An open world enviroment is something entirely new for a Halo game and thats exactly what Halo 3:ODST has gone for as you play as the “Rookie”, a Orbital Dropship Trooper (ODST) who has become seperated from the reest of his squad in hostile territory.
You’re stuck in Covenent occupied New Mombasa and must venture through this dark and dismall city to find clue’s to the fate of your teammates, once you discover a clue you play through a flashback sequence where you take control of the other ODST’s and discover exactly what happened to them.
In theory this is great as your open world adventures in New Mombasa are often slow paced and stealthy while the flashback sequences tend to be far more action orientated which keeps the pacing fresh.
In terms of story this equals a much darker tale than previous Halo titles have produced as your silent character pace’s through the city searching for his team and as you play out there fate’s and it’s well voice acted.
Special mention must be giving to the often rousing and haunting soundtrack that they have produced for this game, it’s a masterclass in game music and provides beautiful counterpoints to the gameplay.
Bungie promised alot for ODST, mainly a completely different Halo game that even use’s stealth, well ODST does use stealth but it’s vastly limited and the rest of the game is really nothing different from Halo 3 and that’s a shame as the Halo games are starting to show their age, most noticably in the graphical department where ODST really falls flat on it’s face.
Looking like an original Xbox game is never going to impress and ODST has some very bad textures and terrible character animations, it’s by no means ugly but it sure ain’t beautiful either.
New Mombasa is a lifeless place to both look at and explore, with the entire city feeling rather full and looking the same no matter where you’re walking, you can see the Bungie has gone with the deserted and along feel but all it leads to is a rather dreary world that you’re forced to wander through to find each new clue interspersed with small battles.
It feels like a wasted opportunity, and it’s hard to pinpoint what wen’t wrong with the open world, perhaps it’s the fact that the city lacks detail, or that it all looks the same and there is nothing to really discover if you go exploring.
Thankfully the flashback missions are all good fun, with the usual Halo gameplay of jump around and fire it harks back to the old school balls out shooting.
It gives you guns and it gives you enemies and tell you to go shoot them, those looking for more tactical or realistic affairs are certainly not going to be impressed by ODST’s gunplay but for those Halo fans it’s familiar round and for those who wan’t run and gun action it’s good fun as you leap, fire and grenade your way throug these missions.
They also provide good variety from defense to blowing up bridge’s it’s always something different to keep you coming back and the vehicle sections are a standout in the game as you powerslide your way through enemy lines and blow seven kinds of hell out of the poor little grunts.
Sadly, like the main campaign these flashback missions are far to short, you’re just getting into them when they finish and you thrown back to New Mombasa to go wander around again.
I also have to mention the beggining of the game left me with a ” what the hell am I supposed to do?” feeling as you aimlessly wander around wondering whats going on, it’s not explained and I found myself sick fed up of it until the game finally kicked in and gave me something to do, this would of been fine if New Mombasa at least had something interesting to look at but it doesn’t, thankfully this won’t last more than ten minutes but it’s still frankly irritating and pointless.
One thing that annoyed me was the weapons, while some look pretty cool they sound and feel weak and weedy, like I was using pop-guns instead of real life weaponary.
But ODST does hit back thanks to it’s co-op campaign gameplay, allowing you and up to 3 other friends to battle the Covenent, the wierd thing is that the story tell you that you’re a lone Trooper in hostile territory and never explains where 3 other ODST’s amazingly appear from, it’s the same in flashback missions it’s never explained how these people got here or why they are carbon copies of the main characters. it’s a minor niggle but still unusual and not very well thought out.
It also brings a sweet multiplayer mode to the table called Firefight, largely similair to gears 2 Horde mode this see’s you and up to 3 other friends battling waves of enemies and it’s a highly enjoyable experiance allowing for some great “Whoah” moments as you take down the enemy horde’s
It does have a wierd flaw to it however, you can only play Firefight with friends on your list, there is no matchmaking options to let you play with the general public on Live so if you have no friends that play ODST it can be a rather aggrivating experiance as you attempt to find people to play with.
ODST also comes packed with a second disc which contains Halo 3’s multiplayer as a standalone experiance which certainly add’s value since it’s still one of the biggest Multiplayer games out there, but this is also a problem in some ways.
See, ODST was orinally going to be an expansion pack to Halo 3 until Bungie claimed it was large enough on it’s own to warrant a full retail release and price tag.
The thing is, there is nowhere enough to justify this choice, the campaign is over in 5 short hours and it only has 1 multiplayer mode to call it’s own which is limited by your friends list, the plus is that if you have never played Halo 3 then you get your hands on its multiplayer.
Sadly the majority of people picking this up will already own Halo 3 making the whole package rather flimsy on value and hard to justify for full price.
Whether you purchase the game will largely come down to whether you already own Halo 3 or not, if you do then you need to be a big Halo fan to justify a 5 hour campaign and limited mulitplayer.
ODST is by no means bad, it’s a fun, enjoyable shooter with a good storyline but I couldn’t help but walk away the feeling that ODST is feeling stale in the current batch of games hitting our beloved console.
It may not be the best but for it’s short 5 hours it’s enjoyable and firefight is great with some friends.