So what was Bungie supposed to do after the wonderful trilogy they created with Halo 1-3? Well that would be Halo 3: ODST, somewhat of the weird stepchild of Halo 3 in my opinion. You don’t get to be the Master Chief, and he is nowhere in the game at all. Even the structure of the game is slightly different than past Halo games in how the campaign is handled.
The events of ODST take place before the events in Halo 3 and centers around a group of ODST members – Orbital Drop Shock Troopers – to handle the Covenant attack on Earth. Instead of the remarkably trained Master Chief, you play as the “rookie” on the team. The campaign’s story has somewhat two sides to it. You have the normal campaign and then flashbacks that try to fill in the blanks of what happened in the six hours the rookie lost when his vehicle crash landed on New Mombasa. This is an interesting touch in handling the story compared to previous Halo titles, and is something that took me a while to get used to during my time with the game. I do give them props though for trying to mix things up from previous titles.
My least favorite part of the story was when you were in control of the rookie and wondering around the night streets of New Mombasa finding clues about what happened to your squadmates. The part I liked the most was that of the flashbacks when you would be playing as other members. The most noticeable feature in ODST is the fact that you aren’t Master Chief anymore, so you aren’t the invincible soldier that you were in previous games. You’re not as fast, you can’t jump that high and you cannot dual-wield weapons in this game. You can also take fall damage, so paying attention to ledges and cliffs is crucial since it is possible to die from taking too much damage. The most noticeable difference is the way you take damage and the way your shields act. When you’re shields go down and you keep getting attacked, your health will continually go down. Instead of your health regenerating, you will need to find health packs scattered around the game. Because of this change compared to previous Halo games you will need to be more tactful in your approach of situations since you aren’t invincible.
A tiny aspect to the game that I might not have noticed this time around, but struck me as a negative was the lack of humor. I remember playing previous Halo games and the grunts or other enemies would randomly say something funny. In ODST I don’t recall hearing that as much or not at all sometimes. It’s not really something huge, but it was an aspect that was missed by myself. This could just be my experience and could possibly change if I ended up replaying the campaign.
Graphically this game is okay at best. Sure back in 2007 when this first released it looked great I’m sure, but today it just looks decent. The set pieces and backgrounds in the game look gorgeous at times and really stand out with all the different environments. What is bad about this game graphically though is the character models and lip syncing of the characters. Up close the characters look bland and could be much better, even in cutscenes. The voice acting is decent, but not as comparable or lives up to previous games. Even Nathan Fillion lending his talent to the mix can’t save the game completely in the voice acting department.
Sound design is where this game shines though. Like usual a Halo game does not disappoint in the audio department. The soundtrack is great and has those epic tracks for big moments in the game. The music knows how to set the mood depending on the setting you’re in, especially in the creepy city levels. Even sound effects are great in this game from the bullets flying by or when you kill an enemy.
Halo 3: ODST is a decent entry in the Halo franchise, but for me I feel like I wouldn’t be missing anything had I never played it. The story was okay and forgettable in my opinion, graphics are showing their age, the campaign was short and sweet, but thankfully the score is great. It was an interesting take for a Halo game and Bungie tried to change things up, but I feel like they didn’t fully succeed in the task.
- Lovely score and great sound design overall
- Nathan Fillion
- New health system/shields to make you think about your actions
- Short campaign compared to previous installments
- Lack of character investment
- Shifting perspectives during campaign
- Lip-syncing and character animations