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Halo 3: ODST Review

posted Mar 26, 2011, 3:23 PM by Golden Knight

By Mitchell Reslock

August 25, 2010

       

            Being the latest installment in the famous Halo franchise, Halo 3:ODST is easily one of the most advertised and anticipated titles out right now. The series’ developers at Bungie Studios set the standard for console-based shooters with the original Halo back in 2001, and have continued to raise the bar with each new addition. So, how do you stay on top with only an expansion to the final game in the trilogy, released over two years ago? If it’s Bungie, it can be done easily. Bungie, known to be impressively attuned to the needs of its fan community, knew exactly how to produce a gaming experience that turned Halo on its ear while making seasoned players feel right at home.

            To start off, you are no longer the unstoppable 7-foot super soldier known as Master Chief we’ve all come to know and love as Halo’s main protagonist. Instead, you play as one of the many Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, tough-as-nails specialists you’ve come across in past games. Think of them as modern-day Green Berets or Navy SEALs, but from space. While able to handle themselves in a fight, the ODSTs can’t run as fast, jump as high, or hit as hard as good ol’ Chief can. Nor can they dual-wield or control weapon recoil as easily. Smaller enemies that used to cower and flee from your onslaught now tower over you. To make matters worse, your shields and motion tracker are gone, and the only way to heal a wound is by locating one of the medical kits sparsely scattered throughout a level. All this forces you to do things never before considered in a Halo game: planning an attack out, conserving ammo, and avoiding fights altogether. Attempt to charge headfirst into a fight like what the Chief made possible and expect a swift return to your last checkpoint. But it’s not all bad. You’ll find yourself equipped with silenced versions of the reliable magnum pistol and submachine gun weapons, along with the VISR tool, a HUD overlay that illuminates dark environments and highlights allies, enemies, and objects of strategic significance.  These new drawbacks and abilities transform combat from the usual intense blast-fests into dangerous and surgical strikes that require quick thinking and excellent cover.

            Second only to gameplay in a Halo campaign is its presentation. Taking place on Earth immediately after the events in the beginning of Halo 2, ODST has you dropping from orbit into the metropolitan city of New Mombasa, now occupied by the myriad aliens of the nefarious Covenant faction. After being knocked out in a crash landing, you awaken six hours later in the heart of the city. It’s the dead of night, and the city has been completely abandoned. Moody piano and saxophone tunes perfect the lonely atmosphere as you skulk past the burnt-out husks of cars in the dark, rain-soaked streets, looking for clues as to what happened to the rest of your squad. The iconic fanfare of Halo‘s original theme is missing, but since the game feels more like a noir detective film than the epic, universe-saving adventures of past games, it probably wouldn’t fit. As you find clues left behind by your squad mates, you’ll enter playable flashbacks, which feature more of the action-packed battles the franchise is known for. Voice acting is top-notch, featuring talent from many popular movies and television shows, including the Firefly and Battlestar: Galactica series. Though the campaign will feel short to most veteran Halo fans, finishing in only about 6 hours if you rush, it still ends with the satisfaction of a well-written film.

            Last but certainly not least is the new Firefight multiplayer mode, which will have you and up to three teammates battling endless waves of baddies to see who can rack up the most points. Every five reinforcement waves of enemies complete a set, three sets complete a round. Each new round activates one of Halo‘s classic Skull difficulty multipliers, forcing you to adapt your strategies with every success. It’s an extremely fun addition that tops both Gears of War 2‘s Horde and Call of Duty‘s Zombie modes, but a lack of matchmaking support means that unless you have friends on Xbox LIVE, you’ll be playing it alone.

            All in all, ODST is yet another memorable addition to the lengthening Halo series. Bungie’s latest work manages to reinvent the game while still keeping up with franchise’s increasingly high standards. However, it is a fan service through and through. If you’re new to the Halo universe, you’ll find the many references to the history and lore both confusing and excluding. In fact, if you don’t already own Halo 3 and have a subscription to Xbox LIVE, half of what is in the $60 box, the complete Halo 3 multiplayer map collection is completely worthless. So, should you buy it? If you’re a fan of the series or genre, you should have bought the game and played through it twice already. If not, I recommend saving your cash for a full installment in a series more to your liking.

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