time and energy to take them out? Will leaving them have any negative consequences later?

Completing the right side missions will keep the members of your team alive. They’ll have the planned deaths in the original story, maybe more than one depending on how far they make it, or a completely different alternative ending if they survive the entire game.

Now, if someone dies, you might get a better reaction out of the players. The mission just got harder, and it’s probably because you slacked off and tried to take the easy way out.

The game is also far too short. About 6-8 hours on Normal. I know about 99% of time playing Halo is spent online in multiplayer fights. But, that’s no excuse for short single player. The game starts with some mention of rebel uprisings (the one you’re responding to turns out to actually be the start of the Covenant invasion). Maybe add an hour or two of game play at the beginning where you’re a trooper still in training, and actually do have to respond to these rebels? You know, have like different campaigns and stuff, like games used to do?

In addition to the bad plot and failed emotional hooks, the pacing of the game also hurts it in terms of story development. Some of the fights involve a bit of standing off and sniping the enemy, but almost all of them eventually devolve in to a face paced shoot ‘em up, where you blow away anything with red lines around it. Basically, everything moves so fast and in such odd directions (several enemies jump and dive a lot) that it’s pretty hard to have any real awareness of what’s going on around you.

I know I just sound like a whiny n00b, “I don’t know what’s going on!” But, growing up I played Doom, X-Wing and MechWarrior, so it’s not the genre that’s messing with me. It’s Halo (and probably other new first person shooters). Older games had plenty of action when you get in to the thick of it, but overall there’s a slower pace. You have to spend more time thinking through your strategy and getting in to position.

I’m sure there’s a lot more of this if you’re one of the really good players, but it shouldn’t take 1000 hours behind the controller for the game to become more sophisticated than button mashing.

Other than the story and story telling style, the last thing that irked me were the vehicle fights. Some people will love them because they break up the game, it’s no longer just a dude running on the ground, you can ride in the back of a jeep and fire rocket turrets, pilot a spaceship, and fly a helicopter around a city. Trouble is, these little nuggets are poorly developed.

The space battle fails because it doesn’t take into consideration the bigness of space. Everything is pretty tightly crammed together, and you’re never more than 100 meters from the ship you’re fighting with. You can perform fancy maneuvers, but they happen in such a weird fashion that you don’t really know what just happened, except that whatever was shooting at you is no longer shooting at you. Simple fix, make your missiles much longer range, make the battlefield about 100x bigger, and give you a first person view, instead of third person.

The helicopter fight fails for exactly the opposite reason. You’re flying between skyscrapers, yet everything feels very spacious. This is partly because you move slow as nails. The challenge in this battle should be avoiding collisions, and using the buildings as cover as you maneuver to get a shot on an enemy’s backside. Again, you need a first person perspective (it’s especially bad when you’re trying to turn upwards and fire), the buildings need to be more canyon-like, and your helicopter needs to be faster and more agile.

The ground vehicle fights were okay. Not great, but since they’re more common in Halo, they get developed a lot better.

And just so don’t sound all Negative Nancy, the game did have a few marked improvements over the old games. The graphics are a step up, though at this point graphics are so good that it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. The AI is better, and it’s definitely more fun to have teammates (even if computerized) you can work with in fighting, since it allows you to get around behind the enemy while they’re distracted and do something other than just run, gun, and punch.

The lighting is also much better. In ODST there are several times when you’re inside a building and even with nightvision on, you can’t see a thing. Yes, without any light to amplify, it’d be pitch black even with night vision, but just give the guy a gun or helmet light, thanks.

The jetpacks are also fun, and let you think more creatively about how to fight certain battles. Unfortunately, they don’t show up that often, and the fights are over pretty quick. Also, the battles with them are sort of laid out such that you have to use them. Having them available in other arenas would be a nice touch, letting you jet over Hunters, or move on top of rocks to get in position as a sniper.

Oh, and another thing, going back to what’s wrong with this game. How can I carry a rocket launcher and 4 spare rockets, but only 60 spare rounds of rifle ammo? The game should have some missions where you’re armed to the teeth, with plenty of ammo, and other missions where you’re cut off from supplies and have to scrounge around. This would give some nice contrast to the missions and challenge your strategies. Instead, most of the missions just involve blazing through your starting ammo and stealing a plasma repeater from a fallen foe until you can find another weapons locker. Gay.

Alright, I think I’m done now. You could probably have gone to the store, purchased Halo Reach, and beaten the entire game faster than reading this review. You’d be better off with MechWarrior 3 or 4 though.