New Mombasa's streets are dark and abandoned - save for Covenant patrols.
New Mombasa's streets are dark and abandoned - save for Covenant patrols.

New Mombasa's streets are dark and abandoned - save for Covenant patrols.

The drop, somewhat predictably, goes horribly wrong. You crash land. Six hours later you wake. You're alone. Night has drenched New Mombasa in a pitch black. The only illumination comes from the flames of burning vehicles and flickering street lights. The Rookie steps out onto the cold urban streets. You see a Covenant patrol - a few Grunts and a Brute - skulking about in search of strays. Immediately ODST reveals itself: this is not the Halo we're used to.

New Mombasa has been designed to be a sandbox, and is in fact the single largest level Bungie has ever created for a Halo game. It's no Liberty City or Capital Wasteland, of course, but it is fully explorable (after about half an hour's play), with no loading required. A curious mechanic, however, breaks up this slower-paced, somewhat stealthy exploration - flashback missions. The Rookie's sole goal is to hook up with his squad. To do this, and to advance the story, he needs to find various objects, remnants of the ODST's actions during the last six hours. When you do, you flashback to before night overcame the city, taking control of one of the Rookie's squad mates and playing out a self contained mission reminiscent of a traditional Halo level. Once completed, you jump straight back into the Rookie's armour plated shoes, and head out in search of the next piece in the puzzle.

The first of these flashback missions triggers when you find the helmet of Dare, Ms Naval Intelligence, as she's described by Buck. Set immediately after drop (each flashback begins with an indication of how many hours after drop it occurs and who you're controlling), you jump into Buck's shoes as he battles the Covenant in Tayari Plaza. Buck discovers dead Elites, apparently killed by Brutes - it's classified, Dare says. We meet a new member of the Covenant family: an Engineer - floating plant-like organic supercomputers forced to wear bombs to protect the military secrets they contain. Dare, guiding Buck via inner ear communication, is in trouble. You go in desperate search of your damsel in distress. As the Covenant close in on her position Buck fears her dead. You eventually find her pod. It's empty. Only her helmet remains...

By the end of the game you'll have stepped into the shoes of all five members of the ODST squad, piecing together the mystery of the last six hours before discovering the truth behind your mission on New Mombasa. The order in which you play these flashback missions is entirely up to you. There's a clear path the game wants you to take in order for it to make the most sense plot wise, one that's encouraged by the Superintendent's (the city-wide AI) less than subtle nudges, but after completing the first two you're free to give the Superintendent the finger and stretch your wings. The only problem is Covenant patrols and Phantom drop-offs have the annoying habit of interrupting your sightseeing just when you don't want them to.

The feared Hunters return, with the same weakspots.

The feared Hunters return, with the same weakspots.

The Rookie, being all human, isn't as powerful as Master Chief. He's not as strong, durable or as fast. He can't jump as high either, although his leaps still have a somewhat unrealistic floaty motion. He can't throw grenades as far, although can still lob them a fair old distance. He can't dual wield, but he can pull turrets out of the ground - an ability Bungie left in for the fun factor despite it making little sense. The most notable difference, however, is that the Rookie doesn't have a shield. Instead he's got stamina. Take damage and the screen will flash red. That's your stamina telling you to get in cover. Take sustained damage and your actual health will deplete. The only way to restore it is to grab a medipack or use an Optican MediGel First Aid station, many of which are dotted around the city. There's no hiding behind a rock and waiting for your shield to recharge in ODST.

The system is a clear nod to Halo: Combat Evolved, which also allowed players to regain health with medipacks, but the gameplay is affected differently. ODST's New Mombasa is more dangerous than any Halo environment ever created, simply because the Rookie doesn't have a shield. In past Halo games, Bungie's defining "ten minutes of fun" mechanic challenged players by virtue of the sheer number of enemies you had to face. In ODST it's different. The number of enemies you encounter at any given time while out and about in New Mombasa is smaller, but because you're much flimsier, leaping in like a madman is likely to get you killed, quickly. Instead, you're forced to pick your fights. You might ignore a Covenant patrol completely, for example. When you're forced into a scrap, when a flashback clue is surrounded by Brutes, Jackals and Grunts, perhaps, it pays to plan your attack carefully, identifying cover, escape routes, sniping positions, flanks and higher ground. It's initially a refreshing change for Halo, and it's hard to think of another FPS set in a futuristic open world urban city.

The Rookie, however, is not completely defenceless. His advanced VISR allows him to outline what he sees, identifying friendlies in green, foes in red and objects of interest in yellow. Essentially sci-fi night vision goggles, the VISR is most useful when exploring the abandoned streets of New Mombasa as the Rookie at night. During the day it makes it nigh on impossible to see what's going on.

New stuff to check out

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

Mr_Ninjutsu's Avatar

Mr_Ninjutsu@ Shipo

It's spelt douchebag
Posted 07:26 on 01 October 2009
Shipo's Avatar

Shipo

duchbag
Posted 03:04 on 01 October 2009
Miguel_Zorro's Avatar

Miguel_Zorro

Having now seen enough of this game, I don't think it's good enough - or even close - to be a 9. It's maybe a 7. The criticism that this game has received is justifies. M$/Bungie threw a few levels together, slapped the name Halo on it, and released it - and it worked. This sent entirely the wrong message to the developer. As a result, you can look forward to more shovelware in the future.
Posted 16:52 on 30 September 2009
Shipo's Avatar

Shipo

buy halo3odst youl love it
Posted 02:06 on 27 September 2009
Mr_Ninjutsu's Avatar

Mr_Ninjutsu

Its a shame Microsoft milk it so much but great review.
Posted 22:30 on 26 September 2009
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993

Great review Wes, Completely agree with it all :) as a person who critisized halo before i now am in love with the franchise. This game is really a must buy for 360 owners.
Posted 22:14 on 26 September 2009
Shipo's Avatar

Shipo

: ok heres some the smg changed pistel is faster now and the first missions kinda sad :drool: :crying: :cool: :blink: :thumbup:
Posted 06:51 on 26 September 2009
CRUSH17's Avatar

CRUSH17

great review thanks
Posted 17:54 on 23 September 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ Karlius

i think most people's arguement is that the price tag is too high for people that have already got Halo 3. I personally still think the £30-35 is well worth it even discounting the whole of the original Halo 3 Multiplayer included on the second disc.

There were 3 people queueing with me when i bought my copy who were all buying it, so it seems there aren't enough people complaining to make it unsuccessful.

But the vocal few always love to moan and pick things apart so let them do it I say. We'll carry on enjoying a quality game.
Posted 16:35 on 23 September 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

Was tempted by this, but there's too much else knocking about at the minute to warrant it. Plus I bought IL2 and foolishly a new TV this week so it can go on my Santa list for a bit of light Christmas enjoyment.
Posted 11:41 on 23 September 2009
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

Well for those that haven't played it and criticised get a grip. Wes your 100% right mate 9 is well deserved especially for someone like me that never played Halo 3.
Posted 10:00 on 23 September 2009
Shipo's Avatar

Shipo

i just got halo3odst
Posted 02:58 on 22 September 2009
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Hmm, not sure I'm gonna' read four pages. I know it's a big game an' all, but I'm sure we don't need this much information, especially when the conclusion seems to be pretty close to "Yep, it's still Halo". Though, having not read the entire thing I could be off the mark...

My pre-order should be arriving Tuesday (omg I just realised tomorrow is Tuesday! :D) look forward to giving you all a good thrashing again ;p
Posted 20:15 on 21 September 2009
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ pblive

I got £10 for Halo 3 yesterday in Gamestation. Astounding given some of the 360 games i traded in were worth less and were newer. most of the DS games i tradeded in were worth as much!
Posted 13:12 on 21 September 2009
xboxlive's Avatar

xboxlive

Nice review/nice read,keep up the good work.
Posted 10:44 on 21 September 2009

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Halo 3: ODST
9
Out of 10
Halo 3: ODST
  • The pistol is FPS gold
  • Firefight is brilliant fun
  • Forgettable plot
  • The campaign is short
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 22/09/2009
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: First Person Shooter
No. Players: 1-16
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 2,987 1
View Full Site