Halo 3: ODST [Xbox 360]
Players: 1 to 16
Release Date: September 15th, 2009
September 15, 2007 is a day most people wouldn’t remember, but it was somehow responsible for my failing a lame attempt to graduate college. Halo 3 arrived, and like Halo 2 before it, its Xbox Live support swallowed my days and nights as a result. Halo 3 featured the most complete and satisfying multiplayer online experience I’d ever seen before. For me, Xbox Live was created for Halo. I enjoy single-player games like anyone else, but also believe gaming is meant to be shared. My most precious memories are tied to time spent with someone else, like when my good buddy Jarrod and I played Gears of War online for nine straight hours during a week night to finish the game on Insane difficulty. I also cherish all the countless hours with my sister playing Contra on the NES when we were just five years old. This is what gaming’s all about. Always has been, always will be.
Enter Halo 3: ODST, which doesn’t disappoint by providing the full competitive online experience of Halo 3 along with a brand-new campaign. I also can’t forget the most kick-ass feature added to Halo in years, Firefight. This mode has been done in other first-person shooters over the years. Think of it as surviving as long as possible battling endless waves of enemies. It’s a simple design, but very effective. It also happens to be extremely challenging. After each around, the game triggers different skulls that bear a unique effect on the outcome. For example, when the skull “catch” is activated, the enemy becomes “grenade happy.” Playing on harder difficulties, it’s ridiculous how puny little grunts become so annoying. Stickies fly everywhere. Other skulls require you to melee enemies to regain stamina, or cause bullets to bounce off Covenant shields forcing the use of laser-enabled weapons. Tactics and teamwork is the key to success, as respawning is limited. Those that don’t enjoy deathmatches or competitive gaming altogether finally have a reason to continue playing Halo after they’ve dealt with the campaign. Firefight adds dozens of hours to ODST.
One problem can plague Firefight however, your internet connection. While playing, the host or someone in the party often lost connection to Live. In Halo 3, the server simply designated a new host and kept things moving. If this happens in Firefight though, you’re done. The worst is that unlocking some achievements requires up to two hours. Disconnecting mere minutes before scoring an achievement is entirely possible. Solutions to this problem have been discussed on the net, pointing mainly to the need to have on-going OPEN NAT settings to ensure a clean and pleasant online experience. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily common knowledge for everyone. Just double-check your online setup before you start and it should be fine. Clearly this must be addressed moving forward.
The original Halo arguably sports one of the best, if not the best campaigns in a sci-fi FPS. Not only was the story fantastic, but the ten chapters were a blast to play. ODST is basically a trip down memory lane. Halo 2’s dual-wielding, shields, battle rifle and regeneration are all in the past, as ODST brings back the classic pistol and med packs from Combat Evolved. The pistol is your likely weapon of choice 99% of the time; it feels great to have it back. In addition, the AI is as solid as ever, with some surprise additions. Grunts now sticky-grenade themselves twice and run towards you when they see no way out! Hence the birth of the “kamikaze” grunts. Expect many deaths thanks to these little buggers.
The campaign is on the short side nonetheless, running around eight hours depending on the chosen difficulty level. Even so, it’s a sweet ride that most will probably want to complete twice. The plot is hit and miss, depending on your taste. Since most missions are flashbacks, it’s actually a bit confusing. It feels like nothing is happening most of the time. ODST is really just an excuse to kill more Covenant forces. The romance aspect didn’t capture my attention. However, a side-quest challenging you to collect audiophiles that tie loose ends a lot more is done in an entertaining matter. No less, this Halo 3 expansion doesn’t feel quite as epic as previous entries.
Despite the brief campaign, this two-disc set is action-packed. You can expect to play Firefight alone for weeks to come. Achievement whores also have a lot to love in ODST, as the Firefight ones are especially challenging. Try scoring Endure, and you will know the meaning of punishment. The second disc contains the competitive multiplayer. It features Halo 3’s maps, plus another exclusive to ODST. If you want details on the multiplayer, head here for our review for Halo 3. ODST has enough value to occupy you until Reach releases sometime next year.
In terms of presentation, you’ll see all the classic Halo enemy designs. While the Halo 3 engine is showing its age, and some campaign levels look too similar to one another, the artistic flavour is just as impressive as when Halo 3 initially hit. This is thanks to improved art design. The color palette alone is more appealing. Particles come alive in ODST whereas Halo 3’s just popped. The voice work is also top-notch, featuring the talent from everyone’s favourite western sci-fi, Firefly. Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk back the marines. It’s great to hear them together for the first time since Serenity. Music-wise, expect nothing short of brilliance. You really feel an emotional connection to the fantastic overture that plays throughout the game. ODST is another win for Bungie. After all these years, we expect no less than they’re best.
Halo 3: ODST is a solid addition to the franchise. It’s not 4, but it’s Halo, and that’s all you need to know. Firefight by itself is enough to warrant a purchase, barring the campaign mode. Halo fanatics shouldn’t be without this, it’s that simple. For newcomers, there’s no better place to start. ODST comes with a high recommendation; buy it.
Overall (Not an average): 9.1/10