Tag Archives: Halo 3

The Good and the Bad of Halo 3: ODST

If I begin in the same way that almost any review of Halo 3: ODST that I’ve seen ends, the game is great because it’s Halo. It has the same tight gameplay, the same great weapon balance, the same great storyline. It’s essentially an expansion to Halo 3, so it stands to reason that it shares most of the game’s good qualities. Firefight is also a fine addition, shamelessly copying Gears 2’s Horde mode but, in my opinion at least, improving it with Halo’s slicker, more precise gameplay and extra enemy variety.

Just in case I get carried away over the next few paragraphs and leave you with the impression that I dislike the game, though, let me just say that it’s great. Worth full price? I’m always hesitant to mark a game down based on value – five good hours better than ten stretched out average ones and all that – and on that basis I’d still encourage people to buy it.

Halo 3: ODST

But regardless of value, this is presented as an expansion of sorts – it’s Halo 3: ODST and not Halo: ODST, remember – and so hurts for being a modest upgrade of a two-year-old game that wasn’t technically mind-blowing when it came out anyway. It’s been improved, certainly, because the derelict New Mombasa streets are far more atmospheric than anything that I can remember in Halo 3 proper, and the engine also seems to throw more enemies than the 2007 model could handle, but compared to the obvious stuff like Killzone 2 – think the urban environments of that game’s second and third stages – and even the cities of Gears of War, it’s showing its age. There’s little more than the occasional identikit building to slip through, and the architecture looks pretty solid for having been essentially nuked hours before the game. I barely even recall a pile of rubble.

Hell, after a Covenant invasion and occupation you’d expect to at least see some sign of carnage. There’s not so much as a civilian body to be found, though. New Mombasa doesn’t feel lived in, which was understandable when we first visited in Halo 2 but much harder to justify now.

The story is also something that I feel needs looking at. Not the content of it, because I still thoroughly enjoy the Halo universe, but the method in which it’s told. BioShock-style audio diaries are in here, but they’re more like the parts of a radio drama than an individual’s stolen moments, making the implementation seem like a heavy-handed knockoff. Some of the cut-scenes are almost painful to watch in a ‘new’ game as well, with unimpressive character models going through stilted animations while the cast is left with clichéd, throwaway dialogue. This ODST squad ain’t exactly Aliens’ colonial marines, not matter how much they want to be…

It’s difficult to pick at the flaws of the flashback storytelling without spoiling things, so I’ll be brief, but that doesn’t make too much sense either. The first is triggered by an ODST’s helmet embedded in a small room overlooking a courtyard; when you’ve played through the resulting sequence, see if you can explain (a) how the helmet got there and (b) how the Rookie – who, incidentally, has been weakened in some areas compared to the Chief but still seems able to operate a Spartan Laser or effortlessly flip a Warthog, and doesn’t really seem too disadvantaged when single-handedly taking on squads of Covenant – was able to piece together that much information. Similar questions are raised throughout, and it doesn’t seem to stand up to dramatic scrutiny.

But like I said, despite a potential laundry list of complaints, ODST is still a great game to play, and I’ll stand by its value when you get £20-odd worth of Halo 3 maps thrown in for less than £30. It’s just not quite up there with Gears of War, Halo 3 and Gears 2 as Microsoft’s headline acts for the last three years. Let’s hope that Bungie’s really getting its hands dirty with Halo: Reach.

Consolevania’s Halo Parody

I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the new Halo 3 TV ad, which may or may not spoil the whole thing for everyone (Bungie has assured everyone that it doesn’t), and if you haven’t watched it you should. I’ll wait here until you’re finished.

When that’s done you need to watch this absolutely sublime parody, created by the Consolevania team:

Superb, and oh so true.

A Few Hours with Halo 3

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find an email from Bungie in my inbox, complete with the Halo 3 beta code that I won months ago and which meant several things. Firstly I could get downloading early, and secondly I’ll actually be able to get playing today. Ha!

Very brief impressions is that it looks nice in HD – colourful and sharp, but still needing a bit of work on the occasional hiccups in the framerate – and plays like Halo. Going online, especially against a group who’ve been playing for a while now, is always something of a trial by fire, and inevitably I spent a couple of games running around like a headless chicken and being sniped from who-knows-where. I’d be lying if I said I still wasn’t getting killed fairly frequently, in fact.

Nonetheless, I like what I’m seeing. Some early thoughts:

  • It looks better in motion than in shots. Certain things are still clearly not final (water effects, for example) but things are already nice and solid. Halo 2 seems almost unplayable now.
  • Brilliant sound. You can really hear distant battles going on (the mounted guns sound weirdly like trains, though) and you’ll often be hit before you hear the report.
  • Valhalla will be a more than competent replacement for Blood Gulch/Coagulation. It’s a great map.
  • The new/old assault rifle is a much better all-round starting weapon than the SMG. You’re still at a disadvantage against someone with a better gun obviously, but you’re far less emasculated.
  • RB replacing X takes a bit of getting used to for performing actions. Once you’ve got it, though, it makes things more flexible.
  • The equipment is definitely cool. Bubble shield has its uses, the power drainer – drains shields and disables vehicles in its blast radius – is invaluable for attacking a flag/hill/VIP, and a mine placed at the landing point for the man cannon is guaranteed hilarity. The portable jump pad is only used in one situation in the beta and seems the least flexible, but we’ll see.
  • The new weapons are all quite good. I’m still a bit worried that the laser will be overpowered once people work it out but they all have their caveats. The spike grenade is awesome in tight corridors. The needler might as well be new: it’s a monster that can take someone down with one ‘clip’, and thankfully can’t be dual-wielded now.
  • I’ve had quite a lot of lag, which I’m willing to put down to it not having worked out who makes the best host yet, as in Halo 2. This has the same painful quirk in which you’ll mysteriously warp back a few steps over and over again when you’re lagging, which drives me mad.

By far the best part, though, is deliberately sending invites to people who don’t have the beta. They think it’s just as hilarious as I do!

Above all, the game just feels right. It feels like Halo, in other words. This thing is going to make the wait until 26th September even harder.

I Am Win!

Halo 3

I can’t remember the last time I won anything, but I’m thoroughly chuffed with this (clue: it’s under ‘N’). Saves me spending £40 on Crackdown for a while, at least. Unless it turns out to be good, in which case I’ll buy it anyway and have two beta keys.

I used to win stuff all the time, and now maybe it’s only because I enter competitions for stuff that I can’t really buy without a massive overdraft (Premiership tickets and wall-sized televisions, for example) but as far as I can remember the last time I won anything was an advance copy of Batman Forever on VHS in 1995. Maybe that was why I stopped entering competitions…

Regardless, I don’t have to buy a game that I don’t really want, and I’m guaranteed to be playing lots and lots of Halo 3 multiplayer (surely the only game that will ever prise us away from COD2 multi?) in a couple of months. Right when my dissertation is due…