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Old 09-30-2009, 01:53 PM   #1
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[360] - Halo 3: ODST Review

Title: Halo 3: ODST
Platform: 360
Platform Reviewed: 360
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft
MSRP: Varied
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

Halo 3: ODST Review

Halo returns to store shelves without Master Chief. Can the men and women of ODST carry on his legacy?

Halo 3: ODST has walked a tricky line between expansion pack and full retail product, a line not all have appreciated Bungie for approaching. Some feel the fuller price the developers and Microsoft are asking for the game is just too much for a title that doesn't immediately strike you as being a separate entity from the titanic Halo 3. The hope will be that the volume of content packaged in with a brand new single-player campaign will appease those who feel cheated by the chunky ticket price and, as we all know, rarely will Halo fans turn down more of their preferred franchise. The question is whether or not any of this makes it a worthwhile purchase.

The story is a band of brothers affair with a group of ODST soldiers dropping into the the Earth mega-city of New Mombasa shortly after the events of Halo 2. After a botched landing in their drop pods the team find themselves scattered and unable to complete the mission as planned. What follows is an intertwining story, see Pulp Fiction, where a group of characters eventually meet after individual journeys through this brand new location. This is far more satisfying than the tale presented in Halo 3. It's more daring, more poignant and strikes a far more human tone than Master Chief's escapades. It doesn't stop a silent protagonist creeping into the bunch and his presence is at odds with the strong, slightly cliché, characters that make up the rest of the cast. A few other elements clash with the attempts at serious drama including the fairly slapstick humor – a team mate almost gets sliced in half but the team still find time to joke about another member being trapped under a dead Brute. Odd.

The story certainly wins over its big brother and the levels are arguably of a better quality also, perhaps resulting in a longer campaign. There's a good variation despite the singular location as the African surrounding facilitates a couple of less urban sections. The multiple urban sections are very vertical with lots more towers than mountain ranges. These locations contrast slightly against game mechanics which have changed little since the release of the 360's highest-profile exclusive. The typical Halo fire-fights play out across these levels with sanitary concrete providing cover as opposed to mother nature. Bungie have stuck with what they know and have built the levels in a way that makes the gameplay feel comfortable for the most part. Stand out sights include a section where you must traverse a massive beam held in place by a crane but the locales are generally low on 'wow' factor in order, I might assume, to keep things from spinning out of control.

Such cautiousness may well be because the AI has had little, if any, noticeable tweaking to fit back into more urban maps. Behavior is still entirely dependent on enemy type and there is nothing natural about the way that they move around levels. In the newly enclosed environments. Therefore this AI can often seem out of place as they slowly strafe without any sense of urgency. These plain opponents are relied upon more heavily in this game as opposed to Halo 3 as the game has far fewer set pieces, I'm not entirely sure they are capable of bearing that weight.

The silent protagonist known only as the Rookie features in the dullest levels. To progress the story and link together each piecemeal tale you walk in his boots around the mostly abandoned city in order to find a particular item that acts as a story prompt. This at first seems like a bold move as quiet orchestral music provides a time to reflect on the events of the game so far. As the developers begin to drop enemies onto your head, often in strategically bland areas, you may find yourself falling out with Rookie. These sections can barely be criticized as padding since it rarely takes more than 10 minutes to run between the two points highlighted on your map – they are unnecessary and threaten the punchy pace of the missions.

One of the things discussed in the run up to the game's release is how the abilities of an ODST member would differ from that of the super-solider Master Chief. The only noticeable difference, in the end, is that whatever member of ODST you play as the option of dual-wielding weapons is entirely out of the picture. From what I can tell the full cast of weapons from Halo 3 appear once again and that includes being able to lug around weighty turrets. That, and the ability to leap a good 6 feet off the ground, seem at odds with Bungie's decision to show the human side of the war. It shows that the focus on fun, slightly cartoonish gameplay hasn't changed.

Unfortunately this familiarity opens up the game to a fair bit of criticism. The Halo formula has, and remains, mostly unchanged and, while hardcore fans will remain appeased, those of us less involved in this fictional Universe may well see it as dated. Console shooters have begged and borrowed from it for so long now that the students have arguably surpassed the master. While it wins no rewards for originality then it can not be denied that this tried and tested gameplay remains enjoyable.

The big new addition to the multiplayer side of things is Firefight. This can lazily be described as the Halo equivalent of Gears' Horde or Left4Dead's Survival modes. That in itself makes it a fresh and exciting idea. We're talking wider areas of play, arena versions of single-player missions, with the same volume of 4 players. Add in vehicles, friendly and enemy, and you get a very different experience. Running around in the back of a Warthog taking out large waves of enemies is great fun and perfect fodder for party play. This 4 player co-op extends into the main campaign too which is obviously a bonus.

The package you'll open up after you pick up a copy includes a second disk that includes the 'full Halo 3 multiplayer experience'. That amounts to every map available for the ever popular Xbox Live mode. These maps, game modes and community features remain world class with easy, fair matchmaking. There's loads of people to play against so one match is never your only choice and, short of Call of Duty, no other console shooter has the same resource to offer you. The problem is that there is very little value in this disk for the legion fans that are so reliable. Most of them will have most of the maps and it is them who deserves the most reward rather than me or any other passive player. This disk, therefore, is either the best or worst part of the package depending on your position.

I'm afraid that despite the ongoing strength of much of the Halo formula the visuals have fallen behind the current curve. The design side of things remains consistent with the rest of the Halo universe and New Mombasa is definitely interesting to look at. Textures, skins and human models are far less exciting with detail at a low level and often looking like improved Xbox materials. If you want a specific example, and I imagine many of you will, you need only look at your character's hands. Fingers are blocky, poorly skinned and, especially when they are often so close to your view, lack the detail you would expect in a top tier game. This lack of detail carries out through a lot of the modeling and that's very disappointing. The music can often feel disjointed with the action as well especially during the Rookie sections.

In all then your mileage will vary depending on your ability to look past the elements that are aging in the Halo franchise and how much of this content you already own. It needs a little more than fresh lick of paint and that makes the prospect of the Halo: Reach beta code, packed in with the game, pretty exciting. Familiar or not the single-player campaign is very strong, a lot of fun and separates itself from Master Chief more successfully than I thought it would. For me there was plenty on offer here to justify the price of the product. I think most of you will find out exactly the same.

Score: 4 out of 5


The Good
  • Strong single-player campaign with a fresh new story.
  • Franchise favourite gameplay returns and offers much of the same enjoyment.
  • That means guns, firefights and exploration remains fun and exciting.
  • Multiplayer is world-class and Firefight is a great new mode.

The Bad
  • A lot of it is starting to feel dated. Not everybody loves a well-worn coat.
  • Visually disappointing, not to the current standard.
  • The Rookie sections were boring.

The Ugly
  • If you own the mutliplayer maps then the price may be an issue.
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Old 09-30-2009, 02:55 PM   #2
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I thought it was a good single player expansion, but I knew that because I don't have Xbox Live Gold/Internet at my current location and wouldn't get any value out of the multiplayer I just rented it for 5 days. I beat 3 times and returned it on day 4.

It was fun and I got my rental money out of it. Your score is very accurate on the single player portion. (can't say about the multiplayer part)
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Old 09-30-2009, 04:02 PM   #3
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"WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?" New Mombassa seems EMPTY. The sidestory that's told through the collected voice/data files that you can review in VISR is neat, but feels... unfinished. I expected there to be a sub-plot to find/save the girl, but finished the game before finding out what happened with her.

I paid the same amount for Halo 3:ODST as I did for Mass Effect and there's far less single player. I can't see playing much multiplayer with this game, so for me, it's not worth the money.
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Old 09-30-2009, 04:07 PM   #4
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The Bad
A lot of it is starting to feel dated. Not everybody loves a well-worn coat.
Visually disappointing, not to the current standard.
I actually think it looks great, they have improved the graphics and made it look more realistic.

Also, I thought graphics didn't count

Although I really disliked the fact the ODST members could rip the turrets off and run as fast (or faster?) as MC. Also, why do they seem to jump as well as MC. Both of these issues probably made it easier for play balancing with the AI.

Overall I like it a lot more then I thought I would, and Firefight is AWESOME.
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:14 PM   #5
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The Rookie sections made the game... My brother and I were absolutely enthralled by the Rookie's world. The rest of the game was fine too, but the Rookie pulled everything together and made it meaningful, personal, and important.

Without him it was just Halo 3 without Master Chief.

It is incredible how opinions can vary.
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:27 PM   #6
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I bought the game purely based around the idea that you'd be playing as a normal, plain-jane elite Spec Ops type of solider. Sure, he's twelve kinds of badass...but at the end of the day, he's still just a human. I bought it because the idea of not being a SPARTAN really intruiged me.

Unfortunately, there's plenty of Spartan in those ODST guys. Apparently.

I feel ripped off because they sold me on an experience they ultimately didn't provide. I don't care how long the game is or isn't. I just wanted to play as a human, not a cyborg super-soldier and they simply didn't deliver.
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:45 PM   #7
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Is that audio file side story ilovebees or something new?
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Old 09-30-2009, 09:49 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ÜberJumper View Post
"WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE?" New Mombassa seems EMPTY. The sidestory that's told through the collected voice/data files that you can review in VISR is neat, but feels... unfinished. I expected there to be a sub-plot to find/save the girl, but finished the game before finding out what happened with her.

I paid the same amount for Halo 3:ODST as I did for Mass Effect and there's far less single player. I can't see playing much multiplayer with this game, so for me, it's not worth the money.
I never found all the audio tapes, but my friends told me you find the policeman or something along the lines of that.
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Old 09-30-2009, 10:49 PM   #9
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After finding all the audio logs the story plays through a bit differently at the end.

It's also interesting once again how well Bungie weaves references to other literature and ideas in their games.

*game spoilers*

http://carnage.bungie.org/haloforum/...pl?read=942160
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Old 09-30-2009, 11:33 PM   #10
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Also, I thought graphics didn't count
Hah, I've never said that I personally think that graphical quality and artistic ingenuity are a big part of what creates that immersion most people seek.

It's really cool that there is so much debate about the game. If you scan through reviews in other places it actually appears as though almost everybody has a completely different opinion. Given that things tend to follow a trend in most reviews that's actually quite refreshing. Kudos to ODST for being controversial!
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Old 09-30-2009, 11:39 PM   #11
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Visually disappointing, not to the current standard.
You damn kids and your graphics!
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Old 10-01-2009, 12:05 AM   #12
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Hah, I've never said that I personally think that graphical quality and artistic ingenuity are a big part of what creates that immersion most people seek.

It's really cool that there is so much debate about the game. If you scan through reviews in other places it actually appears as though almost everybody has a completely different opinion. Given that things tend to follow a trend in most reviews that's actually quite refreshing. Kudos to ODST for being controversial!
I wouldn't say the quality of the content of the game has been controversial. Most reviewers loved the campaign and firefight.

The only point of contention has been the percieved "value" of the package, with reviewers deducting points for brevity or lack of content.

For me personally, and for most Halo fans, the purchase price was more than justified, as we got the best Halo campaign since the original, as well as firefight which distills the essence of Halo into an infinitely replayable co-op mode. Definitely more play per dollar than most full price games this year imo.
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Old 10-01-2009, 03:49 AM   #13
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Well, if lost liked it, that means it must be amazing. No offense lost but your a very passive aggressive sony boy, that plays both sides and does it well.
The fact that you gave it 4 out of 5 means I will be picking it up and loving 6 out of 5

Seriously though, good review, as is all of yours. Thanks
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:18 AM   #14
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Hmmm... my impression so far of Firefight is that it is Horde mode without the good maps.
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:58 AM   #15
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My kid got it. I played it some when he wasn't around. Honestly all the walking around in the dark was pretty boring. They did some nice cut and paste on several of the level elements. I swear I walked into the same allie in different part of the city with the same graffiti on it. The vehicle parts were really fun.

I didn't think it was an experience worth the cost.
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:17 AM   #16
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Firefight is a lot of fun and I am enjoying the SP story more here than I did in Halo 3.
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:27 AM   #17
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People saying that the campaign is "the best of the series so far" seem to be forgetting the truely epic moments in Halo 2 and 3.

The Scarab battles from Halo 3 in particular stand out to me as groundbreaking moments in gaming, finally giving me the feeling of fighting an AT-AT from The Empire Strikes Back, (funny how not even the many attemps by Star Wars games in the past had success in pulling this off).

I also miss the sense of mystery previous Halos delivered with the Forerunner buildings, Monitors, and Guardians. And the intense 3 way battles between Covenant, Guardians and Flood that I would wander into. And Cortanna. And Johnson.

But I guess the masses have spoken, so apparently I'm wrong.
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:50 AM   #18
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People saying that the campaign is "the best of the series so far" seem to be forgetting the truely epic moments in Halo 2 and 3.

The Scarab battles from Halo 3 in particular stand out to me as groundbreaking moments in gaming, finally giving me the feeling of fighting an AT-AT from The Empire Strikes Back, (funny how not even the many attemps by Star Wars games in the past had success in pulling this off).

I also miss the sense of mystery previous Halos delivered with the Forerunner buildings, Monitors, and Guardians. And the intense 3 way battles between Covenant, Guardians and Flood that I would wander into. And Cortanna. And Johnson.

But I guess the masses have spoken, so apparently I'm wrong.
I disagree with you. I liked the first Halo best, and the Scarab battles in Halo 3 sort of ruined the game for me. Yeah, they were huge and epic, but only for the sake of being that way. Fighting a Scarab doesn't retain the same charm as fighting a group of elites.

Let us not also forget that Brutes, while an interesting addition to the enemy roster, are NOT a good replacement for elites. Elites were always more fun to shoot at.

All that said, I still enjoyed ODST's campaign. It's a different feel, despite not being as robust as the other campaigns, it does represent the most complete Halo campaign to date. I liked the hub level and the way you progress through the campaign. I liked the new weapons, despite there only being two. I liked the few events that they let you get a different view of (the space elevator, the ONI building), but the big set pieces were few and far between.

If this had been my first experience with Halo, I would have been extremely impressed by everything presented. Because this is my fifth Halo game (yikes, there are five already?), I'm less impressed by the same old tricks. It's too safe to be truly amazing, but it's still a fun game.
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:51 AM   #19
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Is that audio file side story ilovebees or something new?
It is completely new, but a similar style "audio drama". I prefer ilovebees overall, but the ODST side story was also excellent.
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Old 10-01-2009, 10:34 AM   #20
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I disagree with you. I liked the first Halo best, and the Scarab battles in Halo 3 sort of ruined the game for me. Yeah, they were huge and epic, but only for the sake of being that way. Fighting a Scarab doesn't retain the same charm as fighting a group of elites.

...Brutes, while an interesting addition to the enemy roster, are NOT a good replacement for elites. Elites were always more fun to shoot at...
Cool, another fan of Halo.

Ironic that a series as popular as this is usually so under-represented in forums. I guess the people who love these games are usually too busy playing them to argue about it!

While I too loved the first Halo, (and ODST does improve on the element I enjoyed most in that game, the exploration), I just feel that the scale of the big battles in part 2 and 3 added variety to the Halo formula. One thing I loved in Halo 3 was shooting down a drop-ship; I would go out of my way to pull this off, even if there was no real benifit to me by doing so. It was just another element that brought the game a little closer to being a sandbox experience, not just another generic shooter where every event was scripted out by the designers. I'm about 4 flashback missions in to the story, and haven't been able to shoot down a drop-ship yet, (not for lack of trying), and I can't really understand why... but it bothers me.

All that being said, I love the characters, and it's great to see them expand on the concept of New Mombassa. It doesn't feel quite as apocolyptic as I might have liked, (hopefully Reach will achive this), but the evironment art has improved greatly.

I'm enjoying Fire Fight, and looking forward to whatever happens next.

PS, did you really feel a big difference from the Brutes in part 3/ODST and the old Elites? I figured they have pretty much the same suite of moves/tactics plus a few more. If anything, I was just sorry they didn't make them even more different.
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