Halo 3: ODST, A Ten Year Reunion
Halo has always been a series that has had my attention. Since the fantastic Halo Combat Evolved that got me into first person shooters, to the perfect Halo 2 and Halo 3. But one of my personal favourites is just an expansion sized spin-off, Halo 3 ODST. I fell in love with this game ten years ago, but does it still hold up today?
In this campaign you play as members of a Orbital Drop Shock Troopers squad, the ODST’s. You are sent into Earth’s capital of New Mombasa to deal with the covenant threat after the event’s of Halo 2. Something goes wrong and the ODST’s are separated. Several hours later, the Rookie wakes up and tries to regroup with his squad.
The story doesn’t focus on universe ending threats, the Halo rings and the flood are pushed to the side. Instead, the story is all about a survival and trying to hold back a seemingly unstoppable force. At this point in the franchise we are used to playing as a super soldier saving the entire universe from total destruction, with the series going ever forward with the forerunner threats and rampant AI. It’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the smaller scope of ODST.
You play as the Rookie throughout the most of the game and he is kind of a blank slate that doesn’t say anything. The objective is simple, find your squad in the city of New Mombasa. With no back-up, you are left to explore the city alone, only with the help of the city’s AI, known as the Superintendent, who will lead the Rookie to supply caches and giving subtle directional help. To make matters worse, the covenant forces are still in the city and are looking for survivors. As you make your way through the city, you will find clues to your squad’s whereabouts and will switch to their perspective at different times after dropping.
This is when ODST is at its very best, when you are with the supporting cast. Buck, expertly voiced by the charismatic Nathan Fillion, is one of the best characters in the Halo universe. Dutch and Micky are voiced by Firefly co-stars Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk respectively, and do a great job of making the characters their own.
These missions are non-stop action and are a total blast to play, feeling much more like a traditional Halo title. Despite being set in one city, a solid attempt to add variety was appreciated. Then we get the classic Halo vehicle focused missions that have you driving Scorpion tanks, Warthogs, and Mongooses in thrilling chase sequences and epic battles. You can also tackle these missions in any order, depending on how which paths you take in the Rookie sections.
Gameplay is your standard Halo affair: you run around with guns and kill covenant forces. It felt good ten years ago, it feels good to play today, and it will probably always feel good. The guns are impactful and the enemies that you fight are a ton of fun. My personal favourite, the SMG, is a blast to use whilst the pistol feels just like the combat evolved magnum. The main difference here is you aren’t a Spartan, the ODST’s never went through the augmentation program and some changes have been made to account for this. You can’t take as much damage as Spartans and health regen is no longer a thing. Instead you will have to scavenge around for health packs.
However, it doesn’t commit the whole way and I found myself feeling just as powerful as the Master Chief. ODST’s can inexplicably pick up and fire heavy weapons such as dismounted turrets with ease, whilst powerful weapons such as the Spartan laser should at the very least have much more kick to them. This is perhaps my biggest disappointment with going back to ODST, as I couldn’t remember this being the case.
Visually, ODST holds up more than the main game of Halo 3. The atmospheric streets of New Mombasa are unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a Halo game since. The only issue that I have is with the overly exaggerated character animations that have shown their age.
The soundtrack is arguably one of the best things about ODST. Marty ‘O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori outdid themselves for this one, creating a distinctive, yet very Halo sound that works perfectly for the ODSTs. It’s quite possibly their best work to date. Exploring the dark, abandoned streets of New Mombasa whilst a calming yet haunting piece plays in the background is one of the highlights for me. Then it ramps up for the more true to form halo moments. It is a truly epic soundtrack that has been missing from recent entries in the series.
ODST was also the introduction of the Firefight game mode, something that has become a bit of a standard for the Halo franchise since. A fun horde mode that has you killing enemies to rack up points. Currently Halo 3: ODST can be played on the Xbox 360 or as a DLC in the Master Chief Collection on Xbox One (with X enhancements). A PC version is in the works, but might not be available until next year with the rest of the MCC.
Halo 3: ODST was a very interesting title ten years ago; one that messes with the Halo formula whilst keeping it familiar. Today it holds up incredibly well and is still one of my favourite Halo campaigns.