Obscured View

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Archive for September, 2009

Halo 3 : ODST

It’s not worth $60 unless you play a lot of multiplayer.

If you’re a solo/co-op player like me, it’s worth around $30 at best.  You can get it for that price through some crazy discount stacking, but maybe it’s just better as a rental.  It just doesn’t deliver enough new stuff to warrant the full-blown price-tag.

Here’s the highlights:

  • One new gun, a silenced SMG, which even when used zoomed and stealthily, the silencer never actually stopped enemies from knowing where I fired from.
  • Mods to the pistol and the plasma rifle, but mostly just minor.
  • One new enemy… that you don’t actually fight during normal play.
  • A large semi-open world city to explore, which is mostly really annoying to explore, because unless you hunt down the side-story audio logs and unlock weapon caches (and a mongoose or two), you’re on foot the entire time.
  • A well voiced but short campaign, which doesn’t have any really incredible set piece battles that you’ll remember a week from now as being any different than the blur of all the Halo combats you’ve likely already experienced from the first 3 games.
  • A new game mode Firefight, which pits up to 4 co-op players against waves of enemies with only a handful of lives between them all.  It’s really fun, rewards combos and other chains of kills / attacks, and you’ll need a competent group of 4 to really get anywhere.  The achievements you can get in the mode are nigh-impossible for a solo player.
  • New multiplayer maps, that if you are a Halo fan, you likely already have.  Only 3 are new and unique.

ODST does play just like Halo: the same great balance of weapons, melee, and grenades survived intact… except your health doesn’t recharge and you don’t have a useful radar.

My peeves with the product are:

  • Microsoft is likely using this as a test — just like they used Braid as a LIVE test — to see how much gamers will pay for a “hot” title, even if the experience doesn’t really warrant the price.
  • The audio logs you hunt down pull a nasty trick on you.  All of them are found in the city, not in any of the flashback sequences… oh, wait, all except one.  You can only get 29/30 of them in the city itself, and IF and only IF you already have all 29 from the city can you get the 30th while doing the “Data Core” level near the end of the game.  This is horribly annoying design.  You’re led to believe they’re all in the city.  If you played through “Data Core” without having 29 yet, you’ll never even get a hint that the 30th is down there.  The pathway to the 30th is triggered by an NPC that just happens to die if you have less than 29/30, but suddenly lives and opens a door for you further into the level if you do.  There’s no way you could know this beforehand.  Only through the power of teh Interwebz would you figure this out.
  • The map of the city sucks.  It doesn’t have a small HUD version, which is sorely missed, and the geometry of the buildings and overhangs block your view of some parts of the map.  It’s hard to believe even in the fiction that these bad-ass ODST marines wouldn’t have software that would strip out blocking height elements when they’re checking a tactical map of the city.  A civilian wouldn’t even find it useful.  It’s like the tourism board of the city farmed out the map software to a contractor and never bothered to give them a spec that the map needs to be useful to someone.
  • The two main characters are facially modeled after the voice actors, and… wow.  They don’t look good at all.  When you make Tricia Helfer from BSG look creepy and mannish, you may want to re-assess your art, eh?
  • The city has no life in it whatsoever.  Every single person either evacuated or was killed with no bodies left behind?  And not one family of hold outs? No city police holed up anywhere?  Incredible.
  • Locked doors and doors you can open look exactly the same.  There’s no consistent color coding to let you know a door can be opened.  This makes exploration while chasing down the audio logs even more frustrating, especially when you have 29/30 and don’t know that the 30th isn’t to be found in the city.

Rent it for a fun co-op weekend with friends, but don’t buy it unless Halo is all you play.

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