Game Info:

Halo 3: ODST
Released: September 22, 2009
ESRB Rating: Mature
Available On: Xbox 360
Genre: First-person shooter
Number of Players: 1-4 offline; 1-16 online
Price: $50 new, $30 used
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If you\'ve read many of my past reviews, then you may have realized that I really prefer to take myself out of my reviews and speak as objectively as possible. The Halo series set the console world on fire in 2001 with its excellent take on first person shooters. With a game bearing the Halo name, knowing just how rabid its fanbase can be, I feel like I have to share with you where I\'m approaching Halo 3: ODST from before I can really talk about the game. So, I\'ll get this out of the way: I am not a Halo fanboy. I bought Halo 3 when it came out, and I quickly put it aside, not playing it again until a few weeks ago. When I first heard about ODST, I think I may have even rolled my eyes. I had no excitement for the game, and I didn\'t think I would ever buy it. It surprised me at least as much as it surprised my friends when I chose to get it. But I did get ODST, and I have not regretted my decision in the least.

At the risk of sounding cliche, ODST truly is different from preceding Halo games on a number of levels.While previous Halo games put you behind the mask of an unstoppable warrior tasked with saving humanity, ODST lets you see through the eyes of much more human marines tasked with a more plausible retrieval mission in a battle-torn landscape. This may sound like a relatively small issue since it has little bearing on the gameplay in most of the missions, but the step away from ridiculousness into a darker, more focused setting creates a far more compelling campaign experience.

And the campaign experience is easily the best in the series. Initially cast into the silent role of an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) known as The Rookie by his squadmates, you find that something goes wrong on your way from space to Earth\'s surface. Separated from your squad, you have to set out in the dark streets of New Mombasa to figure out what happened to them before finishing your mission.


Strong Points: A break in the storyline from the godlike Master Chief, focusing on a small group of elite yet very human soldiers; missions are connected through a central hub system that oozes great atmosphere; Firefight is intense and excellently designed; soundtrack contributes a lot to the game
Weak Points: Campaign is very short; not a lot of deviation from previous Halo titles in mission design; no matchmaking for Firefight
Moral Warnings: Legions of aliens fall to your gunfire in campaign and Firefight; competitive multiplayer involves killing other humans, though they are fully armored; some kills result in blood spray (no gore); some profanity (mostly d--n with some ba----d); an audio recording in the game involves a man attempting (and failing) to take advantage of a young lady

And it\'s here, on the streets of New Mombasa, that ODST shows its first major move away from previous Halo games. Unlike other Halo games that throw you through a series of missions in a linear fashion, ODST opens up New Mombasa for exploration. The area serves as a central hub, connecting you to the game\'s core missions, but it also rewards you for exploration by giving you a chance to find audio logs that tell a story of what happened just before the assault on New Mombasa that you are sent into as well as plenty of opportunity to gain achievements. But the most impressive thing about the open area of New Mombasa is the way that it oozes in atmosphere, giving the sensation that you\'re in this fight alone, and it\'s gonna be a hard fight to get out alive.

For better or worse, and I\'m inclined to say that it\'s for the worse, this is the best part of the campaign. The rest of the campaign, the missions themselves, play out in a much more linear fashion that follows in the steps of its predecessors. Jumping into the shoes of the rest of your squadmates, you live out the stories of what happened to them upon landing on the surface. A more gung-ho approach to fighting through hordes of enemies to reach some objective at the end of a clearly laid path is how most of the campaign functions. It\'s not a terrible thing, but it\'s not as exciting or fresh as the more open-natured New Mombasa side of the game.

Also disappointing is the campaign\'s length. If you were to play the game on easy (which lives up to its name by all means), the game could easily be beaten in a few hours. Playing the game on Legendary, the hardest difficulty, will take much longer unless you bring some friends into the game\'s co-op option. On Legendary, expect to spend closer to eight hours to beat the game. If you\'re a completionist, the campaign could easily last ten hours.

But where the campaign comes up short in duration, the rest of the ODST package more than compensates. The game comes with two discs. The first contains the campaign and new game mode, Firefight. The second is a repackaging of Halo 3\'s multiplayer with all of the downloadable map packs and a few new maps of its own.
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 80%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Since the traditional multiplayer offering is identical to what was in Halo 3, I\'ll refer you to our review of that game of that game for a more detailed breakdown of how it works. For overview\'s sake, the multiplayer options include a variety of deathmatch and objective-based modes (such as capture the flag and king of the hill). If you have a relatively decent internet connection, lag is generally a non-issue. The competitive nature of the online game is quite apparent, and it\'s easy to be taken over by the desire to be the best player around. The multiplayer offerings may not be revolutionary, or even the best of the best, but they are very solid and very enjoyable.

However, it\'s the new gameplay option that should be stealing the stage. Firefight allows up to four players (offline or online, though there is no matchmaking, so you\'ll want to make friends with good players) to take on a nearly infinite stream of enemies. These enemies, and the maps that you play on, come straight out of the campaign. The concept is simple: Survive as long as you can against wave after wave of ever-increasingly-difficult enemies. Your team is given a limited amount of lives to share, so playing smart is key. Yes, the concept is simple, but the do or die nature of Firefight manages to produce a ridiculously intense feel that is compelling and addictive.

Fortunately, the gameplay and controls hold up quite well. By now, if you\'ve played a console first-person shooter, then you probably have a good idea of how the Halo controls work. You run, you jump, you shoot, you throw grenades, you melee, you make use of vehicles, and so on. Controls are intuitive, making use of a standard fare dual-sticks and trigger buttons scheme. Two favorable elements have made a return in ODST that have not been seen since the original Halo: actual health bars beneath a weak (though recharging) shield and the scoped pistol. The return of the health bar and weaker shield results in the need to find health packs in order to keep alive; there will be no full health recovery by simply waiting it out behind cover. The scoped pistol, however, is a beautiful thing. Sure, other weapons are available in the game, and you may need them from time to time, but being able to zoom in on an enemy with a powerful and highly accurate weapon practically guarantees it remains on you at all times.

Graphically, the game doesn\'t hold up quite as well. It\'s true that the models move fluidly, and they\'re decently enough crafted, but there is very little wow factor going on here. Aliens jump around, projectiles soar, things explode, but there\'s nothing here we haven\'t seen before. The new visor implementation adds some color to the dark areas of the game, but even that comes up uninspired. Don\'t get me wrong, there\'s nothing wrong with the graphics, and they\'re pretty solid, but they aren\'t exactly exciting.

Graphically, the game doesn\'t hold up quite as well. It\'s true that the models move fluidly, and they\'re decently enough crafted, but there is very little wow factor going on here. Aliens jump around, projectiles soar, things explode, but there\'s nothing here we haven\'t seen before. The new visor implementation adds some color to the dark areas of the game, but even that comes up uninspired. Don\'t get me wrong, there\'s nothing wrong with the graphics, and they\'re pretty solid, but they aren\'t exactly exciting.

Thankfully, the audio department excels in most respects. Voice acting is above average, though not quite mindblowing. The sounds of weapons, vehicles, and so on all do a good job of getting the point across. However, it\'s the soundtrack that amazes. Battle anthems of familiar nature to previous Halo games abound, and they\'re catchy and motivating. The true standouts, though, are the keyboard-driven melodies that play while luring New Mombasa. Their vibe is reminiscent of Brian Eno\'s "Music for Airports" album, and they make an astounding contribution to the game\'s atmosphere.

Perhaps the game\'s biggest sticking point is the presence of violent material. There\'s no way to make this pretty: ODST revolves around relentlessly taking down alien after alien in the campaign and Firefight modes. There\'s no gore involved, but blood spurts do occur. The more traditional multiplayer offering typically revolves around beating fellow humans to the kill point. Blood splatters happen here, too. For better or worse, quantity of kills far outweighs quality. There is no contemplating your kills when you are forced to keep moving. Beyond the violence is a little bit of language. This is mostly contained to "d--n" and "h--l," but some uses of "ba----d" slip in. In one of the audio recordings of the game\'s sidestory, a man (unsuccessfully) tries to take advantage of a young lady. This event involves a man saying that he is going to take a girl he\'s supposed to be protecting home, the girl rebuking him, and a cop sending him away. One of the squad members makes a vague comment about a female commander that is rebuked by a superior officer.

Ultimately, the question of whether or not ODST is right for you comes down to preferences if the violence and occasional profanity won\'t disturb you. If you\'re only interested in a single player offering, then the shortness of the campaign makes it hardly worth a purchase (at least a full retail) for anyone who isn\'t already a fan of the series. If you play on Xbox Live and don\'t already have Halo 3 (or its map packs, which will cost you a pretty penny), then ODST is probably a good move. Wherever your purchasing preferences may lie, ODST is a very solid game that may not revolutionize anything, but it\'s quite enjoyable while it lasts. Beyond the campaign, both multiplayer offerings will ensure many hours of intense, addictive play time so long as you have someone to share it with.

-Kenny Yeager ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


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