Review by horror_spooky

"Band of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers"

In the days and weeks and hell, months, leading up to Halo 3, the gaming world was in a frenzy. Everyone was excited to get their hands on the game that was going to cap off the Halo trilogy, the game that was supposed to be Bungie's last stab at the Halo franchise, and the game that was supposed to become one of the greatest games of all time. Instead we got, well, we got Halo 3. The multiplayer in Halo 3 shined, whether it was in split-screen, online, or having one of those classic Halo parties, but the campaign was dreadful. It was a mess, and there was no reason for it, considering how talented Bungie is and how the campaigns in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were great. Bungie lied when they said that Halo 3 would be their last Halo game, though. Not only is Halo: Reach right around the corner, but before that, they started an expansion pack for Halo 3 that grew into a full-fledged video game. And the game I am talking about is Halo 3: ODST.

ODST, despite originating as a simple expansion pack, is a very different animal than Halo 3. Instead of the regenerating shield system that game uses, ODST follows a more classic FPS standard on health. Initial attacks don't necessarily damage you, but as you are attacked, your stamina goes down, represented by redness on the screen. Eventually, you will start taking damage. Your health doesn't regenerate, and instead you must find health packs hidden around the levels in order to survive. It's weird how I prefer this style so much to the newer way of doing things, but it had an odd nostalgic quality, and it makes me realize how much games have changed, even in the most subtle ways, over the last few years or so.

Getting back on track, ODST's campaign is way better than Halo 3's. Master Chief is nowhere to be seen in this title, and that might be a big reason for why the campaign is better. Master Chief is getting tired, and his character is a one-way street, to be quite honest. Regardless, ODST follows the story of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, which are the future's version of paratroopers. The campaign is separated out in a hub world and levels. The hub world is the present-day, lifeless, mostly destroyed and empty city. As the character the Rookie, you have to explore this city for clues on what happened to your other squadmates. When you find these clues, the game goes into a flashback and you're tasked with playing as a different character and finding out what exactly went down after you guys landed. The progression is unique and it's a fresh take on the Halo universe. Also, quitting in the middle of the level isn't such a pain in the ass anymore as the game utilizes a very convenient "resume" feature that takes out any guessing as to what checkpoint you were at, and all the other issues Halo 3 brought to the table.

ODST tweaks some of the gameplay mechanics in Halo 3 besides the health system. Dual-wielding is no longer an option, and you'll kind of miss it. However, there is a spiffy new tool inside of your visor that illuminates the environment around you, highlights enemies in red, and important things in yellow. It's quite useful, and it's an interesting mechanic that I hope is implemented in future installments of the franchise.

In terms of multiplayer, ODST is the same as Halo 3. There are some new maps and if you don't have Xbox Live and access to DLC, there are downloadable maps also available when you purchase ODST. If you played Halo 3's multiplayer to death and you're sick of it, you probably won't find yourself spending too much time with the multiplayer in ODST. Firefight mode, however, is a different story. Firefight is a co-op mode in the vein of Gears of War's Horde Mode. You and a partner, or if you're online you and three partners (four player splt-screen, Bungie. I'm begging you) fight waves and waves of enemies whilst earning points. After each round, the game changes the Skulls that are activated, making progress way harder. The battles in Firefight tend to be intense and heart-pounding as you are often surrounded by a ton of enemies at once, all firing away at you like none other. This mode is easily the best feature in the game, and it's addicting as hell. I wish there were more maps and some didn't repeat themselves by simply changing the time of the day, but I digress. You'll still have a blast and a half with Firefight.

The plot of ODST is also way better than Halo 3's. In Halo 3, the game offed main characters of the series, and no one cared. The storyline was presented very poorly, and even the most epic of moments were completely ruined by this poor presentation. ODST moves at a slower pace, and you are given time to actually care about all the characters. The game follows the Rookie as he tries to figure out what happened to his squadmates. His squadmates have been getting into all sorts of trouble in the city, as he discovers, and at the risk of spoilers, I can't go any further than that. A weak preview, sure, but you should just take my word for it that the storyline in ODST supercedes Halo 3's in every way possible, and it's one of the better plots in the Halo universe period.

Graphically speaking, ODST isn't much of a leap from Halo 3. Halo 3 certainly wasn't ugly though, so that's a good thing. The colorful outlines add a layer of life to the dark nature of the rest of the game, and the amount of on-screen enemies seems to have improved. There is no lagging, and while the game did crash on me a couple of times, there are virtually no technical issues to be concerned about.

The voice acting is at least decent, but the soundtrack is the important thing in a Halo game. The epic orchestra score is a trademark of the series at this point, and ODST doesn't disappoint. You will be psyched and ready to go immediately after the music starts playing, and it just sets the mood perfectly. To truly grasp the scope of how awesome the background music is, you really need to experience it for yourself.

ODST's biggest flaw though, the one reason why it didn't score higher than its cousin despite being an improvement upon it in almost every area, is the length. The campaign can be beaten in three hours. This is bad. Back in the days of the PlayStation One, this may have been acceptable, but nowadays on seventh generation consoles, having a three hour campaign is tough to justify paying full price for a game. The Firefight modes and the multiplayer, not to mention features like Forge and Theater, do add replayability, but not a whole lot. The achievements in ODST are better than Halo 3's and more fun to try to attain, so that's a big plus.

Halo 3: ODST is a fun game. You'll enjoy it whether you find yourself toting around a Master Chief helmet in your house or not. The storyline is great, the visuals are great, the audio is astounding, and the gameplay is refined, and there are new gameplay modes that are simply awesome like Firefight. Unfortunately, the game's length is a huge blow to the overall quality of the title, but if you can find it for cheap or maybe if you just want to give it a rent and you have time to dedicate yourself to it, you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of Halo 3: ODST.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/16/10

Game Release: Halo 3: ODST (US, 09/22/09)


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