Gaming, Technology, Video Games

Review of Halo 3: ODST: Score of… Well, It’s Complicated…

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You may have been thrown off a bit by the title to this post, but I can’t really think of a better way to word what’s going on in my head right now. Just recently, I talked about bugs and glitches in games and how they’re unacceptable. I would be pretty hypocritical if I gave a game a high rating despite a large bug, right? At the same time, that game, large bug aside, is an outstanding title that was very fun to play. How do I rate that? Do I forgo the bug and tell you what the game itself was like? After all, this game comes from my favorite series of all time; one in which I’ve never experienced a single bug in the other 6 entries. On the other hand, I’d be a total liar if I set that bug aside, given what I wrote about in my post on bugs. Sigh… it’s a difficult life.

So, here’s what I’m going to do:

I want your opinion; when rating a game, should one rate it as it was played (meaning, including the detrimental effects of bugs) or should bugs be excluded and the game rated how it was meant to be played? After all, I played ODST and encountered a huge bug, but there’s probably a 95% chance that if my neighbor played ODST, he would never experience a single issue; his review of the game would be starkly different if I were to consider the effects of bugs and glitches in my reviews. For the time being, I’ll write this review from both standpoints; including the glitch, and leaving it out. I’ll explain exactly what the glitch was in a moment.

Halo 3: ODST takes place during the same timeframe of Halo 3, unsurprisingly. It’s a spinoff title that gives you control of an ODST trooper rather than the usual Spartan. The game begins with you and your squad deploying from orbit and crash landing at your destination in New Mombasa, Africa. The problem is, the landing goes a bit awry, and the six squadmates are separated. You go one way, one goes another way, and the other four land close enough to band together. You have no way to communicate with them, so you scour the city for clues as to where your other five squadmates could have landed.

This is where ODST differs from other Halo titles. the numbered Halo games (1, 2, 3, and 4) are straight-up shooters. The levels flow from one to the next; when you wrap up one mission, you go straight to the next. ODST, on the other hand doesn’t follow the same level format. Let’s say you finish level one. Now, instead of going straight to level two, you’re transported to the open world map of New Mombasa city, and you have to find the next clue, which triggers the next mission. It serves like a blend between full-fledged open world games like Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed and traditional shooters like most Halo games and Call of Duty.

The missions put you in control of a member of your 4-man squad that managed to stick together, while the open world portion puts you in control of Rookie, one of the two that’s been separated. Each clue is some sort of item that was left behind by your 4-man squad. For example, one clue is a sniper rifle that looks like it was bent much the same way as one bends a metal fork or spoon. When you find the clue, you’re put in control of one of the squadmates in the 4-man group, and you go through a mission in typical Halo fashion. At the end of the level *mini spoiler* one of your buddies has his sniper rifle taken from him by a Brute, who bends it in two and it is chucked off to the side. When the squad moves on, the rifle is left behind, and Rookie, the solo “detective” finds the clue in the open world segment and then continues on to the next.

I really liked this gameplay design, and I hope I’ve been able to explain the format well enough. It’s a bit strange, but it’s a welcome change. Now that you hopefully understand the way the game plays, I can explain the glitch. So, I’m walking along, collecting clues, and I’ve found about 5 or 6 of them. I realize I just have to collect a couple more before I can access the final level. I look on my map, and there’s usually a flashing yellow circle where the next clue is. Rather than seeing one circle, I see all of them, which is quite bizarre. I then realize that the game has glitched terribly.

ODST basically reset my campaign data. I had to restart and collect every single clue all over again. On the other hand, I could go into the individual level select screen at the main menu, and all the levels that I had already completed before the glitch were still unlocked in the menu. When I would check my map, however, it told a different story.

Needless to say, I was pretty upset. I really enjoyed the game up to that point, and it really killed the momentum that had been building, as I was following the storyline with enthusiasm. It was like watching the Super Bowl when the power outage happened at Candlestick Park this February; it just killed the adrenaline and excitement.

For that reason, I would rate the game a 6 counting the glitch, but 9 without the glitch. I really did love the game; it was amazing. I like the style that Halo offers; there’s something about the way a battle in Halo flows that I haven’t seen captured in any other title. It’s so seamless, flawless, and smooth; you really feel like a kick-butt super soldier when in a Halo firefight.

Halo 3: ODST offers the same gunplay and mission flow that other Halo titles contain. The only noticeable difference is actually one that woke me up and kept me on my toes. In other Halo games, I take control of a Spartan; I can walk up to a Brute and punch him a couple of times to render him dead with my super strength. Not in ODST; I was quite surprised when 2, 3, or even 4 punches wouldn’t do the trick. Grenades can’t be thrown as far, either. Health deteriorates faster since there’s no MJOLNIR armor to protect Rookie, so the player is more vulnerable, and it’s noticeable.

It’s not so noticeable, however, that I really had to change the way I fight in ODST; it felt familiar and new at the same time. Another new addition was the detective work. Being utterly alone in a dark, destroyed city felt a little like a horror game without the jumpscares. It was so eerie to see cars simply abandoned, malfunctioning ATMs spitting money everywhere, destroyed Warthogs, and ransacked buildings. Even worse, the lighting was turned very low. I was never legitimately scared or surprised when I played ODST, but the tension was there; I half expected to see Slenderman behind the next corner.

Walking for miles through a deserted city all alone sounds boring, but it wasn’t. There were enough Covenant troops either scattered throughout the map or occasionally dropped by a ship to keep things lively. Every few minutes, a firefight would ensue and keep the game from getting too monotonous. There was just enough downtime between each fight. Ammo for the decent weapons was sometimes tough to come by in the open world segments, and it added to the desperation factor of ODST.

As for the mission portions, it was classic Halo all the way. This similarity may seem like a bad thing before considering that a) this is basically Halo 3.5, not a full sequel or anything, and it was marketed accordingly, b) Halo’s gameplay isn’t broken, so it doesn’t need fixing, and c) the online segment is compatible with the Halo 3 servers, so the game’s mechanics have to be identical anyhow.

The music is always a high point in Halo. In ODST, it was tense when it needed to be, and overall, I enjoyed the soundtrack and other ambient noises in the game. The dialogue is definitely 100% Bungie, and I couldn’t have been happier. Bungie has a knack for putting a decent amount of humor in the script at the right time to make it feel like a good, comical banter. The game is serious, but it has enough comical relief to keep from being too serious. This is something I think I’ll miss in the 343 developed titles; Halo 4 was much more serious than any other Halo title. It did this well; very well, I felt. But nothing will ever compare to the genuine comedic genius that Bungie brings to a game, and I hope their fun-loving aura makes its way to Destiny next year. ODST had me chuckling the whole way through, and I enjoyed this very much.

As always, there are Easter Eggs to be found, but I’ll save those for another day… 🙂

Finally, the Firefight game mode makes its debut in ODST. Firefight is basically the equivalent of a Horde mode or Zombie mode; enemies come at you in waves and you have to see how long you can last. There are plenty of game variants to choose from, so it always keeps the action fresh.

Well, I think I’ve covered all the bases for Halo 3: ODST. Honestly, I really enjoyed this game for what it should have been, and it’s a terrible shame that my experience was somewhat marred by the bug that caused me to restart the entire game. I would recommend this game to anyone because this is a very infrequent bug, from what I’ve read online. In no way am I condoning said glitch; I hope this is evident in the fact that I can’t even give the game a straight rating. At the core of ODST, all the mechanics are there to make a great game, and I was just the unlucky sap who happened to get a bug.

This actually surprised me a great deal because I’ve played Halo games for hundreds of hours. I’ve never seen a glitch in any of the other 6 Halo games I’ve played, and trust me, I’ve done some exploring. In a case like this, I’m a bit more forgiving to Bungie, and I hope you can see why. After all, I’ve played over a decade’s worth of their titles, and only now have I hit my first bug. It must take some serious quality assurance for me to have only now encountered my first glitch!

Even still, the fact that it’s there is quite glaring, and it raises some questions. Obviously, Bungie does a good job at testing their games for bugs and glitches; what made ODST any different? More importantly, how did a glitch this large slip past them? Is it that rare? I mean, this glitch makes the player restart the entire game! Bungie isn’t a lazy company, so that’s what confuses me here. This glitch is so out of place for them, which is what caused me to give a “well, it’s complicated” score to ODST.

In the end, considering the “restart glitch,” I would be forced to give Halo 3: ODST a score of 6. If I were to ignore the glitch and rate the game likewise, ODST would score a 9 because it’s an otherwise amazing game with a great storyline, smooth, fluid gameplay, an interesting open world approach, and a great script to go with it.

That’s all for now. I hope you found this review helpful. Leave a like or a follow if you’ve enjoyed, and take a look at the LP channels in my “Links” tab.

I’m Gonna Shut Up Now
Matt

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5 thoughts on “Review of Halo 3: ODST: Score of… Well, It’s Complicated…”

  1. Honestly, a quick google search tells me all I need to know about how the glitch went unnoticed, you just have really awful crappy luck. This is an extremely rare glitch I’ve never even heard of. I personally think that you should stick by the 9 rating just because this was a complete freak of nature. If this were something that happened more often, even if never to the same person twice, I could understand the 6 rating.

  2. (1) Omitting bugs/glitches that were encountered during play would be poor judgement at best and unethical at worst provided the bugs were experienced over the course of normal play. These issues may or may not affect the rating/recommendation of the game, depending on what the issues were and should be noted as such. (You did this with the 6/9 rating.) With that being said, games with issues and even serious issues can still be fun and this should be noted along with the caveat that ‘while I understand and see how X can be fun, when hit with A, B, C the fun train comes to a jarring stop…at least for me.’

    (2) In respect to the first commenter, when serious but rare glitches happen they still have a serious impact…the fact that they are rare doesn’t matter and that because the glitch happened to the player. If a player hits this, no matter how much they enjoy the game, they’re going to be understandably frustrated and perhaps go so far as to put the game down. Games need to be finished products, just like we were always told our classwork absolutely had to be because ‘in the real world…’ and as such there can be no pass. A 6 would be justified for the experience with the 9 attached to it, not a 6 by itself but with that asterisk.

    (3) As a complete aside, it would be interesting to see people from a younger generation play games in their preferred genre that are older. Since you enjoy FPS games it would be interesting to see your commentary on games like Catacombs 3D: the Descent, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Descent, System Shock 2 and Thief. These, of course, on their original engines (or as close as possible in the case of a game like SS2) and not ports so that the original experience is kept. I’m loathe to recommend id Software games because of thoughts on and experience with Valve, however Catacombs 3D: the Decent, Duke Nukem 3D, Descent, System Shock 2 and Thief are available through GoG and I HIGHLY recommend them as a digital storefront.

    1. Funny you mention Doom and id games specifically because I’m playing their fame “Rage” now that I’ve finished ODST. If I can get my hands on Doom, I’ve been wanting to give it a shot. They’ve got a PS3 download version, an Xbox version (not sure if original or 360) and of course, pc. I just have to pick one lol

      1. If possible, it’s always best to get the original experience when you’re trying to review something (or as close as possible). I can’t comment on the quality of the console versions, but what I can say is that Doom played well on the Sega 32x when I was in middle school and American McGee’s Alice played terribly on the PS3. Both were ports and their quality was determined by how much the publisher put into the port. With id Software being under Zeni-Max (read: Bethesda) I have my concerns about the quality of the new PS3/360 versions of the All-In-One-Doom-Pack.

        Even though I detest Valve I’d recommend making the purchase through Steam at the moment. Doom, Doom II and Final Doom have options for a more modern configuration, so it’s easy to pick up and doesn’t require navigating DOSBox. HeXen, unfortunately, requires a bit of that navigation.

        If you have a Steam account and you’d be interested in taking a look at the Doom titles I can gift them to you. Don’t worry, they’re not expensive.

        And lemme know what you think of Rage.

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