Review: Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360)September 25th, 2009 | Written by Alex Quevedo | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
Nearly 2 years after its release, Halo 3 is finally seeing some expansion content as far as the campaign is concerned. However, the content is a stand-alone product with loose ties to its brethren, so it is not your standard expansion. And so it gets the name Halo 3: ODST. As a two-disc package, the game offers up a new plot line with a new hero, along with a brand new type of multiplayer. Its second disc has the lasting power of Halo 3: the entire Halo 3 multiplayer experience.
For those unfamiliar with the acronym, ODST stands for Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. Their armor is similar to Master Chief’s and they are essentially the toughest soldiers next to Spartans. You play as a band of ODSTs, but your primary character is the Rookie in a timeframe between Halo 2 and 3. As a soldier of few words (zero, to be precise), your original mission is to attack The Prophet of Regret’s ship.
But if you go after Regret, you’re throwing off Halo canon, so obviously things go awry at the last minute. Your officer in charge, Office of Naval Intelligence agent Dare, throws you off course and hurdling towards Earth below. Your drop pod clashes with another, so when you wake up 6 hours later in New Mombassa and no sign of your squad, you must venture on and figure out what happened.
ODST plays out significantly differently than previous Halo titles (we’re not including Halo Wars, a completely different genre). Yes, it’s still an FPS. But it plays more like an interactive film than the others. The action you’ll see as the Rookie is slower paced and, until the end of the game, you won’t find major battles in the streets. They will be isolated and even avoidable if you so choose. Most of all, it’s not completely linear. You need to come across different clues to figure out the whereabouts of your squadmates in various sections of the city, but you won’t necessarily do it in the same order as somebody else.
We slightly alluded to this earlier, but to expand, when you come across a clue, you will play as the ODST associated with that clue. You’ll see much more action here, as these ODSTs were not knocked out upon landing in New Mombassa. Also, you will be much more entertained in the flashbacks, as they are the highlight of the campaign. The problem with the Rookie is that he has no persona. You never get any sort of connection with him. With the other ODSTs, there are faces to the names and livelier events.
Now, we can recognize that with the Rookie, the campaign is going for a noir feel. But while it doesn’t fall flat, it doesn’t exactly rise up. We don’t want to bash the campaign too much. It’s not a completely unnecessary story. It just has this odd feel to it, like it wants to be more than it is. But it’s worth your trouble in the long run.
Speaking of trouble, you’ll run into a bit of it if you don’t enable the new Visual Intelligence System Reconnaissance Class (VISR). As the Rookie, you will constantly be in low-light situations, so having this turned on helps out tremendously. It also helps distinguish targets and data terminals. Terminals are scattered around the city and tell its own underlying story (we’ll let you get into that on your own). The gem part of VISR is the map. You aren’t as advanced as a Spartan, but that doesn’t mean being an ODST has to be crippling. Pressing the back button will bring up data (from terminals and missions) and one of the slicker maps we’ve seen. It’s a 3D map of the entire city and works very well because it is hooked up with the city’s AI, the Superintendent. If you don’t want to bring up the map, hitting up on the D-pad will give you a quick hint on where to go.
The campaign will last you a solid 7-10 hours, depending on how you play. Blowing your way through Normal could have you finish in about 5 hours if you try. But if you go into the details, you’ll see closer to 10 hours (especially on higher difficulties). Waiting for you on the disc is Firefight, the new multiplayer mode.
Similar to Horde Mode in Gears of War 2, Firefight pits you and up to three other players against waves of Covenant enemies in several maps (some unlockable through the campaign) during an unlimited amount 3-round sets. We played it solo once. Don’t do that. We played with others. Please, do that. There are plenty of arguments as to why Halo online is annoying, and they are valid. Lots of people are tired of others using slurs and whatnot. But in Firefight, you are working towards a common goal, so the likelihood of bad sportsmanship drops significantly.
In Firefight, you’ll have to endure the use of skulls. It isn’t all that bad, and they definitely have you changing your game plan on the fly. Throughout the campaign, you’ll be able to unlock the ODSTs to use in this mode. But because they are ODSTs, and not Spartans, you’ll be battling more uphill than you’re used to (campaign included). Your armor and health only last so long, so you will need to use health packs. It’s a draw from before, but it’s not a drawback. Weaponry has also been changed up a bit and you’ll be able to use a new machine gun. Outside of that, everything handles as you would expect.
The $60 price tag could pose an issue for some. As stated, it comes with a second disc of Halo 3 Multiplayer and has all 24 maps, including three new ones. For those Halo multiplayer diehards that have dropped plenty of Microsoft points for the maps, $60 for a seven hour campaign and a few new maps is steep. But if you’re someone who has held out and is the casual type about online play, it’s more than worth it. Is it cheap we’re not exactly taking a stand on this? Possibly, but what it comes down to transcends a review and boils down into personal choice.
But we will take a stand on this: the set as a whole is worth it. You have a good expansion that at times feels odd, but delivers satisfaction. It sticks to the familiar formula but keeps things fresh as necessary. And while it won’t be the highlight of Fall ’09 action shooters, it’s a solid selection.