Review by DachshundKing

"Get Ready to Drop..."

I can't count the number of times I've meandered onto a message board and found person after person denouncing the Halo series as “vanilla” and “boring.” While Halo is an unashamedly vanilla space marine shooter, sometimes being plain is better than tasting outright awful. I have always enjoyed the Halo series, even though I felt Halo 3 was too easy. Although the Elites have not returned as enemies, the difficulty has taken a decent step up, at least on Heroic. I must warn that there are some minor SPOILERS AHEAD.

Gameplay: 8/10

The entire cast of Covenant is back, and more dangerous than ever. Hunters appear more than they did in the last game: without Master Chief's insane jump height they can be a real threat. A few enemies have changed: a golden variety of Hunters appear; the only real difference is that rather than a beam, they fire a slightly more accurate fuel rod shot. There are multiple colors of Drone; red-shelled Drone Commanders even have shields and Brute Plasma Rifles!

In addition, the Engineer has been added. Engineers look like a snake trapped inside a tentacled brain and give overshields to any nearby enemy. The threat created by Engineers is real and the only quick way to kill one is to hit it with an overcharged Plasma Pistol shot.

Other than that, the gameplay is essentially the same, with a few minor exceptions: the ODST still has a form of shields, only now they are called “stamina.” The system of stamina protecting a nonregenerating health bar reminds me of Halo: Combat Evolved. ODST's do not have motion sensors; they also move and jump slower and their melee attacks are weaker. On the other hand, they can still jump entirely over a Brute and the addition of a very accurate Silenced Magnum and Silenced SMG tilts the odds in their favor.

The only cons in the gameplay are somewhat stupid and predictable AI and odd checkpoint placement (I found that more often than not I would get checkpoints literally a few minutes after other checkpoints when nothing was happening; when I had a difficult battle the checkpoints would dry up and leave me repeating the same 20 minutes over and over).

Story: 6/10

Not much to say about the story; the Rookie, whom you play as, never makes a sound, unless you count grunts and mumbles when jumping or shot. The squad leader and his love interest feel wooden and cliched, and it's not a very plausible story. As players of Halo 2 may remember, a Covenant cruiser entered slipspace directly over New Mombasa: the resulting shockwave destroyed much of New Mombasa. The game begins at that exact moment; a drop pod slams into the Rookie's and causes his airbrakes to fail. He wakes up six hours after the rest of his squad and has to figure out what happened to them.

As you wander through the darkened city, attacking Covenant patrols and finding marked clues, a citywide AI gives you hints and rewards you with free weapon and vehicle caches for finding the 30 hidden data terminals; these terminals tell a backstory and are marked in one of the new features: VISR. VISR is essential a combination of night vision and thermal goggles: it makes it easier to see and marks weapons, data terminals, enemies, and clues with colored outlines.

However, the point where the story falls apart a little is the clues: when the Rookie finds them, he stares at them for several seconds. Then you play a “Flashback Level” as one of the other members of his squad. Suddenly the Rookie throws the object aside without doing anything to figure out what happened; despite his investigative incompetence, he figures out where his team went anyway: he apparently either can see the past psychically or he's really, really lucky.

The ending is your typical “the heroes get away all fine with what they came for and THE BAD GUYS FOUND SOMETHING BIG DUN DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN!” I have not beaten the game on Legendary as of yet and do not know if there is an extra scene or not.

Sound: 7/10

I really can't say anything here; the Rookie never speaks, but the occasional banter of the other characters is somewhat humorous. The screams of the Grunts are just as satisfying, and the joke quotes generated by the Silver Skull IWHBYD are still funny.

Graphics: 8/10

The game feels somewhat darker than Halo 3, but there are no real changes.

Replayability: 6/10

The Campaign lasted about 5 hours for me: I spent at least 30 minutes of that tooling around.

The Firefight mode is very good. Firefight adds a sort of “Nazi Zombies” arena. You can pick from several different arenas and fight endless waves of Covenant until you die. Unfortunately, this mode does not feature Matchmaking, forcing you to play with invited friends or with one other person in splitscreen.

The game also comes with a second disk called the Multiplayer Experience. This disk features the Forge mode that allows you to edit the items on any map in Halo 3 and every Multiplayer map from Halo 3, including all the DLC and three new maps: Longshore, Heretic, and Citadel.

The last few Vidmaster achievements have been added: getting every Vidmaster achievement on both Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST unlocks Recon armor for Halo 3. Be warned; most of these achievements are extremely difficult and provide no Gamerscore, only Recon and bragging rights.

Overall: 8/10

Like any game, it has its flaws. Nevertheless, it should not be missed. It is definitely worth the price of purchase. In conclusion:

+Fun, basic space marine shooter

+More difficult than Halo 3

+Firefight is a blast

-Poor story

-AI seriously needs improvement. Enemies joyfully rush headlong into headshots.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/28/09

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

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