Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review: Halo 3: ODST

Normally I don't do reviews, but I'm bored and I figure I can make an exception with Bungie's latest game, Halo 3: ODST.

Before I begin however, if you're one of those blindfolded Bungie supporters that get in the faces of people with conflicting opinions (that are backed up with legitimate reasoning) by saying things like "try playing on legendary" or something equally hollow and retarded like "go back to Call of Duty 4 then", instead of sending me a crude e-mail, just attach your dick to the railroad track of a speeding train with a big nail gun and shut the fuck up you douche.

I'll start with Halo 3: ODST's campaign mode, which I found to be very underwhelming. I began on two player split-screen with a friend and got to the third or so stage, then eventually realized that Halo 3: ODST is one of those games where the campaign is much more enjoyable when played solo (unlike most, e.g. Gears of War 1 and 2), and so restarted and played the campaign from start to finish myself, and I was still underwhelmed.

I found the gameplay in campaign to be extremely repetitive, for reasons specific to the game and also the fact that the typical Halo enemy formula is simply getting old now. A couple grunts and a brute, the occasional chieftain or hunter to mix things up... yawn. Most of the game is spent watching Phantom after Phantom come down to drop off ground units.

I love the new pistol in Halo 3: ODST, and that's really one of the only few good things I can say about the campaign. Getting headshots with the pistol is quite satisfying, unfortunately not enough to save the campaign though.

Always keep in mind that I'm just another guy with another opinion on the game, but it honestly surprises me that so many people commend ODST on its writing and voice acting (I realize I'm not really one to talk here but bear with me). Much of the dialogue is cheesy and overdone, and the voice acting never seems to be great, it's always executed with either not enough emotion, given the line's context, or simply overdone. Am I honestly the only one who laughed when Buck, in the first cinematic sequence, said ". . . GET SET . . ."? And if I lived in a world where principals of schools walked into classrooms during fire drills and said "You know the music, time to dance", I'd shoot myself in the fucking head.

Another thing that bothers me is the animation style in the game, which is simply too dated now. All the characters are so damn bouncy that at times I feel like I'm watching Madagascar 2: Back 2 Africa. Most games nowadays utilize motion capture technology to make characters move in a believable way, but for some reason Bungie refuses to hop aboard this train, which is cool in a way since hand animation is more traditional I suppose, but ultimately lame since to me, all the cutscenes look ridiculous. Watch ODST's first cinematic sequence, then a cutscene from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Overall the campaign seems very uninspired. When Buck and Dare walked in and started bitching at each other, I thought I was watching the Abyss with Ed Harris and that chick, can't remember her name. Not to mention their relationship was just totally uninteresting, partly due to the fact that Dare is an ugly bitch. Sorry.

Also, don't get me started on Buck and Dare's kissing scene near the end of the game, which was taken almost word for word and shot for shot from the movie Chicken Run. Don't believe me? Watch this video and skip to 7:57.

One thing I'll give the campaign is the music, on which Marty O'Donnell did a wonderful job (except for the parts with the saxophone, seriously, what the fuck is that), but the only problem is that there isn't enough of it. The music seems to just stop and restart at the oddest moments, leaving epic fight sequences with no orchestral backing of any kind.

I like what Bungie attempted with the rookie character at night in the desolate streets of the "hub" New Mombasa, where lengthy and lonely treks from one end of the map to the other are accompanied by haunting piano melodies sounding suspiciously similar to Resident Evil's "safe room" tunes, but also, the problem with this is that it just isn't entertaining long-term and ends up becoming rather dull as it carries on. A little after halfway through the game, I was literally thinking to myself "Oh great, I'm gonna beat this level and have to go back to that fucking boring-ass city and find the next weird flashback-generating object like a used dildo or rubber fist or something". Yeah, the audio clips that you find on your journeys through the empty city are a nice touch, but not enough to keep me wanting to go back to it.

Halo 3's campaign was much more enjoyable and well-executed, and ODST's campaign felt like nothing more than a cheap, uninteresting and forgettable sub-plot due to dated technology, unrealistic writing, flawed line delivery and lack of music (but what was there was good at least) that was more of a chore to finish than a joy.

I'll now jump to ODST's other feature that everyone's raving about, and that's firefight, which I have to admit really can be quite a blast and in my opinion is the sole reason anyone should consider buying this game. My one complaint about it is that the "catch" skull (which causes enemies to throw a shit ton of grenades) should have at least been moved further down the queue towards the end so it's not encountered for a while, or perhaps even just taken out altogether, because it's annoying as fuck. Otherwise, it's a solid, polished and enjoyable multiplayer mode where you join up with three other players and hold off hordes of A.I. and rack up points. However, one can't help but feel that the feature is cheapened by the fact that it was so transparently taken from Gears of War 2 (Horde mode), but ODST did it better and that's what counts I suppose.

Unfortunately, all the good things about ODST seem to have one niggling flaw that prevents them from shining, and firefight mode is no exception to this rule, with the omission of matchmaking. In other words, in order to fully enjoy firefight mode, you must have three people on your friends list online at the time and get into a room together, you can't simply play a "quick match" or search for random players.

I mean the technology for matchmaking is there, in Halo 3 multiplayer, and fully functional. I'm no programmer so I don't want to be naive and say "why not just copy and paste the matchmaking code to ODST" and assume it's easily fixed, but even if it wasn't, shouldn't Bungie have gone the extra mile and included firefight matchmaking in an effort to justify the $70 people are paying for an expansion?

ODST also has the theater mode feature, which is kind of nice. I have no use for it, but better that it's there than not I guess.

ODST's final feature is the included second disk containing the Halo 3 Complete Multiplayer Experience, wherein there lies a massive logical error. It's a safe assumption that those that buy ODST, an expansion of Halo 3, have up until now played the shit out of multiplayer and kept up with the map packs. So what the fuck is the point of selling Halo 3 fans a disk with everything that they already have?

It's pretty obvious that the guys at Microsoft sat around trying desperately to come up with a way to justify selling ODST (an expansion, keep in mind) for $70, and then one of them said "I know, let's just throw multiplayer in on another disk with all the add-ons and sell Halo 3 multiplayer to our piss-poor public again.

Firefight is nice, but Halo 3: ODST just plain isn't worth $70.

I believe Bungie has now essentially gone down the same path as Rare, where they perpetuate an unjustified aura of mysticism and epicness around them while currently generating mediocre product, deluded due to "that one game" they have under their belt (Bungie: Halo 1, Rare: Goldeneye 007/Perfect Dark 64). In this day and age, I believe companies like Infinity Ward and Epic Games deserve much more attention, along with a few others.

So there. That's my review.

Graphics: 4/5
Campaign: 2.5/5
Firefight: 4.5/5
Theater Mode: Whatever/5
Multiplayer: Already have it/5

Overall: 3/5