Halo 3: ODST
Review by DarkReign2552
"The results of an affair behind Master Chief's back. Is it worth the risk?"
The newest title within Bungie's vivid repertoire is the highly-acclaimed Halo 3: ODST. Some see it as being just an expansion of the highly-successful Halo 3. Others see it as being the 4th full installment within the series. A handful even see it as the 5th bearing Halo Wars in mind as well. Whatever the case, ODST is here to stay and it decided to bring a small bag of goodies with it.
You're an ODST, or an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. You are the 'rookie' on a team composed of the best of the best that humanity has to offer. Your job is to ride in on a small 1-man HEV launched from a ship in space, land on Earth, and kick the ass of anything that's not of this planet. Unfortunately, a mission to intercept and capture a Covenant Capital ship has gone horribly awry and now you're lost tracking your team and their exploits throughout the city while you were unconscious.
The story's biggest flaw, personally, is how limited it was in content. As was said above, you're looking for your team of fellow ODSTs in the large, lifeless city while avoiding being killed by covenant scout parties. Up until the last couple levels of the game, there's not much going on other than surviving and regrouping. Compared to Halo 3s storyline, which was a huge messy pile of missed potential, however, ODST was forced to stay within the tight confines of already-establish canon due to it being a prequel.
The biggest save of the story, however, is not in the main game itself, but in the audio files scattered throughout the city. It tells the story of a young woman and her computer program friend Virgil as she fights to survive the Covenant and even corruption amongst her own people. The entire game wraps you in mystery as you wonder who this sentient device is and why it's helping you through the city. The audio files are made even more enjoyable by have slide-show animations to accompany them from the archive menu.
The actual presentation of the game makes for an effective excuse to vary up the gameplay at random. One minute you'd be quietly sneaking through the city, the next you'd be guns blazing with Spartan lasers, tanks, warthogs, etc... only to go back to the quiet when you're done.
The graphics are definitely limited. ODST was built using a modified variant of the Halo 3 engine, which we all know was dated even before H3 was released. The character models are moderately improved over that of the H3 NPCs, but otherwise the graphics remain pretty much the same in detail. A little more shine and a little less pixelization, but otherwise just a game running on a dated engine through and through. The game is also unfortunately very dark. The VISR makes it a little easier to navigate thanks to the visually appealing outlining it creates, but it doesn't actually light anything up, so you're left seeing very little of the world clearly.
Music: This may not come as a surprise, but the music is absolutely gorgeous as always. Marty went beyond refurbishing old pieces and actually designed each track from scratch. Being an ODST and, even more importantly, being alone in a city while trying to find your squad calls for something solemn and peaceful. Rock Anthem For Saving The World' just wouldn't fit into a game like this. The new game makes great use of the Saxophone in particular to creat that effect.
Sound Effects/Ambience: Not much to be said about these. The sound effects are what they're supposed to be. Guns sound like guns, Vehicles sound like vehicles. It recycles all of the sounds that were used in Halo 3 and there's nothing wrong with that. The voice acting is entirely original and the voice actors did a superb job as well. All of the voices were convincing toward their character's portrayal.
The gameplay. The most important aspect of any game ever. Halo 3: ODST did something risky with its gameplay this time around, but it's widely agreed that it's a move in the right direction for the series. In ODST, you're playing as a normal Human Being. That means you lack the shields that Spartans have and you lack the speed and strength of the Armor-Clad Cyborgs we're all used to. Instead, the ODST has to focus less on Run N' Gun and more on using cover and improvising in a bad situation. You have a vitality level that works similar to shields, but with far less effectiveness. When that is fully drained, your health bar, a feature dating back to halo 1, begins to drop and you have to find a med kit to recover.
On top of that change, many other minor adjustments have been made as well. Dual-wielding is gone, the radar is removed and replaced with a live-streaming overhead map, jump height is shortened, the VISR replaces the flashlight, Equipment and the Battle Rifle were removed from the final game, The Brute Plasma Rifle from halo 2 completely replaces the original Blue version, the banshee is only pilot-able on one Campaign level, the Wraith is not pilot-able at all, the pistol was recreated to include a scope and better accuracy that makes it an effective headshot weapon against unshielded enemies, and some of the enemies received new unit types (The Drone gets a commander rank that uses Brute Plasma Rifle and has shielding. The Hunter gets a Gold rank that fires Fuel Rod Cannons similar to the hunters in Halo 1.)
Overall, the game changes flow nicely and while it doesn't change enough to be a stand-alone halo title, it's enough to warrant consideration even by the nay-sayers of Halo 3.
This is where the title suffers the most. Firstly, there is no multiplayer in ODST. The second disc re-packages the Halo 3 multiplayer experience. The bonus? You get all of the downloadable map packs. At launch, it was the only way to get Multiplayer Map Pack 2, but now it's only worth your time if you don't already own all of the maps... unless you're like me and have a 20 GB HDD and you're out of space. Playing the MP disc deletes the maps from your harddrive immediately and clear out a lot of space for your other games (like my Borderlands DLC.)
The original MP feature in ODST is the new Firefight mode, a feature meant to be included with Halo 3 but ultimately removed in the end. Up to 4 players can cooperate as a team against endless waves of covenant hordes in what ends up being a alien slaughterhouse. Each match has endless Sets. Each set has 3 rounds and each round has 5 waves. Waves increase with difficulty as your progress, starting with just grunts and jackals and ending with Hunters and Brute Chieftains. To make matters worse, each round activates a specific variety of the infamous skulls to make the game harder by doing things like having the enemy throw more grenades or making them more resistant to weapon damage.
Unfortunately as solid as the overall game is, the replayability is just not there. The campaign mode was fun for a playthrough or two and the uniqueness of each Firefight map made a few rounds each worthwhile, but once you've done that and gotten all of the achievements, there's nothing left to do in the game.
Final Word: Interesting story, excellent music, and solid gameplay are the bonuses, but graphics and lack of replayability hurt the game. Matchmaking and lack of customization for Firefight were the culprits of this games overall lack of success or it would've scored so much higher than it did.
Final Score: 7/10
--Rent or buy--
Unless you're a hardcore Halo collector like I am (5 games, 7 novels, 1 anime and more) this game is a definite rental. Make some time to do the campaign and find some people to do firefight and you can have it all done in a week or two if you work hard at it.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/10
Game Release: Halo 3: ODST (US, 09/22/09)
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