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Avatar ImageGamer Limit Review: Halo 3: ODST
By: | October 3rd, 2009 | Xbox 360
Review |X360

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In my experience with the Halo franchise, I’ve never found myself particularly engrossed by the campaign modes. That isn’t to say the story wasn’t worth telling, but simply, the previous titles were plagued with issues that made the campaign very difficult for me to enjoy. I felt no attachment to the characters, as none of them were developed in any meaningful way, and the plot was painfully difficult to follow, as it assumed a greater knowledge of the Halo universe than it bothered to present to the player.

Halo 3: ODST seeks to rectify those issues by providing a more focused and character driven plot than its predecessors. Though it succeeds admirably, one cannot overlook the sacrifices made to accomplish this goal, most notably, the campaign’s length and the overall lack of new content.

Perhaps the most notable change ODST brings to the Halo formula is the omission of series standby, Master Chief. The perspective is instead given to a team of “ODSTs” (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers), beginning six hours after a botched drop attempt. The team is sprinkled throughout the Covenant occupied city of New Mombasa, and the player’s first task is to take control of a trooper known only as “The Rookie,” and discover what happened to his team.

From the Rookie’s perspective, New Mombasa is a sprawling, and surprisingly dreary environment that serves as a detective-esque hub world. The player must traverse the city’s pitch black streets in search of clues leading to the whereabouts of their fellow ODSTs. These sections are characterized by an oppressive feeling of loneliness, an effect that is magnified by the superbly forlorn soundtrack.

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Upon locating a clue, the perspective shifts to the ODST for whom the clue is relevant, and it allows the player to re-live that trooper’s experiences during the hours after their drop. These missions are very reminiscent of the standard Halo formula, often involving epic set piece conflicts and chaotic vehicle sections. Furthermore, they serve as a stark contrast to the aforementioned dreariness of the Rookie’s environment. They are often brightly lit, action packed, and full of AI companions.

Upon a mission’s completion, the perspective shifts back to the Rookie, who must then make his way to the next clue. Unfortunately, by the third or fourth mission, the Rookie’s hub world devolves into a monotonous trek from clue to clue and begins to feel like padding for ODST‘s criminally short campaign, which clocks in at roughly five hours.

Granted, these are easily the best five hours in the history of the Halo franchise, but most players will be left wanting more. Compounding this issue is the utter lack of new content. Aside from two new weapons, which are just enhanced versions of the Magnum and SMG, there are no additions to the Halo arsenal. Other issues serve to further limit the variety, such as the troopers’ inability to dual wield and the lack of iconic enemies such as elites and the Flood. In fact, very little of ODST is unique, which makes it feel more like an expansion than a full title.

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Presentation wise, ODST certainly stretches the Halo engine to its limits. Character models appear more detailed, something that is particularly evident during dialog. The audio has also taken a step forward; weapon sounds, particularly for the carbine, feel significantly more powerful than in Halo 3. In addition, ODST sports one of the best soundtracks in recent memory. Many of the tracks stray wildly from the conventional Halo style, yet they don’t feel at all out of place.

In terms of multiplayer, ODST comes bundled with the existing Halo 3 competitive fare, complete with all of the DLC map packs and three new maps unique to this title. More important, however, is the brand new Firefight mode, in which a total of four players can join forces to defeat wave after wave of randomly generated Covenant forces. The players share a single pool of lives and the difficulty ramps up as the game progresses by activating “Skulls” that either buff the enemies or handicap the players.

Firefight is a brilliant addition to the wildly popular Halo 3 multiplayer, but it lacks a matchmaking option, limiting the co-op goodness to player’s Xbox Live friends lists. Regardless, the wide variety of maps and constant uncertainty in each wave should provide a challenge that will keep Halo fans coming back for more.

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Unfortunately, the inclusion of Firefight and the repackaged Halo 3 competitive multiplayer are not enough to compensate for the all too brief campaign. All things considered, Halo 3: ODST doesn’t have enough content to warrant a full title; as such, it’s difficult to endorse it at retail price.

Certainly die-hard fans have already made their purchasing decisions, but for those on the fence, try ODST as a rental. The episodic campaign is worth your attention despite its brevity, and Firefight makes for a truly memorable co-op experience.

Rating Category
9.0 Presentation
ODST stretches the Halo engine to its limits. It is easily one of the best looking titles on the Xbox 360.
How does our scoring system work?
7.5 Gameplay
ODST consists of the standard Halo 3 gameplay with only a few alterations; that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves the player longing for something fresh. The open ended New Mombasa is interesting at first, but becomes dull later on.
9.0 Sound
The combination of enhanced weapon sounds and an absolutely stellar soundtrack make ODST's audio unforgettable.
7.0 Longevity
The campaign clocks in around five hours, roughly an hour of which consists of the Rookie's trek through New Mombasa in search of the next mission. Firefight will keep players going for awhile, but there isn't enough here to warrant a full title.
7.5 Overall
ODST is an excellent in everything that it does; it just doesn't do enough. It feels more like an expansion than a full title.

  1. I 100% agree with this review, especially when you say “these are easily the best five hours in the history of the Halo franchise, but most players will be left wanting more.” The story is great, and the way it’s told is great, but the gameplay lacks any type of originality.

    Another thing that bothers me is the lack of matchmaking for firefight. Unfortuantely, I don’t have many friends who play Halo 3, so without a matchmaking option it’s almost impossible for me to find people to play it with. How could Bungie have overlooked this?

    They really should have come out with two different versions of the game. One that was just the campiagn and firefight modes for around $30-$40, and then one that comes with everything for $60. Oh Well.

    Great review Josh! :-)

  2. If it’s only 5 hours campaign (which is all I really want), then it’s definitely a rent title for me. Nice review, Josh!

  3. Great review! I know I’m more or less alone on this, but the short campaign didn’t bother me. I think there is room in this industry for campaigns with concise stories like ODST’s. It works well for gamers like me who don’t have a lot of time for console gaming.

  4. Great review! I definitely agree with your closing comments, this SHOULD have been and at a point, WAS DLC, and that’s exactly what it feels like. Though, I do have some qualms with how they did Firefight, especially with the no matchmaking that Shawn mentioned as well. I’m in the same boat, and having only one friend who’s competent in the ways of Halo makes it hard to get those ridiculous achievements without the ability to enter matchmaking.

    Again, great review Josh!

  5. Well, I kind of disagree and think the people who are complaining about “blah blah this was originally DLC” need to shut up a little, the game turned into a full fledged project by Bungie and I think they had a right to upgrade it to a full priced release -well in advance-.

    Anyways, I thought the game would have received a higher score than it did. Five hours is the campaigns length if you absolutely fly through the game and don’t take any time to explore or enjoy the scenery around you. With those taken into account ODST is roughly the same length as Halo 3, so I honestly don’t think this review accurately analyzed the gameplay. Plus five-to-nine hour campaigns have seemingly become more and more common with first and third person shooters… while ODST isn’t even close to “Terminator Salvation” short, it’s more or less on par with the rest of the field.

    And even despite the short campaign kudos need to be given for delivering a story that’s on par, if not better, than the original Halo itself. ODST’s campaign is noticeably better than Halo 3′s, blows away the terrible Halo 2, and delivers an experience that really made me compare it to the original game itself.

    With the gameplay, there were minor but however much needed changes to the game engine. Yes, you -can- still play this game as a typical Halo run-and-gunner… however if you try that on the harder difficulties of the game you are going to get blown out of New Mombasa.

    Overall this game is honestly more of an 8.5 than it is a 7.5.

  6. avatar HiddenAHB

    This looks like the best Halo game to date.
    But after what i’ve been with Halo 3 i don’t trust Bungie anymore.

  7. I’m fairly disappointed that it didn’t contain more content at this price: I don’t agree that it could have been DLC, but I also don’t think it should be $60, either.

    Spot on review.

  8. A full priced release I don’t think is justifiable, especially if the “full release” has Halo 3 multiplayer which I’m sure that 99% of the people buying ODST already have, including the DLC maps. The only way I could see this purchase being justified is if someone doesn’t own Halo 3, or hasn’t purchased any of the downloadable maps. 60 bucks is just too high.

  9. Yay…a actual review! Halo fan boys are annoying.

  10. It’s funny how people are always complaining about how $60 is too high for a game… SNES and N64 games were often more (sometimes much more) than that at release. Now, twenty years later, we are paying LESS than we used to for a new game. That’s not even after inflation, cost of living increase, etc.

    Yes, PlayStation 1 games were $40-$50, and now they’re $60. Games cost more to make, simple as that.

    One other problem with the $60 price point: anything less than that is usually reserved for “inferior” and lesser known games. ODST can sell for $60 because people will buy it. MW2 can sell for $65 because people will buy it.

    The PSPgo, which offers no new features compared to the old PSPs, can sell for $250 and… people probably won’t buy that, but that’s beside the point. That’s a DSi and three games. Three full priced games.

    If we don’t want to pay full price for games, don’t buy them! The price will drop in a month. *cough*BionicCommando*cough* Sadly, the fanboys have spoken, and they want their shiny new games NOW.

  11. As someone who paid AU$68 for this title (what would typically be the equivalent of US$50 in game prices), I can only agree that ODST is overpriced, if only by the tiniest of margins. I felt it was well worth the money at $70, but if I had of paid $100 it would have been an entirely different story.

    Those not sure about the length of the campaign, just wait for a price drop. I’m sure it won’t be too far away :P

  12. I’ll probably pick this up in the bargain bin of preowns for about $20 in a few months time.

  13. Kudo’s to the reviewer for not forgiving the game’s faults and price tag just because it had “Halo” in the name. The problem isn’t that 5 hours is too short for a campaign or that it is “close to others in the genre” it is that people are accepting less and less game for their money every day.

  14. avatar graeme

    I have to say I disagree.

    I felt that ODST took away everything I loved about Halo, the massive expansive maps, the huge battles and frenzied epic fights for your life. I remember playing Halo 3 on legendary and literally running for my life and throwing an energy shield behind me to block a doorway and when i looked back there were dozens of enemies on my tail. The idea that you were outnumbered, but not outgunned, is what made Halo such a winner for me.

    The storyline was, as it is in many games these days, incidental to the fucking massive carnage you and your BR were about to unleash on some alien scum.

    Also, it bothered me how the game was so similar to Halo. I thought the idea behind ODST was that you were human, not a genetically enhanced super solider. Imagine my suprise when I can punch hulking brutes to death, or flip enemy vehicles with ease. Would it be that difficult to adjust the physics slightly?

    I personally don’t enjoy running around in the dark trying to solve some mystery that I don’t care about. I just found myself thinking, so there’s really no Master Chief?

  15. avatar josh

    Your all fagg00tz tht wanna suuck myc00ck xD Hal00 rul33zzz n00bz

  16. avatar Jeff

    Woah. This is a rarity! Finally an unbiased review of a Halo game. Finally someone who can actually hold a decent video game conversation with

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