When Halo 3: ODST was first announced back at Tokyo Game Show in 2008 under the name of Halo 3: Recon, nobody was exactly sure what to expect. Sure, over the last seven years Bungie has shown itself to be one of the best developers in the world, able to add great community features like Forge and Theatre modes in Halo 3 and develop one of the best matchmaking services the Xbox has seen in its lifespan, but all that was based around the central idea that you were Master Chief, bad ass extraordinaire. Earlier this year, Halo Wars proved that the Halo franchise could expand beyond the first person, but that genre remained firmly entrenched in Chief’s realm. So it was a cause for concern when we found out that Halo 3: ODST would be coming with a brand new protagonist.
Halo 3: ODST was originally announced as a 30 dollar expansion pack, but as the project progressed things got bigger and features were added. It would eventually become a fully priced retail game, something sure to irk some of those who have been keeping tabs on it. I’m very happy to say to those people that Halo 3: ODST is the Halo you have come to know and love and is worth the price.
ODST stands for Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, an elite group of marines who are dropped by pods through the atmosphere, crash landing on the surface of a world. The campaign places you in the role of The Rookie, a new ODST who never talks and whose face is never seen. The story of the game takes place during the events of Halo 2 leading into Halo 3, after a Covenant ship finds Earth. The Covenant, for those who may be new to the series, is a religious group of aliens with one purpose: to extinguish human life, seeing us as a threat to their “Great Journey”. During Halo 2, the Covenant ship does a slip space jump (think of it as a way to travel great distances), causing great damage to the African city of New Mombasa. Just as the ship is making its jump, The Rookie and his fellow ODSTs are dropping down and the wake caused by the jump results in the pods’ direction being altered. Waking up six hours after landing, The Rookie must solve the mystery of what happened to his squad mates.
Your fellow ODSTs each have their own niche: Buck is the leader, Romeo the sniper, Mickey the demolitions expert and Dutch the badass. Office of Naval Intelligence agent Dare is in charge of the mission but won’t tell you exactly what it entails. Speaking of your squad mates, many of them were voiced by Firefly/Serenity cast members, like Nathan Fillion (Buck), Adam Baldwin (Dutch), Alan Tudyk (Mickey) and Tricia Helfer (Dare). Fillion and Helfer even signed off their likenesses to the characters, and Fillion’s in particular is very similar to how he looks. The voice acting is well done, and provides several classic gems like “Bam said the lady”.
The Rookie’s tale takes place in an open world hub (a first for the Halo series), where he must search for clues about his squad mates’ fate. Thankfully, the Superintendent, an AI that controls all parts of the city will be aiding you. The Superintendent can unlock doors, turn on lights, and activate roadblocks which will generally show you items of interest. New Mombasa is very large, but you do have a map and the ability to make waypoints that show up on your HUD. Locations where your next clue can be found will also be placed on the map. Once you have reached your destination, an item from one of the ODSTs – a sniper rifle, explosive charge, or helmet – might be waiting for you. Once you find these items, a flashback will occur where you take control of the ODST who would have possessed the item. For example, Romeo will have his level when you find the sniper rifle, while Buck’s level will be the first you play after finding a helmet stuck in a wall. Even as flashbacks, the levels feel like Halo levels, with vehicle levels compromising a surprisingly large amount of the game.
Since Halo 3 is in the title, the game is obviously based around the Halo 3 engine. While some of the human character models have begun to show their age a bit, a new art style has helped spruce the game up a bit. The game is much darker with lots of reds and blacks opposed to the bright purples and blues of previous Halo games. ODSTs also have access to a visor that amplifies light, outlining enemies and allies with red and green respectively and stationary objects in yellow. Since it is fairly dark you will be using this visor a lot. There also seems to be some new lighting effects, with some of the Covenant vehicles especially becoming shinier and more reflective. That being said, it is not as big of an improvement as say Gears of War to Gears of War 2.
Great atmosphere, art style and music, a return to the halcyon Halo 1 days.
Campaign is a bit short, graphics beginning to show age.