_hojo:Hello Tree-Oh DustSeptember 25, 2009
_The Halo series has long been a source of fun discussions. Intelligent conversations such as “Halo? More like GAY-lo, amirite?” and “LOL Halo is shit and all the fukin XBox fagz know it they only like it becuz its all dey got we got Killzone and Resistence and Call of Duty have fun with your shitty game faggot!!!” and “HALO IS THE BEST SERIZ EV4R!!1!” have thankfully graced our lives since the first game landed alongside the original Microsoft-Box in 2001. Putting aside all those wonderful points I just brought up, I will now delve into the newest release in the series, Halo 3: ODST. Or to get more into the spirit of the game, come with me as we drop into ODST. If you know a little about the story, you probably just let out a quick chuckle, then shook your head at the bad pun. If you didn’t, the connection goes over your head and it just sounds like a typical overused subject line in reviews. Don’t worry…the sentence was both of those things.
_Many gamers fall into one of two categories: They either like first person shooters or they don’t. So we’ll get this right out of the way now…if you don’t like FPS’s or the Halo series, the gameplay here isn’t going to change your mind. ODST still uses the now standard 2 weapon set-up, still uses the “find cover to regain stamina” mechanic, still has you going from area to area facing the same enemies throughout the game, only in different areas, forcing you to alter your tactics for each battle slightly, and there are also the standard vehicle missions, which thankfully the Halo series has always done right. From a basic gameplay standpoint, it’s all standard fare for the modern day FPS/3PS.
_So…now you want to know “What makes ODST any different from other FPS’s, or hell, the other Halo games for that matter?” The answer to this is presentation and level progression. The game starts with you in a pod, dropping down to the city of New Mombasa from orbit. Not shockingly [Or maybe shockingly? I don’t know, it seems that everything and its opposite are all game cliches by this point] something goes wrong on the way down, and your team of shock troopers are separated. You’re down for the count…you come to…it’s night…you dropped at day. Fuck. You pop out of your pod, drop to the city and go on the search for your teammates…the hunt is on.
_You start to walk the streets of New Mombasa. The city has been evacuated. Covenant forces patrol the streets. Wreckage lines the surely once bustling roads. As you find clues pertaining to your teammates whereabouts, you will play flashback missions as them [they all control identically, before you ask] and their stages will take place in sections of the same city during the daytime. Only during the day, the Covenant aren’t occupying the city…they’re in the process of trying to occupy it. There isn’t a ton of wreckage lining the streets…you’re wrecking them yourself. After you finish the first flashback mission, you look down from the building you’re in to the drop pod below, where the flashback finished. That’s when you realize “New Mombasa isn’t a stage I’m going to finish…the whole game is going to take place here.” You open your map to find that new paths in the city have opened up. There are multiple paths you can take to go to find any one of the next clues. Yup…ODST is a FPS that has an open world format. You can check your map and see where enemy troops are and decide whether you want to to through them or around them. There are weapon caches and achievement ite…I mean, audio files to find around town. If you find yourself being overwhelmed by baddies, you can retreat down a couple alleyways to lose them…yeah, GTA, it is not. But it’s still pretty awesome to see in a FPS, and is something we’ll hopefully see more of in the future. As much as I love me some good FPS action, the genre is getting stagnant. Open world is the way to go.
_One of the strongest aspects of the original Halo game was the campaign mode. Going through 343 Guilty Spark, seeing Covenant running around in the dark, and seeing bodies lying everywhere leading into the first battle with the Flood to Marty O’Donnell’s score. Going back through the Assault on the Control Room stage on Two Betrayals and stepping into the middle of big Flood v Covenant battles and seeing the destruction the Flood have caused on the environments of the ring that you once walked upon. The first time you put a single pistol round in the back of a Hunter. Going through the Library. The original Halo game had a very memorable campaign for many reasons. Halo 2…no. Halo 3…a little bit. ODST is a return to Halo 1 form in terms of memorable campaign for me. The city has a great atmosphere about it. The missions have memorable moments. The characters have…character. The overall story isn’t special, but once again, the presentation of the game is top notch and makes for a tighter campaign than the past 2 effort from Bungie.
_Another addition to the excellent atmosphere of ODST is another wonderful score from series composer Marty O’Donnell. Each of the Halo games have had excellent scores, but by 3, everybody had started to say “lol chanting.” If you were one of those people, then I have good news for you – ODST is sans chant. In fact, none of the Halo staple music shows up in ODST. Marty O’Donnell flexes his muscles with a completely new score that features some new instrumentation for the series. Like “…is that saxophone? Niiiiiiiiice.”
_So…pretty glowing review thus far. There isn’t much to dislike here, but there are just a lot of small little things that combine to make me “Hmmmmmmm…” at this game. One is that the campaign, as much as I enjoyed it, is very short. Bungie has said that it’s “comparable” to the other Halo campaigns as should take 8-10 hours to complete, but that’s only if you’re generous. It’s not quite “80+ hours for Xenosaga I” generous, but still rather generous. The game should take closer to 6 hours to finish, and if you play it co-op, that time can drop down closer to 4 or 5. Speaking of co-op, the campaign experience I was so high on takes a massive hit while playing co-op. The story centers around you traversing the city alone, trying to find your squad mates, so you can see how having 1 to 3 other people tagging along for the ride would affect that. Firefight is a fun mode, and is probably my favorite take on the Horde/Nazi Zombies gametype seen in Gears 2 and Call of Duty respectively, but just like those modes in those games, it’s exponentially more enjoyable with more people, and ODST unfortunately uses Halo 3’s party system to play Firefight online. This means no searching for Firefight parties. Now, i normally only play with people on my friends list anyways, but i can’t help but feel that this is just a dumb move. Firefight is really only marginally enjoyable by yourself, so if you don’t know people who also have the game, or nobody on your friends list is currently playing it, you’re shit out of luck. Hmmmmmmm…what about the multiplayer? Like…Slayer and King of the Hill and Oddball and such? Well…it comes on a second disc. And it’s not actually ODST multiplayer. It’s the Halo 3 multiplayer, labeled as “Halo 3: The Complete Multiplayer Experience” [which it’s technically not, since co-op Halo 3 campaign features multiple players and is therefore technically multiplayer, but these days the term “multiplayer” has come to mean “versus” so…semantics]. There is no actual ODST standalone multiplayer. Hmmmm…well, at least it comes complete with all the H3 downloadable content. I personally only had the free maps, so getting all of the DLC is a sweet deal for me, and you can actually play with people still using their actual H3 discs, so it’s not like Lost Planet: Colonies. But…what if you already bought all the DLC for Halo 3 and you don’t want or need the H3 multiplayer disc that comes with ODST? Can you buy like…a $30 or $40 copy of ODST with just ODST in it? Sorry, buddy, just the 2 disc $60 copy. Hmmmmmmm…
_When ODST was first announced, it was being touted as a Halo 3 expansion as opposed to a full blown sequel. It was said that it would likely be about 3 hours of new campaign, and would likely retail for $40. Then it was announced that it would be a full retail game for $60. It was said that the project “grew larger in scope than initially anticipated” and was viewed as a justification for the $60 price tag. Well…the 3 main entries in the series took me at least 12 hours my first time through solo on Heroic, which is often referred to as the difficulty Halo “was meant to be played. ” ODST took me 6 hours and change on Heroic, and would have been under 6 hours if not for the moronic friendly AI in the turret of my Warthog at the end of the game. Sure, 6 hours may be twice as large as the initial 3, but it’s still about half of what the normal Halo game is. Add to this that the game engine is merely a slight alteration to the Halo 3 engine. Add to this the fact that 9 of the 10 Firefight maps are areas from the campaign mode with barriers to make it an enclosed space, meaning that they only actually made one unique Firefight map. Add to this that the 2nd disc is one-half content that was already on Halo 3 and one-half content that many have already paid to download, and that likely greater than 90% of people who will buy ODST already own Halo 3.
_Taking all of this into account, can I say that ODST is truly worth the full game $60 price tag it carries? It is, but only with some math. The Halo 3: Multiplayer disc features 13 maps not on the original Halo 3 disc, 9 of them being released in groups of 3 for $10 per pack and 3 more that will likely become downloadable for $10, plus one map that was released for free. The first map pack has since become free, and another was dropped down to $7.50. If you go by the current pricing, then you’re getting $27.50 worth of DLC along with ODST. If you view ODST as an expansion and a $40 “budget” title, then you’re getting $27 worth of DLC for $20. Pretty good. If I’m a PR man, I’d put all of the DLC at their initial price point and say that you’re getting $40 worth of DLC for $20, which would invoke a line like “You’d have to be crazy not to buy this! The 2nd disc sells itself!”. So you can see why for someone like me, who didn’t buy the map packs, ODST was worth my $60. But what of those people who are obsessive Halo fanatics and already spent $30 on the maps? What about the people who are Lv.50 in each playlist, but don’t even have the shield for beating the game on their card, because they’re not interested in campaign at all, want the last 3 maps, but know that as of right now, there currently aren’t plans to make them available over LIVE [though the possibility of them showing up there hasn’t been ruled out]. What about the people who don’t care about online multiplayer, and just like their Halo single player experience? Well, knowing the community, they probably bought it anyways and are probably more than happy with their purchase. But assuming you’re a rational person and are still reading this, unless you fall into the same category as I do, which is “Enjoy Halo campaign and enjoy Halo 3 multiplayer but didn’t have the maps,” I can’t say that this is a must-buy at $60. I think a lot of people would have appreciated a $40 single disc version of the game. But I also think that Micro$oft knew the rabid fans would buy something with “Halo” in the title at any price, so why not go full? [And I normally don’t use the M$, but there it did seem appropriate. I mean, I can’t imagine that that never crossed their minds when coming up with the price.]
_Well, all that price justification out of the way, it’s time to end this with some professional review tripe and give ODST a score or something. A fun and unique campaign, the 4 player joy of Firefight and all of the available Halo 3 DLC and then some in one package make ODST a more than solid entry into the Halo series, though you might have to talk yourself into a buy if you already HAVE most of the Halo 3 content.” Pretty good, huh? ODST gets a 7.7/10 (don’t worry if you don’t get it ;-D).