Halo 3: ODST
Developed By: Bungie Studios
Published By: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewed by Firedancer34
Facts and Stats:
Halo 3: ODST, or just ODST as it widely referred to in the gaming community, is the forth game release in the Halo series by Bungie. It was released on September 22, 2009 for the Xbox 360 console and like its predecessors, is a first person shooter game. The game consists of a campaign mode, and a new multi-player mode called Firefight. The game sold for $60 (US) which met with some criticism due to the rather short campaign length. However the game also consisted of a disc which allowed Halo 3 players access to all regular Halo 3 multiplayer maps. If one had not already spent the money on all the DLC map packs available, you now had them on one disc. The game was the number one selling game for the month of September and sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide within its first two weeks of release.
ODST met with mixed reviews amongst both the critics and the gaming community. The new Firefight mode was a new style and was an overall success. The campaign was hit hardest by the critics and the couch critics however. The campaign was said to be too short for the price tag by many. The main protagonist “The Rookie” was picked apart by many and even crowned as the lamest protagonist of the year by several gaming magazines. Technical experts were pleased by the overall style of the game, but they criticized Bungie for not upgrading their engines to allow for true and full HD in the graphic design. And for the first time ever, the music score to a Halo game came under some criticism from some in the community. Despite mixed reviews however, ODST fared decently, and still sold millions of copies worldwide and received several awards through various mediums.
Halo 3: ODST breaks away from the original Halo series and focuses on an elite group of UNSC combat soldiers known as Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST’s). They are also nicknamed the Helljumpers. The story references events in Halo 2 as you, The Rookie, and your fellow ODST squad are being dropped into New Mombasa right as the Covenant carrier that was over the city goes into slipstream. The resultant energy wave causes your pod to crash into one of your teammates and then crash-land completely off course, knocking you out for six hours.
The game then progresses from different viewpoints. You start off as the Rookie, who is trying to make his lone way through a Covenant occupied city, to meet up with his teammates or team leader, and complete various tasks along the way. As you go, the city’s AI become both your guide and assistant. At various points however, the game switches over to various other members of the team and the player assumes their identity for that portion of the game/mission.
In the beginning cut-scene of the game, the player is introduced to the team who is lead by Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck. Buck immediately introduces a new addition to their team, the ONI agent, Captain Veronica Dare. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that Buck and Dare had a previous romantic entanglement that ended when she walked out on him. It also becomes clear that Dare has orders and an agenda that she is keeping from the rest of the team.
Dare and the Rookie finally meet up where you (as the Rookie) finally find out what that agenda is. You are also let in on a carefully guarded ONI secret: the Huragok or Engineers are a species that are enslaved by the Covenant and despise them as much as the humans. Dare, the Rookie and Buck work together to escort one of them to safety as it interfaced with the city’s AI before it finally crashed and holds valuable intel both from the AI and its own extensive knowledge. It ends with the standard climactic battle towards freedom, and finishes with a cut-scene that takes place a month later. In this scene Sergeant Johnson - well known from his role in the original series - is seen accompanied by Admiral Hood as they prepare to question Engineer Vergil about what it knows.
ODST in its campaign form, shares some similarities to the original Halo: Combat Evolved game. The player doesn’t have shields, but as you take damage the screen changes to a red tint to indicate the level of danger you are in until you finally start losing health on the HUD’s health bar meter. Once health has been lost, players must then look for a health pack to be fully healed. There are a number of the standard weapons, with the addition of the ‘silenced’ SMG. One thing that Halo fans were happy to see was the return of the zoom scope on the pistol. Since a large portion of the game is played at nighttime, another feature that was incorporated into the game was the implementation of the “VISR” which is a form of night-vision that outlines both buildings and enemies. Like night-vision it doesn’t function well in broad daylight, but it helps tremendously when getting around in dark settings and it will help outline enemies that are using invisibility.
Vehicle control was much the same as Halo 3, although many felt that the drivability for the Mongoose - which is your primary vehicle of use in this game - was improved. One major difference in the game, was the limited abilities of your character. As a Spartan with shielded armor and superhuman strength and abilities, one could do things like grenade jump and jump impossible heights without worrying too much. In ODST you are just a normal human and pulling off such stunts as grenade jumping is going to cost you dearly, and forget jumping that ten foot pillar Master Chief could hop over even if a Hunter was tied to his back.
Bungie also incorporated an Easter Egg hunt in this game as well. Through out the city there are terminals that you can interface with that will tell a story of certain events leading up to the siege on the city and a politician at his corrupt finest. Due to a time constraints, the developers only introduced one new species into the game: the Huragok, or Engineers. These floating and highly volatile creatures are really a form of biological supercomputers that have been enslaved by the Covenant. They will not attack unless provoked, even then its mostly a defensive mechanism. Unfortunately, they provide any nearby Covenant enemies with a type of shielding that requires skill and smarts to overcome. The control scheme is once again slightly different, but pressing the back button provides a variety of useful intel and information that can great help a player work through the game. There is of course, the standard Achievement list, and modifiers that allow for gamers to up the challenge, difficulty level, and re-playability of the game.
The big change from this game versus other Halo games came in the multiplayer mode. Unlike previous games where everyone battled in a versus game against other players, ODST introduced “Firefight”. Firefight consisted of up to four players all fighting on the same side against waves of Covenant enemies. As you complete the campaign and on varying difficulty levels players can unlock more characters to play and customize in the Firefight mode. There are five waves of enemy reinforcements to each round. There are three rounds to a set and at the end of a set, swarms of grunts converge on the players in a Bonus round. Players have 60 seconds to kill as many enemies as they can. At the beginning of the game, the player or team is given seven lives. As the rounds, sets, and points accumulate players will be awarded more lives if they survive without being killed. The Bonus Wave is the only time when deaths are not taken away from the team’s collective life count. A death in the Bonus Wave however, is penalized by not respawning until the wave is over. Once all lives are expended, players who die will not respawn until the next round, and if the Last Man Standing survives, he is awarded a bonus. As the match progresses, various skulls are activated, increasing the level of difficulty. The great thing about Firefight is that as long as a player stays alive, the game could go on indefinitely.
Like many other gamers I had mixed feelings about ODST. I enjoyed the game, and I loved the new Firefight mode as it was unique. But I was one of the many who didn’t think it was worth the full price tag. Sure it came with the extra Halo 3 multiplayer Map pack disc…but by then I had already purchased all the DLC map packs. I enjoyed the story for the most part, but I was a tad annoyed with the skipping back and forth in the timeline. The jumping forward and back several hours, through out the game made things a bit confusing at times. So while the story and characters were fun, the flow was broken up so often that it made it hard to follow.
The graphics were completely different in this game and I have to say that I really liked the noire feeling that Bungie went with for ODST. Accompany the visual style of the game design, was a completely new style of music for the game. Martin O’Donnell was once more behind the reigns of the sound and music for the game, but he gave everything a very jazzy feel. The jazzy style was met with great reviews, but it made it difficult for the music to smoothly transition into proper battle style music. The result was a little ear bending and jarring at times, which is where some of the rare criticism of Halo themed music came into play.
As I said I enjoyed the Firefight mode immensely, and Bungie’s Achievements for this mode provided a great challenge for friends to try and accomplish. The return of the scope to the pistol was a favorite change for me personally, but I thought the silenced SMG was pretty useless as a weapon overall. Another challenge that I enjoyed was dealing with ‘shielded’ enemies. Especially if you were trying to accomplish the Achievement which requires you not to shoot and kill any of the Engineers - which would be the quickest way to make the shields fail.
Overall, I enjoyed the game and I replayed it quite a bit along with spending many a long night trying to get those Firefight Achievements. If I had to do it all over again though, I probably would have waited for a bit so that I could have bought the game at a cheaper price.
Rating on a scale of 1-10
Overall Gameplay: 8