The other equalizer
The Halo: Reach multiplayer beta launches in 2010… we’d guess around May. If you want to play, you’ll need ODST. We’re not considering that in our judgment of the game, but we can’t ignore the fact that you probably will when you decide whether or not to buy it. Especially since Halo: Reach will be the next true evolution in the series.
So what does that make ODST?
Answering the big question…
Is Halo 3: ODST an expansion pack?
Semantics, semantics. We realize that everyone will want an opinion on this topic, but we also know that everyone who asks will have their own specific definition and idea of what exactly an “expansion pack” is. If the term is negative to you, than Halo 3: ODST shouldn’t qualify. When you buy the game, you get a whole new campaign mode, with a new story, new characters, new environments and new missions. You get three new multiplayer maps, and possibly many more if you haven’t been paying for previous updates. You get Firefight co-op, which is hours of entertainment alone. ODST is not an afterthought add-on.
That said, Halo 3: ODST does not feel like a full game to us, either. The campaign only lasts between 6-8 hours; play on Normal instead of Heroic or Legendary difficulty and you could be done in as little as 4-5. There are nine missions – only one less than in Halo 3 – but they all seem much shorter and much simpler. They also don’t cover nearly as much terrain. We often finished just as we thought we were reaching the halfway point.
So the answer lies somewhere in between. Less than a standalone game. More than an expansion pack. Here are some analogies to help you:
Is it better than...
Halo 3? No… unless you really hate Master Chief. ODST is a second, smaller adventure in the Halo 3 universe and definitely no replacement for the epic, sprawling original. In fact, you’ll probably finish in half the time. That said, this story is easier to follow and these characters are more sympathetic. Some players will prefer the more intimate mood and atmosphere as well.
Gears of War 2? If we’re talking single player, then no. Gears 2 is a full-fledged sequel that increased the scope and scale of its predecessor; ODST is not. For multiplayer, on the other hand, plenty of folks will prefer Halo 3’s little brother. You get 24 maps in one package, as opposed to 10, and the cooperative survival mode – Firefight – is arguably better than Horde. Wilder and crazier at least.
Halo Wars? Definitely. We didn’t mean to lower your expectations that much. Sure, both games are spinoffs, both games are rather short and both games feature stories with little significance to the overall trilogy plot. ODST is still a shooter, though, and basically more of what you loved about Halo 3. The tweaks to the series are slight in this case, and for the most part, they work.
Just for you, Metacritic!
In many ways, Halo 3: ODST marks a bold departure from the franchise formula, with story, characters, atmosphere and multiplayer that are refreshingly, surprisingly different. Due to a short campaign and overly familiar gameplay, however, it fails to escape the “expansion pack” label.
Sep 19, 2009