The Jury Talks Back

9/25/2009

Halo 3: ODST Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Jacobs @ 8:14 pm

First, I have to admit, I’m a Halo fanboy.  I’m not one of the scary, “spend every free moment playing multiplayer”, “rank 50 on all the playlists” kind of fanboy, but I really do love the story behind this series.

Halo 1-3, in case you didn’t know, follows “Master Chief”, a SPARTAN super soldier. Sole survivor of the project that made him, he’s a near-silent, face-never-seen hero who throws himself into the fight.  He’s that ultimate ass-kicker every guy who plays these games wishes they could be.  Nigh un-stoppable, relentless, etc.  His “partner” through almost every moment of all three games is the AI Cortana, who is the perfect side-kick – smarmy, sarcastic, and opens doors for you without getting in your way.

If only all games had such a partner.

Anyways, Halo 3: ODST is different.  You never see the Chief, you don’t have shields, and hitting aliens does almost nothing.  You are a normal human, a member of the highly trained ODST, Orbital Drop Shock Troops.  The story starts somewhere (not sure where the scene takes place) during Halo 2, where you (as The Rookie) and the rest of the team (three voices being provided by Firefly cast-members) drop into New Mombasa.  The Rookie gets knocked out during the drop, so he missed most of the fun, coming to that night in a city controlled by the alien forces.

As you make your way through the city, you find items that hint at the fate of the rest of the team, and each one starts a flashback mission where you play the part of one of your team members.  Slowly you see what happened to them as you move through the game.

Each is fun, and none are insanely difficult (though I’m a big wuss and played on Normal, I’ll eventually have to play through on Legendary to get the achievement).  They contrast very well with the night-time Rookie mission, having a completely different feel – in the flashbacks it is hard fighting, with the Rookie there’s a LOT of sneaking, since it is just you vs. the world).

On the side of all of that, there is a side story you unravel by finding certain terminals and what not.  Each gives you a bit more of the audio of a girl stuck in the city as the Aliens attack.  It is really gripping, and the way it all plays out is pretty damned cool.

The whole look of the Rookie missions is way darker, and a lot of it has a soundtrack that sounds like it belongs to an old detective movie (appropriate, since they were going for a film noir feel), and the loneliness of one guy in a city filled with things that want to kill him really comes through during the solo campaign (up to 4 people can co-op the campaign).

The sound track, btw, is maybe Marty O’Donnell’s best work yet.  I have only ever bought the soundtrack to a game once, and that was Halo 3’s.  This will be the second I’ve ever bought.  It’s just amazing.

The multiplayer for ODST is new to the franchise, but Bungie’s take on “survival mode” is rock solid.  Gone are the days of being beaten down and the tea-bagged by some 12-year old while the call you a bitch – the reason I never really get into MP for any game.  Here to stay is 4-man team vs wave after wave of aliens.  There’s no way to randomly find people to fill that 4-man team, so it will always be you and your buddies, which makes for a far, FAR more entertaining time.  I’ve heard of some runs lasting upwards of 71 minutes.

There are new weapons, and new versions of old weapons, and I just have to applaud Bungie.  With a small team working on this, they spent a mere 14 months, and shipped a tight game.

All in all, this is an awesome game.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the Halo, if you even remotely enjoy First person Shooters, this is a must buy.  While maybe not “Game of the Year” (I suspect Modern Warfare 2 will claim that spot), it will be a great addition, and you will likely see people on your friends list playing Firefight for a long time to come.


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