Halo 3: ODST Review

Opening a freshly minted copy of the imminent Halo 3:ODST one can almost nose out tones of caviar and cigar; undoubtedly those lingering from the(caviar and cigar fueled)  self congratulatory meeting in which one brazen fellow at Microsoft decided you’d be paying the robust sum of sixty dollars for a game that — did it not bear the “Halo” brand — would never surpass a thirty dollar price tag. Such, then, is the power of a name, and the paradigm for a “normal” game review must be shifted in compensation. Accordingly, the review here will take an especially keen interest in value, because , rather unsurprisingly, Halo 3:ODST is an excellent game — but is a rather small amount of excellence enough to warrant a large amount of cash?

Offered up to you is an all new single player(or co-op) campaign, three new multiplayer maps, and a totally new multiplayer mode called, “Firefight” which pits you and up to three other players against an onslaught of computer controlled Covenant(think Gears Of War’s Horde mode but altogether better). This trifecta, in combination, makes up the complete experience of Halo 3:ODST and is the sum which masquerades as being large; indeed, the campaign is a mere 5 hours, the maps just new maps(we’ve paid less for more before), and the new multiplayer mode mortally hamstrung by its matchmaking limitations. That’s right, what looks good on paper falls egregiously short in implementation.

The new campaign, the flagship component of ODST,  occurs in the aftermath of Halo 2(of which’s ending also qualifies it for being considered hucksterish) and delivers the core experience from which the title is derived; you are an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. Gone is the comfort of Master Chief’s ample armor and regenerating health; here you are a mere human soldier. These new facts alter, only slightly, the Halo standard — you cannot jump as high, you cannot move as quickly, and the health bar is finite. Alone, you skulk through the dark streets of New Mombasa between loosely connected objectives that testify to the massive battle preceding the failed drop that leaves you out of the initial action. Each successive objective spurs a flashback which you directly participate in, and thereby come to understand how the scene you happened upon came about. These intense and calamitous segments are masterfully juxtaposed against the quiet and dark night of New Mombasa which connects them all together. This is a single player Halo experience unlike any you’ve ever played before, and the new elements(one of which is a night visor) have a nice way of changing the formula so as to keep it fresh. Adding to that freshness is  a story that is intriguing, and any fan of Halo will appreciate its shift away from the usual out-and-out action of previous titles to a more subtle, brooding, and tactical approach. Yet, while extremely entertaining, the single player experience is also exceedingly brief. Even the most casual of fans won’t extract more than six or seven hours of (albeit awesome)gameplay from the single player portion of ODST. For sixty dollars, then, one might expect the multiplayer additions to compensate.

The multiplayer offering consists of three all new maps(and includes all of the former maps to date), and the all new mode, “Firefight.” While new maps are  welcome, they do little to open the wallet as wide as Microsoft would like, so it must be “Firefight” with which the bulk of this experience lies.  And to be sure, “Firefight” delivers; up to four players can fight off an onslaught of computer controlled covenant on a variety of maps. Each successive wave is subject to skull modifiers which are constantly changing the gameplay dynamic, and result in brilliant moments of multiplayer action. Don’t be surprised to be constantly enthralled as your entire team — out of lives — struggles to make it to the next round, and next wave of enemies. This is the kind of thing that can reinvigorate the kind of epic Halo multiplayer action we know and dearly love. Unfortunately, for all this potential fun that “Firefight” offers up, it is bafflingly restricted from matchmaking; that’s right, if you want to play you need to do it manually and individually invite friends. For those of us that don’t even have four friends, this is utterly ruinous and completely game breaking. For those that do have the charisma to have mustered four chums, it is nothing less than unfairly inconvenient and brutally limiting. How such an important feature of multiplayer component — the ability to actually play with other players — be so flagrantly missing? Such an absence reeks of a rushed product, and is downright unacceptable in a fully priced game.

And it is this which is most bothersome about Halo 3: ODST: the arrogance which it shoulders upon the beloved Halo mantle. Microsoft has made the blatant assumption that they might command full price for a partial game. Even if that game is as good as ODST is, such a move has grave implications for the conscientious gamer who cares about value. This trend may suggest companies seeking to maximize profits by skimping on production times, and delivering less robust products. After all, why endure the extra development time and cost when the customer is willing to pay the same price for an altogether smaller game? All you need is a name to exploit. Such cheapening and diluting is unwelcome in my view, and I can only recommend voting with your wallet and  not picking up Halo 3: ODST — at least not until it reaches its proper price point of thirty dollars or less.


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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