Halo 3: ODST review

  • Story and characters are a nice break from formula
  • Firefight cooperative mode is very, very addictive
  • Plenty of hardcore Halo fan service here
  • Campaign is surprisingly short
  • Gameplay is overwhelmingly familiar
  • Is this just a placeholder until Halo: Reach?

ODST is all about mindset.

Are you hoping for more Halo 3? Are you looking forward to another adventure in that game’s grandly exaggerated yet comfortingly familiar universe? Are you excited to wield the same crazy weapons and vehicles in brand new battles, to encounter the same smart enemies in unexpected new situations and to witness the same epic war from an entirely new perspective? Are more missions and more multiplayer enough? If so, then ODST is the answer. You will definitely not be disappointed.

But what if you got carried away by the hype? What if that amazing live-action trailer, or that significant September release date, have you convinced that ODST is the next major milestone in the Halo phenomenon? What if the talk about detective characters, film noir settings and gritty close-quarters combat have you anticipating a bold departure from the Bungie formula? Then yeah, you might be in for a bit of a letdown. Like we said at the start, though, all you need is the right mindset. So here’s what you should expect from Halo 3: ODST…

Above: This is an advertisement. This is not a game

A new kind of hero

For pure escapism, Master Chief is the perfect hero. He stands seven feet tall, he wears nearly invulnerable armor, he hangs out with naked computer chicks and, best of all, he’s a blank slate on which players can project themselves. For narrative impact and emotional resonance, however, he sucks… no one can really relate to, or truly empathize with, a faceless genetic supermachine.

His controversial absence in ODST, therefore, is actually a big plus. Halo’s developers have finally been freed to create new heroes, and this time, they’ve written them to be much more realistic, much more believable and much more human. “Orbital Drop Shock Trooper” may sound like a fancy title, and does indicate special training, but these men are still simple soldiers with a limited knowledge of the overall conflict. They follow orders, even if they don’t agree with them. They bicker. They crack jokes. They compare war stories and watch each other’s backs. They make lewd comments about the opposite sex, or reveal long-simmering romances. In other words, they have real personalities.

Above: Look ma, no masks! 

A new kind of story

The game’s story is structured differently, too, enabling these characters’ differences to shine. When an ODST mission to Earth goes disastrously wrong, the squad is scattered across the futuristic city of New Mombasa, Africa – visited briefly in Halo 2 – and the team’s rookie member is forced to wander the urban landscape at night, piecing together what happened during the six hours he was unconscious in his drop pod.

Sadly, the Rookie is as silent and empty a vessel as Master Chief. Each time he discovers a clue to his friends’ location, though, you’ll jump into their unique and colorful shoes for a flashback mission. One is a trigger-happy explosives expert who gets his hands on a tank. One is the gruff and grumbly cowboy type who must protect a critical government facility. One’s got a cocky attitude, but the sniper skills to match. One’s the leader (voiced by Firefly’s Nathan Fillion), trying desperately to rescue his female superior (voiced by Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer) and discover her secret reasons for sending them on this failed operation to begin with.

Compared to the sweeping galactic saga that is the original Halo trilogy, ODST’s plot is decidedly small-scale. Intimate. You won’t experience any earth-shattering revelations, or be blown away by too many breathtaking setpieces. You certainly won’t feel like you’re saving the universe. Some players will undoubtedly be bored, but after eight years of increasingly convoluted story threads that often required the help of novelizations and comic books to unravel, we felt refreshed.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Bungie
Franchise: Halo
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • Yeager1122 - September 20, 2009 4:08 a.m.

    good article but i still dont want this game
  • Riodoku - September 20, 2009 4:10 a.m.

    This is about what I expected. I'll have some fun playing it with my friend when he gets it.
  • ChrisAntistaSmellsLikePizza - September 20, 2009 4:28 a.m.

    I might try a rent first, then see from there if I really consider it a Halo expansion that truly expands and adds new flares to a pretty "O.K." formula, not just adds new multi-player maps, or if it is just another (all be it upgraded) version of horde/survival mode.
  • ChewedAlfredo - September 20, 2009 4:29 a.m.

    ahhh yaaaaa i am definately pickin uup me some of dat ODST! HOOAH!
  • WhiteCoco - September 20, 2009 4:50 a.m.

    Without online matchmaking for the Firefight mode, ODST won't be as fondly remembered as Halo 3. Not to mention its full game price tag. I really wanted to buy this game but as the months went by, my interest waned and I'm just going to rent it for the single-player. Perhaps I'll buy a copy if its 20 dollars cheaper.
  • legory - September 20, 2009 6:05 a.m.

    I am definitely getting this game. I am a huge Halo fan, and thus I add the +1. I've been looking forward to this game for almost a year, your less-than-enthusiastic review won't stop me from buying it! ReCAPTCHA: Dymshits egress
  • CountFenring - September 20, 2009 6:15 a.m.

    Good review, I'll probably buy this when it drops so I can get into Reach just because I hope it'll be like Halo Ghost Recon. I do love the Halo universe, so I think I'll enjoy this too.
  • Romination - September 20, 2009 6:18 a.m.

    am i the only one who saw the 'we definitely haven't played THIS before' video and thought 'wow i've totally played that before'?
  • magicwalnuts0 - September 20, 2009 8:39 a.m.

    WOOO! Another laughably short campaign for a game franchise that has an excellent Sci-Fi backstory. EPIC FAIL, my 360 just RRoD'd for the third time, so I'm definitely never playing this game, cause I'm not repairing that piece of shit. reCaptcha: Episcopal Coinage
  • Pr0fesserCha0s - September 20, 2009 1:35 p.m.

    I hate Halo (Breathes Heavily)
  • FartsOnMilk - September 20, 2009 2:30 p.m.

    I will pick this up eventually and it is a good deal for me (anyways) since I don't have any of the MP mappacks for Halo 3. Its just too bad that you can't take the ODSTs online in there own versions of slayer and other modes. Either way it doesn't sound half bad.
  • PhantomOfKrankor - September 20, 2009 2:38 p.m.

    A hot girl working at gamestop convinced me to preorder this. I didn't want it then, and I don't really want it now. Damn you Christina!!!!!!
  • clucky120 - September 20, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    i'm not really caring about score i don't have live so i want all the maps
  • jar-head - September 20, 2009 2:46 p.m.

    I Kick All ass on Heroic, FireFight should be Kick ass, but i'm not sure about the campaign, i'll let you know Tuesday at 12:01
  • Dexsus - September 20, 2009 2:48 p.m.

    Mmmmhh....Well I've been planning to go to a midnight launch of this thing for awhile so might as well go through with it. At the very least this should hold me over until OF:Dragon Rising.
  • CreeplyTuna - September 20, 2009 2:49 p.m.

    did you seriously just compare an rts and a n fps? come on guys!
  • Redeater - September 20, 2009 3:28 p.m.

    Sadly I will still buy this game on launch....tragic
  • Axcle - September 20, 2009 3:57 p.m.

    This doesn't really change my opinion about the game. I would have expected an 8, though. But your score is well justified, so i'll respect it.
  • John-117 - September 20, 2009 8:45 p.m.

    I never really planned to play ODST, but I may give it a rent; at least to play a bit of firefight and speed through the campaign to see what's going on. Halo:CE is the only Halo that I think deserves its recognition, but hopefully Reach can recapture the great feel that the first had.
  • martainsquid - September 20, 2009 9:33 p.m.

    shame it only got a 7, but i'm still going to buy at and will probally still love it

Showing 1-20 of 82 comments

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