Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halo: ODST

Game: Halo 3 ODST

System: Xbox 360

Release: September 2009

Halo: ODST is the latest FPS game from Bungie and Microsoft. This game package includes a new campaign, new co-op multiplayer mode called Firefight, and a separate disc containing all the maps and modes from the traditional Halo 3 multiplayer. The Halo 3 MP disc also contains three new levels with my personal favorite Heretic—a remake of the Halo 2 map Midship.

Unlike other Halo games, and as the title implies, users do not play as the Master Chief. Instead of the juiced up cyborg fans can take on the role of the hardcore Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. The plot takes place during Halo 2, and literally begins during the slip space jump the Prophet Regret and Master Chief take to Delta Halo. During the orbital drop the shockwave from the space cruisers knocks the Rookie off course separating the new protagonist from his squad. After the intense opening cinematic the game falls into a routine of open city and flashbacks.

The main objective for the Rookie is to link up with his squad. Roaming the dark streets of New Mombassa players can engage or sneak past Covenant patrols searching for clues. Each clue triggers a flashback event that illustrates a teammate’s predicament. These events are more akin to the traditional run and gun of pervious Halo titles where as the Rookie segments can incorporate some stealth—if you want. Along the way audio logs can be collected that denote a separate B story that is intriguing, and really helps set the tone of the city. Eventually the flashbacks and open city routine lead to a climax more satisfying then Halo 2.

The gameplay for ODST is different then Halo 3. The Shock Troopers are not Spartans. They do not have overshields, special equipment, or an AI construct in their brain. They also cannot duel wield, and lack the moon bounce jump. This alters the gameplay and encourages less Rambo and more Tom Clancy—well aggressive Tom Clancy tactics. To further support this concept the SMG and Magnum have been equipped with a scope and silencer. Players are also equipped with a special visor that highlights enemies, pick ups, objectives, and teammates. The new toys, open world campaign, and more human less Spartan like gameplay separates ODST from other Halo games. Despite these changes players familiar with the series will still recognize and fell comfortable with ODST.

The new multiplayer comes in the co-op mode Firefight. Here up to four players can face off against wave after wave of Brute led Covenant. There are ten different maps that provide unique terrain, weapons, and challenges. My personal favorite is the Lost Platoon level with the Warthog. There are old and new medals to earn with the traditional post game carnage report detailing every kill. The classic announcer voice also echoes your victory. It is a blast hearing Untouchable as you blow through fifty enemies.

Unfortunately time is your greatest foe with Firefight. After playing for two hours straight I needed a break. I’m not going to play this game on a toilet next to a cooler full of sandwiches and beer. It would have been nice to have a pause mechanic, or a save feature, to pick up where your team left off. There is also a disappointing lack of four player split screen. Finally there is no custom game mechanic or matchmaking. This makes it difficult to find pick up games, and shortens the replay value of the game mode. Don’t be mistaken. Firefight is a fantastically fun experience. There just could have been more features for a full priced game.

Bungie has defiantly done some research and borrowed heavily from other games to ensure ODST is not just a Halo clone. The audio logs are a nice touch, and are reminiscent of games like Bioshock. The gameplay changes without the Master Chief’s special abilities and can easily be dubbed Call of Halo. Even the new co-op multiplayer mode, Firefight, is part of a new trend started by Gears of War 2 and L4D. Another feature employed from Gears and L4D is the achievement trackers that pop up during gameplay. All of these ideas are altered to fit Halo, and add some nice changes to the old formula. Some critics will condemn these new features as blatant rip off’s, but if you take away the entertainment industries ability to copy old ideas where are all the new ones going to come from?

If you have not purchased Halo 3, and enjoy great FPS multiplayer, then Halo: ODST is a great purchase. The separate disc for Halo 3 MP with all 24 maps is an excellent bonus for anyone who hasn’t bought the maps already. The new campaign, co-op mode, and gameplay are a nice change of pace for a series I thought ended two years ago. Snerts Snazzy Score grants Halo: ODST a 4.7 out of 5. With a few more features on Firefight, and a longer campaign this game would have received a perfect score.

Not convinced by my review? Well then take a look at some good old fashion marketing.

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