Christmastime Culture Corner

The Prudentialist

The Prudentialist

Observing the world from a dissident and realist perspective. Musings on culture, politics, and international relations.

I’m currently dealing with the coof. It’s not pleasant, but if my immunosuppressed self is feeling better after a monoclonal antibody treatment, albuterol, and vitamins, my gut feelings about how we’ve handled this thing is only reaffirmed. I won’t spend too long on the housekeeping, as I don’t want to be one of those blogs that goes forever on the personal before actually getting to the subject matter. With me being short of breath (meaning a shortage of recorded content) I wanted to write about some media I’ve recently consoomed while sitting on my ass or taking medications. This thing does zap your energy levels, leaving you almost in a catatonic bugman like state. So with a television remote in front of me and my PC not that far away, this virus will turn you into this if you’re not careful.

Today I’ll giving a little review of sorts; Jingle All the Way and Halo: Infinite. Considering the December release of the game and the 90s kitsch I’ve been on with the Christmas movies why not talk about them both in this little blog post.

Jingle All the Way – Transactional Fatherhood

Let’s start with Jingle All the Way, which came out as a holiday family comedy in 1996, just three years before Jake Lloyd’s career would be destroyed by Lucas, (unfairly so considering where he’s at now,) which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Jake Lloyd, and Jim Belushi for a scene or two. The movie, if you decide to put it on on your Christmas playlist for either some 90s nostalgia or just as another Christmas movie to put on in the background is straight to the point in its messaging even as things escalate from set piece to set piece in their breaking of the suspension of disbelief.

Howard Langston (Arnie’s character) is a business owning father who seemingly doesn’t have time for his family, more importantly his son Jamie (Jake Lloyd) where that feeling of abandonment is ramped up as the holiday rolls around. I don’t want to take the film too seriously, as the messaging is quite in your face despite its own crescendo of pre-Amazon shenanigans. The 1990s setting seems oddly foreign, not in the way of certain forms of tech that we take for granted not being so ubiquitous but also in the sense of our current times as well. Actual brick and mortar stores for shopping, people milling about on their business, and that Saturday Morning Breakfast Cartoon craze that was slowly dying from the decade previously. Full disclosure, I didn’t have a ton of cartoons or children’s entertainment that was on television aside from PBS, as when you grow up listening to the Armed Forces Network you’re left with whatever United States Department of Defense gives you. And by God you liked it.

But back to the movie, which is set under this ongoing saturday morning hero craze, Turboman, (think with the cheesiness of the power rangers but distinctly American) that has the attention of virtually everyone in the city, which appears to be Minneapolis/Twin Cities area, feels reminiscent of crazes that came before inspired by television such as that of GI Joe or Transformers. This does get touched on, albeit comically, as Howard the father is unable to be there for his son. His son in his anger (acting in a way that would get my ass beat) is offered almost bribe-like for his forgiveness by his father, which sets off the train of events for the film in action. And much like someone wanting a red ryder bb gun for Christmas, this generation’s child wants an action figure as his Christmas gift, although it clearly quite isn’t, it’s just his father’s company and attention. A more basic necessity of a Christmas gift, especially in a backdrop of a more well-off, middle class suburban America that had a much larger rate of two parent households. No I don’t intend to go too far down the rabbithole of how this film is the mark of Decline™ that is so often turned into that Spengler meme, but there is something to it.

Not to break down the movie scene by scene or set piece by set piece, but old Arnie the father opts to fulfill his son’s wishes and goes hunting for one on Christmas Eve, with each setting showing the madness of the crowds and those just trying to make their kids happy this Christmas. Along the way he does meet Sinbad, who plays Myron the postal deliveryman. While a sort of comedic backdrop of sorts, the black racial tropes of the decade are quite clear, as references to Jesse Jackson, Rodney King, and Sickle Cell Anemia can be heard throughout the movie. (Remember when that was a big thing in the medical PSAs?) The movie doesn’t have a problem setting up the ridiculousness of what Arnie will do to get that action figure (commonly referred to as a doll) whether that’s chasing after a bouncing ball for a lottery or getting into an Indiana Jones type situation of fighting numerous dirty mall santas after getting ripped off $300.

Throughout it all the lesson still isn’t learned about the simple aspect of just being there for your damn kid during the holiday. All the while your lecherous divorced neighbor hits on your wife and the crazy postal worker is very much living up to the phrase postal. For a film whose backdrop is this materialistic craze and trying to solve problems with gifts when actually paying attention to relationships right in front of you tends to do more work than anything else. It gets hammered in easily with both Schwarzenegger and Sinbad acting like complete monsters and maniacs around the prized gift and offering their own little tips and background when they’re not. It’s kitsch of sorts, but I like to think that the movie holds up rather well save for its gaudy CGI at the end but I like to chalk that up to a sign of its era.

Halo Infinite: A Mixed Bag

I’ve been playing this franchise since 2003 when Gearbox helped port Combat Evolved to the PC. I have been playing it primarily for the campaign (not so much the multiplayer but the stretch from 2007-2012 was the best of its online era) and it was for some time a good science fiction universe to take a dip into especially with some of its outstanding books and short stories. So was the six year wait from the shitting the bed that was 5? Yes and No. Having completed the campaign heroic now and some several hours of multiplayer it depends on what you’re looking for.

The campaign has a Rise of Skywalker vibe to it, capping off a trilogy with a complete reset. You had Halo 4, with your new BBEG, The Didact, which had Joshua Graham from Fallout New Vegas’ voice actor terribly wasted by its sequel, Guardians. Which needless to say jumped the shark, made the longstanding voice and friendly guide in your head, Cortana the even Bigger and Badder Evil Guy, who leads a charge and gets almost every artificial intelligence to lead rebellion against the UNSC and take over the world. All of that gets a clean slate, Infinite aims for a clean slate and to sweep that under the rug. You’re on a new ring, there’s human survivors, go out there and play like it’s 2001, kiddo.

The campaign, which is set six months after a UNSC loss and you Mr. Chief have been found by a somewhat scared shitless pilot who just wants to go home (or put one in the dome) when he finds you. You take the fight to your Halo Wars 2 ported over enemies and go to work at figuring out what the hell happened, and to complete your tasks. Akin to Doom Eternal, Infinite does boss fights real well, as you will encounter them at just about every mainline campaign mission. Yes they have a shield and health bar but the boss diversity does help make it easier and not so repetitive. And once you get your foothold on the ring you have the opportunity to take down high value targets of the enemy, and rescue forward operating bases and marines. All of which was fun to do when I didn’t want to progress the story.

The new-Cortana in your head, The Weapon, is naive, talkative, and whose dialogue can get annoying quickly if you’re zipping around the sandbox doing what you’ve been doing for 20 years while she’s taking it all in or making dumb video game talk “like this will really give your allies hope blah blah blah.” Nice at first but like most women, your speaking time should really be a fucking minimum. The campaign set pieces lack environmental variety of previous games, either banished (New but not so new aliens ala the Covenant) buildings and bases or forerunner architecture. No beach or winter biomes, and the jutting grey hexagons of the ring trying to put itself back together have an odd, well jutting place in the environment. I have been told this runs cleaner on console. As I have 32 gigabytes of RAM with an RTX 2080 TI and I had god-awful stuttering, framerate drops, and even a crash during the open world sections on my PC.

The story feels like a story told in the middle, rather than the beginning. The audio logs you find on the campaign spaces are required if you want any sort of context as to how you got to starting out with your ass handed to you to the six months later when you’re found. If you’re new to the franchise or haven’t picked it up in years, its rather quick to set you up for what you need to know in order to play. If you’ve been playing for decades and know some lore, you’ll be pleasantly given some nice nostalgia references, especially in one of the more emotional moments of the campaign. Like it was discussed in marketing and behind-the-scenes, it is set up for multiple adventures under some sort of “10 Year Plan.” I do want to know more about this story and where it is going, but only time will tell. My desire to replay is up in the air, as co-op isn’t a thing yet, and they haven’t fixed the stuttering/optimization issues. It is certainly 343’s best outing yet, shame it came at such a cost to the franchise under their leadership.

The Multiplayer

EH? The weapon sandbox has been fundamentally changed. The shotgun-sword debate is over as it takes half a magazine to kill someone at close range. The AR starts to multiplayer is a good way to get by the previous games’ focus on ranged weapons like the DMR, Carbine, or Battle Rifle, however if you’re good with the pistol secondary that won’t be necessary. Even on the larger BTB maps the pistol can carry you a good distance.

The vehicles (when they spawn) don’t feel like they have any weight in them. Reach had the same problem despite the fact someone in half a tonne of armor is driving it and gunning out of it. Not a variety in environments either, urban, desert, or forest. But I’ll try and focus on the gameplay and not their own Battlefront 2 (2017) inspired monetization cock-up. The motion tracker has been changed to where you can now only detect player movement when they sprint, compared to the usual when they move all the time. If you aren’t quick on the ball to this it will be frustrating, in addition to the fact that the current way to read it for verticality or if the enemy is below you is very hard to tell.

The playlists are slowly coming in, but the new game modes in regards to complete territorial control and power seed hunting to power up your base are good game modes. However with the BTB maps your vehicles are not long for this world, they live fast and die fast as well. Everything from Warthogs to Banshees can die very, very easily. The new weapons, like the Ravager and the VK78 Commando (which felt really powerful in the flight testing) are not what they once were – and it feels like a very short rush to power weapons, Battle Rifles, and picking up fusion coils and throwing them before your opponent picks up the overshield.

It feels like Halo, but this latest iteration has me on the contrarian side. Definitely keeps its Halo 5-esque speed and mobility, but with its limited set of maps, weapon variety, customization (and no forge yet either) I would say put it on hold for me. For the month that it’s been out I spent waiting from the 15th of November to the 8th of December for the campaign. The multiplayer frustrating me even if I went 29-1. Overall, it’s a free to play multiplayer, check it out and take your own conclusions.

Signing Off

I’ll be back behind my microphone eventually, back when I am not as winded due to the coof. Your kind words and well wishes have been lovely, I am truly blessed. I still plan to do something this 23rd on stream. I hope you are with your families this Christmas. God bless you, Merry Christmas, and until then.

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