First-Person Shooters and competitive gamers unite! Halo has been a namesake in the gaming community for almost 10 years, and the unique setting has appealed to both gritty and sci-fi gamers as well as roping in anyone else they can find to fill out a lan-party.
The Halo universe is set in the far-distant future where humanity treats space like a giant subway station and directly conflicts with a group of alien races called the Covenant. The Covenant see humanity as a blight against their religion, and so drive-by space-shootings are common place. On its own, humanity doesn’t stand a chance against the superior Covenant technology; however, after years of research there have been advancements made to enhance select groups of people to be genetic super soldiers. One such super-soldier is the Master Chief you play as throughout the Halo games.
Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST’s campaigns are starkly different so I’ll explain them one at a time. For the campaign, Halo 3 takes the cake. The levels are extremely linear, but it’s more about finding the next ’30 seconds of fun’ that game producers had in mind since the first Halo hit shelves. New gamers can easily pick this game up because of it’s simplistic point and shoot scheme, and you don’t have to feel like such an idiot every time you get shot because of the rechargeable shields that help keep you alive. ODST on the other hand has a much more fragile protagonist compared to the multi-trillion dollar cyborg you play as in Halo 3’s campaign, but the squad your a part of didn’t pull their nickname, “The Helljumpers”, out of a cracker-jack box. They have ‘stamina’ instead of shields, but it recharges the same as the shields do. There are also health bars in ODST, so part of staying alive is exploring a bit to find a health kiosk.
Now that introductions are out of the way, we can get to the gameplay. Halo 3’s campaign took only 9 hours to beat on normal, so if you’re looking for something with a story you’ll just want to rent this one. The online multiplayer is where the real action is, especially with the TrueSkill ranking system that allows you to constantly play against people relatively close to your skill level. It doesn’t matter what kind of gametype your into whether it’s King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, Juggernaut, or just plain old Slayer. And it never hurts to be rewarded for doing something cool, which is why its nice to see yourself get a medal every time you do something like a headshot with the sniper rifle or going 15 and 0. And they don’t disappear after the match is over, all your medals get saved online and you can look over all your scores and matches at bungie.net. So if you tell a friend you got three Triple Kills in a row, you can show them the match online. Even better, you can make a video of in theatre mode and send it to them over Xbox Live. Videos, Snapshots, and even game variants and maps that you create yourself via Forge Mode. In Forge Mode, you can take on the form of a floating robot that looks like a futuristic lightbulb by pressing up on the D-pad. While as the lightbulb of creation, you put in or take things out of a map as you see fit, creating an entirely new map that has only ever been seen before by you. You can even share your artistic map-making brilliance with the rest of the Halo Matchmaking community by uploading your personal style to a file share that’s exclusive to Halo 3 and ODST. And who says you can’t look good doing it? By unlocking certain achievements you’ll also unlock different armor pieces that you can use to customize your Matchmaking character. It doesn’t affect your in-game abilities; however, you do have the opportunity to ‘educate’ people on why they shouldn’t be wearing your helmet, and in your house, no less.
ODST on the other hand is mostly for the campaign and something called ‘Firefight’. The campaign is even shorter than Halo 3’s at about five hours, and much more confusing if you don’t pay attention. It’s a strange CSI meets Halo xenotype of storytelling, but it can hardly be called a bad game. Also, its the first story I’ve seen in a while that actually changes the ending of the game if you collect all of the hidden audio logs. The audio logs by themselves are a completely separate story about two people trying to escape the Covenant invasion of Earth that directly ties into ODST squad’s storyline. The visual style is the same as Halo 3, but the gameplay is significantly altered by playing at night and with a sort of night-vision helmet that even outlines your enemies with red lines. Also, if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly”, you’ll be as excited as I was to know that three of the actors from the show were featured as voice actors in the game. ‘Firefight’ would have been an amazing part of the game if it had let you look for party members online. The concept is that you and however many friends you can accumulate to participate take on countless droves of all available types of enemies from cheesy looking grunts to heavy tanks. The real upside to having the ODST actually benefits Halo 3 Matchmaking, because there 9-12 maps that were released as downloadable content OR as a Matchmaking disc that comes with all available maps for Halo 3. There’s no campaign on that disc, but if you’re more interested in competing against other players than against a computer.
Content 3/5 : A really well done game with a lot of twists and turns, but the campaign was considerably short compared to other games.
Gameplay 4/5 : Very fast paced and has a basic strategic value that applies to both campaign and multiplayer. Act, react, win, repeat.
Aesthetic 5/5 : By far one of the prettiest games seen to date. Amazing lighting that you can see on just about every surface. The music applies extremely well to the situations presented in the campaign.
Casual Verdict : Rent, you’ll get everything you want out of this game from two to three days of playing.
Hardcore Verdict : Buy. Not only will you devastate the campaign before you know it, but you’ll have collected all the skulls and unlocked all the available campaign armor for your customizable matchmaking character so you can slaughter in style.
Content 2/5 : Since it was so short it was more of a sitcom spinoff of a blockbuster movie.
Gameplay 3/5 : Sneak around in the dark, have a helmet that makes you feel like Batman, and the first Halo adventure to be much more free-roam. The only complaint is that everyone wishes that Firefight had a sort of ‘pick-up group’ ability.
Aesthetic 4/5 : There’s not much you can do in the environment they had to spice things up, but it had the same pretty shadows as Halo 3.
Casual and Hardcore Verdict : Rent. There are only three things waiting for you in this game: a story, achievements, and a Halo 3 multiplayer disc. If the multiplayer is all you want the game for, you might want to check the downloadable content section of Xbox Live.