Sunday, March 27, 2011

Halo 3: ODST Completed for the 5th Time

I wrapped up Halo 3: ODST for the 5th time today, and unlike a lot of other gamers I really enjoyed exploring New Mombasa at night. The city's not quite a Bethesda wide-open world, of course, but it's still quite the interesting way to explore and to play Halo. I also really like how Bungie went about telling the game's story.

In my opinion, the playable flashbacks worked well. They let Bungie not just tell, but rather show us a larger story and they also allowed us to get to know each member of the squad better. I personally felt attachment to them in a way that's lacking in, say Halo: Reach, and of course, these ODST's had some solid voice acting. Be it the compassionate Dutch, the smart-mouthed Romeo, or satirical Buck, I really cared for this lost squad in a very short amount of time.

Gameplay-wise, I still missed a Sprint option, but being a quasi-expansion I suppose I can't complain too much about its absence. VISR mode is certainly very cool and brings a new tactical element into play, and the inclusion of an actual map to help you navigate, a first for a Halo FPS, was another welcome addition.

In combat, at least as the Rookie, I tinkered more with the Submachine Gun this time around and found it quite adequate, but I still oft found myself falling back on the Covenant Carbine. I didn't bother with a Mongoose and engaged most hostiles along the way on foot, and while the random encounters were fun I do wish there was more of them. For an occupied city, New Mombasa did feel a bit empty.

I also wish that I could have re-hunted for all of the Audio Logs. Saddie's Story is an excellent companion tale and another unique innovation that Halo 3: ODST brings to the franchise, and searching for them was a big part of the original playthrough's exploration. Since they start already pre-loaded to your HUD in a new game, allowing you to listen to them at any time, you really are just moving from beacon to beacon, which reduces the Campaign's overall playtime.

Overall those this is a minor complaints, and the only real con to Halo 3: ODST, aside from the fact that it was overpriced at launch, was that even though you're not a Spartan, you're still a Spartan. Stamina functions too much like Shields, you can still flip vehicles, board, rip turrets off and run with them (faster than a Spartan) and use heavy weapons like the Gravity Hammer which really doesn't make sense. These are things that only Spartans should be able to do, and while I understand that gameplay and keeping the familiar are important to an existing customer base, I think Bungie could have worked a bit harder here to help make you feel like a normal human and not a super solider.

That aside however, I really enjoyed my playthrough of Halo 3: ODST and the solid urban romp it allowed. In many respects it innovated far more than its predecessor, and provided a more unique and memorable storytelling and gameplay experience. While not perfect and certainly not a game of the year, Halo 3: ODST is a great Halo experience and was far too underrated by critics and fans alike.

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