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XBOX360: Halo 3: ODST Review

Let’s get something out of the way before we go any further. Halo 3: ODST is not a sequel to Halo 3, it is also not a fully fledged title in the Halo first person shooter lineup despite the full cost $60 price tag. Halo 3: ODST should be correctly viewed as an expansion to 2007’s Halo 3, hence the presence of “Halo 3” in the title. But more of that later.

Halo 3: ODST differs from previous Halo titles, in that instead of playing as the infamous Master Chief, you are controlling a new Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, known simply as the rookie. The action takes place in the earth city of New Mombassa before the events of Halo 3. The human race is fighting a loosing battle with The Covenant and earth has become the last line of defense. The game starts with a group of elite ODST dropping in pods to the surface to mount a counter offensive. Unfortunately the squad gets separated from each other and after being knocked unconscious in a crash landing, the rookie awakes in a deserted New Mombasa, to a trail of destruction left by a recent battle. Your character takes it on himself to try and regroup with the rest of his squad and resume their mission.

Most of the game is spent traipsing through abandoned streets moving from one checkpoint to the next, occasionally running into groups of enemy. The sense of isolation and solitude is done very well, in part due to very atmospheric music (a staple of the entire series) but there is a question in my mind as to wether this actually makes for compelling gameplay. You can spend 10 minutes at a time not really encountering a whole lot of resistance and it does feel repetitive. The gameplay gets a sudden jolt however when you encounter occasional clues to your colleagues recent presence. These clues trigger a flashback sequence of sorts that transfers you into the role of that ODST. Gone are the abandoned and darkly lit streets and you are thrust in the heat of battle against waves and waves of enemy. This feels a lot more like Halo and frankly is a lot more fun. Some of these flashback sequences put you in driving missions, in tanks and also in aircraft. From a story perspective you can see what Bungie were trying to achieve but it feels a little disjointed and you don’t buy into your character’s story as much as you did in the other Halo games. As you are no longer a superhuman Spartan in ODST and simply “a man”, you have to pick up health packs to regenerate health. As Halo has never been a heavily tactical FPS, you’re going to need to pick up health fairly often. Thankfully there are easy to come by. There are a few new weapons in the game too, including a suppressed sub machine gun that is your default gun and I’m pleased to announce that the pistol is back to it’s former Halo 1 glory. It’s an extremely accurate weapon and when used with practice can achieve many a headshot. Of course for the bigger enemy you might want to consider a rocket launcher! Dual wielding is notably absent from this game however and whilst this might fit in with the games premise, it’s feels a little regressive. The campaign mode is also notably shorter than in other Halo games. Even on the harder difficulty settings you can blow through it in a few hours.

Graphically the game look pretty with plenty of detail, but it is started to show it’s age. As ODST shares it’s graphics engine with Halo 3, it uses graphics that are over 3 years old. The designers have done a decent job with creating some new effects and some of the landscapes are quite alluring, but this game also suffers from a problem that has plagued all of the Halo titles before it; repetitive scenery. It’s quite common to be walking down a street in the city and have the feeling that you’ve accidentally doubled back on yourself and have begun walking in circles. In reality, the same corridors, streets and buildings do get used again and again and whilst there is enough variation for the most part, it can give you a sense of deja-vu and confusion. It’s a shame that in 4 games Bungie haven’t managed to work this out. It’s not a problem I’ve ever noticed with any of the Call of Duty games.

What does work very well is the sound. This has always been a great feature of the Halo titles and ODST is no different. The score is powerful and rousing when it’s needs to be, such as in the heat of battle and very atmospheric and calming when you’re picking through the debris and carnage on your hunt for your squad.

Probably the biggest change from previous titles, is the addition of Firefight mode. This game mode is completely new and pits you and up to three fellow players (although you can play it by yourself) against successive waves of bad guys, each wave harder than the last. If you’ve played Horde mode on Gears of War 2 or Nazi Zombies on CoD5 than you get the idea. It’s an increasingly popular addition to FPS titles these days and it’s good to see that Bungie have their own approach to it. One of the major differences between Firefight and Horde mode or Nazi Zombies is shared lives! This really puts the pressure on you not to die and you do find that you’re less likely to run across the map on a selfish suicide mission, knowing that if you die, you deprive the rest of the team of an additional re-spawn. Each wave also has it’s own characteristics, such as “Grenade Happy” where you’ll find grunts will shower you in sticky grenades or a mode where you can only recharge your shields by melee attacking the enemy. These dramatically force you to adapt your gameplay and definitely keep you on your toes. Probably the best aspect however is the AI. The enemy don’t simply run at you, but hold back, use cover and flank you, it really works and all adds up to great gameplay and more than a few late nights.

The bad news is that multiplayer is a total bust. Instead of creating any new multiplayer functions, Bungie decided to add a second disc which contains the multiplayer mode from Halo 3 lock, stock and barrel. Ok it does include all of the map packs which were previously available to purchase in the marketplace and there are two or three new maps, but let’s not kid ourselves, this is completely recycled content. As such, any of the new features of ODST, weapons, enemy, graphical enhancements etc are absent. Truly there is no different from playing the multiplayer mode of ODST or Halo 3… they are the same. This kind of leads me to back to my opening comments. While ODST has some fun moments in the albeit short campaign and Firefight is a great addition, it never feels like a full game. This is probably because originally it wasn’t going to be. Bungie had intended this to be an expansion for Halo 3 to bridge the gap before the next full Halo title, Halo: Reach, which comes out next summer. Unfortunately they obviously decided against this and turned it into a full price game instead and with the help of Microsoft’s hefty marketing buzz, were able to justify the $60 price tag. It’s not that ODST is overtly bad, it’s just that it’s not great value. Bungie should really take a leaf out of Rockstar’s book who have released two highly enjoyable expansions for GTA:IV both of which added hours of gameplay to an already excellent game, but more importantly, cost under $20 each. There’s a lot to be said for the relationship between enjoyment and perception of value and unfortunately for ODST it falls short when measured against this equation.

In summary, Halo 3: ODST adds some fun elements to the series, but the presence of a recycled multiplayer mode and a pretty short campaign mean that it’s longevity is questionable. Given that we are now in the golden season for new game releases and especially with the much awaited CoD: Modern Warfare 2 as well as Left 4 Dead 2 about to come out, I would advise going elsewhere for your FPS fix or at least wait until you can pick it up used for half the price. True Halo fans however will to pick it up regardless I would imagine.

Overall, fun but nothing that justifies $60. I would have given it an extra point if they had just left Halo 3’s multiplayer mode out all together. Adding it just seems lazy and insulting somehow


Firefight Mode, Atmospheric & immersive gameplay,It's a Halo game! Recycled multiplayer, Repetitive level design, Doesn't feel like a $60 game