Halo 3 ODST – A Meaty Meal – or a Disappointing Lunch? | Gamerillaz

Halo 3 ODST – A Meaty Meal – or a Disappointing Lunch?

Halo 3 ODST – A Meaty Meal – or a Disappointing Lunch?

The Halo franchise is to Microsoft as Mario has been to Nintendo. They have both been milked for every penny possible with merchandising and sequels but the question is – is it running out of steam? Halo 3 ODST is the latest offering from Bungie. Backed by a massive marketing campaign and the general hype machine, it is a sure success regardless of its quality. But what is the truth? Is it as disappointing as comparing a real life ‘Big Mac’ to its pretty photo on the menu board or is it a succulent delight to sink your choppers into? Read on…

Originally ‘Halo 3 Recon’ was set to be a DLC add-on but it grew during creation to become its own title and was then named – ‘Halo 3 ODST’, personally I thought ‘Recon’ was better… but never mind. The important thing is that it was being made by Bungie and is set in the Halo universe. Of course this story is about the ODST, not mister big pants John Spartan, so don’t expect the exact same Halo experience as before. ODST means “Orbital Drop Shock Trooper” which is basically an overly clever way of saying ‘Special Forces’ but not special enough to be Spartans, think X Factor contestants that don’t make the final round…

When you strip off the cellophane and crack open that green plastic box you’ll notice two discs, one is the ODST campaign, the other is a collection of all Halo 3 multiplayer maps available to date along with the new ODST multi player levels. If you are a long time Halo player you will piss all over this as it is likely that Bungie has already fleeced you for these maps in the past, if you are a Halo virgin then you are in for a massive fun filled online romp. The campaign disc also holds one of the most promising features of this whole package called ‘Firefight Mode’ (which we’ll come back to) along with access for next years ‘Halo Reach’ beta. Quite a bit in one package depending on your perspective but ultimately the issue remains – is the actual game any good? The answer is Yes… and No!

When I first put the disc into the machine and began the campaign I have to say that it was disappointing. The first game sequence was less than impressive for a start… It involves being introduced to the team, being called ‘Rookie’ alot and bearing witness to the beginning of a cheesy love story. The player models and animation did not look like the usual Bungie brilliance, the character ‘Buck’ who is voiced and visually based on actor ‘Nathan Fillion’ (from the hit series Fire Fly) resembles a burn victim on day release, in fact the whole cast of pixel people just don’t look… right. However I was more concerned about the actual game play and soldiered on.

Thankfully the visuals, animations and characters are back to top notch form during in game play and the streets of ‘New Mombassa’ the African city setting for the tale, is also impressive and convincing. The world can be viewed through normal eyes or through the new ‘VISR’ mode which is futuristic night vision and works very well. There are new weapons in the form of a silenced rifle – weak but fun to use and a powerful hand gun that makes short work of alien heads, feeling more like a sniper pistol than your run of the mill hand gun. You have no shield and have to seek out health packs when injured, much like in the first Halo and all the familiar baddies are out for your blood but are a bit tougher and smarter than before.

The structure of the game is quite atmospheric and will have you roaming the city streets looking for clues on what happened to the rest of your squad upon arrival. Initially I found this clever, hiding in shadows and avoiding enemies when out of ammo did feel like a sneak em up but everything gets boring when repeated, roaming through deserted streets and buildings while fragging enemy patrols gets old, its like ‘Groundhog Day’ and becomes that unpleasant claustrophobic corridor scenario that all gamers know and hate so well. When you do find the clue, you are then transported into past events involving the ODST trooper related to that clue, again the first missions were a bit ‘more of the same’ type of play and I was quickly losing interest in this ‘bigger than Jesus’ title, but I persevered and thankfully so. Later the ‘Clue’ missions began to flower and turn into a garden of blood dripping roses. Vehicle levels became available and wide open spaces replaced the corridors of urban warfare, the game had taken a turn for the better and my enthusiasm was peaked to what it should have been from the start. Later levels really shine and can be quite challenging, making strategy more important then bare faced shoot outs, some have a flavour of the Halo 3 multiplayer maps and are totally satisfying. Even the Rookie city missions improved and the narrow spaces didn’t seem so bad. The storyline got richer and I began to hear angels play trumpets… Basically it all came out good in the wash. It adds little depth to the Halo Universe with the story but nor is it a problem, it is pleasant enough to follow but irrelevant for the most part. It’s no ‘Band of Brothers’ anyway!

The addition of four player co-op makes it an even better experience especially on the open area maps. Any setting lower than Legendary is a bit easy and the odd bug here and there might piss you off but overall the single player campaign is a deffo play for FPS or Halo lovers, although I don’t think its enough to convert many new players to the Hip world of Halo. Firefight mode is basically a survival setup similar to ‘Horde Mode’ in Gears of War 2 by way of concept. One to four players can team up to survive waves of Covenant attacks while scoring points for their efforts but it’s by invite only not a matchmaking setup, so you need to team up with buddies to enjoy the full experience. This is great, working as a team is important and the constant action is like a pixel drug that will have you cursing like a true marine. This feature saves ODST from seeming anorexic and will provide many additional hours of play… thankfully! It will get boring eventually unless there are plans to add new maps down the road (educated guess is – Yep, I recon they will, at a price!) but it is a solid experience as is.

The second disc containing the Halo 3 and ODST maps is good value for the Halo virgins but for the Halo scholars all you really get is the new ODST maps and the convenience of having everything multi player related on the one disc… so it’s a matter of perspective if this is a good deal or not. There are three ODST maps – Heretic, Longshore, and Citadel. They are all nicley done and have some new strategic elements to them but really it just adds some extra variety and nothing very new except the weapons. Luke warm stuff really!

The bottom line is that it’s a DLC add on that dreamed of being a full stand alone title and nearly made it – but not quite! It’s a good experience and a must for Halo fans but is not at the quality level for the hype it received. Multi player extras are good or bad depending but most Halo gamers will feel ripped off by this setup. The inclusion of fire fight mode is a good idea and perhaps the strongest feature here but not enough to justify Halo 3 ODST being its own boss It’s a glorified add-on that really should have been available to download in segments that suit the gamer just like the Fallout 3 expansions were. Worth the price of a full title? No! Worth playing – Yes! Get it second hand, rent it or better still, wait for it to appear as DLC. (I bet its part of the greedy marketing strategy to come). Just like a fast food buger it’s over priced, smaller than its menu picture but tasty for a short time and will leave you hungry for more… it’s no whopper, more like a cheeseburger!
Do better next time bungie – eat it!

Reapers Verdict: Good for Halo newbees – A rip off for Halo veterns – Worth a play either way!

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