The latest major release for the Halo franchise, Halo 3: ODST, dropped on September 22nd, 2009. As usual, I am a little late to the party. About 2 weeks ago I went and purchased the game as I had a butt-load (that's a metric measurement) of Best Buy Rewards Zone "money" burning a hole through my, well, email.
For those that are unfamiliar with the Halo 3 saga, this series focuses around a future war against an alien race that doesn't like us. At all. Not even slightly. They have legions of monstrous soldiers that they send out to exterminate humans, but we have a pretty sweet army of soldiers as well. One particular "arm" of the army is the ultra-secret and ever-amazing superhuman SPARTANS. By the time we get to Halo 3, however, there is only known to be one SPARTAN left - Master Chief. For the series prior to ODST's arrival, Master Chief has been the resident butt-kicker extraordinaire and the playable lead in the first-person shooter's series.
With the release of ODST, things have changed. The story in this game centers around the soldiers that reside just one tier down on the "amazing scale" from the SPARTANS - the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST). Though not as fast, strong, or reactive as Master Chief, the various ODST soldiers you take control of in this release still know how to handle their business.
Storyline & Gameplay
As the game progresses, you take control of each member of a squad that is deployed to the surface of a city that has been overrun by the alien aggressors known as the Covenant. The nice thing is that you see the same general story, a squad being separated from each other and trying to fight to get back together and complete their mission, from several different angles. The cut scenes provide a nice break from the sometimes-frantic firefighting going on and truly propel the story forward in a captivating way. In the end, and certainly in line with the series of books telling the story of the Halo universe, the planet is glassed (wiped clean).
There really wasn't much of a remarkable change in the gameplay elements from prior Halo's. Some additions to the armor of the ODST characters allow for low-light situations, enhancements to the heads-up display (HUD) make it significantly easier to find where you need to go (including a map review function with beacons on points of interest). Other than that, you are dealing with much of the same weaponry and the "feel" of the game is almost identical as all of the preceding Halo games.
Herein lies the issue: I had the opportunity to play this game (on "Normal" difficulty) for one full stretch and beat it in about 5 hours. I was highly disappointed. I really thought that there should have been a lot more to it. When I got to the end and the squad members were back together again, I thought, "Great! Now we can get to the real meat of the game," but little did I know it was almost over. In this regard, I did not feel like I got good value out of the game. Even with the new Firefight mode of play, allowing you to co-op with friends online or in-person and battle against waves of the Covenant, it wasn't enough. So, if you buy games for the story/campaign mode, I think this is going to take a significant drop in your personal stock assessment.
That being said, there is a lot more to the package than the campaign or story mode. The "game" is actually a 2-disc set with the first disc being the aforementioned story and firefight modes. The second disc contains the traditional Halo 3 package with all of the official map packs included. This second disc, then, is great for people that fit into the following:
- You never bought Halo 3 - If this is the case, you are very set. You not only are going to get this new release of ODST (again, I am so-so on it), but you are getting a significant value boost by getting Halo 3 and all of the downloadable maps that other have paid Microsoft points for over and over again. If you were like me, the total cost of ownership for Halo 3 online play has been about $80 (game plus downloadable content).
- You never paid for the downloadable map packs - You still get a boost in value here because each map pack download has been around 750 MS points; these are points that you don't have to spend because the disc is loaded with all of the official maps released to date.
- You have no idea what Halo is - If this is the case, I am ashamed of you, but we don't need to fight about it. Obviously this is a great opportunity to get involved with the franchise.
I am a long-time follower of the Halo series and, as such, pick up every map pack and update to the game when it comes out. The unfortunate thing is that I feel like I pay a price for such loyalty and this is no exception. I would put the value to me of this package at about $30 - and for some that may be generous. But, again, I know that the value of this package can far exceed the $60 price tag for many. If you are one of them, pick it up. If you are more like me, rent it and have a good time for a day.