Halo 3: ODST
Rated M for Mature
Released Sept. 22
Published by Microsoft
WHAT IT IS: Master Chief returns yet again with oh wait, thats right, he doesnt. Like this springs Halo Wars, the newest Halo first-person shooter is entirely without the series iconic lead character. It's like those Queen reunion shows without Freddie Mercury, although ODST's Nathan Filion isn't nearly as acceptable a stand-in as Paul Rodgers. Originally announced as a value-priced expansion of Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST arrives with two discs of content and the standard price tag for a new release. The second disc is entirely recycled, consisting of Halo 3s multi-player mode and all the various map packs that have been subsequently released through Xbox Live. So ODST rests on the first disc, which offers up an original Master Chief-less solo campaign that should take you less than eight hours to play through and the new Firefight multi-player survival mode. Theres a lot happening with Halo 3: ODST, then, but is it enough to justify the price?
YOULL SAY MASTER WHO? WHEN: The Firefight mode sinks its hooks in you. Forget the short solo campaign; ODST is as fundamentally dependent on multi-player as Left 4 Dead. Yeah, you can play Firefight on your lonesome, if youre a big fan of tedium, but thatd be like drinking in a hot tub by yourself. Friends make it better. The main draw here is the new Firefight mode, which is the latest in an endless wave of co-op survival games where you and your buddies face down an endless wave of aliens, zombies, Nazis, or some combination thereof. Its basically Gears of War 2s horde mode in the Haloverse, with all the familiar weapons and enemies that entails. Any concerns over lack of originality will fade away once you play it. Firefights a compulsive blast, and the best thing about ODST.
YOULL GO RIGHT BACK TO THE MULTI-PLAYER: After an hour or so of toying around with the solo campaign. Despite a great musical score, a novel narrative structure, and fine voice work from notable actors such as Nathan Filion and Tricia Helfer, ODSTs single-player is a drag. You play a rookie trooper searching for missing comrades after a major battle. This consists of walking through a mostly empty and anonymous open-world city looking for clues which lead into playable flashbacks. These scenes, which make up most of the campaign, are full of acceptable but unexceptional FPS action. Theyre a bit too repetitive and linear, whereas the hubworld is not linear enough. (If you were annoyed by Fallout 3s confusing map-marking system, you wont be too fond of ODST's.) I dont know whats more aggravating, the vaguely defined missions or the even more vaguely defined save system. I had to repeat an entire mission because I didnt realize the automatic checkpoints didnt save your game permanently. The solo campaign goes out of its way to inconvenience you.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: It may sound weird, but ODST makes more sense for Halo virgins than dedicated fans. The entire Halo 3 multi-player package might be worth the cost even without the excellent new Firefight mode, but not if you already have Halo 3. Then youd be paying for one excellent new multi-player mode and an underwhelming single-player campaign. If, like me, you dont own a copy of Halo 3, though, ODST is a decent package.
(Photo courtesy IGN.com)
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