The year was 2001. It was a year of uncertainty and depression. That is, until the world was introduced to a half-ton super soldier capable of single-handedly winning a war, known to the people as the Master Chief. We got placed firmly in his oversized boots in the Xbox's smash hit Halo, and 8 years on, there isn’t a more important gaming icon around. The years since the first Halo game has seen the release of two, highly successful sequels, and now, in the year 2009, we get our hands on the most recent addition to the mighty gaming series; Halo 3: ODST. The game has received praise for being a unique experience, like nothing ever seen in a Halo game before, but has also been flamed for being a full-priced 'expansion' and simply more of the same. But is the game just more of the same? Or is ODST a step in a new direction, and a turn for the best? Read on to find out...
The Gameplay in Halo 3: ODST is where the game makes its stand against claims of being 'more of the same'. True, it’s still a first person shooter, just like its previous three counterparts, but it’s not your average shooting game, well, your average Halo game anyway. Where ODST differs from previous Halo shooters is that instead of the whole run-n-gun gameplay of the previous titles, ODST requires players to fight with skill and thought, and take their time in engaging the enemy. You are no longer the Master Chief. You are no longer a genetically enhanced super soldier. You are now an ODST, or Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, for those of you who aren’t up to date on their Halo lore. ODST's are much more vulnerable than their Spartan counterparts, and much more susceptible to damage, not to mention much less skilled with weapons and much less tactically advantaged.
During the games campaign, you pretty much take control of the entire ODST squad at one time or another, but its safe to say that the games 'main' hero is the Rookie; the newest addition to the squad. The games campaign mode follows the Rookie as he wakes up 6 hours after a orbital drop gone very wrong and must search the city of New Mombasa for his lost squad mates. When ever you find a piece of the mystery of your squads location, you must play a mission as a particular member of said squad some time ago and eventually tie together the entire story to make sense of it all. It really is a unique and fresh way to play Halo, and is a great way to tell an even greater story, which is always the very core of the halo experience.
Yes, this is yet another Halo game, and that’s why it’s great. However, given that Halo 3 was released two years ago now there really doesn’t seem like much of a change. The games feels just like Halo 3, just with a bit of added gameplay styles and a new hero, which is enough to give you a enjoyable play through or two but really it seems to old compared to today’s blockbusters to keep you interested for too long. Also, Halo 3 was known for having such a fun campaign that you would want to play over and over, but ODST's just isn’t as replayable, which is very disappointing. The major difference between this game and the original Halo 3 is that in ODST, given your inferior health and skills, you must rely on the map and your smarts to overcome the sometimes overwhelming Brutes and their which actually works very well in this type of game. It’s a nice change to have to use your wits, but it’s still not much of a change.
When you have the campaign mode truly dead and buried, you may want to try your hand at ODST's 'Firefight' mode. The game type of Firefight is becoming increasingly popular these days, with games like Call of Duty and its Nazi Zombies, and Gears of War which gives your Horde mode. All of these games pit you and a few friends against waves upon waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Firefight however gives you a little more depth than the previously mentioned two, as it lets players feel the Halo experience which is unique and gracious in its own ways. There are quite a few maps available to play Firefight on, all of which are very different from the last and give players many different ways to overcome the opposing forces. Watch out though, the more you progress, the more of Halo's infamous skulls will be activated, making things a little harder. This mode really is the biggest slab of new material in ODST, and arguably its best feature.
ODST comes on two discs, the first which gives players all the 'new' material, which is the entire ODST campaign and firefight. The second disc is makes up for the lack of new material, despite actually being the oldest thing in the whole bundle, and gives players the entire Halo 3 multiplayer and matchmaking experience, from the Theatre to the Forge, not to mention all 21 Halo 3 maps and an additional 3 new maps made just for the ODST disc. Whether you never experienced the legend that is Halo 3 multiplayer or never managed to keep up with all the new maps, or simply want all the multiplayer features on one disc, then this is the way to go. But even though ODST gives us access to 3 great new maps and a few different playlists, it doesn’t give us anything new in terms of multiplayer gameplay, which is a bit of a let down considering the possibilities that its extensive multiplayer mode puts out there.
Back when Halo 3 was released, it featured amazing graphics which set a bench mark for future first person shooters, but the gaming industry has changed allot since then and today’s games have the most stunning graphics ever seen. That’s not the case with ODST. ODST was built around the same engine as its predecessor, and features the exact same graphics. This means two year old graphics which although still look pretty slick, have nothing on this years other blockbusters. And in an age where graphics matter as much as gameplay, this is a major disappointment.
What has improved though is Bungie's attention to detail through out the campaign. Halo 3 looked good but was bare; it had the backbone but nothing to support it. ODST gives so much more in the detail department as it and litters the gloomy streets with the remains of the covenant invasion and broken hearts and dreams of the once proud people of New Mombasa. Every where you walk you see depressing graffiti and burned out cars followed by flickering lights and more destruction. It really sets the atmosphere and gives off a kind of survival horror feel, and being something I never thought I would see in a Halo game, it works surprisingly well.
The crisp sound of the Sniper Rifle and the pulsating blast from a Plasma Rifle, along with the occasional orchestration breakout during intense battles and memorably moments are usually the only sounds players notice while playing through a Halo campaign, but during ODST you will no doubt notice (and fall in love with) the soft, yet memorable and almost jazzy orchestra that plays during all moments as the Rookie. As you find yourself exploring the streets of New Mombasa, you will feel uplifted from the gloomy surroundings by the score in question. You will feel free, and you will feel happy. Yet you will be fighting for your life against a horde of powerful space aliens determined to put an end to all human life. The musical score in a video game is a very important part, and during this games campaign, this reviewer can say with honestly that the musical score in ODST was by far one of the best parts. Oh, and of course no Halo game would be complete without its own version of the masterful Halo tune that has become known to all as it plays during the menu's and during only the most spectacular moments, and ODST is again no exception to what’s expected, as it gives players more of the great tune that we've all come to love.
Halo 3: ODST can be called an expansion. It can be called an add-on. But what it should never be called is a waste. It is a full-priced retail game, and should be looked at as such. It is far from just an expansion as it gives players not an add-on of the Halo 3 campaign, but enough material to be its own title, which thankfully it is. It also gives players access to the mighty Halo 3 multiplayer on its own stand alone disc. As talked about before, this disc features all the downloadable multiplayer maps plus a few more, which can cost quite a bit when you download them all from the LIVE marketplace, which is in turn very good value for a standard price game which also gives its own full single-player experience. For a full-price game, Halo 3: ODST gives you worth for every cent you pay and keeps giving with its never-dull multiplayer. You can’t go past this one.
This game has allot of competition if it wants to take the cake for shooter of the year, what with Operation Flashpoint 2 and Modern Warfare 2 both coming out in the next few months. But gamers love the Halo series and this is one of the best games of the entire series if not the greatest. Sure, you don’t play the awesome 'Chief and aren’t a super soldier, but its fresh and fun and provides enough of the same to keep the hardcore fans happy and enough of the new stuff, in terms of gameplay, to convert a few nay sayers, like the ones begging for a more realistic, gritty take on intergalactic warfare. ODST doesn’t improve on Halo 3's graphics, but it gives you more detail and a different way of playing and looking at the Halo universe, which is a great accomplishment. Even better, you get to experience the new campaign while listening to one of the best musical scores even put in a game. Not to mention when you pick up a copy of the game, you get the entire Halo 3 multiplayer experience, which is well worth its price tag on its own. This game is a must have for the summer, and a must have for all you multiplayer lovers.
AAG Score: 8.5/10
- Entire Halo 3 multiplayer experience
- Great new campaign
- Amazing musical score
- Firefight mode is great
- New features are great...
- ...Too bad there aren’t many
- Same old Halo 3 graphics
- No new multiplayer modes
- Campaign not as replayable as Halo 3's
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott