Game Reviews
The Best of Halo: O.D.S.T.

The Master Chief finished the fight in 2007, so what can players possibly expect to get out of anything that doesn’t bear the title ‘Halo 4’? Microsoft and Bungie are willing to bet quite a lot. Halo 3: ODST puts you into the shoes of an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) Rookie in search of his squad mates. Set in the same time frame as Halo 2, the game chronicles the saga of a group of soldiers who are willing to risk everything to figure out the mystery of New Mombasa.

So That’s What Happened…

Just a quick overview so don’t worry about reading spoilers. The game starts off with an uninvited ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) Officer joining your squad just before deployment. Her codename is ‘Dare’ and she’s sporting the coveted and ever so sexy Recon armor. Now, there’s nothing wrong with her joining the group except she brings with her some last minute change of plans that you, the Rookie, and the rest of the Hell-Jumpers are completely unaware of. After a tiny scuffle about what exactly is going on between her and your squad leader ‘Buck’, you gear up, enter your HEV (Human Entry Vehicle), and prepare to drop! What follows has to be one of the most impressive and engaging cut-scene in all of the Halo games. I’d go into detail about it but I would rather you experience it for yourself. Once you “land” on Earth, you realize that you’re all alone. Lost and a bit confused, you’re forced to the traverse the dark and moody streets in search for clues as to where the rest of your gang may be and why on earth your mission to repel invading aliens has taken such a drastic detour . After locating each clue, you’ll trigger a cut-scene then play as that character to reveal what exactly happened.


Where Do I Go!? I Don’t Even…

New Mombasa serves as a Hub world that you’re able to navigate within a confined space that eventually opens up as the story unfolds. If you get lost your HUD (Heads Up Display) will always indicate where you have to go. If that isn’t enough, there are Link stations that you can interact with and when you do, you link in with your new AI buddy that goes by the name of SuperIntendent. He will help you along the way by giving you signals as to where to go. The signs are subtle so be sure and pay attention! He won’t only tell you where to go; he’ll also alert you to nearby Covenant patrol groups that may be nearby. In addition to the SuperIntendent, you also have a Navigational Map that will show you your location and special points of interest. All you have to do is press the Back button. You can place markers to those points of interests and they’ll appear in your HUD so you won’t have to navigate back and forth. Once you get to where you have to be, check your HUD for a special blue indicator just below your health. If you stray too far off, the blue indicator will disappear; letting you know you’ve left the beacon area. Now you must find the clue to trigger the flashback.

Spartan Laser=ODST weapon, what?

If You Think You Can Just Waltz In Here…

You have to be careful when you’re out and about in the streets. The Covenant is patrolling the area and they’re looking for trouble. You might think you have what it takes to easily take on a pack of Brutes but you have to remember that you’re no longer a Spartan with MJOLNIR armor. They will give you problems. The game play mechanics are essentially the same. There are subtle differences that you will have to get used to. For example, if you were amazingly accurate with plasma grenades or spike grenades in Halo 3, you’re going to have trouble adjusted to the differences between the two. For some reason, the ODST’s throw farther and with less arc. Don’t ask me. I just live in this world, I didn’t make it. I also noticed a slight increase in speed and less height in jump. These small differences will throw you off at first but will all be forgotten after a few battles. There are a couple of revamped weapons that will help you along the way. The Halo 1 pistol is back and it is a beast. The only downside to it is the really big recoil that comes after every shot. But it’s as fast as you can pull the trigger.

Another addition is the silenced SMG that was not so fun in Halo 2. Its range along with its accuracy has increased and is a little more full-filling in close to mid-ranged combat. These weapons will assist you along the way and put the battles in your favor… some of the time. The bigger, tougher enemies like Brute Chieftains or Hunters are as tough as nails and even a season veteran like myself had so many problems going up against them on Heroic. The game has epic battles that you’ll want to replay over and over again and the journey to discovering the mysteries of what happened is a somewhat short but very pleasant one. The only small little downfall in game play was that, at times, it became a bit repetitive. A couple of mission had you holding down a specific point until all the enemies were eliminated. The good thing about that was that they mixed it up enough so that it didn’t become annoying. They made enough changes to keep it fresh enough as to not make it a hassle, in fact, they made it fun.

Wait, Can You Hear That?

Once again Marty O’Donnell blows us away with his musical splendor and ability to immerse us into the game. Every time his music plays, the tone and pace of it will let you know what you’re in for without giving away too much. Even though you’ll always hear when it kicks in, it’s not intrusive at all and serves to tighten up your senses. The noir feel that he was going for is definitely felt as you make your way through the city streets. The voice acting is top-notch with a number of high profile actors from the show Firefly. The sounds of the weapons are familiar so if you’ve played the previous games you’ll know what you’re in for. This will help you strategize and think twice about what move you’re going to make because of the weapon that the enemy carries. The dialogue within the game has always been considered high-end. The Halo fans have come to know and love hilarious one-liners from friends and foes alike and there is a lot of that in ODST so keep an ear to the ground for them.

"Hello, this OnStar. I'm detecting an ODST has boarded your vehicle."

Relax, Old Friend. You’ve Done Enough…

If you didn’t already know, Halo 3: ODST came out 2 years after the release of Halo 3. Bungie worked long and hard for an entire year to complete this game and ship it out to stores. The reason why it took so little time to ship out a full game is because Halo 3: ODST is running off of the Halo 3 engine. The game is visually amazing even though it’s not ground breaking. If you’re expecting Gears of War 2 graphics, you will be disappointed. That’s not to say ODST doesn’t look impressive. The lighting in the game is one of the best out there this generation. There was this one instance where you’re driving down a road and enter this building where there is a Ghost dead center. As you get close, you see all the lights in the building reflecting off the vehicle’s shiny purple body. As I hopped in and sped away, every light I passed gleamed off my shiny new ride. Dynamic lighting at its best!

The cut-scenes in the game were a tad short of amazing. The engine still has no anti-aliasing and that hurt the cut-scenes a bit but not enough to warrant a bad grade or lower the score. The cinematics were truly impressive and at times awe-inspiring. Bungie hit it out of the park in this department. The animation and environments were not left behind either. Both appear to be vastly improved over Halo 3 and they look great. The art direction that they have taken with ODST is new yet familiar. There’s a hint of Forerunner architect in the building designs in New Mombasa and when you notice the little designs here and there throughout the buildings, you’ll remember what Guilty Spark told you at the end of Halo 3 just before you blew him into oblivion. The art direction and cut scene were definitely the show stoppers with every thing else coming in close. It was a great engine. Now we must say goodbye and REACH for the sky.

Those red things are enemies.

But Wait! There’s More!

Once you’re done with the campaign, don’t even think about popping in the second disk that includes the Complete Halo 3 Multiplayer Experience™ with the 3 new exclusive maps. You’re not done in New Mombasa. Play through it to get the Vidmaster Achievements to unlock the ever so coveted Recon Armor (this is assuming you got them for Halo 3). In addition to that, all of the doors open up in New Mombasa so you can roam freely and find all of the audio-logs for the secret side-story of Sadie. There’s still Firefight too which was previewed here.

If you think Halo 3: ODST is not worth the price of admission, I’m going to respectfully disagree. There’s so much replay value packed in to this meaty “expansion,” it’s insane. Open world environment to explore, skulls to find, audio logs to discover and last but not least, Firefight! Go out and get this game, folks. You’ll be entertained for months on end. And with that, the wait for Halo: Reach begins. Adios!


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