Fit to print: Halo 3: ODST Review

What, you’ve already read this before? Well, first of all, thank you, and second, yeah, I know. I’m going back through my previous work and sprucing it up, making it a little more legible. It’s probably more self-indulgent than it is appealing to you, but I need to get better at editing, and I thought, hey, I have all this (embarrassing) work to use! Enjoy it or skip it, I won’t be offended!

Coming from a strong history of innovation and expertly designed gameplay, Bungie’s Halo series has been superb so far. When the initial announcement for an expansion pack to 2007’s Halo 3 came, I trembled in anticipation. Throughout the months following its unveiling my expectations grew, only to be shot down as the release date got closer. From what was once a $30 expansion, Halo 3: ODST became a full package, retailing at the usual $60; the price change was staggering. Convincing me to lay down $60 for what began as an expansion would require the game to have a much wider scope and a lot more features tucked in. Finally, some initial reviews trickled in and things weren’t looking good. I  had the chance to play it, and disappointingly it became obvious: ODST is not worth the $60.

Now before you totally disgregard the game outright, it’s important to learn what the it provides you with. ODST tells a very compelling story that I particularly enjoyed. You play as The Rookie, a seemingly normal Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (O-D-S-T hey!) without the abilities a Spartan like Master Chief would have like dual wielding and advanced shielding. You’ll quickly learn the difference between the ODST capabilities versus the Chief’s. ODST are much weaker and therefore have health hiding beneath their delicate shields, making the combat much more tactical and cover much more valuable.

Your team was sent to stop the Covenant from completely destroying the city of New Mombasa, unsurprisingly things don’t go as planned. Unfortunately hell breaks loose before you and your squad land and you’re forced to search for your fellow comrades through the mementos they left behind.

Throughout the campaign you will be traversing New Mombasa in the dark. This “hub world” lets you explore and find clues in order to find the survivors from your team, and hopefully regroup. Bungie did a excellent job of letting you understand that you’re alone, and that your character actually cares about these missing people. Each clue that you find transports you into a flashback. In these flashbacks you play one of the ODST that you’re searching for. These flashback sequences allow you to widen your eyes, as it’s no longer dark, and get back into the epic gun battles that historically represent a Halo game. These parts are paced very nicely throughout your midnight memory hunt, but the combat sequences between feel like place-holders. Linking the flashbacks together to form a cohesive narrative was more difficult than I thought it would be and it ultimately felt messy and confusing. Near the end of the game things start to culminate into very recent flashbacks, rendering the first set of sequences unnecessary. Although, if they weren’t present, the game would be even shorter than the 4-5 hours it already lasts.

The graphics are very similar to the Halo 3 engine that you’ve already seen in action, and that’s not a bad thing. ODST’s focus on its characters could have been more impressive and genuine if the their faces weren’t still ugly. Bungie’s intent for you to realize you’re not playing Master Chief is inconsistent, you can still jump over towing crates, and walk around while wielding a giant machine gun turret. The game inevitably teaches you to find cover often as your battle strategy, but never punches you in the groin for being too brave. Maybe that’s harsh, but it felt frustratingly contrived after realizing the only difference between Master Chief and an ODST is primarily the health deficiency and the lack of a dual-wielding ability.

Without “Halo” in the title, ODST is a solid first-person shooter, but it carries so little weigh it feels out of place in the Halo series. Martin O’Donnel’s soundtrack is arguably the only thing that met and exceeded my exceptions; it is absolutely amazing. If you are looking for a solid campaign and some more story to add to your Halo knowledge this would be well worth $20-$25 alone, but with its shortcomings and higher price, Halo 3: ODST  doesn’t live up to the quality of its predecessors.

What did I change? You can try to read the original review here.


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