I won’t lie. Part of me really wanted to be able to write how Halo 3: ODST
is nothing more than a rehash of their prodigal Halo
recipe with some prettier wrapping. Lucky me! But the real question is, do you buy, rent, or not bother? And following an answer to this, why? Let’s move out solider.
The game revolves around a squad of ODSTs (Orbital Drop Ship Troopers- “the best of the best”) and the hardships they come to face, battles they come to fight, and ammo they come to spend within the Covenant-invested city of Earth’s New Mombasa.
The game uses the mute primary character simply dubbed ‘Rookie’ as a conduit for its storytelling, with the player controlling him (or her, I guess!) through the ruined, dark city, looking for clues as to what happened to his team-mates. Upon finding said clues, the game will enter a flashback, and you’ll find yourself controlling another member of the squad, playing through his own brief story to show you what happened to him, before returning to the inside of the Rookie’s helmet. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re simply a fan of Halo
, great: this game will certainly sate your thirst for Halo
-goodness no problem. If, however, you’re a fan of the Halo
FPS genre who also
wants something new from the guys at Bungie
, or indeed just a first-person shooter kind’a guy or gal, then Halo 3: ODST
is worth nothing more than a rent- especially if you already own Halo 3
to begin with.
Allow me to explain myself.
Fan-boys may be shouting at their screens, ‘well what about the new night-vision visor? That’s new, you *&£-wipe’. And, profanities aside, this is true.
Indeed, most of your time spent with Rookie requires your 'VISOR' to be turned on via the X button: allowing you to see in the dark, and spot enemies and weapons via red and blue outlines.
But that’s it.
You won’t use it for any Ghost Recon
-esque style combat co-ordination, to inform you of current enemy weaponry or health status, or assist in some sort of stealth function- you know, something different to the Halo
FPS universe. Just to see better. And furthermore, just to see enemies
better. Terrain however, and the city of New Mombasa in general, will instead blur into greys and browns. Halo 3: ODST
excels where level design is concerned, with New Mombasa being a perfect example of this: each street and alleyway beautifully inked with rich blacks and purples, giving a sombre and depressing depiction of a city annihilated and deserted.
But, given Bungie
’s eagerness for you to use their... innovative... VISOR mode, they’ve also made the place a pinch darker than actually necessary. And in turn, shoots itself in the foot, given the de-visualisation of everything bar aliens, gifting players with the not-so-lovely experience of stalking through a street of brown shapes whilst on the lookout for anything highlighted in red.
You should also bear in mind that, apart from your time playing as Rookie, you’ll rarely have the need to use VISOR mode with any other character or stage of the game. Halo
fanatics may also allude to the fresh equipment Halo 3: ODST
has to offer, namely the very cool, very sparse new weaponry it brings to the table.
When I say “sparse”, I do in fact mean, “two”: the silenced SMG, and the silenced, scope-enabled pistol, to be precise.
But again, that’s it. There are no new vehicles to be seen; no new melee equipment to wield; no new weapon functions to utilize.
While both weapons are pretty to look, the silenced effect has barely any point at all. Using such weaponry might grant you one or two undetected kills, but given the often large volume of enemies you’ll be facing and lack of any form of stealth system, after said two kills, you’ll be spotted in no time, only to take part in the usual Halo
-formula frag-fest. So once again, nothing really new here, either.
Given the silenced weaponry and “see-in-the-dark” vision mode, I can’t help but feel like Bungie
wanted to implement some sort of stealth aspect into Halo 3: ODST
, but decided against it at the last minute because they were out of coffee that night. Both elements are empty, pointless, and where VISION mode is concerned, detrimental to the game as a whole.
However, as aforementioned, if Halo 3 isn't
already part of your Xbox 360 game collection, then Halo 3: ODST
is, regardless of everything I’ve previously written, a perfectly viable buy- considering that you do
get serious bang for your buck! Not only do you get two new- albeit redundant- features (VISOR and new weaponry) but everything Halo 3
had to offer as well: the level-creating FORGE software, an abundance of multiplayer maps and modes, a whole new multiplayer armour set which is unavailable to Halo 3
, and access codes to the Halo Reach
multiplayer beta, when it’s released in 2010.
Furthermore- and this applies to renters and buyers both- the game’s story and ability to tell it is, in short, spectacular.
The entire journey is self-perpetuating on the grounds of superb voice-acting, a stellar soundtrack, and perfect character profiling.
While the storyline itself “don’t got nothing” on the chronicles of the Master Chief, the three elements aforementioned more than make up for this.
Combined, you’ll find yourself genuinely concerned over the fates of both Rookie and his comrades; and feel yourself putting that extra bit more effort into your battles just so as to keep them alive, spurred on by a music score that will have the hair on your arms stand on end, in a way that only a first-class instrumental can.
Each character just feels right
: their personalities and opinions practically emblazoned on to them. Some will make you laugh out loud; some will inspire sympathy; and some will just plain make you want to kick some Covenant backside!
As I mentioned previously, overall level design for Halo 3: ODST
is incredible, giving way to some brilliant, tactical fire-fights and serious eye-candy.
And that isn’t all there is to see graphically. Halo 3: ODST
sports a totally new, polished surface: weaponry and vehicles show off an extra shine and detail that Halo 3
was deprived of. But if you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll know that I tend not to discuss a game’s graphics for very long- so I’ll be moving swiftly on! This is namely because Google
Images has it covered- in case you were asking why.
Lastly is the game’s AI. Suffice to say that, after three previous FPS Halos
has got it nailed to a fine point.
Having played it on ‘Heroic’ difficulty (‘The way Halo is meant to be played’, so says the game itself) I found my opponents to be competent, resourceful, and sometimes just downright sly!
This leads to some Truly memorable scraps. Yes, the capital ‘t’ was intentional. The odds are often severely stacked against you, cornering the player into some fast-moving, quick-thinking game-play.
At any given opportunity, Covenant forces will flank and storm you, making almost every grenade you throw and bullet you fire a life or death decision. Frankly, you’ll find yourself holding your breath sometimes at the intensity of it all- and your hands a touch sweaty afterwards from the excitement of it all! Halo 3: ODST
, while a great buy for those not already in possession of Halo 3
, falls way short of the mark otherwise in terms of purchase. But with polished graphics, an impressive story to tell, some new toys to mess about with and plenty Achievement points to be harvested, it still definitely deserves at least a rent.
Over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve been contemplating whether to award Halo 3: ODST
with a B- or B+. And, after a personal war between non-biasness and gamer loyalty, I’ve met myself in the middle. I figured I have to grade on how the game plays on a standalone basis, above all else. Look at me being all professional. And selling a bit of my soul at the same time.
While the game does nothing for its previous customers that’s worth the price tag, as a game itself, it’s frustratingly a pretty decent package.
Go ahead Halo 3: ODST
, give yourself an ‘oo-ra!’- because most Halo 3
owners certainly won’t.
+ Polished graphics. At last.
+ Superb storyline
+ Excellent character profiling.
+/- New VISOR mode and weaponry- that’s a bit pointless.
- Halo 3.