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Jeremy Jastrzab
28 Sep, 2009

Halo 3: ODST Review

360 Review | Finished the fight? Hah, never!
Having finished the fight with Master Chief two years ago in Halo 3, Bungie isn’t losing out on an opportunity to milk… sorry, give greater insight into the world of Halo. Halo 3: ODST is essentially an expansion and a branch off the main Halo story. With a new set of characters and a few new features thrown in, Halo 3: ODST has something for the franchise veterans while managing to stand alone well enough to allow new players to join in as well. However, the general content deficiency and price point may become a rather contentious point, for ODST and similar future endeavours.

Bungie’s latest foray depicting the future sci-fi battle between man and the collection of alien races known as the Covenant no longer has you playing as the superhuman Spartan, Master Chief. The story of Halo 3: ODST follows the adventures of an elite group of soldiers known as Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, ODST. They’re sent on a mission to retrieve a ‘Class 1 Asset’ captured from the Covenant in New Mombasa, a place visited in both Halo 2 and Halo 3. As they’re being dropped to their objective, the ODST are caught in the aftershocks of a Covenant ship jump, causing the team to be separated.

Starting off as ‘The Rookie’, you’re given a brief introduction to some of the game’s intricacies and the difference between the Spartans and ODSTs. The thing is, the ODST isn’t really that different to Master Chief. Heck, they even look similar! They have a visor that acts like night-vision and objective/enemy identifier in one, which admittedly, is quite handy. However, the Intel map is a fairly arbitrary addition, as you never really need to set way points for yourself and it comes off as a waste. After all, this essentially a Halo game, which is a little bit of a shame given the supposed differences that were mooted.

Hey, you look familiar.

Hey, you look familiar.
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Back to the story, and this is probably one of the game’s strongest suits, if you can ignore the obligatory love interest. As the rookie, you make your way through a dark and decrepit New Mombasa, finding clues about the whereabouts of your squad mates. Upon finding each clue, you then play through the scenario of how that ODST ended up where they are. In the end, all the ODST come together to fulfill their primary objective set out in the intro. It’s actually quite a fascinating and varied journey for those willing to follow the proceedings and the focus on a character-driven piece proves to be a good move.

Since ODSTs were meant to be weaker than the Spartans, the experience was supposedly meant to require more stealth and regard for your own safety. Unfortunately, it’s only when you’re playing through the Mombasa Streets as the Rookie that any real conspicuous actions come into play, as you often sneak up on unsuspecting patrols. Furthermore, while you have a shield just like a Spartan, your health will not regenerate after it gets damaged, necessitating the use of health packs.

Otherwise, the game is typical Halo, with a few things done a little better and few annoyances still lingering around. You play your way through several, often large scale and well built, set pieces. Sometimes these will involve vehicles, sometimes not. However, if you’re expecting to see any new distinctly new weapons or vehicles, you’re not going to find them here. However, since you are essentially dropped into the middle of an intergalactic war, you’ll have heaps of large scale battles to scythe through, while picking up and using whatever you can find. The variety is quite astute, they're often only have the beginning scripted and the amount going on at one time is impressive. Typical to Halo though, the first half of the game is quite difficult, while the latter half tends to be much easier.

Aw... Come on!

Aw... Come on!
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One aspect that will no doubt please many, is the omission of the pesky third party in this intergalactic war, the Flood. Yep, there are no libraries to hack through, pesky parasitic swarms to wade through not organic levels to get lost in. However, a point of contention will be the length of the campaign. We finished Legendary co-op in around five hours. As a single player, you could easily play through one of the lower difficulties in around 3-6 hours. While the general content of the campaign is good, the lack of (promised) differentiation and weak moments (such as the corridors of the Data Hive) in the back end makes it disappointing. Oddly, the story driven nature is not ideally suited for co-op, particularly with strangers. It only takes one impatient player to skip an important cut scene, and with that goes any idea of why you are in a particular spot. Also, the save system is very finicky, with players losing their co-op saves if they aren’t careful.

The other primary addition to Halo 3: ODST has been ‘Firefight’. Various parts of the campaign are used in the grounds of Firefight, where you and up to three friends take up arms and defend your location against waves and waves of Covenant forces. Along the way, you get points and awards and the waves keep coming until you run out of lives. Sound familiar? Well, that’s pretty much because it’s like Horde from Gears of War 2 and Mercenaries from Resident Evil 4 and 5. While it’s more varied than Horde, it’s not as frantic, bite-sized or rewarding as the non-multiplayer Mercenaries. Still, if you still play Halo 3 multiplayer with friends, it will certainly be welcome variety and a blast to play.

Finally, for those who haven’t jumped on the extra multiplayer maps provided by Bungie in Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST comes with an extra disc that provides players with a full set of all available Halo 3 maps, including those that were later released as downloads. However, this seems like an unnecessary addition to the game. Even though ODST does have enough on it’s own to interest new players, the fact is that ODST is glorified fan service. So, most players will most likely already have access to the multiplayer maps and features anyway.

Automag Vs. Gravity Hammer. Taking bets now.

Automag Vs. Gravity Hammer. Taking bets now.
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On that note, it was disappointing that the original decision to release Halo 3: ODST at a budget price was rejected. While you can find good release week discounts, the plain fact is that despite the quality of game, there is simply not enough here to justify purchasing Halo 3: ODST at full retail price. While it’s fun to play through what is essentially an expansion to a two year old game, players who don’t have access to multiplayer will be particularly miffed with the lack reason to keep playing through.

As mentioned, this is essentially a two year old expansion, so there haven’t been any huge advances in the technology powering Halo 3: ODST. However, the artistic work and direction is talented enough to pull of a few neat tricks. If you can look past the minor technical deficiencies, such as the caricatured animations in cut scenes, the game has a wonderful style to it. Furthermore, it runs as smooth as butter, which is certainly very welcome. As usual, the music is a highlight of the game, with excellent sombre tunes, but a little lacking in any epic finale. There are more people talking this time, and while the voicing is fine, the dialogue is somewhat typical army speak.

Halo 3: ODST probably tells the best and most interesting story of anything with Halo attached, is full of large scale set pieces and adds an entertaining new co-op mode. However, the lack of content and the essential failure of providing the promised differences make it difficult for the full retail price to be justified. Sure, it’s still a good co-op game and sits at the right end of the scale in terms of quality FPS, but unless you can snag a copy at reasonably below retail price, it's difficult to justify rejoining the fight.
The Score
A well done story, large set pieces and a new co-op mode are great, but aren't enough to make Halo 3: ODST as different as it was supposed to be.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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40 Comments
4 years ago
Probably agree with the score, maybe id push and give it an 8, certainly no higher. Its fun and I enjoy the way the story is told, but there is nothing new in the game. I really hope Reach pushes the 360 to its limits.
4 years ago
I've been playing this over the weekend. I had been playing through Killzone 2.

It's incredible to see the difference in craftsmanship between Guerrilla and Bungie in their story telling, style and level design. The atmosphere in Halo games are just incredible.

Guerrilla have a lot to learn.

Also, firefight is incredibly fun. I played with 3 mates for 3 hours on easy and felt like 30 minutes had passed.

I'm sad that Bungie after Reach won't be making anymore Halo games.
4 years ago
Good review, but you forgot to mention the good voice acting, where the squad is pretty much the cast of firefly and the lady is from battlestar.
4 years ago
First Halo game I have actually enjoyed for more than half an hour. I blame it on CO-OP. Good addition and while it doesn't work in with the story it's still executed smoothly.

tbenton wrote
pretty much the cast of firefly
Nathan Fillion FTW!
4 years ago
LeonJ wrote
I've been playing this over the weekend. I had been playing through Killzone 2.

It's incredible to see the difference in craftsmanship between Guerrilla and Bungie in their story telling, style and level design. The atmosphere in Halo games are just incredible.

Guerrilla have a lot to learn.

Also, firefight is incredibly fun. I played with 3 mates for 3 hours on easy and felt like 30 minutes had passed.

I'm sad that Bungie after Reach won't be making anymore Halo games.
See im the opposite I have found the Halo story to be rather bland and cartoony. I found the Killzone series to be alot more gritty in its story telling. Im not a fan of the bright colours in Halo 3 where as in Killzone 2 its use of greys and rustic colours seem to suit a warzone better. If you read the back stories to Killzone that Mipac posted you will see they have created a very in depth history to the series too. Having said that I was happy to hear that ODST has decided to use that more dull colour scheme as to me it symbolises that war isnt pretty and stylised. But I guess at the end of the day its each to their own, both series have their strong points and their weeknesses. 1 Strong point for me in particular with the Halo series is the soundtrack and I hope ODST doesnt dissapoint.

This is starting to sound like the Halo title I was looking for although the short campaign mode is a bit of a bummer but at the end of the day it is an expansion.
4 years ago
I just remember a scene from Killzone 2 where you and some dude found some slaughtered soldiers and he gets angry. So lame and over the top. There isn't any feeling or atmosphere in that game at all (I felt). Then again, it's no worse then Gears 1 (atlhough Gears 2 improved remarkably)...

Also, while Killzone 2 does move incredibly well (animation of characters are second to none), the scenery is bland and almost pixelated in comparison to Halos (3 and ODST). Look at the sky in ODST and be awe struck. The artwork in the Halo games are incredible.

Also, Halo does have a rich background. There are countless novels, comics etc. They are even producing short animes.

But hey, different strokes for difference folks right?
4 years ago
I somewhat disagree with the score. Halo ODST is a great package, a short yet extremely enjoyable single player campaign that comes packaged with all the previous Halo 3 map releases. The problem is its value for money; if you've purchased the maps separately via DLC then you're sure to feel short changed. Myself on the other hand did not and I preordered it before the price was increased due to consumer interest.
4 years ago
It looks like a solid game, however being more of a single player gamer now to hear that the campaign is so short is a little disappointing. That being said I'll give it a go as short isn't always bad.

And I'm not even going to delve into the depths of KZ2 vs Halo icon_razz.gif Everyone knows which one I prefer, but I hold my respects for Halo for a lot of the things it does. Very different types of FPS titles though.
4 years ago
Short is not bad. Quality over quantity is always good. Throwing in the Halo 3 complete online experience was nice as well.

It feels completely fresh and new. I love it creeping along in the dark and having to plan an attack. You feel human. The soundtrack is awesome too.

If you have a group of friends, firefight is also worth the price of admission. It's really really good and hectic gaming.
4 years ago
Surprised you didn't mention the "I Love Bees" style secondary story that is told through recordings by the city AI as you progress through as the Rookie. Finding enough of them impacts the gameplay a bit too since they unlock weapon lockers throughout the city some of which have Mongooses to ride around on too which makes exploring a lot quicker, though hijacking a Ghost from a Grunt made the city a hell of a lot easier to deal with. Only seen a Ghost in there once though. It also unlocked a room in Data Core which had a flamethrower in there, making that area a lot more fun.
4 years ago
Article wrote
the ODST are caught in the aftershocks of a Covenant ship jump
That's twice now i've been in an article. icon_lol.gif
4 years ago
That's right Leon, short is not bad. Infact, I've finished the ODST campaign twice now and am planning on playing it co-op with my brother, it's that good! And really, it ain't that short; if you play Heroic or Legendary, get the tapes, explore the city, etc, it can take up to 10 hours from start to finish. Then there's firefight, which in itself is awesome and makes a worthy addition to the available play modes.

Regarding Killzone, you're right Denny, the former and Halo are two completely different games; the only thing in common is that they're part of the FPS genre. That said, I far prefer the control scheme of Halo icon_smile.gif

Also, unlike what some reviews had mentioned, I also give two thumbs up to the soundtrack. It's moody, atmospheric and varied.

I do feel though that if MS lowered the price, advertised the game as not being a *new* Halo, but more like an add-on, then they would've avoided a lot of the negative press.
4 years ago
I've been looking forward to ODST, but I think I'll wait for a price drop. I'm not a fan of Halo, or FPSes in general, and I don't have Xbox Live so I won't be making any use of the online component. Really all I want from the game is to stoke the fires of my Nathan Fillion manlove, and they don't burn strongly enough to warrant a full price purchase.
4 years ago
tbenton wrote
Good review, but you forgot to mention the good voice acting, where the squad is pretty much the cast of firefly...
And they actually make reference to the show too! 'Buck' says somthing along the lines of "I thought you guy we meant to be Shiney", and 'Dutch' mentions Vera and says "Gorramit". Needed new pants after that...
4 years ago
^ I picked up on a lot of references to a whole range of shows/videos/books. Halo's dialogue is always awesome.

Undoubtable I'm a mega fan of Halo so I may be a little biased but I would compare ODST to Portal. It's short and sweet and a (little) bit different. Sucks it's not a discount price though.
4 years ago
I found single player great for the 4 hours it took me to finish. Firefight is very good but no matchmaking and host migration made it borderline unplayable online. Halo 3 disc is cool but I own most of the maps already. Needless to say I was happy when EB gave me more than I payed for it the day after I bought it. TBH I'd feel ripped off if this was 1200 point DLC let alone a full price game.
4 years ago
The single player took me around 6-8 hours on Heroic solo I think, now trying to get Vidmaster:Endure. Probably spent 6 hours over the past couple of days trying to get it, wish people would stop dropping out due to lag.
4 years ago
I'd say that RRP is probably too high, but for $68 at Big W (less elsewhere with trade-ins) it's completely worthwhile.

Firefight is great. Would like more (or even just some) customization options for it though.
4 years ago
Im having alot of fun with this at the moment. Only going through the campaign on heroic but its awesome fun, maybe even better than Halo 3 campaign.

I never bought any of the Halo 3 maps either so it will be good to get back into that.
4 years ago
The reviewer makes the misguided generalisation that the inclusion of all H3 multiplayer maps (which include 3 new ones) are unnecessary, because ODST is fan service and most fans will already have all the maps. Log in to H3 multiplayer and you'll find that the overwhelming majority of players are hanging out in social slayer, which often has a population many times what you'd find in playlists where map packs are required. I don't doubt that those who buy the map packs using points are fans, but they are a small subsection of the massive group of "Halo fans".

This misconception is also held by other reviewers. The value of ODST is understated, because a great deal of people who buy it will get something they don't already have. Those who bought the map packs in the past may feel a bit jibbed, but players have complained that the paid map packs splits the pool of players between those who have all the map packs and those who don't. ODST will go some way to "repopulate" all the playlists online.
4 years ago
Also, the downloaded maps just don't run as easily or smoothly, compared to the maps off disc. it's not something often mentioned, but having a disc version with everything really helps it run smoothly. it can otherwise sometimes be hard to get the maps to appear at times, with some crashing. it is an improvement.

not only that but in terms of collecting, in however many years time a copy of odst will be great in terms of having all those maps there straight off a disc.
4 years ago
harness wrote
Those who bought the map packs in the past may feel a bit jibbed
i didn't buy the maps - does that mean i can't feel Jibbs?

icon_sad.gif
4 years ago
I'll document a conversation I had about this game today while I was at uni:

Me: So you can't duel wield guns in this? Why?

Friend (Playing the game): Because this guy isn't a Spartan thing, he doesn't have the strength to duel wield two guns.

Me: Not even pistols?

Friend: Not to my knowledge. *presses B on Turret to tear it off the tripod dramatically, walks around the map mowing down enemies*

icon_confused.gif
4 years ago
how anyone can say halo has better graphics than K2 is beyond belief... LOL. killzone has much better graphics.. any person who has played both games will tell you that. ODST is one of the most hyped, dissapointing, full retail price games you will ever buy, FACT. the only glimmer of hope was firefight... but its nowhere near as good as mercenaries from RE5, Nazi zombies from CoD: WaW, or even horde from Gears 2. Or dare i say survival from uncharted 2? i mean, Uncharted 2 = 2 year sequel with 10s from near enough every site tells you something right? yes, bungie are just draining the franchise... best halo campaign is still halo 1... end of. played ODST on heroic with a mate, completed in 4 an a half hours, died just twice... halo's are meant to be hard from heroic onwards? not impressed at all. im not a ps3 fanboy by any means as i have all 3 systems (wii, 360, ps3), but things are looking very bleek til xmax for xboxers, and even games released this year... ps3 has demon souls, uncharted 2, GoW collection, GoW III, GT5, Heavy Rain, Agent, infamous, killzone 2, MAG among others i cant think of... xbox has alan wake, crackdown 2, halo ODST, mass effect 2, halo reach, LFD2, most notable ones. but again, most of them will come out on the PC aswell, so PS3 owners need not worry. and about the maps, all the so called halo 3 online geeks will already have a lot of the maps, so that tells me that they got worried with just releasing odst with the campaign and firefight, so they bundled the maps aswell to make up the fact it wasnt worth anywhere near RRP. hold your head in shame bungie this "game" is pants... end of, when all the xbox fanboys debate this, dont. because you know this game is pants. stick to halo 3 if you were wondering to buy it or not, or wait to the NEXT Halo.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  22/9/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2009

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