Video Games, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, nintendo, wii, ds, sony, microsoft, PSN, XBLA, Onlive, Playstation Vita, Wii U,
Posted by moonhead on Oct 6, 2009
Halo 3: ODST / Xbox 360 / Microsoft

Halo 3: ODST / Xbox 360 / Microsoft

Bungie Bounce Back To Halo 3.

Were  any of you actually worried after the Bungie and Microsoft split that either company would be too quick to leave their cash cow behind. After playing this I suspect some of you may actually wished they had for a while at least.

This started life as a Halo 3 expansion pack but is now being sold as a full standalone game. Whether it is worth the full retail (£34.99 seems to be the going rate in store and around £29.99 online) release is another question one which I will answer at the end of this review.

For the first time in Bungie’s Halo games you are not playing as the all conquering genetically enhanced Spartan the eponymous Master Chief but instead a rookie ODST (Orbital Digital Shock Trooper) think of him as the future’s answer to say either a Marine or a Para Trooper. The game is set between Halo 2 and Halo 3 with your squad of ODST on what amounts to be a suicide mission in trying to stop the Covenant forces from taking over New Mombasa. A botched job of dropping in behind enemy lines has left you waking up 6 hours later separated from your squad and you are tasked with salvaging the mission and finding what has become of your squad mates.

Kill The Covenant Scum

Kill The Covenant Scum

Your first point of call is to log in to New Mombasa’s computer network called the Superintendant. Once this is done you then have access to the city’s map and waypoint markers as to where your colleagues pod’s had crashed landed it is then up to you to find them. Once you do find the point where one of your colleagues landed you drop into their shoes and follow their story path showing you what has happened to them in the intervening 6 hours.

Bungie have tried to big up the differences between playing as a Spartan and a ODST. But in truth they are very minimal and this still  feels distinctly like every other Halo game. In gameplay terms though the key differences are the inability to run and dual wield weapons also you no longer have a regenerating shield.  Instead of a shield you have a health bar which can be replenished by picking up health packs. You also can be stunned which you come out of by lying low for a second or two (sounds very much like a regenerating shield to me). Also you cannot jump as high as the Master Chief could but this makes no gameplay difference at all. The weapons are all the same barring the return of the first Halo’s handgun in a slightly re-jigged form and the SMG now has a silencer on it. As a ODST you also have a visor that acts as a kind of night vision mode and highlights your covenant foes and allies. It’s shown through a rather nice looking graphical trick where all objects are outlined and highlighted with a kind of luminous effect.

New Mombasas Dark And Moody Streets

New Mombasa's Dark And Moody Streets

 Although the game still plays and feels like Halo the open world elements of the Rookie’s sections do give it a new darker, moody feel. Creeping around New Mombasa’s streets you have to take a more tactical approach to combat as running in all guns blazing and trying to jump about like the Master Chief will get you killed very quickly. It’s these sections that for me are this games crowning glory and show that Bungie are still very much atop of their game. The music as in all past Halo’s is excellent but this time it is toned down and adds to the darker mood. 

Now to online the juicy ripe cherry that has always sat atop of the Halo cake since Halo 2. There are 2 different online sides to this game, on the ODST disc comes Firefight which is Bungie’s answer to Gears Of War 2’s Horde mode.  It is much the same as Horde in that you and 3 of your friends must try to repel and defeat wave after wave of Covenant forces being dropped in. What Firefight offers over Horde is Bungie’s genius in the online arena by this I mean better matchmaking, map design and weapon balance. Also on a separate disc comes the complete Halo 3 online package including all the previously released map packs and 2 brand new maps. There is no Halo 3 story or co-op though.

Defeat The Covenant Together In Firefight

Defeat The Covenant Together In Firefight

So now its time to answer my question is this a full retail release or an expansion pack and for me it is the later. The game on  nomal difficulty will all be over in around 6 hours and whilst it is enjoyable while it lasts it is too short to have merited a full retail release and price. It is though a worthwhile experiment with the Halo universe and I’m sure that Bungie will have learnt some lessons from making this game. Especially in art direction and story telling as these areas are a real improvement over Halo 3 and I look forward to seeing these new lessons learned put to good use in next years prequel Halo Reach.

 In the end, if you like Halo and wanted more of the same this will be well worth the punt as it is a really enjoyable slightly alternative retread of the Halo universe. If  though, you were expecting something new and different perhaps look elsewhere. I thoroughly enjoyed the game but the fact that Bungie / Microsoft have released it as a full retail release and not an expansion pack looses it at least 1 point in my final score. This is mainly down to the games brevity and price point you simply do not get enough bang for your buck.
 
Rating 7/10 
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