By Alex Pearl ’10
Many people try to call video games art.
With newer and more advanced graphics, storylines, voice acting and actual conceptual beauty as a result of a hard day’s work, this claim is reaching credibility with each technological leap.
Of course, there are video games which are pure fun. With no real will to supply innovations to the industry other than by providing entertainment, these tend to be addictive, fast paced, and containing either plenty of geometric shapes and puzzles or lots and lots of explosions.
“Halo 3: ODST” is a member of the latter. Many have criticized the “Halo” series (with the exception of the first installment) of being without direction or plot, and it’s obvious that the game’s creators in the Bungie development offices took these accusations to heart.
The “Campaign”, or story-driven, portion of the game follows in the steps of The Rookie, a step away from the “Halo” series’ main protagonist, the Master Chief. The Rookie is a member of a marine dream-team called the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (or “Helljumpers”) who are dropped from spaceships into terrestrial combat.
Hardcore? Without a doubt.
Throughout the story, The Rookie searches through the alien-infested African city of New Mombasa for his squadmates who, like him, were thrown off-course by a disturbance to their hot-drop from planetary orbit.
As far as the Campaign is concerned, it’s great. Although The Rookie seems to be even more silent than The Big Em-Cee, he’s still a pretty awesome character altogether.
His character design alone, as well as that of his squadmates, looks rugged – without the player even needing to see his face.
In the Campaign, players will need to use stealth and cunning rather than brute force when fighting against the advanced alien confederation known as the Covenant, whose superior numbers and armor will tear the player apart.
It’s essential to remember that you’re not a super-soldier like the Master Chief anymore, just a regular soldier who happens to be ridiculously butch.
The whole “not-a-supersoldier-anymore” thing is a gameplay nuance that will throw long-time Halo fans off track, however.
For example, striking an enemy with your fists as a Helljumper will not deliver the “punching-you-so-hard-that-your-grandmother-can-feel-it” effect that it did with the Master Chief.
What’s more, grenades are actually thrown like grenades are supposed to be thrown. The explosives travel in an arc when they leave the player’s hand, a method which I imagine would achieve the desired effect of a traditional grenade, more so than just pitching it like a baseball, a common technique of the Master Chief.
One feature new to the “Halo” series in “ODST” is Firefight, a game mode where up to four friends can be constantly assaulted by wave after wave of alien scum. The feature is extremely entertaining, as variety is thrown in to every round and difficulty increases as the game progresses.
There are two flaws with the system, however: The first is the length of time Firefight can take. Each wave, despite the variety provided by improving difficulty and varying enemies in each round, becomes unbelievably tedious after thorough repetition.
A good match in which my teammates and I made it through round after round resulted in our realization that the match had gone for over 90 minutes without really giving us a clear-cut victory.
The second flaw is the complete lack of “Matchmaking,” a system over Xbox Live that allows the player to find other people to play with when none of their friends are available.
Although “Friend-Only” co-op was present in “Halo 3” as well, similar “fight-’til-you-drop” game modes in other games such as “Gears of War 2” and “Call of Duty: World at War” utilized a Matchmaking system, making its absence in “ODST” a disappointing if not grave conceptual error.
“Halo 3: ODST” may not be considered art, but it’s good, clean, alien-killing fun. The addictiveness of both its Single- and Multiplayer modes will keep gamers thrilled and playing for hours on end.