Halo 3: ODST Review

Xbox 360

September 23, 2009 by

Halo 3: ODST Image

Halo 3: ODST marks the first time a Halo title (save for the real time strategy title Halo Wars which was released earlier this year) has done something different. Since Bungie created and released the original Halo in 2003 on the original Xbox console, gamers have been treated to fun, frantic multiplayer mayhem in all three iterations of the Halo franchise, as well as an above average campaign that has always followed the heroic efforts of super soldier Master Chief, leading his fellow soldiers in the hopes to destroy the Covenant, a race of aliens bent on destroying mankind.

With that being said, Halo 3: ODST throws most that you know about Master Chief and the existing Halo universe out the window. No longer do you play as a super soldier, instead you play as a type of soldiers known as ODST's (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) whose mission is to defend the city of New Mombasa in Africa from a single Covenant ship. Upon entering the atmosphere, the Covenant ship escapes, destroying much of the city and scattering your squad. Thus, this is where ODST begins.

Upon starting the game, it becomes apparent that this Halo is going to be different. You begin by playing as the Rookie, a soldier who rarely says anything. It becomes the Rookie's task to travel around the ruins of New Mombasa trying to find the rest of your squad, all the while battling the Covenant. This is where ODST really differs, because unlike previous installments in the franchise, you can choose to fight or sneak around the aliens if you can manage to. Granted, this cannot happen every time, and it only happens when the Rookie is traversing the ruins of New Mombasa (the flashbacks are full of traditional Halo firefights), but to be able to actually use stealth in a Halo title? That's a hallmark in itself.

Another change in the gameplay comes in the way of how vulnerable the player is to enemies now. No longer will each character the player controls be able to take thirty shots to the chest, have the ability to jump ten feet in the air, or be able to knock a Covenant alien out with a blow to the head. Heck, you can't even sprint, dual wield any type of weapon, or even regenerate your health over time: the player must find health packs and re-heal, and while that may seem as if it takes away from the gameplay, it doesn't; it enhances it. Taking on enemies becomes more of a challenge, and as such plans have to be made. It is no longer a good idea to run out in the open, run around shooting and jumping, which will only get you killed. Instead, players will find themselves sneaking around corners, hiding behind a destroyed vehicle, leaning up, shooting, and running to hide behind another obstacle. The gameplay is much more tactical and tedious, and for that I applaud Bungie.

As the Rookie travels the city looking for his squad, he will find clues as to what happened to people in the city via audio clips, as well as what happened to his squad. Finding clues about the squad will create a flashback. For example, when the Rookie finds a helmet of a fallen squad member, a flashback occurs, and the player then plays through the flashback, seeing the side of the story the eyes of that squad member. It is this aspect of the game that really makes Halo 3: ODST have a stronger, more impactful story than any of the previous Halo installments. To see the Rookie find a clue as to what happened to a squad member, only to play that flashback and get to know that squad member better and find out the significance of the clue is simply a brilliant act on the part of Bungie. It isn't the first time something like this has been done in a game, not in the least, but it is a breath of fresh air for the Campaign aspect of the Halo franchise.

As far as multiplayer goes, there is one new mode called Firefight, in which one to four players face off against endless waves of Covenant in a closed arena in an effort to rack up points and survive. It's not an original idea as there have been versions of it in Gears of War 2 (Horde mode) and Call of Duty: World at War (Nazi Zombie mode), but it is addictive nonetheless.

In all, I highly recommend Halo 3: ODST. As a gamer who has in the past enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of the franchise a whole lot more than the campaign aspect, I can honestly say that it would be almost impossible to not have fun in the campaign portion of the game. Many moments in the game I had to think things through, plan a course of action, and try my best to escape the clutches of a Covenant controlled area. In addition to the Campaign, the Firefight mode is icing on the cake; two modes that compliment the other very well. If you're a die hard Halo fan, I don't have to tell you to buy it; I can only assure you that you will not be disappointed. If you're like me and have lost interest in the Halo franchise over the last few years or were never on the fence to begin with, give it a shot; I can almost guarantee you will find something to love.

Rating: 9.0/10

Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.