Halo is a series I hold close to my heart, as it’s the game that first got me into the mantle of being a more prominent gamer. I’ve stuck with Bungie from the beginning of this franchise and even went to their roots and played the Marathon games. When the franchise shifted under 343 Industries, I reluctantly followed like a loyal puppy. Seeing the best and worst of this franchise, Halo 3: ODST is one of my favorite installments of this universe. And with the Master Chief Collection being such a bust since launch, with constant accounts of multiplayer bugs and game-breaking glitches, you can bet I was extremely skeptical. 343i started this on a somewhat decent page by giving this entire game, for free, to the folks who stuck with this ultimately broken game from the beginning. This installment in particular has been receiving a lot of attention as of late, as it received a novelized sequel. Not to mention there are heavy rumors that one of the characters from this game are to be a prominent role in Halo 5: Guardians.
Some may already know, as this game exists on the Xbox 360 as well. But for those that don’t, you play as a squad of the universe’s most notorious human squadron, the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. The squad is led by a Gunnery Sergeant Buck, and other members are Romeo, Dutch, Mickey, and the main/silent protagonist Rookie. The events of this game fall just after the third or fourth mission of Halo 2, and lead into the events of Halo 3. Your squad is prepping for a low orbit drop onto a Covenant frigate, when their acting captain, ONI Spook Veronica Dare, demands a change in trajectory. Mid-drop, the Covenant frigate makes a jump through space in the middle of town causing a massive EMP burst, and this takes a heavy toll on your drop. One drop pod slams into the Rookies and the whole drop goes south.
You mainly play as the Rookie, who wakes up six hours after the drop and plays a pseudo Sherlock Holmes as he not only pieces together what has come of his squad, but also follows the city’s AI as it leaves voice queues to lead the trooper to a scene of corruption that stood before the Covenant even attacked (Though this serves as a minigame of sorts, a non-mandatory part of the game surely, but it unlocks multiple weapon caches along the way). Every clue you find puts you in the boots of different squad members, and has you play out different missions and playstyles. Buck is all-around firefights, Dutch is heavy weaponry, Mickey is vehicular warfare, and Romeo focuses on the ranged combat. After you’ve gathered the general happenings of your squad, you’re lead on one last mission to get out of town with a high priority asset that you meet in the second to last mission.
The gameplay, while living true to the sci-fi first person shooter title, also seems to take a pseudo Metal Gear Solid approach. In most Halo games you play as a Spartan, an almost superhuman augmented soldier whose suit of armor granted a sort of energy shield, giving you the capability to take some hurt before you feel the need to duck behind cover. In this installment, however, you play as one of the lesser foot soldiers, the ODST (Who more or less serve as the Navy Seals or Green Beret of the game’s universe). This means you don’t get the fancy technology the Spartans do, so the energy shields are a moot topic. This puts the player in a situation where they are highly vulnerable and have to reevaluate how they tackle a firefight. Often I’d find myself question if a pack of enemies is worth taking on due to ammo reserves, and then looking at my surroundings to figure how to approach the oncoming storm of bullets. Oh, and snipers. Lots of snipers.
The starting weapons you’re given are a silenced SMG and a silenced pistol. Both of which can be swapped out freely, of course. Often one can find a slew of human weapons placed among the chaos, more often than not it’ll be an assault rifle. Beyond that, the player is limited to whatever Covenant weapons they have the luxury of picking off the enemies slain. Besides that, you’re given a tactical three-dimensional map that places where enemies are most of the time, but that actually involves you walking into a new area. It also leads the player to their next objective to progress the story along, albeit that is something one could tackle whenever they feel like it. You’re also given a specialized visor that can be toggled on and off, that serves as a night-vision of sorts. This visor highlights all surroundings, giving grenades and weapons a special yellow tint, allies a green tint, and enemies a red tint. (8/10)
The game was remade into a crisp and true 60 FPS, so not only are the graphics on a better scale, but the entire game is both crisper and smoother. There are times when the game has to buffer up, and you notice when the movements of enemies gets somewhat choppy at certain intervals, but beyond that everything flows extraordinarily well. All in all, the standalone graphics seem great. When actually playing the game, the graphics are actually really well done. In the cutscenes, however, the character models are still somewhat blocky, on par with Halo 3. (7/10)
The music cues in this game are usually instanced, but for the most part they’re rather calming. They have a strong ambient smoothness about them, and it makes the setting of the game seem not so grim for the barren and overtaken human city. I find this mellow tune extremely helpful when thinking out where and how I go about things in the game. They can turn the most frustrating of firefights into an intense adrenaline-filled battle or a nerve-wracking escape. In terms of voice acting, it’s phenomenal. I’m especially excited that the majority of the game was voiced by the cast of sci-fi series Firefly. Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcom Reynold, Firefly) does a wonderful job as Buck, adding a great perspective to the character’s personality. Not to mention he has potential of being the character who is rumored to be in Halo 5: Guardians, so it gives the famous voice more recognition, highly deserved. Beyond that, Mickey is voiced by Alan Tudyk (Wash, Firefly), Dutch by Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb, Firefly), Romeo by Nolan North (Who also did Sgt. Johnson in the series), and Dare is voice by Tricia Helfer (Number Six, Battlestar Galactica). The cast for this game in general is just exciting, and they all did great. (9/10)