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Review: Halo 3: ODST

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In 2007 we finished the fight – with the galaxy saved and the threat of an xenophobic collection of aliens known as ‘The Covenant’ put to an end gamers thought that Halo 3 would be the last installment for the Halo series – certainly as far as Bungie were concerned.

How wrong we were – 2009 provided a double whammy of Halo goodness with the Real Time Strategy game Halo Wars making its way on to the Xbox 360 and Halo 3: ODST making its way to our consoles later on in the year.

Halo 3: ODST was poised as a standalone expansion to 2007’s Halo 3 – it would run on the same engine as Halo 3 did, and it would take place about halfway through the campaign of Halo 2. The key difference? You weren’t going to be playing as the Master Chief – the main protagonist of the Halo series – instead you were going to be thrust in to the boots of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper – or an ODST for short.

This means several key differences – you weren’t going to be as strong as you were in previous games, your health wouldn’t regenerate, you no longer had a motion radar, and you ran slower and couldn’t jump as high.

At least, that’s what Bungie and Microsoft tried to convince us of – and during the run up to the games release they suddenly decided that ODST was a full game and as such, would be worthy of a £40/$60 price tag. Could an expansion pack really be worth that much?

The short answer: no, it wasn’t. But don’t scroll down to the comments section to call me a noob or a Call of Duty fanboy or whatever – trust me I’ve heard all of the insults. Halo 3: ODST took a year to develop – and went gold in May 2009, has a 4 – 5 hour campaign and the same multiplayer that gamers had been playing for two years at the time of the games release.

Does that necessarily make ODST a bad game? Not at all. I enjoyed my time with the games campaign and the new survival mode, it’s just that everything wasn’t executed particularly well.

Between each level you get to wander around New Mombasa – the city that the entirety of the game takes place in after it’s been attacked by The Covenant – your role as The Rookie is to scour the city for clues about your scattered squad so that you can reunite with them. The city serves this purpose well, but the problem is that finding these clues is pretty much the only purpose of the city.

There are hidden audio logs that you can collect if you so care to do so, but beyond that there’s nothing to do. Groups of enemies are few and far between and you’ll often find your way walking down identical roads and buildings with nothing interesting to do. It seems like a huge shame to waste this enormous play space that Bungie have given us, but that’s exactly what Bungie has done here.

There are a few nice touches though – an AI that’s in charge of maintaining the city will change roadsigns to provide you with some guidance along the way. It’s a subtle change, but a nice addition nonetheless.

Bungie were clearly aiming for a more ‘human’ story in ODST but again it’s something that falls short with characters that are basically just male stereotypes. The voice acting is done well but it’s let down by the script – none of the characters are particularly interesting and, well, you just don’t have any reason to care for any of them.

Your squad mates are also let down with their terrible AI – Buck is the only character in any video game I’ve played that I hate because of his poor AI on the last level of the game on the Legendary difficulty. The man has no concept of target prioritisation whatsoever!

With all this said the game is still entertaining enough to keep you occupied and there’s certainly fun to be had in ODST. If you enjoyed any of the previous Halo titles then ODST is certainly still worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series. Outside of the admittedly dull city are more traditional Halo levels which is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. As always in a Halo game there’s a good mixture of infantry and vehicle missions to keep you occupied.

In addition to the campaign there’s a survival mode called Firefight – pitting you and up to three other buddies against endless waves of Covenant forces. Skulls turn on after certain intervals that change the way that the AI behave – anything from making enemies avoid grenades more often to giving enemies more health. Firefight’s certainly a fun experience, but the lack of any customisation options and the lack of Matchmaking for it make the fun short lived and rather repetitive after a few games.

Technical issues also hinder the fun of the game – co-operative campaign and Firefight games over Xbox Live often suffer from hideous bouts of lag that can ruin the fun of the game – controls feel delayed and it often feels like you’re fighting the controls of the game just to play. If you want to play with your buddies online then you better make sure you’ve got a top-notch connection, and if you live overseas then you should just forget about it.

With a short campaign, a survival mode that didn’t reach its full potential and the same multiplayer that gamers have been playing for over two years Halo 3: ODST was tough to recommend at £40 – but how about a year later? Prices for ODST have since shrank and the game is generally at a much more reasonable price these days and can easily be bought for under £15 – which is certainly a much more reasonable price.

What the game looks like

Halo 3: ODST in action

The verdict

Good: Fun campaign, good voice acting, excellent soundtrack

Bad: The open world city is underused, Firefight didn’t meet its full potential, recycled multiplayer, co-op over Xbox Live lags

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Written by Pokeh

November 23, 2010 at 2:04 pm

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