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SummaryAn unique and welcome take on Halo
The GoodFirst off, this review is about the campaign - I haven't tried the multiplayer yet.
Halo 3: ODST is definitely a unique game in the series, and that's a good thing. It's a big breath of fresh air.
The character cast is rather varied this time, which is definitely a good thing, and it's kind of startling, yet positive, to hear the characters talk this much. It breaks the immersion a little bit, but it's worth it. The Master Chief had precious little humour, but these guys can also be funny when the situation calls for it.
The campaign missions are fun, the dialogue and story are pretty well thought out, and there's a lot more tangible story here than in the individual Halo trilogy games proper.
Despite of the flaws listed below, I think the concept of storytelling in this game is pretty good, and the hub level is a pretty good idea as such.
The soundtrack also has a little bit more variety this time, and I'd say it's better than the rest of Halo soundtracks, which, as a general rule, just kind of felt tacked-on.
The BadAs long as there has been Console Wars, there's been rivalries between the similar console-exclusive game series. Most rational people usually dismiss these and say "let's not discuss which is better, Halo or Metroid Prime - they're so different, after all". And yes, the series have done different things differently. They're both great at what they do.
But here, Bungie consciously tried to bend Halo into Metroid Prime mould, so I can't take that excuse any more. I would allege that Halo 3: ODST answers the question "what would Metroid Prime be like, if it was boring". It says something that a lot of people - even myself, a huge Metroid Prime fan - consider the "more Halo-like" flashback sequences superior to the open-ended part.
New Mombasa is not really a place that would encourage you to explore it. There's a lot of buildings, but the doors just remain shut. There doesn't seem to be anything wondrous going on. Nobody is here. Covenant troops are pretty much all the same. The hyped "detective" angle isn't really in as big swing as in Metroid Primes: you collect audio logs, yeah, but you can't really make sense of what else has been going on in the city based on the weird stuff you see. If you're going to fragment information, then fragment it properly!
Another bad thing is that the ODSTs were hyped as being "not Master Chief". We're supposed to believe ODSTs are not super-human cyborgs. Yeah, they fatigue. Yeah, they can't be dropped from tall buildings. But they can still take ridiculous amount of damage before dying, they can still flip Warthogs with their little fingers (there's no innovative game mechanics like "get all squadmates around you and all hit RB together to painstakingly push the car right side up"), they can still swing the ridiculously heavy and huge Gravity Hammers with ease. I blew up the heavily defended Scarab really fast and not dying even once, as opposed to Halo 2 or Halo 3 (granted, this time I definitely knew what to do, but still). And their armour electronics is considerably better than the Master Chief had. Chief's just not much better than these guys. Something is not right here.
The Bottom LineSo, there was this giant explosion in Halo 2, when the Covenant ship decided to enter slipspace right on top of New Mombasa, and UNSC In Amber Clad decided to follow it - taking Master Chief far away from good old terra firma once again. I kept wondering what the heck happened in the city after that. Did anyone survive? Could anyone survive? Actually, what the heck happened on Earth between this event and the beginning of Halo 3?
Slightly unluckily for the United Nations Space Command's Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, they were just about to drop in the city and fight their way into the Covenant ship. They only got the first part barely done. One of the squad members, the Rookie, wakes up 6 hours after the unlucky drop into the city. And there begins a journey into finding out what exactly happened to the other squadmates, who apparently woke up a little bit earlier than that. Armed with a silenced submachine gun and pistol, the Rookie will examine the environment, finds clues, conserve the precious ammo, find audio logs that tell one civilian survivor's story, and interface with the city's slightly loopy control AI.
Or so the theory goes. The bulk of the story is told in flashback missions, which are done in style far more similar to the rest of the Halo games - the player gets to control the rest of the squadmates in order to perform other little miracles. There's stuff to blow up, enemies to fry, and places to sneak into. All in all, eight missions and a hub level mean there's some good time to be had in this game - not long time, but good time.
There's also a multiplayer mode, which I haven't tested, because there's apparently no matchmaking and my friends don't have the game yet. People have described it with a whole gamut of superlative adjectives, from "brilliant" to, er, "brilliant". I have to take their word for now. The game also comes with Halo 3 multiplayer disc (complete with Forge and Theater and all of the downloadable maps, plus some more), and you can't really go too wrong with Halo 3 multiplayer. It's great.
As far as tech and campaign goes, Halo 3: ODST works pretty well. At its core, it won't get too far from its roots and the promised dramatic improvements aren't all that dramatic, but as far as "fanservice" goes, it's a little package of pure gold.