GOONL!NE Review: Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3 ODST

Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Also on: N/A (Xbox 360 Exclusive)
Console Played on: Xbox 360
Release Date: Tuesday September 22nd 2009
Age Rating: PEGI 16

If it wasn’t for The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Halo 3 would almost certainly have been my Game of the Year for 2007. Bar one level, the game was a great FPS to play through, even if the former two releases did top it in epicness and in value for money. So what can Bungie, as great developers they are, follow up with Halo 3 with the fight finished?

Master Chief is back in the… wait, what do you mean Chief’s not back? Why was I not told this?

Oh. You did tell me. Sorry.

Anyways, when you start the game, you play as “The Rookie”, a brand ODST who joins the ranks of Buck, a vet of the events of Reach (could we see him in Halo: Reach?), as well as Mickey, Romeo, Dutch. The team are known as “Helljumpers.” They then meet their new boss: Dare aka Veronica, an old flame of Buck’s. You’re then awoken from a nice doze to “prepare to drop” into New Mombasa to bridge events that take place between Halo 2 and Halo 3.

However, all goes wrong and The Rookie crash lands into New Mombasa, before awakening hours later after the drop. Throughout the game, The Rookie must piece together the mystery of how his team lands in New Mombasa. As he discovers more and more abut the mystery, we learn through flashbacks (all playable, of course) in the game what happened to the other ODST’s.

ODST’s story does have its ups and downs. But for what it is worth, it is a decent story. It is one without Master Chief of course, but it does hold up as a decent alternative from the previous three cannon games in the series. However, for 3/4 quarters of the game as The Rookie, you’re sent trawling about New Mombasa from one flashback to another, not all taking place at the same time.

While the flashbacks are a great way of finding out the story, part of the game as The Rookie can feel very repetitive. Basically put,  you trawl through New Mombasa, fight off any Covenant standing in your way, find clue, commence flashback and repeat.

But the story isn’t just repetitive when playing as The Rookie. When you do play the earlier stages of the game, and as you’re exploring through New Mombasa, some of the level design can feel repetitive too. Putting all that aside, the depth of New Mombasa is staggering. It sometimes feels like an open world Halo sandbox game sometimes. So credit where credit is due, ODST’s story has its ups and downs. That much has been said.

But while in New Mombasa as The Rookie, it is very dark. Hence, why you have a low light “VISR”, which provides as a night vision view in the game. It’s one of several things that you and only you, not even Spartans like Master Chief, can get ahold of.

The VISR also provides info on the whereabouts of nearby enemies in the area, as well as signify close signals, which start a flashback in the game. As well as the VISR, he also has silenced weapons like a silenced submachine gun and silenced pistol that is similar to the one used in the original Halo back in 2001.

The flashbacks in the game are played out in the game brilliantly, feeling like a proper Halo game when you do play through them instead of the tedious route of playing as The Rookie in the same area. The first one shows Buck looking for his old missus Veronica straight after the drop. By the end of it, you have Buck and Romeo reunited. And then you’re back in the POV of The Rookie going from Point A to Point B. But even then, as Buck trying to save his old flame or as Dutch as he attempts to stop a Covenant fleet from crossing a bridge by destroying it.

The flashbacks are a nice and original way of telling the story in ODST, making it feel like an episodic dosage of a Halo TV show somewhat.

Probably the strongest addition to ODST is the new co-op mode, Firefight. If I am honest, unless Spec Ops from Modern Warfare 2 comes along and beats it, Firefight is probably the best multiplayer mode I have seen in a game.

Firefight works in a similar vein to Horde in Gears of War 2. It sees you and three other players via locally, system link or Xbox Live takes swarms of Covenant forces with Halo trademark skulls enabled. It is really addictive and can be seen as a serious improvement to what is already a strong multiplayer showing from Bungie in ODST.

Firefight on Disc One with the story and the dedicated multiplayer that you see and get from the original Halo 3, with all multiplayer maps from the game added (maps from the original Halo 3, Legendary, Heroic as well as Mythic, plus free map Cold Storage and three new maps (Citadel, Heretic and Longshore), which are considered to be part two of Mythic (the multiplayer disc in ODST is actually called Halo 3: Mythic).

And probably the best news for all achievement sluts is that the multiplayer disc ties into Halo 3 and not ODST, which means the disc has the same multiplayer achievements from Halo 3, rather than a different list for ODST.

If you wanted a full Halo 3 multiplayer experience, with Firefight and the full online multiplayer from Halo 3, you couldn’t go wrong. And with an invite to Halo: Reach’s multiplayer beta next Spring, it does show Bungie aren’t going to slip up sometime soon in their multiplayer efforts. But this does bring up another point about ODST: price.

Originally started as a cut-price game with a short campaign and aimed at a $20 game, it’s now full priced at £40/$60. Dont get us wrong, it has a good campaign, a full stacked multiplayer on a second disc and Firefight, plus the invite to the Reach beta. Yet, it has a campaign which can easily be finished within 3 – 5 hours (depending on the difficulty).

Overall: But that despite them qualms, ODST is still a great game. Doing a Halo game without Master Chief was always going to be difficult for Bungie. And despite some flaws with the campaign, particularly the longevity of the game, it is fantastic to play through it as a sort of episodic Halo game. And Firefight is probably the multiplayer mode in a game this year. With this, a good campaign and a fully stacked Halo 3 multiplayer to boot on a second disc, ODST is certainly worth a purchase, even at £40.

Story – 8: Very short and going about New Mombasa as The Rookie can feel very repetitive. However, the flashbacks easily outweigh that. Great gameplay and story mechanic for the game.

Gameplay – 9: Stealth in a Halo game? It works. Fantastically well done, the flashbacks are simply great to play, Firefight is amazing and you can’t go more wrong then a fully stacked online. Excellent.

Graphics – 8: They dont really looked dated thanks to the improvements Bungie have made with the graphics engine from Halo 3, making ODST look very good.

Sound – 8: A fantastic soundtrack from Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell, which marks a change from an epic and classic score to more of a jazz feel to it. Plus, great voice work in the game from Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) and Nolan North (Uncharted, Halo Wars) make for a fantasticly acted story.

Overall – 8: Looking aside some massive flaws, Halo 3: ODST is a great game to go through. Putting aside it’s price tag, it’s a game worth getting for your 360.