Halo 3: ODST is a first person shooter set in the Halo universe and prequel to the original Halo 3 game. The controls and overall game play are very similar to Halo 3 but ODST contains enough new features to make this feel like a new experience. However, the similarity between the two games can cause ODST to come up a bit short.
You play as a no-named Orbital Drop Shock Trooper who, along with his teammates, encountered problems when entering the atmosphere. After awaking and noticing you have been separated from your squad, you set out to round up your teammates. As you search the area, you will come across several objects that had been used from your team several hours previous and upon finding them, a new mission will begin. Each of these separate missions has you take command of a new teammate as you discover what happened to them during the crash landing.
Each mission brings something new and different for you to utilize. Some will have you focusing on using your sniper rifle while others will want you to drive throughout the level using huge laser cannons against the enemy. The diversity is quite nice and shows how much this game has to offer.
You also have the choice to play through the campaign with up to three addition players. This can really skyrocket the amount to do in the game since tackling harder difficulties seems like a more achievable task. This also allows you to discover new ways to complete the levels and missions. One downside to the cooperative play is that there is no system in place to continue a game is a player chooses to quit. If at any point one of the players drops out the game, the rest will experience the game freezing and then kicked back out to the lobby. This is a really bummer since random loss of connections can cause you to have to replay many areas.
The story telling in the game is a nice touch since you only get bits and pieces of the whole story. Finding new items from your team and engaging in each teammate’s perspective reveals more to the story. However, the main characters in the game come off as quite stiff and easy to forget. Since you only play as each one for around ten to fifteen minutes, there isn’t enough time to develop an attachment to any one person. Even playing as the rookie for the duration of the over world section feels the same since your main character stays mute throughout the game.
There is the addition of collectable audio logs spread out through the game. Each one is a piece of a side story involving a civilian girl and the enemy Covenant. The depth and character development in each of these are great and along with the ability to play them while searching the over world for more of your teammate’s items can cause these characters to become far more interesting than the main campaign ones. In addition, the game tries to help guide you to these hidden logs by having indicators point you in the right direction. What might look like a construction sign telling you to “stay right” may actually be a hint on which path to take forward.
The controls and game play are very similar to Halo 3’s but there are several new features. The most noticeable is the night vision mode you have. Pressing the X button will allow you to see things more clearly. Not only does it brighten up darker areas, but it outlines your comrades in green and the enemies in red. These bright contour lines are great for being able to find hidden audio logs or items and it can even help you against enemies with invisibility. The only downside to using this mode is it takes some of the detail away from the environment. Though, the look of the contour outlining is nice but not being able to see the great looking atmosphere is a downside.
It’s safe to say that this game looks wonderful. The dark environment you explore as the rookie looks great when illuminated by the small fires and broken street lights. And when playing in the day time missions the bright colors and detail is very well done. Your night vision mode even changes the detail a bit and even though it lowers the quality, the style used with its colorful contours lines is great in its own way.
Partnered with the great visuals, ODST’s audio and soundtrack is perfect. The soft and slow music played when exploring the main over world is great and fits in with the lost and lonely feel to it. At the same time, the music is just up beat enough to fit in with the various enemy encounters. And when playing through your teammates missions to the fast paced music as they fight their way to extraction is just great. The music is this game is a real treat.
Another new feature ODST brings is the Firefight multiplayer mode. This is a standard survival game mode that can be played with up to four players cooperatively. Much like Horde mode from Gears of War 2, this setting stations you in a small area where you need to survive as long as possible while more and more enemies enter and begin to fight you. To keep things interesting, the game awards score multipliers and bonus points when you pull off certain moves. Killing two enemies in quick succession will double your score while using a grenade to blow up several at once will increase it that much further. This is a really great mode to play with your friends and adds loads of replay value.
Halo 3: ODST comes across as a bit of a double edged sword. For anyone looking something new and different from the typical Halo game won’t be completely satisfied. The game stays very true to the series’ formula and delivers on all accounts. But if you are no huge fan of the original trilogy, you may just find this to feel more like an expansion of the third game. Though the new multiplayer mode and great visual/audio choices make this game feel just different enough to keep it separated. Overall the game looks and handles very well and with all the audio logs to discover and story to unlock, there’s a lot going on.