Reviews// Halo 3: ODST

Posted 28 Sep 2009 15:20 by
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I should begin by declaring my allegiances. While I have enjoyed the previous Halo games and got sucked in to the pre-release hype of Halo 3, I have never considered myself a fanboy. I don't have a pin-up picture of Cortana or die-cast models of Master Chief, mainly because I've never been that interested in the guy. Compared to the likes of Call of Duty and Gears of War, Halo has appeared rather hollow with regards to the ?Chief and this is why I looked forward to Halo3: ODST in a way that I wouldn't have if it was simply called Halo 4.

In abandoning Master Chief, Bungie has taken a gamble to see if the Halo brand can work without the influences of the big man and in many ways it does. Taking the lead is a rookie ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper), who is stranded when his pod is hit by a blast from a retreating Covenant ship above New Mombasa.

When he wakes he is alone, and spends the rest of the game walking the streets trying to piece together clues and fend off the odd attack from the usual menagerie of Brutes and Grunts (no new enemies in ODST, I'm afraid). Upon finding the clues the game switches to flashbacks of the battle that placed them there and reverts to what you would expect from a Halo title.

I say ?clues?- they aren't really, and despite Bungie's efforts this isn't a detective game. You do spend some of the game picking up audio logs left by some dubiously voiced South Africans, but apart from adding to the narrative they do little to help you in your quest.

What ODST has achieved by adding these new characters and removing Master Chief is the kind of empathy usually awarded to Call of Duty characters. The Rookie is still faceless but his weakness is refreshing. Another success comes in the sense of loneliness as you wander the streets; something that Master Chief would have taken in his stride and it is enhanced considerably by the film-noir score, which is a valid and drastic change from the usual choral music.

A downside to trudging through the streets of New Mombasa is that it can really drag - you can pick up the odd Mongoose from supply crates but they are rare and still handle like drunken wheel barrows. I often found myself wishing I could phone Roman for a taxi.

The flashbacks that intersect the street stages are varied, if a little short. After beating the stage?s big battle you expect to play the second half of the level, only to realise that was it. Each stage sticks out as different to the other but they still play like levels from Halo 3. Despite the aforementioned differences, changes to the HUD and the addition of two new weapons - a suppressed machine gun and a pistol (both from the first Halo), this still feels like Halo and you can tell that this was planned as an expansion pack.
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