Halo 3: ODST Review (Xbox360)

Originally positioned as a Halo 3 expansion, ODST is a prequel story that has been transformed into a full-priced product, much to the chagrin of some gamers. So, is Halo 3: ODST worth the money and have Bungie done enough to justify the gameís price tag?

Our experience of ODSTís single-player campaign began at 8.30 in the morning at the Future Gallery in Covent Garden, where we played for eight straight hours sat about a foot away from the screen. Bleary-eyed and angry by the gameís closing, our enjoyment has been seriously tarnished by the uninterrupted play session, so hereís a piece of advice. Donít force yourself to play the campaign in one sitting - itís not particularly pleasant.

This is the moment you drop into New Mombasa, missing your intended target when a shockwave from a slipspace jump sends you veering off-course.
New Mombasa is the antithesis of the lush greenery of the majority of Halo levels. Itís a huge, dark maze that can feel quite oppressive.

Regardless, a brand new Halo story has to be great news for fans that have been desperate for more since the conclusion of the third game. Sure, thereís no Master Chief, but your role as the Rookie in a UNSC ODST unit allows for a differing mechanic from playing as an unstoppable Spartan. Firstly, wave goodbye to regenerating health, because you donít have the Chiefís Mjolnir armour, so death is something that can occur on a far more regular basis than before.

Picking up health packs is essential to survival, which feels slightly anachronistic in this day and age, but it works well enough and makes far more sense than magically regenerating vitality. And itís amazing how much the health system alters the gameplay. Using cover is actually essential to your survival, so rushing into battle is no longer an option. And fighting Hunters can be real battles of grinding attrition unlike Halo 3 where the Master Chief can take advantage of his superior armour.

Beginning when a drop above New Mombasa goes off course following a destructive slipspace shockwave when a Covenant vessel retreats, sending you and your squad crashing into the city below. You wake up six hours later, separated from your five team mates and trapped in your pod. After a clever little minigame that tests your analogue stick configuration, you release the locks from the podís door and youíre then free to explore the city, searching for your estranged superiors.

Ostensibly, New Mombasa is an open-world, which is misleading as the city acts as more of a gateway or hub to the branching chapters that are played out as flashback sequences triggered by the discovery of various objects. Using your VISR HUD interface, you can connect with The Superintendent (the cityís maintenance AI) and download information that proves vital out in the field, such as maps and objective locations. It also highlights important objects and enemies, as well as granting increased visibility in dark areas.

Progression through New Mombasa is aided by a compass and map marking waypoints on-screen and there are armies of Covenant Brute forces patrolling the streets that will try to impede that progress with everything theyĎve got. Enemies seem to fight with far more aggression than ever before, so strategy plays a more important role in the game than before.

Upon locating a lost item connected to events surrounding members of your team (marked by a waypoint), youíre whisked off to different locations, playing as the specific character connected to that particular piece of paraphernalia. That means that thereís a fair bit of variation outside of the confines of the city, taking in typically Halo-style vistas like sandy beaches, leafy jungles, claustrophobic facilities and labyrinthine hives.

Some Firefight action Ė arguably the main reason to grab Halo 3: ODST. The new multiplayer mode is heaps of fun.
Hunters prove to be more of a challenge than ever before. Your limited health and stamina makes defeating one (and they often turn up in pairs) a trial without the right weapons.

Returning to the city following each flashback section seems like a relative chore, as the interconnected strands are so much more fun to play. Soon, New Mombasa feels like a looming, oppressive urban nightmare, but itís where the core exploration takes place as you unravel the mystery of what happened to your squad. Thereís also a bizarre side-story to uncover and piece together via hidden audio logs, revealing a hidden event within the deserted city.

Essentially though, this is the same old Halo, chopped up into intertwining sections all linked by your actions as the Rookie who is sadly yet another silent and faceless cipher much like the Master Chief. The much-touted additions to your arsenal are not strictly new, but rather rehashes of old weapons. The silenced SMG is exactly that - a silenced version of the SMG - whereas the upgraded Magnum harks back to the original pistol from the first Halo, with a handy scope and a tad more clout in its shots.

All of the usual Halo weapons are available in ODST, but the ability to dual wield has been stripped out, presumably because youíre a soldier of lesser skill unversed in the art of using two guns at the same time. Nevertheless, Halo 3: ODST is every bit as playable as any other Halo title and features the same intuitive controls and enjoyable vehicular action that have come to define the series. Great set pieces working together with your team, dogfighting in a Banshee or ragging a Warthog around stick in the mind with a lull in the fun quotient occurring whenever you return to the city.

The Rookie simply feels too slow when trudging around the eerily desolate roads, surveying the desolation around you. New Mombasa might be an atmospheric, foreboding environment, but weíd kill for a sprint button to move faster across its wider, more open spaces. When the action kicks off though, the pace is perfectly acceptable, but thereís a lot of distance to cover as you navigate the sprawling network of roads and alleyways.

ODSTís campaign is sufficiently absorbing for a solid eight hours of play, although itís all very familiar and falls somewhat short in living up to the superior Halo 3 single-player. Still, thereís plenty of longevity to be squeezed out of the narrative with the aforementioned audio logs to collect and four-player co-op proving an incredibly welcome inclusion as always.

Anyone still unconvinced that the game as to whether the game is worth purchasing might like to take into account the brand new multiplayer mode, Firefight - a purely co-operative game type that sees you fighting increasingly challenging waves of Covenant alongside your comrades. Itís massively entertaining and will keep you occupied for some time with potentially limitless gameplay. Consider too that Bungie has included all of the Halo 3 multiplayer maps (annoying if youíve already shelled out for them) on a second disc and ODST begins to justify its status as a full-priced title.

A full on assault like this can be suicidal and take huge lumps out of your health. Make sure thereís a health pick-up nearby or youíre screwed.
The good old Spartan laser still eviscerates anything in its sights. Charging it up and releasing the shot at the right time is still a delicate art too.

And despite the best efforts to bolster Halo 3: ODST into a more substantial whole, it still feels as though thereís a certain something missing. At roughly eight hours or less, the single-player feels somewhat lacking even though it offers a decent enough chunk of sci-fi action while it lasts. Anyone thirsting for more Halo is going to love ODST unconditionally, but non-believers obviously wonít be converted. Ultimately though, we still prefer Halo 3 and ODST seems like a diluted experience compared to its bigger brother.

Perhaps the inclusion of a Halo Reach beta key will sweeten the deal for those musing whether to buy ODST or not, but the fact that the game is a brand new slab of Halo action should be all the convincing that die hard fans need. We like Halo 3: ODST and welcome the injection of personality brought to the narrative by your lost crew - especially Firefly actor Nathan Fillion as Buck - but it doesnít quite manage to live up to our lofty expectations of what a Halo title should offer. Letís hope that Halo Reach shakes up the formula and tries something brave and new, because for the most part, ODST plays it incredibly safe. To finally answer that question, to buy or not to buy, weíd actually say that dropping in on Halo 3: ODST is definitely worthwhile.

Top game moment: Climbing into a Warthog again, thrashing it around a beach. Just like riding a bike.



By noobst3R (SI Core) on Sep 21, 2009
Can't wait to waste 60 euros on that! :D
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Nov 13, 2009
not a bad game really, if u luv halo ull luv ODSt, but its a bit more a challenge than other halo's