The Halo series has always championed heroics and bravery. Fighting insurmountable odds in the face of a relentless foe. And while this still holds true, there is a new element that this latest installment to the franchise introduces. Greed. Contrary to the rave reviews, hype and despite the fact that the game was developed in only a year, I am not impressed. This game, at it's core, is an expansion pack (as orginally proposed) watered down to resemble a completed product. It has all the Halo components, but fails to deliver a memorable experience. For example, there are no Elites, (Yes, I know they were busy handling Master Chief) and aside from a silenced SMG and revamped pistol, no new weapons. I like the game, but it plays more like a Halo Greatest Hits Collection Redux than a new offering. Very little new is offered especially if you've already purchased the multi-player maps previously. See the Value section for more explanation.
Being an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper means you don't have the rechargeable shields and gravity defying leaps of MC, so Bungie takes a nostalgic step backwards and makes you find those good old fashioned health packs. Which by itself is not a bad thing, but just one more thing you have done before. The level design is also a throwback to previous titles. The one thing I really looked forward to, was exploring the city. But it is so dark and vacant (You will have to use the ODST VISR ((the equilvent of a HUD and a flashlight)) throughout most of the game) But I have a question for every reviewer and fan: Was anyone else disappointed as to how little there is to do in the city? For an occupied strategic location, such as New Mombasa, the opposition seems very scarce and weak. You can't interact with most doors or any civilian vehicles; Gosh, this feels like another unfinished vision like... Assassins Creed?! While most reviews are boasting a 6-7 hour campaign, that timeline includes a lot of walking between objectives, fighting re-spawning covenant troops and passing countless non-interactive objects. The one exception being Intel Stations, that when activated, gives you an audio recording and story boarded account of the event leading up to your arrival. If you weren't less than impressed up until this point, this should clinch it. Health packs and diaries...like we haven't seen these before. Blech!
A great soundtrack and the weapon effects are just what you would expect. However, the city itself seems abnormally quiet and even the alternate levels (like the highway and animal reserve) are just absent of any unique ambiance. Likewise, the voice acting toggles between good to horrible while the dialogue and writing is just plain horrible. Very heavy handed and D-movie stuff. Also don't expect any new clever grunt lines, they're all recycled.
Let's tell it like it is. This is a game that could've been offered for:
- Campaign and the Firefight Mode for $29.99 or as DLC.
- The three additional Multi-player maps as DLC.
But instead you are paying 60 bucks for a modest 5 hours and access to download all the multiplayer maps you probably already own. For the more casual gamer, it might be worth it. But for your hardcore Halo fan, you will buy it if only for the new maps and modes but the value for you is less than extraordinary.
Let's call a spade a spade. It was no coincidence that right before E3 Bungie abandoned the expansion pack idea of Halo 3: Recon, only to re-classify it as Halo 3: ODST and decided at the last minute to include the Firefight mode to warrant the price increase. Knowing that the brand would sell itself, they capitalized on it . While most won't hold any grudges due to an the Microsoft contractual agreement, I still find myself perplexed that almost no one has outlined the games shortcomings. Or maybe they hope we'll forget it, a s we stand in line for Halo Reach to be released in 2010.