Halo: ODST


posted 9/22/2009 by Shawn Sines
other articles by Shawn Sines
One Page Platforms: 360
Reviewing a new Halo game for the faithful is a somewhat pointless gesture. Die-hard fans will be picking up the game regardless of the content, no matter how shallow the experience or how amazing the multiplayer gameplay, its all irrelevant to them.

However, there also exists a huge portion of the Xbox 360 audience who have a passing familiarity with the series through its eternal buzz and their association with the aforementioned fanatics so this review is for them.

Halo 3: ODST is truly two games in one package – a story-driven campaign and a multiplayer experience. The two parts of this whole are so vastly divided its hard to consider them the same product, but this is nothing new for Halo games.

ODST began life as an expansion of the last Halo FPS title. A love letter to fans who supported Bungie through the entire evolution of the franchise and was mentioned as a turning point in the series to show that Halo was not just about the Master Chief… it was about a whole conflict.

Microsoft and Bungie deliver on the expansion of the Halo storyline with the core campaign of ODST fairly well. ODST’s or Orbital Drop Shock Troopers are the SOCOM of the Halo universe, paired with their Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) handlers these Helljumpers are crack military forces organized into small fireteams and sent into the mouth of hell to accomplish missions.

ODSTs, unlike Spartans, are not superhuman soldiers with force shields and Mjolnir armor. They’re just regular ole’ testosterone filled Alpha-male space marines. Guys you could imagine starting a bar brawl while on leave or charging a Covenant Grunt barricade on the planet Reach. This was supposed to be the core of the difference between ODST the game and the previous Halo titles.

The problem is playing as the ODST rookie in this game is not so different from playing as a genetically engineered super soldier with a force shield in Mjolnir power armor.  In fact, thanks to some odd storytelling choices, the characterization of the Master Chief is far more human than those of the faceless rookie protagonist of ODST.

Sure you can’t take as much damage at one sitting as Master Chief but the stamina system is just a poor version of the force field – it absorbs a certain amount of damage before dipping into the health of the character and requires you to sit out for a few seconds to allow it to rebuild.

Now I realize that in order to keep the game fun and interesting some element of reality has to be sacrificed – one shot incapacitation is no fun, no one wants to be dying all the time in a Halo game because a grunt hit you with a few needler darts, but don’t claim that this is something different when its not, the fans don’t really want reality in their tale of grand alien invasions anyway.

Much of ODST’s campaign is spent roaming through the atmospheric streets of New Mombassa unraveling clues and flashbacks that detail the fate of the city itself and the rest of the Rookies’ squadmates after a failed orbital insertion drop. Since the Rookie is alone, there is little to no character interaction and in jest while playing I figured that the ODSTs had gotten so low on recruits through the extended Covenant war that they had opted to allow a more affirmative action oriented recruitment policy – including Mutes so long as they were physically fit.

The fact I had to justify this in my head to keep running and gunning down the Covenant invaders for the campaigns brief 8 hours of story meant that unlike say Half-Life 2’s Gordon Freeman – who also never speaks but gains character thanks to his interactions with others – means that the Rookie fails as a storytelling protagonist for me.

The members of the ODST squad the Rookie spends forever trying to find are far more fleshed out, but unfortunately even they suffer from generic casting. As a fan of the Joss Whedon Sci-Fi series Firefly, I was pumped to discover that Nathan “Mal Reynolds” Fillian and Adam “Jane Cobb” Baldwin were involved with the voice-acting of this title. The two actors have a sense of chemistry and I was looking forward to recapturing that camaraderie and banter in the game.

-Editorial Note: For those that are saying this game scored a 42 and not going to the second page of this review, that is just the way Metacritic converts the grade. We follow the traditional school system grading scale so a C is an average game. So take the grade here and convert it to a score and we here at Gaming Nexus give it a 70% if you would rather want it in a numerical system.
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