Bungie got fed up with making smash hit titles and slightly tweaking the game to improve upon a winning formula to take a gamble on a different genre of game while being forced to stick to the Halo name.
Nathan Fillion does a fantastic job of voice acting one of the main characters, and will keep you entertained through the cut scenes of the game.
The game falls short of being a successor of Halo 3, while failing at striking out to become a more realistic and adult shooter. It's also extremely short, with virtually no replay value. It feels as though this should have been a DLC side mission rather than a full priced retail game.
Over the course of the last week I’ve been playing through Halo: ODST and mulling over my feelings for the game. Being a fan of Halo 3 and hearing they were going to take the series in a new direction I was considerably excited for the game. I made a point to go nab a copy as soon as I could. However, I’m disappointed to say that the best parts of what make Halo are mysteriously absent from their reinvention of the series.
The story revolves around a small company of ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) that runs parallel with the events of the third Halo game. You start out on board one of the UNSC carriers and get a quick introduction to your team and the mission. Basically you start out being dropped into New Mombasa during the jump of the covenant ships from atmosphere, which in turn skews your landing trajectory. You’ll play through the game as various characters each telling a part of the story while the “main” character, simply called “The Rookie”, will weave the individual stories together by wandering around and collecting evidence of his squad-mates. During the drop everyone was separated and wakes up in their pods at different times (the rookie being the last to wake). The rookie spends the whole game rummaging through the ruins of New Mombasa in the wake of his squad having already been everywhere and done nearly everything.
It’s an interesting enough story telling method, but unfortunately the story being told wasn’t that interesting. For about 60% of the game you won’t even know what the original mission is that you were sent in to for. The mission is held solely by the female lead of the game who’s tight-lipped until the very end. The story feels very fan-ficy and never really comes together as a unique chapter in the Halo mythos. It seems targeted towards only the most hardcore of hardcore Halo fans, but with the variation of a genre switch. Not even to mention how incredibly short the whole thing is.
Generally I would place the Halo series in the league of a summer blockbuster. The story isn’t the most creative in the world; it can be boiled down into the basic alien invasion premise. But at least it’s always been entertaining with Master Chief at the helm being all Rambo about pushing his way through the covenant hordes and leaving worlds of destruction in his path. ODST on the other hand I would probably put into the league of a romantic comedy with an alien invasion as the back-drop. The majority of the story revolves around two of the main characters having a past and trying to reignite the old flame (Nathan Fillion being the VA for the male lead). Nathan Fillion by the way is probably the best part of this entire game. He does a fantastic job with his character and pretty much carries the entirety of the games cut scenes on his shoulders.
But when you have a game like this it’s not the story that’s meant to compel you through, if an FPS has a great story that’s just icing on the cake. The most important thing for an action oriented game like the Halo series is that it plays well.
Unfortunately here again I would have to let you know dear reader that I was horribly disappointed. It seems as though Bungie is no longer happy with the magical trilogy that they perfected: the shoot-stick-smack game play. The focus has dropped from being a run-and-gun title where you use machine gun fire mainly as a distraction to run in and melee the crap out of everything that moves, or to get in close enough for a sneaky grenade stick. Now that you’re playing an ODST trooper you’re significantly less bad-ass than the Master Chief. It makes sense, but at the same time hurts the core principal that made the other Halo games so great. Now instead you’ll be relying on stealth and guile. The best way to make it through the game (especially on the harder difficulties) is to keep out of view, sneak off a couple of shots, and then move to another hidden location. It’s all about getting angles and doing as much damage as possible as quick as possible. The game becomes more hit-and-run rather than run-and gun. It feels slightly like Bungie had gotten sick of being confined to a game play type that was working for them and wanted to be more like the realistic shooters (ala Call of Duty). However, no one told them that this doesn’t really work with a cartoony/camp alien invasion type story, especially in an established frame of arcade styled FPS action.
Anyway you classify this game it comes up short. In comparison to the previous Halo games, this one is probably at the bottom of the barrel. I would be more likely to play through Halo Wars a second time then I would be to play ODST for another run through. Comparing it against more realistic shooters, which it seems like they were going for with the loss of regenerating health and weaker main characters, it falls short again. Clearly Halo will never be as good for that as your Call of Duties, and I don’t think they should have tried.
Finally there’s the multiplayer portion to consider. This has always been one of Halo’s strongest features, and where the majority of people that buy the games will be spending their time. There’s not a lot to talk about here seeing as the online multiplayer is just a secondary disc that’s a copy of the Halo 3 multiplayer. But the introduction of “Firefight” did catch my attention.
Bungie ripped several of Epics pages for this one. They pull Horde Mode straight out of Gears of War 2. You’ll bunker and take on wave after wave of invading covenant. It’s serviceable, but not unique enough to bring anything new to the table. Two things stick out in my mind about my fire fight experiences throughout the week. Firstly the fact that if you’re playing locally the maximum you can have in your party is two players. This was a big letdown when I took the game to a friend’s house in the hopes that the four of us would play Halo that night.
Secondly the fact that even if you get a great group together online, and settle in for a session it will feel like a grind rather quickly. It’s unusual to say, because that’s the same premise of Horde Mode in Gears as well, but Halo simplified the concept to a point where it becomes rather stale rather fast. I played for about 2 hours straight on one level with a few friends and the consensus from all playing is that we should have gave up on the game an hour earlier.
In summation it feels like Bungie decided to take a gamble with their little side project. Not unlike a director that got tired of making endless millions for summer blockbusters to make their indy side project. So a bastardized child of both worlds that fits in neither and overall feels like a disappointment that leads me to wonder about the future of the series with the impending “Reach” title. I think if you absolutely must find out about the side-plot that was occurring during the Halo 3 story arch; this game should be a rental before a purchase. If you don’t care for the additional and rather weak side story, then I would recommend a pass on this one all together.