Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
0

Gaming Review

'Halo 3: ODST' (Xbox 360)

By
Released on Tuesday, Sep 22 2009



Also available on: N/A
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: First-person shooter

Just when you thought Bungie was done with Halo, it gets dragged back in again. Halo 3: ODST started life as a quick expansion pack to keep us going until Halo: Reach (also being developed by Bungie) but the project spiralled out of control, increasing the size and scope to become a full-priced retail product. Despite the bells and whistles, a new mode and a multiplayer dedicated disc, you can't quite shake the feeling that it still turned out as an expansion.

As The Rookie, an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) member separated from his team after an interstellar drop, it's your job to explore the Covenant-ridden city of New Mombasa and locate your teammates. There are numerous promising changes to separate it from the acclaimed trilogy: the city is an open hub with enemies that patrol around streets with deserted cars and empty billboards, all draped in a moody, pitch-black aesthetic with depressing jazz tones. It's a stark contrast from the norm and, initially at least, it really works.

The exploration is framed like a detective story, finding clues from lost beacons in the corners of the city, which then transport you into the shoes of your teammates to follow their activities while you've been away. Although the concept is a promising one, it falls flat from a lack of execution. The city itself is extremely barren, with only sporadic enemies to fight (or sneak past) and the occasional attempt of an environmental narrative, such as the occasional spray-painted warnings and audio files, fail to enhance any interest in the story. There's little incentive to explore, since the niches are largely empty, making it a mere backdrop as you travel from beacon to beacon.

The flashback missions themselves, however, are a joy to play. While the city is gloomy and empty, the teammates you control are full of brash quips and relish in taking part inside huge, sandbox skirmishes that the Halo series is so well known for. While memorable moments or explosive set pieces are few and far between, it maintains a healthy variety of vehicular, sniping and flying missions, complete with a few new enemies and weapons here and there. It's here where the game truly shines, away from the empty hub world, and reminds you exactly why you enjoy Halo in the first place.

Other smaller changes are superficial at best. You'll use a visor to help you see in the dark, outlining key objects and enemies in unique colours, not unlike what we've seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum. While it's often essential in finding clues, the game fails to do anything interesting with it, aside from increase the number of blinding flares that the enemy carries. Other changes to your non-Spartan character, such as a weaker melee and shorter jump height are barely noticeable, and the shield-cum-health bar system is too similar in function from before. Even the new silenced SMG and Magnum, which are a lot of fun to play around with, have a dire shortage of ammunition as you explore New Mombasa.

The length of the campaign, coming in at around five hours solo on a normal difficulty, might be one of the reasons for its lack of punch. After all, how much ambiance can you fit in around the missions? The story itself, set up to be a mystery of what happened to your squad, fails to reach a surprising or even a truly satisfying climax. But since it's largely composed of flashbacks that stick to the winning Halo formula, it's still very enjoyable, especially with a few friends alongside you. But as a narrative and atmospheric experiment, it's a huge let-down.

Elsewhere, Bungie has been inspired by the likes of Gears Of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas and created its very own multiplayer survival mode in Firefight. While other examples inadvertently cause you to stay in a certain spot and hold off enemies from the duration of the session, the combination of open maps and the lack of a cover mechanic make for a more ad hoc, tense and unpredictable experience, especially when you throw in the list of established weapons, enemies and skulls from the series. The lack of an online matchmaking is notably absurd, but provided you have a few friends (local or online) then this is arguably the best take on the arena-survival mode to date.

The game also comes packaged with a second disc containing all the multiplayer components from Halo 3. All the original maps, as well as the DLC and three exclusive maps are included, which makes for a tantalising package. While it can be argued that many players would already own the majority of the content, you can't avoid the convenience of having it all in one place. While it might not be as accessible as the likes of Modern Warfare, it's one of the few online shooters where practice truly reaps huge rewards, and since the community and support around it is still so strong, it truly is in a class of its own.

Regardless of these additions, the original focus on making Halo 3: ODST an expansion is blazingly obvious. The campaign isn't as memorable or as lengthy as previous games, where new ideas contribute little in making it truly unique, leaving it up to the classic Halo gameplay to make up for its shortcomings. That's not to say it isn't a very enjoyable few hours, but it's the multiplayer, through Firefight and the bonus disc, that really justifies it as a full-priced product. To use an old review cliché, fans of the series will lap it up, but those otherwise uninterested in the series won't find solace in any new additions here.


> What do you think of the game? Share your views

You May Like

Comments

Loading...