Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST
Halo 3: ODST Cover
Platforms Xbox 360
Genre Why should I care shooter?
MtAMinutes to Action 9
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

I don’t know if this is just really good timing, or really bad timing, but Halo: Reach was released yesterday, so here’s the first hour review of... Halo 3: ODST! A first person shooter that came out last year on the Xbox 360. Now, last year wouldn’t be that big of deal, I cover older games all the time, but it’s already out of date a year later (not to mention it being basically an expansion pack to Halo 3 that was released in 2007). I’m guessing this is bad timing.

Haters gonna hate though, so we must trudge on with what we’ve got. I wasn’t a huge fan of Halo 3, so I pretty much ignored ODST when it was released. The game doesn’t star Master Chief, multiplayer is just Halo 3 with some new modes, and everyone knew the real sequel, Reach, was on its way.

Here’s the first hour review of Halo 3: ODST.

Minute by Minute

00 - I start a new solo campaign on normal and the first hour of Halo 3: ODST begins. Stuff begins loading... I think, it never actually said loading. Okay, here we go. Master Chief! He’s chilling in the corner while some human soldiers argue about some battle. An alarm sounds and... Nathan Fillion? Well, Captain Mal appears and gives some orders.

01 - His voice is distracting, Mal’s name is Buck in the game, the woman he was with is named Cat, her voice sounds familiar too.

02 - The guys wake me up, am I Master Chief? No, they call me rookie, must have just been the armor. I get control of my head and can look around at what’s going on. About to be dropped, I’m in a capsule of some sort just waiting to land.

03 - There’s a big battle going on the ground but as we approach a ship goes into hyperspace and sets off a giant bomb in its wake. Things go black then.

04 - The Rookie flashes across the screen, six hours after drop. My character wakes up, still in his capsule, it’s pretty beat up though. I go through a mini eject sequence and drop down to the ground.

Halo 3 Odst Nathan Fillion Captain mal

06 - I finally get control. My health is low and I need to find a medical kiosk to get some life back, well, what’s that supposed to look like?

07 - I find some and the game has the gall to ask if I’d like to repeat health training. What...? Next I activate my visor which just makes things staticky and outlines trees in yellow.

09 - My first set of enemies goes down quickly to my SMG, it’s pretty easy spotting them outlined in red. For a bit of context, I’m in the middle of a war torn city, all is relatively quiet at the moment though.

11 - There’s some graffiti that says, “Remember Reach.”

12 - There’s really no clue on where I’m supposed to be going, just wandering around heading towards bad guys isn’t really helping.

13 - Apparently you can turn on some kind of hint system by pressing UP on the D-Pad, I’m way off my target.

Halo 3 Odst Orbital Drop pod

14 - There’s a payphone ringing that I pick up, I download the city map from it, but it’s not a mini-map, just a pop-up you bring up by pressing Select. I receive some training on how to use the map, which is pretty cool rendered in 3D from above.

16 - I’m supposed to search Tayari Plaza to find an ODST squadmate, and no, I don’t want to repeat the training.

18 - Getting near the plaza now, but need to fight a series of little baddies along the way, they’re hiding in the grass but my visor can spot them easily.

20 - Making my way through an abandoned apartment, one of the doors I walk by opens up automatically and there’s a few nasties inside, I whallop them on the head and move on.

21 - My ODST squadmate’s helmet is stuck inside a television, the rookie pulls it out and examines the courtyard. He hears Captain Mal’s voice again like it’s a flashback.

22 - Oh, now I get to play as Captain Mal, I mean, Buck! This is immediately after the drop, so it might be more exciting. Buck falls out of the capsule and flirts with Cat over the comm. Seems like they have some history. Oh, and her real name is Veronica.

25 - The visor is definitely a lot less useful in the daylight, it washes everything out.

Halo 3 Odst Covenant Rookie Visor

26 - Just had a pretty decent fight, no new enemies so far that I can tell. Oh, there’s another ODST dude, don’t show his name though. He says we should go through the buildings to flank the Covenant.

28 - Just got grenaded by a little teeny guy after fighting a horde of Elites. Totally lame.

29 - My screen goes really white all of a sudden like a long-lasting flashbang went off. I check my visor but it’s still off, must have really been some sort of grenade.

30 - I approach a turret and rip it from its platform. Wow, Buck moves around pretty well while carrying this, a lot faster than Marcus in Gears of War 2.

32 - Turret was incredibly useful for the next fight, but everything is still pretty easy. Buck grunts and huffs when he’s low on shields though, sounds pretty good.

34 - Geez, a grunt just tried to suicide bomb me with a bunch of sticky grenades!

35 - I get shot down in a blaze of glory, I think I went about that sequence wrong.

Halo 3 Odst Bubble Shield Brute

36 - Round a corner and BOOM, get blown up. At least I checkpointed a little further in this time.

38 - Beating down brutes in a small hallway is pretty fun, but is there a flashlight button? Halo 1 had a flashlight. Oh yeah, my visor.

40 - A pair of hunters appears down the road and Captain Mal mutters, “turn around you bastards let me shoot you in the back!” They kill me quickly and I’m back... ugh, to my last checkpoint four minutes ago.

44 - Hunters go down, I remember when you used to be able to take them out with like three pistol shots in the back. Those were the days...

45 - I finally checkpoint and grab another turret to tag along as my best friend.

47 - Veronica’s capsule at last, and she’s dead! Nah, just kidding, just missing. Instead some weird tentacle thing pops out and someone snipes it dead. That was different.

48 - It was Romeo who saved me, man, they should not have their characters take their helmets off, the head models look bad. BAD.

Halo 3 Odst Graffiti Glass This

49 - Back to the rookie now who’s still examining the helmet, I regain control. The next character to meet up with is waaay across the map. Guess I’ve got a hike in front of me.

51 - The music has this oddly soothing tone to it, I really like it. Sounds like something out of a Final Fantasy game.

53 - A trio of elites and a tentacle thing pop out at me and quickly waste our rookie. You gotta be kidding me? Not one checkpoint the whole time?

55 - Wow, that went extraordinarily better! I managed to stick three of them including the tentacle monster with plasma grenades.

57 - I find some audio log, what is this? BioShock? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just seems to be some kind of introduction to Mombasa. Actually, it’s some kid buying a train ticket, I’m confused.

59 - What the? Some invisible brute (who I only spotted with my visor) pops out and does a number on me, but even after I kill him I’m still taking damage. Some kind of gas or something?

60 - I reach the area where the next ODST trooper is and instead find some kind of drone, maybe it has the next clue. Another Captain Mal voice over and it looks like we’re switching back to him. Or... Dutch, 30 minutes after drop. And that’s the end of the first hour of Halo 3: ODST.

Halo 3 Odst 3d Mombasa map

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 9

Gameplay: It feels like Halo 3 with a visor to highlight the bad guys. This doesn’t really grab me at all. I’ve played and beaten Halo 3 so what do you have to offer? I don’t even have the satisfaction knowing I’m playing as Master Chief. Just some no-name soldier and Captain Mal from Firefly in some armor.

Fun Factor: Well, you shoot things that you have been shooting for the last decade with the same weapons you’ve been using the whole time too. If this is your kind of thing, then you will probably love ODST.

Graphics and Sound: First off, stop using well known voice actors as main characters in video games. It’s extremely distracting. Call of Duty: World at War did it with Kiefer Sutherland, and now ODST has pretty much cast the entire crew of Firefly. Secondly, while the graphics are good enough, it still looks like Halo 3 but darker. Third, this is an interesting choice of music. I think I like it. Fourth, audio diaries? Yes, please.

Story: I guess I can appreciate Bungie trying to branch out and flesh the Halo story out a bit more with ODST, but it’s just not intriguing at all. Why should I care about this band of soldiers dropped into what is now a desolate city? The first hour of Halo 3: ODST gave me not a single to care.

Would I keep playing? No. ODST plays like Halo 3 (which I’ve beaten) and has a story that I couldn’t care less about. There was nothing in the game’s first hour that really got me excited. The minute I finished its first hour I turned the console off and haven’t gone back.

Comments

Corrections

Good work... but you got a lot of things wrong.
The elites are called "brutes", cat is "Dare", night vision is called "VISR", the "other ODST guy" is a Marine, minute 44- one shot not three
some other stuff but i don't wanna be an a-hole.
Just for constructive criticism.

Its in my opinion one of the best Halo games, because it is unique, my favorite feeling is creeping around at night in the streets, hiding from bad guys. Not a good game for straight up shoot-em-up people. Certainly not for gears of war fans.

In its defense...

Okay.. full disclosure, I like the game and I'd like to come to its defense :)

I liked the visor mechanic a lot-- reminded me of the sniper night vision scope in Halo 1. It allowed me to experience the dark city streets atmosphere, but then spot enemies when I needed to.

I liked the map navigation. Sure, ODST is no full-on sandbox game, but making navigation/exploration a task in itself, with somewhat reduced combat requirements and the chance to evade if you desire-- that was a refreshing change of pace. The combat in those sequences does ramp up over the course of the game, as new areas of the city open up as well, but it's still never as hectic as the daytime flashback sequences with the other squad members.

"There’s really no clue on where I’m supposed to be going, just wandering around heading towards bad guys isn’t really helping."

Are you sure? ODST uses a waypoint system that gives you a compass, as well as the direction of your current objective. You can also place arbitrary waypoints on the map and use those-- it helps to set them at intersections you plan to traverse.

Veronica (not sure why you call her Cat-- are you referring to Reach's Kat?) is played by Tricia Helfer-- Caprica Six from BSG.
Is it better or worse that you knew her voice was familiar without placing it?

I'm not sure I really understand the objection to using... well, actors and actresses to do game voices. It sounds like you want to institutionalize typecasting. Nathan Fillion played Captain Malcom Reynolds, so now you can't use him as Buck in a video game because to you, he's Malcolm Reynolds, and that's distracting? Does this apply only to video games, or should he not be used in other films or television series as well, since you'll probably still hear the voice and think of Mal?

I'm a big fan of Halo and Firefly both, but to me, Fillion isn't any more Captain Malcolm Reynolds than he is Sgt. Buck. I know some others who object to the Firefly cast-- although they were in Halo 3 also (Fillion, Tudyk and Baldwin are in both games. Baldwin is Dutch and Tudyk is Mickey.) So many games have voice acting that is embarassing. I don't mind a familiar voice or two if it means I'm not feeling like I ought to be giving the characters line readings.

"Why should I care about this band of soldiers dropped into what is now a desolate city? The first hour of Halo 3: ODST gave me not a single to care."

I don't know-- that wasn't my experience. Dare is on a secret mission. I wanted to know what it is. The first assumption (what Buck thinks) is that they were going to assault the Covenant carrier. That wasn't it, though, and the game is at least as much a mission to find out what it was as it is to find your squadmates. I admit, it's not a story of earth-shattering significance-- the story crawler at the start I think tries to oversell it.

I love this site, and I love the whole "first hour" concept. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of the things you didn't like stemmed from elements that are only hinted at early in the game, that are supposed to tease for what happens later. The audiologs start in media res and introduce two characters-- Sadie (the teen buying a train ticket) and Virgil (the Superintendent). They don't beat you over the head with these things, but I appreciate that, and I guess it's kind of dismaying seeing them dismissed, because I like Bungie's design of these things-- but I'm sure if they know a lot of people just say "I don't get it, I'm confused" and move on, they'll put less effort into these things. Bioshock, which is also great, lacks a lot of subtlety, especially in the early radio communications and audio logs. "Hi I'm Atlas and I'll be conducting your combat tutorial today."

Anyway, love these reviews.

My response

Thanks for the epic comment, now to defend myself!

First off, it was obvious that ODST was not the game I was expecting. Maybe the unexpected narrative threw me off on the traditional Halo experience I thought this would be.

My comment about not knowing where I was going was really early in the gameplay where I don't think the waypoint system had even been revealed yet. I was just tossed in a large area with seemingly lots of ways to wander around and no direction. Very different from say the opening of Halo 1 where you're running around the confines of the spaceship (a whole sequence which I thought was absolutely brilliant. The ship seems large but thanks to locked doors, debris, and firefights that attract you in the right direction, you are never lost). Once the waypoint system was introduced things seemed to get better, but there also seemed to be a lot of backtracking early in the game.

Not sure where I got "Cat" from, maybe they said "Cap" for Captain Veronica Dare? I write the minute by minute as I go and sometimes things get a bit confused about what's on screen and what's on paper. :) And yeah, I think it's good that I didn't recognize Tricia Helfer's voice in this case. But if I saw her face would I immediately be "that's 6. That's number 6 from BSG."?

About casting well known actors, I obviously have some issues somewhere with this and will have to explore it a bit more. I think I have problems when the character they're playing is so close to their previous characters. I watch Castle on TV which stars Nathan Fillion in a completely different role than Firefly and I don't feel this way. I just kind of feel like this character was written for the specific reason to hire Fillion and excite the Firefly fanboys. That bothers me.

The only hint that there's something "bigger" going on in the game in its first hour is this one achievement I unlocked called "Junior Detective" (Found the first clue unraveling the mystery). I didn't even realize there was a mystery, except to where my squadmates were. It just didn't grab me in the hour I gave it, and tying that with everything else, I just didn't want to go on.

First Hour reviews aren't perfect, I'll be the first to admit it. But people judge games on a lot less. I used to be a pretty huge Halo fanboy, heck, I'm still a Halo 1 fanboy, but the series just doesn't do it for me anymore. I've found myself with very limited time to game lately so I guess I'm being more careful about my recommendations. I've heard ODST is short so that might actually be enough for me to get back to the game at some point, but I've had plenty of opportunities to continue playing it after I played the first hour (about a month ago), so that answered my "would I keep playing" question pretty easily.

Thanks for reading and commenting, glad to hear you like the style of review (even when it rips on a game you like!).

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