Halo 3: ODST Xbox 360 Review
Originally planned as an expansion, Halo 3: ODST has become so much more. Microsoft saw fit to release the game as a full boxed release, coming complete with a brand new campaign, a new mode and a separate multiplayer disc. Something the game is without is, of course, Master Chief, whom in the Halo timeline is somewhere else other than the African city of New Mombasa.
The game takes place during the events of Halo 2, but rather than a genetically enhanced super soldier, you take control of the eponymous ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers to give them their proper and ridiculous name). As the squad becomes scattered after a drop into the city, it’s your job as the nameless and faceless rookie to find out what has become of your comrades.
As The Rookie, you’ll be investigating the city for evidence of your squad: finding and examining items, then in a nice twist, playing as each member to see what they got themselves up to following the disastrous drop. It’s a great way to tell a story, even if the story itself is nothing more than decent, decorated by clichéd and seen-it-too-many-times-before characters, but on the plus side, the voice acting is really quite superb.
So, gone may be Master Chief and the troopers come across as that little bit more fragile and human-like than the said Chief, though in both its look and its feel, ODST is very much a Halo game.
The campaign is classic Halo, with many of the guns (no battle rifle or dual wielding, though the pistol makes its return), the smart AI, the chaotic gunfights, and the vehicles, though the structure does make things feel a little bit different, thus slightly fresher than the main trilogy. For example, the city of New Mombasa is basically a hub which eventually allows you to find evidence of your squad in any order, so historically speaking this is actually the first open-world Halo game and perhaps a sign of things to come with next year’s Reach (Bungie’s final Halo game, which explores some of the rich back-story of the franchise).
The African city of New Mombasa has obviously seen better days, and is now populated by the Covenant whom just happen to be seeking a specific something hidden beneath the city. The Rookie ventures through it during nightfall and whilst the overall mood may be sombre, the city is a wonderful, futuristic environment.
As the rookie and friends are mostly human, albeit well equipped humans, they can’t jump as high as Master Chief and they actually get health bars, as well. The health is actually very much like that of the original, thus if you lose your shield (rechargeable, as always) it leaves you naked and susceptible to loss of health. This brings about the need to search out health packs, something that hasn’t been seen since the original game, in which Master Chief actually had an health bar that similarly depleted when taking damage during the tense moments his shields were down.
The campaign is definitely one of great variety, with ever changing environments and varied action packed into what is a relatively short run, although despite the accusations of its short length, other Halo games have also clocked in at a similar length. Overall, it doesn’t feel like a lesser Halo game in any situation, in fact it could very well be up there with the best of Bungie’s campaigns.
Graphically, ODST is a step-up over the third game, looking more realistic and losing some of its art style in the process, although like the game that finished the fight, it looks dated and really not that great for such a blockbuster title. The music also takes a new direction, with a jazz/film noir influence, which fits the mood as The Rookie searches the crumbling city for his comrades. It’s a great soundtrack, though I did find that it was a little weaker than previous games.
Now, on to the multiplayer. On the same disc as the campaign (which itself can be played in multiplayer), we have the brand new Firefight mode, a cooperative mode that was obviously inspired by that of Horde from Gears of War 2. Firstly, if you’re playing online (offline, it can be played in two player split screen or four players through system link) there’s no matchmaking option and you’ll have to play with people (up to three others) on your friends list. For a developer that pioneered matchmaking, this is an odd omission. Nevertheless, Firefight is a fantastic new mode that has you fighting off waves of the Covenant army, whilst sharing a pool of lives with your team-mates. Skulls also add a twist, when activated these can do things to the game such as making the enemies throw grenades more often, doubling their health and so on. Finally, another disc includes all the multiplayer maps (downloadable included) and modes of Halo 3; as a bonus there’s also three new maps on the disc, as well.
Halo 3: ODST doesn’t deviate from the formula dramatically, although for a game that started life as an expansion, it does a lot more than I would have ever expected it to. The campaign is a quality one and those who enjoy playing with others (online or off) will find plenty here with the multiplayer disc, as well as the greatness that is Firefight. The Halo series is still one of the finest there is, even without good old Master Chief to carry its weight.