Sunday, June 6, 2010

Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST came free with my Xbox 360 bundle, and it was worth every penny. As pack-ins go, this game is phenomenal and offers hours and hours of fun, both online and off. It's a fun game with a cool story, great voice acting, tight control, and great graphics. But all things considered, I'm glad I didn't pay for it and I don't really recommend you do either, unless you are a die-hard fan of Halo or FPSs in general.

It's just too short and too awkwardly paced to standout as a standalone title. Storywise, it's more of a side-story or supplement to the actual Halo trilogy, taking place between parts 2 and 3 and adding very little to the actual game universe or mythos. The cast of characters is cool and fun to watch, but I was never really sure what was going on nor was there really any real narrative momentum that kept the story going. I kept playing because the game was fun and the action was intense, not because I wanted any closure to the completely unengaging story.

Although the voice action was phenomenal, with a dream cast that included a veritable Firefly reunion with Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk. Morena Baccarin must've been busy filming V or something, so they got Battlestar's Tricia Helfer to play the female lead.  The Halo games have always had great voice actors reading smart, funny dialogue, and this game certainly didn't disappoint in that area. This game was actually more of a love story than anything else, with the reunion between Fillion and Helfer's characters being the only real story point I remember caring about. And I guess that's cool. 

The graphics are outstanding, when you could actually see anything, that is. The majority of the game takes place at night, so you have to turn on your nightvision goggles to see anything at all, which gave everything an unappealing, florescent glow. There are a few "flashback" moments that take place during the day -- and by the time you get to the end, the sun is starting to rise giving you a little more light -- but most of the game looks darky and murky, keeping the beautiful visions from really being able to shine through.

But this game ultimately worked because it's still a Halo game, and that means it has awesome action set pieces and absolutely perfect control. In my opinion, Bungie is one of the best game developers on the planet, and few games feel as perfect and comfortable to play as their Halo games. It just feels... right. Give me a pistol in Halo and I feel as though I can target a ladybug off the tip of a thumbtack. This game is a little harder than the other games, if only because you are playing as a normal soldier instead of the virtually indestructible Master Chief. Your health decreases super fast and ammo is more of a precious commodity than in previous games. So while it was shorter, this increase in difficulty made it seem like more of a challenge.

The multiplayer includes every mode and map from Halo 3, with a few other bonuses thrown in for good measure. If you don't already have Halo 3, this is almost worth getting just for the multiplayer alone. It's good fun, and has enough options and game modes to keep you coming back long after you complete the very short single player campaign.

At the end of the day, this is a truly fantastic game that just wasn't quite long enough, substantive enough, or ultimately satisfying enough. But I'm glad I own it, I'm glad I played through it, and I'll be happy to keep playing it both online and off. If you can find a copy for about twenty bucks, you'll get your money's worth. Unless you're a Halo fanatic, in which case you already own it.

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