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Review: Halo: ODST

Russ Pitts | 22 Sep 2009 13:00
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But forget about that. It's not important. Yes, there is a story and yes it - sort of - makes sense, but that's not why we're here. The story in ODST is just engaging enough to propel the game forward - no more, no less - which is all you can or would expect from a Halo game. In spite of starting at a loss - having to replace the series' main character - ODST carries itself well and gooses the mythology established in previous games just enough to keep you interested and wanting more.

The most important thing to know about the single-player campaign is that it features the voice talents of people you will probably immediately recognize. If so, you will experience an inordinate amount of joy with this game, just by watching the cinematics and hearing the in-mission chatter. The cast, led by Nathan (Mal Reynolds) Fillion, is a veritable who's-who of pop sci-fi culture. Backing up Fillion are two of his castmates from the TV show Firefly - Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk - as well as Tricia Helfer, the seductive Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. Helfer does her part well, but the real joy is in hearing the crew of the Serenity back together again, in more or less compatible roles.

What's truly remarkable about ODST is that none of this nostalgia detracts from the game in the least. A lesser game may have suffered at the hands of such overblown nerd-lust centered on what the guys involved did before, but it's a testament to the solid gameplay and affable energy of ODST that you can eventually forget that you wish it's actors were doing something else, and settle in to enjoy the ride.

You can expect to finish the solo campaign of Halo 3: ODST in under 10 hours, after which you may want to play it through again to rack up some of the harder-to-acquire achievements. If you're inclined to play multiplayer, you'll discover that this is where Halo 3:ODST truly shines, and that, perhaps, the solo campaign was just a training mission. You can invite friends to join you for a romp through the main storyline, or you can team up with up to four buddies for "firefight mode" which will allow you to test you skills against increasingly powerful swarms of Covenant bad guys. The game also comes pre-packaged with a fully-functioning version of the Halo 3 multiplayer game, complete with the add-on maps.

Yet in spite of all that's awesome about ODST (and there is plenty in that category), the new touches and added elements just aren't enough to stave off the nagging feeling of having been here and done this all before. Playing as a mere human - as opposed to the nigh-invulnerable Master Chief - does freshen up the gameplay a bit, but after a few levels the difference seems more aesthetic than anything.

Bottom Line: Halo 3: ODST lives up to the considerable legacy of the Halo series and delivers plenty of exactly the kind of fun you would expect. And that's also the game's weakness: The fun is exactly what you would expect, with few surprises or challenges.

Recommendation: If you're a slave to multiplayer, then you need this game. Everyone else will be playing it, plus it comes with the complete set of Halo 3 downloadable maps as a bonus freebie. If multiplayer isn't your thing, then you might give this a rent to see if it hooks you. You'll probably still enjoy it, even if you're not a Halo fanboy, but the price is a bit high for such a short game.

Score:

Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist.

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