Review by DandyQuackShot
"Lord, Please Tell Me I Don't Have to Fly Again Today"
After two years of pre-teens bending their knees excessively over my dead body and after making it into the top ten of most Halo 3 campaign kills (100,000 dead Covies to my name) Bungie releases a new first person shooter set in the world of the Halo series during the events between Halo 2 and 3. Covenant rage through the streets of New Mombasa and something has the interests of the top brass that is so important that an elite squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troops has to be sent down to Earth to go get it. Even though ODST is somewhat of an expansion game for Halo 3, the story in this game is very unique to the series and along with the Firefight cooperative mode where you and your friends defend against wave after wave of Covenant bad guys you won't find much else that is new with this game.
My initial reaction to ODST was not a good one. First of all I intend to answer a lot of questions surrounding this game and the first and foremost is about the Halo Reach multiplayer beta. As soon as I popped this game in I get a message saying to look for the release of the beta in 2010. I was kind of expecting it to be a little sooner or the same as the Crackdown/Halo 3 beta was, but that is not the case. So if you were planning to buy this game specifically for Master Chief's probable final debut you can wait until ODST comes down in price. Another question that needs to be answered off the top of this review centers around ODST's multiplayer. Basically what you get is Halo 3's multiplayer repackaged with the second disc that comes with this game. I was rather disappointed by the false claim on ODST's cover where it says "New Hero, New Campaign, New Multiplayer" because the multiplayer is nothing new. There are only new maps you can play on in matchmaking. This weekend's Double EXP playlist was equally as disappointing with it being simply Team Swat with pistols and SMGs. So there is no new multiplayer attached to this game, only more cooperative campaign skull finding and scoring along with the arcade Firefight mode.
Halo 3: ODST is not a complete bust though. This is a great game for newcomers and fans alike for having a new story and very fun (but short) campaign. Fans will appreciate the new medal system for the campaign as well as all of the old Halo 3 goodies such as finding skulls and turning them on to compete for high scores. I fell into the trap of getting the highest number of campaign kills in Halo 3 and am already working on ODST. If for some odd reason you do not have Halo 3 you will get the full benefit of having the complete multiplayer with all of the maps that us suckers paid to download over the past two years.
The story on the campaign is unique to the series as it is based on humans this time. No longer the simple minded gun trading allies of Master Chief, you get to play as each member of an elite squad of ODST members in missions that are retold in flashbacks. The "new hero" is simply a faceless rookie member of the squad who spends most of the game roaming the New Mombasa streets while finding the beacons his buddies left behind. Fortunately the other members have much more character and provide witty dialogue all along the way as they try to complete their top secret mission. ODST keeps it short and sweet, but how it all ties in with Halo 3 does not seem too relevant considering how fast the events in Halo 3 occur.
The campaign game play is still all the same despite playing as a human. Sure you will have a tougher time taking down enemies. The only difference I saw there was that the brutes take a couple of clips to finally put down. There are also other very subtle changes and improvements to the game play such as being able to hold up to three grenades this time instead of two. The most outstanding new feature to the game play is the VISR which allows you to see in the dark and make out the outlines of enemies. So you can scratch the flashlight on this one. Another great improvement is the D-Pad hint where hitting it will show you where you need to be going instead of waiting around until Cortana updated your HUD. The weapons are not new but you can pick up weapons that you could not trade off to human soldiers in the earlier games. My fear going into ODST was that I would not be able to use a brute shot since it is too big for a regular soldier. Fortunately, that's not the case. The silenced pistol and SMG are nice assets but they run out of ammo quickly, but the other highlight is the re-debut of the red plasma rifle which was missing in Halo 3.
The missions in the campaign are fun to play through but a common save glitch becomes a problem for going through the campaign for the first time. I stopped just after beating the Kikowani Station mission and when I picked back up on the game I found I had to retrace all of my steps to get the Data Hive beacon going on the map. So having to replay almost the entire campaign to keep progressing was not too fun. At least the missions were short though so it did not take long to get caught up again.
Firefight is a fun game mode especially for playing with friends, but once the achievements are unlocked I doubt there would be much interest for anybody to keep playing it. Of course diehards like me would keep on playing it over and over to have the most kills, but I do not see Firefight as a lasting aspect of this game. You fight enemies in waves and have to survive on a limited number of lives while the only objective is to have a high score. Considering the only other mode to play around in is ODST's own Theater Mode where you can watch and make pictures and movies of your campaign and Firefight games, there is not much else to do besides Halo 3's multiplayer. I feel rather bummed about Halo 3's matchmaking being repackaged like that.
Scoring gets somewhat of an update as the medals you earn in matchmaking can be gained during the campaign along with a few modified medals for killing certain numbers of enemies. This adds some new fun for the scoring system and along with the skulls it makes for many more nights spent playing Halo with your friends.
The graphics and audio are okay. The music is awesome. ODST has a completely new score that is simply superb and catches the mood just right while you roam the streets at night searching for clues in New Mombasa. I was not too thrilled about some of the Halo 3 dialogue being copied over to this game. You hear a lot of bits and quotes (and the same voice actors) from Halo 3 on ODST. Sound effects are tweaked ever so slightly to make things like gunshots more realistic. It seemed to me that shooting a sniper rifle inside a building will reverbrate differently than shooting it outside.
Final Recommendation 7/10
I would have given ODST a much higher rating if it had been an expansion of Halo 3 made available as DLC. Of course I realize that the story of this game is so unique so that probably would not have worked, but on the other hand what you get is Halo 3 repackaged in a lot of respects. The multiplayer is a real kick in the pants for those of us expecting something new in online multiplayer. Having to wait until next year for the Halo Reach beta is no good reason to get this game now either. Skeptics have plenty of fuel for telling you why not to get this game, but even if Bungie was to make a first person shooter where you are a Grunt armed with only a plasma pistol it would still sell and be popular. After playing through the campaign of ODST I can give this game a benefit of the doubt and hope that whatever DLC is released for this game it will only increase the replay value. ODST is a game I would recommend fans rent first then pick up later on whenever they announce the release of the beta as it is not a long game and only ties in loosely to the series.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/28/09
Game Release: Halo 3: ODST (US, 09/22/09)
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