The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3 ODST

“Now’s one of those times, where it pays to be the strong, silent type” –Dutch to the Rookie

A group of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs), special operations units known for their unique insertion method, prepare to board a Covenant carrier. However, their assignment changes unexpectedly when Veronica Dare takes command of the squad and alters the pods’ trajectory. When the carrier unexpectedly enters slip-space, the resulting shockwaves knocks their drop pods off course, and the squad crashes into the city of New Mombasa below. Six hours later, the Rookie awakens to find himself in the deserted, rainy streets of New Mombasa: with the Covenant forces advancing, residents of the city were hastily evacuated. The Rookie wanders the streets and locates clues as to what had happened to his team.  Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck and Veronica Dare had landed at Tayari Plaza, but after Dare disappeared, he decides to link up with the squad. ODST Taylor “Dutch” Miles landed at the Uplift Nature Reserve fights his way through Covenant armour in an attempt to reach the commanding officer but is unsuccessful when the orbital elevator collapses, killing the colonel. Michael “Mickey” Crespo lands in the city streets and takes control of a Scorpion tank to link up with Dutch. They receive communications from Buck, who had met up with Romeo and fought through the NMPD headquarters, eventually defending a Pelican from waves of Covenant. During the fight, Romeo is mortally wounded by a Brute Chieftain, but he is stabilised with a bio-foam canister and makes a full recovery. The squad commander a Covenant Phantom and prepare to leave New Mombasa, but Buck orders them to find Dare first. As it turns out, Dare had a special assignment: to escort a defecting Covenant engineer. The Rookie had fought his way into the Data Centre and reaches both Dare and the defecting engineer. They return to the surface and attempt to reach the extraction point using an Olifant, but when a Scarab damages the vehicle, they are forced to disembark and hold out at a plaza until the others arrive. The ODSTs manage to evacuate New Mombasa ahead of the Covenant fleet, who have begun glassing the area to excavate a Forerunner portal. Later, during an interrogation, the engineer expresses mutual contempt for the Brutes and implicitly agrees to help humanity out.

Releasing in September 2009, Halo 3: ODST was originally intended to be a side project that would fill the three-year gap between Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. The game marks a departure from the traditional Halo formula in terms of style and gameplay despite sharing the same mechanics as Halo 3 did. Health makes a return: lacking the Spartans’ energy shields, ODSTs are more vulnerable to damage and lack the same strength, speed and dexterity. The ODSTs also possess a VISR system in place of the Mjolnir’s motion tracker, useful as a night vision system. Despite possessing none of the overwhelming firepower of a Spartan, the ODSTs are still elite soldiers, however, and Halo 3: ODST shows that an individual ODST can still be a formidable force to behold. This is most apparent during Halo 3: ODST’s flashbacks. While playing as Buck, Dutch, Mickey and Romeo, players still have access to most of Master Chief’s power, including the ability to flip vehicles and pummel Brutes to death once their shields are dropped. The flashback missions are varied and engaging, feeling like a traditional Halo game. On the flip side, the Rookie’s initial segments are more moody, contemplative. As he wanders the empty streets during a rainy night, there’s a distinct film noir aesthetic that is accentuated by the use of jazz. Halo 3: ODST switches seamlessly between the intensity of the action scenes and quieter moments that follow the Rookie’s investigation into what happened to his squad, creating a striking balance between combat and exploration. As players find clues, the quiet shifts over to excitement, and once players finish a flashback, the pulse-pounding firefights are replaced by a cathartic moment of self-reflection. This demonstrates that even in a title as established as Halo, there’s always new directions to explore, and new atmospherics to present. For its ability to do both elements, Halo 3: ODST was positively received and kept players engaged until Halo: Reach released a year later.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s time to open October off with a Halo 3: ODST post now that I’ve cleared the game in full. After receiving their assignments, the Rookie drops down to New Mombasa along with his squad, but becomes separated from the others. By the time he comes to, it is a rainy night, and without any inkling of where his team is, he first clears out the squad of Covenant guarding the plaza. ODSTs typically begin with the M7S submachine gun and M6C/SOCOM pistol, suppressed weapons that are excellent for stealth and lacking in stopping power. Once the first squad is cleared, a nearby phone will ring, and upon answering it, the Rookie gains access to a map of New Mombasa, along with a waypoint of where to go next.

  • During my playthrough, Buck’s mission was the first on the table: his goal is to reach Dare as quickly as possible, fighting through the streets where the Rookie had been wandering previously. For some inexplicable reason, the par time indicated on the loading screen for this mission is three minutes: during the flighting, I imagined this to be a bug, but as it turns out, the par time is deliberate – players can simply choose not to fire a shot and rush on over to Dare’s pod, skipping past all of the combat sequences.

  • From a story perspective, this makes sense, since the goal of Buck’s mission is simply to reach Dare. On my playthrough, however, I chose to play the game as a shooter rather than speed-run through the mission: even though the lack of shields mean that small Covenant squads can quickly decimate buck, having a good loadout makes all the difference. For much of Halo 3: ODST, I ran with the assault rifle and Covenant carbine – the assault rifle is an excellent close range weapon, while the carbine covers mid-range engagements.

  • Even as the Master Chief, Halo 3‘s Hunters were fairly tricky; as an ODST, Hunters are downright terrifying to fight, and in my first encounter, I fought veteran Hunters (distinguished by their gold plating). These Hunters use the classic mortar-like fuel rod guns and are more durable than their standard counterparts: their behaviour is also less predictable, making them immensely tough to fight. However, the same tricks still apply, and I found myself trying to side-strafe and flank them to get behind their backs, where a few well-placed shots will down them.

  • One of the biggest things to get accustomed to in Halo 3: ODST was the HUD – whereas the Mjolnir armour places the ammunition counter on the upper right hand side of the screen, this has been moved to the bottom left hand side. Further to this, the grenade counter has been moved down, as well. From a design perspective, I imagine this was done to fit with the design and curvature of the ODST helmets. While most shooters place the ammunition counter on the bottom right hand side (e.g. Battlefield and Call of Duty do this), I’ve grown accustomed to glancing up and to the right for my ammunition counter, so Halo 3: ODST did come across as a bit unusual in that regard.

  • Upon my arrival at Tayari Plaza, the wisdom of carrying a Covenant carbine becomes clear: its optics allows one to pick off enemies from a distance, and players soon wrap up this mission upon reaching Dare’s pod. However, it’s empty, and when an engineer shows up, it detonates, throwing Buck’s helmet into a display screen in one of the buildings that the Rookie discovers. Given the unusual par time, I am inclined to replay this level at a later date to see if it is indeed possible to finish it in under three minutes, provided that I do not bother engaging with the Covenant at all.

  • My favourite aspect about the Rookie’s segments of Halo 3: ODST was the use of film noir music. The use of saxophone is traditionally associated with the hardboiled detective archetype, someone who’s cynical and isn’t so quick to be intimidated. The flowing use of instrumentation indicates someone who doesn’t really care for their situation: jazz has always been about improvisation, and so, characters who’ve BTDT are usually able to extricate themselves from all manners of situations. The genre and the accompanying music complement one another nicely, although I note that I’m not too familiar with the genre. In fact, Bill Watterson’s Tracer Bullet arcs are the extent of my familiarity with the film noir style: Calvin imagines himself as a hardboiled detective in various scenarios, and like most figures of the archetype, usually ends up with a moral victory.

  • If I were to speak truthfully, Dutch’s mission at the Uplift Reserve was probably my least favourite of the Halo 3: ODST missions from an aesthetics perspective. The level is permeated by yellows and tans – it might as well be set on the surface of Venus, and sees Dutch joining UNSC forces, who are trying to repel Covenant vehicles. This is a vehicle heavy mission, and Dutch is equipped with a Spartan Laser for swiftly destroying Covenant Wraiths. I tend to save the Spartan Laser for Wraiths and turrets: lighter vehicles can be destroyed by other means, while Wraiths are tougher and can quickly send careless players back to a checkpoint.

  • Similarly to Buck’s mission, Dutch’s mission has a par time of four minutes. Engaging Covenant vehicles will mean that achieving the par time is not possible: in order to do so, one would need to seize the Warthog at the start of the level and keep the petal to the metal for the duration of the mission, ignoring everything until one reaches a large, open area. However, since I wasn’t playing for achievements during my initial run of Halo 3: ODST, I chose to take my usual approach of blowing up everything that moves.

  • AI driving in Halo had never been one of the series’ strong suit, and while one can quickly deal some serious damage as a Warthog gunner, the AI driving leaves much to be desired. Besides taking unnecessary detours, the algorithms for driving also result in suboptimal paths, which can be frustrating. I concede that driving algorithms are tricky to write, since the game also needs to account for things like threats in the players’ vicinity as well as the shortest distance to a desired location. In more simple applications, algorithms like A* are typically the best: despite having poor space complexity, the results yielded are excellent, often being superior to those generated from algorithms with a better space complexity.

  • To offset the poor driving AI, players traditionally take the wheel in Halo to spare themselves of the perils resulting from AI driving: while the AI aren’t particularly good shots with something like the Warthog’s mounted gun, they still aim better than they drive. Dutch eventually arrives in an open area and destroys Covenant Wraiths, plus the forces covering them on short order. I opted to keep my Spartan Laser with me and made quick work of the turrets, plus one of the Wraiths. Once my laser battery was depleted, I swapped over to the rocket launcher. The Spartan Laser has swiftly become one of my favourite weapons in Halo owing to its ability to one-shot tanks.

  • Dutch’s mission wraps up after he defends a plaza from Covenant forces, bringing the most visually unappealing mission of Halo 3: ODST to an end. While Uplift Reserve may look unimpressive, the gameplay is still excellent; the mission has a solid combination of vehicular and infantry combat, bringing to mind a more classic Halo feeling with respect to gameplay. I managed to find a sniper rifle, an excellent weapon for picking off brutes at a distance. While I’m no stranger to the sniper rifles of Halo, I admit that aiming where my enemy is, rather than where they are going, will take some getting used to: I’ve been playing Battlefield for the past seven years, and returning to hit-scan from a world of projectiles is a bit of an adjustment.

  • Leaving Dutch’s flashback and returning to the silent streets of New Mombasa really hit home: at this point, Halo 3: ODST had decisively shown that its biggest draw is being able to transition smoothly between the film-noir aesthetic of the Rookie’s missions, and the more conventional Halo experience. Going between two opposites means that Halo 3: ODST never becomes monotony; right when things get a little too quiet, the Rookie will come upon a key item that sets in motion a flashback, and the excitement evoked by a flashback is dialed back after players return to the Rookie’s viewpoint.

  • Overall, I found the M7S to be a passable weapon, but one that I would switch out at first convenience. While effective at even medium ranges against grunts and jackals, even on normal difficulty, it takes an entire magazine to strip the shields on a brute. Similarly, the M6C/SOCOM is useful against grunts and jackals, but deal insufficient damage against brutes. My first inclination is to swap off the M6C/SOCOM as soon as better weapons become available, and then switch off the M7S after that: while less effective against Brutes, the M7S is still a solid choice for handling weaker enemies.

  • Halo 3: ODST uses the same Scorpion as Halo 3, so when operating one, players only have access to the 90 mm cannon, and a passenger is required to operate the machine gun in an ant-infantry role. Without a coaxial machine gun, Scorpions of Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST do not allow the driver to simultaneously deal with infantry and armour alike, so a passenger is needed for a Scorpion to be fully effective. With this being said, the 90 mm shells will kill most anything, so engaging infantry at range is always an option if one is lacking a passenger gunner.

  • After the Rookie locates a gauss turret, he flashes back to Mickey’s mission to punch through Kizingo Boulevard and meet up with Dutch. However, unlike other Halo tank missions, Mickey’s level is close quarters in city streets. In general, tanks are best suited for engagements in open spaces, since urban areas allow enemies to take advantage of limited sightlines and turret traversal to get close enough the tank to disable or destroy it.

  • The final area of Mickey’s mission is an open plaza, where the goal is to hold off waves of Covenant forces, including several Wraiths. The wisdom of holding onto heavy weapons, like a rocket launcher, becomes apparent here; players are unable to bring vehicles into the area without exploiting glitches, and since I’m new to Halo 3: ODST, I’m playing the game the way it was originally meant to be played. Because Halo 3: ODST uses the same engine as Halo 3, firefights are intense, with large groups of enemies spawning at a given time. Consequently, I burned through all of my ammunition on very short order.

  • I ended up locating a sniper rifle and used it to pick off Covenant forces from a distance after I ran out of ammunition for my M7S and rocket launcher. I also picked up a needler here, but never ended up using it, which earned me an achievement for completing a level exclusively with UNSC weapons. Of all the missions, Mickey’s felt the most similar to what I imagine Halo 2 was originally set to feature, and a part of me wonders if Halo 3: ODST represented an opportunity for Bungie to revisit some concepts that were originally cut from Halo 2.

  • Seeing the orbital elevator remains burning in the distance gives Halo 3: ODST a very apocalyptic feel. By this point, I’ve gotten my hands on a Covenant beam rifle and carbine, making firefights in the streets of New Mombasa far easier. However, one thing I did notice is that walking between the waypoints does take some time, although having the full map and VISR is indispensable. As I close in on a clue, my HUD begins glowing as I close in on the next clue, which serves as a segue into the next mission, which continues off with Mickey and Dutch.

  • Players return to Dutch’s perspective for the ONI Alpha Site mission. The pair have rigged a bridge with explosives, and after fighting their way across said bridge, detonate them to impede the Covenant. As Dutch, I gain access to the Spartan Laser once more: the weapon was quite rare in Halo 3‘s campaign: Master Chief starts with one on the Covenant mission and otherwise, only encounters the weapon during the final mission. Conversely, Spartan Lasers are more common in Halo 3: ODST. Despite their prodigious power, the Spartan Laser is generally an impractical weapon to use against infantry.

  • There is one exception: I never waste the Spartan Laser on infantry, but Hunters sometimes demand the use of a Spartan Laser, since they are as tough as vehicles to deal with. During the firefight with Covenant forces, I found myself running low on assault rifle rounds, and when hunters appeared, I resorted to the Spartan Laser to deal with them. I’ve heard that on legendary difficulty, it takes two shots from the Spartan Laser to kill hunters, but thankfully, on standard difficulty, one shot will turn a hunters into a non-threat.

  • I was particularly fond of the ONI building’s cavernous interior: the polished marble floors and large pillars give the building an imposing feeling, not unlike that of a large bank, real estate or legal organisation’s headquarters. UNSC and NMPD forces have set up a small fortification in the middle of the lobby, along with an AIE-486H. This heavy machine gun is well-placed: hordes of Covenant begin assaulting the player’s position, including suicide grunts, and being able to lay down a continuous, withering hail of 7.62mm rounds without letting up makes it a valuable asset. While mounted, the HMG has unlimited ammunition, making it great for locking down an area. However, if the need arises, the weapon can also be detached.

  • The design of the ONI building brings to mind the artistic style seen in older video games like 007: Rogue Agent and Enter The Matrix: while older games may not have the visual fidelity of modern titles, game designers back in the day made certain that even with fewer polygons and less sophisticated lighting, environments still conveyed a specific feeling. Compared to Halo 3Halo 3: ODST does look a bit more dated in places, even with the updates made to it for the Master Chief Collection. However, the game has been updated to render on PC, and from a gameplay perspective, handles very well.

  • Once the lobby is cleared, Dutch and Mickey take an elevator to the ONI headquarters’ rooftops. Upon neutralising all of the Covenant up here, they board a Pelican and detonate the charges, destroying the building and preventing its secrets from falling into Covenant hands. Perspective returns to the Rookie, and from here on out, I found it considerably easier to navigate the streets of New Mombasa: after dealing with a squad of Covenant forces, I was lucky enough to find an operational Ghost lying around on the map.

  • Having a Ghost in the semi-open world map changed everything: distances that took minutes to traverse now took seconds, and the Ghost’s dual forward-facing plasma cannons allowed me to make short work of any opposition standing between me and the objective. Once I found the Ghost, and with the knowledge that Halo 3: ODST allowed me to keep my weapons in-between levels (the carbine and beam rifle I found were retained, right down to their ammunition count), it became clear to me that getting the Rookie’s segments done was going to become a whole lot easier.

  • Kojo “Romeo” Agu’s mission at the NMPD is probably my favourite of the flashback missions: the aesthetics are excellent, and the combat is intense. Romeo starts with the sniper rifle and M6C/SOCOM, and there’s plenty of ammunition during the mission for the sniper rifle, which is the premiere weapon for long-range engagements. In general, ammunition for UNSC weapons is quite rare, and I’ve found myself switching over to Covenant weapons as soon as my starting weapons ran dry. The needler and plasma pistol are situational weapons, but the Brute Spiker and plasma rifle are solid all-around weapons. If an assault rifle isn’t available, I’ll take either.

  • Romeo starts with the sniper rifle and M6C/SOCOM, and there’s plenty of ammunition during the mission for the sniper rifle. With a steady aim, jackal snipers and jetpack-equipped brutes are dealt with swiftly. Of the ODSTs, Romeo has the rockiest relationship with Buck owing to his tendency to run his mouth off, but when the chips are down, Romeo’s aim is top notch. Buck and Romeo make a solid enough team as they fight through the NMPD to reach their squad-mates at the crash site: Dutch and Mickey have rendezvoused here, but the NMPD Pelican is out of commission.

  • While the M7S is weak, it’s actually proven a surprisingly fun weapon to use: in practise, it’s slightly more accurate than the assault rifle and can deal consistent damage out to a surprising range. One noticeable absence in Halo 3: ODST is the battle rifle, a Halo staple that deals excellent damage and is highly accurate. I’ve heard that it was a design choice from Bungie’s end to omit the battle rifle, since they found that players would play exclusively with the battle rifle owing to its versatility, and Bungie wanted to encourage players to try out the different weapons. In a context where dual-wielding is absent, the plasma rifle and brute Spiker are both strong weapons.

  • After cutting across a construction crane, Romeo and Buck link up with Mickey and Dutch. Scattered at the crash site are various missile pods, some rocket launchers and even a Spartan Laser. It is a well-known trope that, whenever a game becomes particularly generous with supplies, something big is about to go down. Unsurprisingly, hordes of Covenant Banshees and Phantoms begin assaulting the crash site. The mounted missile pods are particularly valuable, since they have unlimited ammunition, and can lock onto air vehicles. Using them will allow one to conserve on ammunition. Since missile pods cannot be re-attached to their mounts after they are detached, it is recommended that one keeps them attached for as long as possible, and dismount when engaging any stragglers.

  • Towards the end of the assault, I ended up using the Spartan Laser to shoot down Banshees before the mission ended. The Spartan Laser, while powerful, cannot destroy a Phantom in a single shot, attesting to how heavily armoured they are. However, the Spartan Laser still does considerable damage to a Phantom, and while I personally don’t recommend using a Spartan Laser on a Phantom, a few shots can bring one down quickly enough. At the end of the mission, Romeo is grievously wounded by a brute Chieftain. He manages to stave off death by blocking the Chieftain’s gravity hammer with the sniper rifle, explaining the bent sniper rifle the Rookie finds earlier.

  • To stablise Romeo, Dutch uses a bio-foam injector. Once Romeo is okay, Dutch discards the injector, which the Rookie later finds. The entire ODST squad is now back together, Buck leads an assault on Kikowani Station to commandeer a Phantom. With nightfall under way, the VISR becomes important in helping players to spot enemies and openings. The act of comandeering a Phantom is easy enough: once the Covenant forces guarding one are neutralised, the ODSTs will take control of it. Mickey pilots it, having had the most experience in operating air vehicles, while Dutch and Romeo operate the guns.

  • There’s a weapons container with a pair of beam rifles at the start of the mission. The beam rifle is the Covenant’s counterpart to the sniper rifle, and like the sniper rifle, excels at long range combat. The beam rifle does not need reloading, and can be used to fire two quick shots in rapid succession, although this overheats the weapon and renders it unable to be used for a few seconds. In the plaza, having a beam rifle allows one to pick off brutes and jackals from a distance without opening themselves up to return fire: since I had an extra beam rifle available to me, I emptied out the first one and retrieved a fresh beam rifle before moving onwards.

  • While Mickey, Dutch and Romeo take the Phantom, Buck takes to the skies in a Banshee to provide covering fire. There are a few places where one needs to disembark to open a doorway manually, and Banshees are scattered along the route, allowing players to swap a damaged Banshee for a fresh one if they took too much damage earlier. At this point in the mission, keeping the VISR enabled is mandatory: it makes spotting enemies much easier.

  • It is a little embarrassing to admit this, but until now, I relied entirely on its twin forward-facing plasma cannons, since I never could figure out the button for using the fuel rod cannon that deals explosive damage. In previous Halo games, I always had this mapped to the middle mouse button, but owing to how the Master Chief Collection handles keyboard configuration, I wasn’t able to set the fuel rod cannon to use middle mouse. In Halo 3: ODST, the weapon ended up being mapped to “Q”, and I am glad that I have access to the Banshee’s entire loadout for this mission.

  • This is because the last moments of the mission has Buck squaring off against a Scarab. Since I’m no stranger to the Halo 3 Scarabs, my immediate response was to begin opening the engagement by using plasma and fuel rod cannon fire on one of the Scarab’s legs, and then once it was immobilsed, I hammered its rear armour until it fell off, exposing the vulnerable reactor core. Destroying this will annihilate the Scarab entirely.

  • With the Ghost I’d found earlier still in my possession, I had no trouble reaching the entrance to the data centre. During the flight, I’d gotten lost and spent a good quarter-hour probing the outside of the building looking for a way in, but this time, the combination of prior experience and a Ghost meant I had much less trouble locating the entrance and dealing with the remaining Covenant forces. Once the Rookie enters the data centre, Halo 3: ODST shifts away from the semi-open world of New Mombasa and flashback missions to a more conventional, linear story.

  • Upon entering the underground data centre, the Rookie fights through hordes of Covenant to reach Dare. The design of this segment brings to mind the aesthetics of games from a much older era: the data centre has the same feel as a villain’s lair in a James Bond game, with its lighting and endless banks of servers. On the topic of James Bond, it appears that the latest movie, No Time To Die, has been postponed again to April 2, 2021: the movie had cost some two hundred million to make, and I can imagine that the studio is trying to delay it so that they can turn a profit on the film. While the delay is understandable, it also means that there isn’t a James Bond movie to look forwards to in the near future. However, Fukushima 50‘s home release is going to become available on November 6, and I’ve been curious to watch this movie for quite some time.

  • As an ODST, players cannot dual-wield weapons, so every weapon in Halo 3: ODST was given a slight boost in power. I found a brute Mauler in the tunnels of the data centre and used it as a makeshift shotgun: while having more spread, it is a surprisingly powerful weapon that comes with a solid melee attack on account of its blade. I believe the data centre is the only place that Maulers can be found, and so, I made extensive use of the weapon: it is slightly more viable than its Halo 3 counterpart, and in Halo 3, I rarely used Maulers on account of the fact that the Battle Rifle was my go-to weapon for almost every situation.

  • Looking back, the plasma pistol represents one of the most ingenious bits of weapon design in Halo: individual shots from the plasma pistol are weak, and the weapon seems to be a joke at first glance. However, holding down the trigger and charging the weapon allows it to fire a single bolt that instantly drops an enemy’s shields. When used in conjunction with an accurate weapon, a plasma pistol will allow players to tear through the toughest of enemies without much difficulty. In Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST, the plasma pistol was balanced so that keeping the weapon charged continuously would drain the battery. Reading through the lore, however, even the plasma pistol is a terrifying weapon capable of inflicting grievous wounds.

  • The drone hive underneath the city in the data centre brings to mind memories of the Xenomorph Hive from Alien Isolation, and while the drones themselves might not be as intimidating as the Xenomorph, they still can deal considerable damage to players. The vast tunnels down here bring to mind the sewer system seen in Enter The Matrix, and the Rookie must fight off the drones with Dare in order to reach her objective. Surprisingly, a single well-placed carbine round will kill a drone; I’ve previously had more success with automatic weapons.

  • The final segment of the mission has players reaching the Superintendant’s core and extracting a defecting Covenant engineer. The room brings back memories of the reactor basement in Alien: Isolation, although here, there are thankfully no face-huggers. However, a pack of brutes, including a chieftain, guard the door to the room, and they must be defeated before any rescue can be attempted. Use of plasma grenades allowed me to deal with this group, and all that’s left is to escort the engineer back outside: the gravity hammer I picked up off the chieftain made the journey back outside an amusing one.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that we’re now a short ways into October, and it’s been a bit of a surprise as to how quickly the year’s been moving. 2020 has been a very rough year, characterised by strife, unrest and instability. However, while a great many things in 2020 have gone wrong or not quite as we would have hoped, there is one indisputable fact: 343 Industries have done an excellent job in helping Halo fans to keep a resilient and optimistic outlook, and the Master Chief Collection is probably the best thing that’s happened in 2020.

  • Having defeated the Chieftain, I’m free to claim his gravity hammer. Since the elites don’t appear in Halo 3: ODST, there are no energy swords, either. In general, the energy sword has been considered the superior melee weapon for single combat, whereas the gravity hammer is more of an area-of-effect weapon best suited for dealing with groups of enemies. Weaker enemies are outright killed by the blast, and tougher enemies, such as higher level brutes, and hunters, are knocked back. It’s a fun enough weapon to use in the campaign, but owing it its rarity, I only used it for a few brief moments before the battery depleted,

  • Returning to Halo 3: ODST, I’ve reached the final mission, which has the Rookie accompany Dare and Buck as they escort the engineer to the extraction zone. During the flighting, I somehow ended up destroying my Warthog and had to leg it, making this a particularly arduous journey, but in Halo 3: ODST proper, I managed to keep my Warthog in one piece, allowing me to keep up with the Olifant. Buck will take the gunner’s seat and provide enough firepower to keep the Covenant off my back, although caution should still be exercised – while the M41 and its 50 calibre rounds deal some damage, Covenant forces with heavy weapons like the fuel rod cannon and Ghosts can still pose a threat.

  • Fortunately, there is a Gauss-gun equipped Warthog a ways further down the highway: the M68 ALIM Gauss Gun can kill shielded enemies in one hit and will knock Ghosts out with as few as two shots. Wraiths can be take down in three shots. Despite the slow rate of fire, the weapon is highly damaging: having Buck behind the gun will give players more peace of mind as they travel along the highway. Halo 3: ODST might be nine years old now, and some parts of the game might be showing its age, but other missions, especially the last few, still hold up very well: the evening skies look amazing as I drive along the highway.

  • While I’ve kept my vehicles in decent shape on my run, the Gauss Warthog is ultimately replaced by the Scorpion Tank. The wisdom of taking the tank is that it confers superior firepower and will trivially destroy all enemy vehicles on the highway, but this comes at the expense of speed. If I were playing with the par time in mind, I would likely just stick to the Gauss Warthog, since it strikes a balance between speed and firepower.

  • Towards the end of the highway, a Covenant cruiser can be seen firing its main beam in preparation of glassing the area. Even though this is a part of the skybox (and therefore, there’s no imminent threat to the player), it still looks impressive and creates a sense of urgency, to get out before the cruiser reaches New Mombasa. Bungie is known for having some of the most visually impressive skyboxes in any game (Destiny had some of the coolest looking skyboxes), and even today, their older games still look amazing.

  • After reaching the plaza, I immediately took off for the higher ground. On my playthrough of this during the test flight, I ended up taking a more up-close-and-personal approach. For the first two waves of enemies, this method worked well enough: I had a fuel rod gun and was able to make short work of the enemies, but the final wave is all brutes, with a Chieftain among them. With this knowledge in mind, for my actual run of the game, I ended up taking the high ground and made use of a mounted gun to decimate landing Covenant forces, then switched over to a combination of sniping and bombardment to deal with any stragglers.

  • Overall, I found Halo 3: ODST to be the weakest of the games in the Master Chief Collection, owing to the more ordinary level designs, but this isn’t really saying much. Halo 3: ODST is still an excellent game that I certainly had fun with. I was pleasantly surprised by the game: having somehow managed to avoid spoilers for Halo 3: ODST for the past nine years, the experience was fresh and exciting for me. Halo 3: ODST ended up being much more than a mere stroll through the nighttime streets of New Mombasa as I’d once thought, and after clearing out an entire armada of brutes here, a pair of Wraiths will appear. They can’t be engaged, and the last objective is to board the commandeered Phantom to beat a hasty escape before the Covenant cruiser glasses the area.

  • It appears that I’ve finished this Halo post just in time for the autumn anime and The Division 2‘s next manhunt seasons. Besides GochiUsa BLOOM and Strike Witches: Road To Berlin, which I have plans to do episodic reviews for, other series that have caught my eye include Higurashi: When They CryKamisama ni Natta hiIwa Kakeru! Sport Climbing Girls and Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear. I will leave Higurashi: When They Cry as an anime to write about for a later date: having been around to watch the originals, I’ll give this series a lookover once it settles a little. Then, of the remaining series, I plan on picking a maximum of two to write about. Striking a balance between six anime and The Division 2 will be an interesting endeavour, so I’ll keep readers posted as to what ends up happening, and in the meantime, there’s only one more Halo post left on the horizon for the foreseeable future.

Halo 3: ODST represents an unconventional, but engaging instalment in the Master Chief Collection. The story gives players a chance to see the Human-Covenant war from the perspective of special forces soldiers who had first appeared in Halo 2, and also filled in some gaps in the story between the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3 – a lingering question had been what happened to New Mombasa during the Master Chief’s absence, and Halo 3: ODST answers this question. With the game set entirely in New Mombasa, and the players essentially helping UNSC forces to resist the Covenant invaders, Halo 3: ODST does feel like what Halo 2 had originally intended to be. The original Halo 2 E3 demo in 2003 had suggested that Halo 2 would be set largely on Earth, following the Master Chief’s efforts in helping the UNSC repel the Covenant from our world, but the chaotic and frenzied development of Halo 2 meant many concepts demonstrated at the 2003 E3 would be removed. Offering a refreshing and unique Halo experience, Halo 3: ODST is fondly remembered by fans for its combination of familiar Halo action and a wistful film noir-like experience. With Halo 3: ODST now in the books, all that’s left is Halo 4 – 343 Industries is suggesting that the test flight process could begin as early as late October, which is consistent with the flights for Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST. Assuming this to be the case, Halo 4 will join the Master Chief Collection in time for the game’s sixth anniversary. The original launched in November 2014, and the completion of the Master Chief Collection comes just ahead of the Christmas season: while the local meteorologists suggest that our autumn will remain relatively mild, the winter forecast looks considerably more unpleasant. In my area, the temperatures are expected to be consistently colder and snowier than seasonal averages; I foresee spending more time indoors, and consequently, having Halo to keep me company during a long and dark winter will do wonders for me while I hunker down, away from the snow and cold, waiting for the return of spring.

2 responses to “Review and Reflections on The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3 ODST

  1. KubusSc7 October 4, 2020 at 19:57

    Wait, you played ODST for the first time? Damn, how did you manage to avoid spoilers for so long? XD

    ODST is one of my favourites of all the Halo games, even as a game in general. It is something truely unique. Not only that you play a human instead of a Spartan, but also the setting, the open world, the character changing missions, and characters. The characters felt more real, more fleshed out than Noble team in Reach, There is a more emphazis on humor, the characters take everything seriously around them, but are also joking around constantly. They feel alive, they have depth.

    The city was amazing to walk through. It’s so different from night and day. It’s cool to see the differences. Bungie really put a lot of effort into details. The way you crouch and walk forward, your whole body is moving, disturbing your aim. or when Romeo shots his sniper with Buck at the banshee, you start the mission with an emptied clip and have to reload first.

    I remember it playing for the first time back in 2009 and felt instantly in love. I was always of that opinion, that the cost is completely legitimate. Some people thought it was too expensive for just an expansion. But the amount of missions, the time you can play or explore, and the Firefight mode gave you play time for dozens of hours, easily. Firefight was maybe the best new thing in this game. It was so fun having a wave mode finally in Halo and really challenging as humans! The Reach Firefight mode is pretty easy compared to ODST.

    I’m playing it since it was released and even after 11 years it’s such a great game that can take on most games of today, easily. It looks great, it feels great. You feel the love the devs put into it. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith October 7, 2020 at 21:39

      That’s correct, this was my first time going through Halo 3: ODST in full. I think that my lack of interest back when the game first launched stemmed from the fact that I was trying my best to get used to life at a different school, and back then, high-quality YouTube playthroughs weren’t quite as common. Watching players walk through New Mombasa at 480p was a rather difficult experience and killed any desire to watch more grainy, pixelated videos that buffered every half-minute.

      Overall, I generally found the game’s composition to be solid: the night missions exude a sense of uneasy calm, where enemies could lurk around the corner and break up the quiet, but by daytime, New Mombasa is much easier to move through. Those little details in Halo 3: ODST are present in different Halo games, and Bungie has certainly done a fantastic job on all of their games. My favourite detail in the Halo series is how they handled the pistol animations for Halo Reach – when Noble Six picks up a pistol for the first time, they’ll pull the slide back to chamber a round, and then subsequently, if one switches to the holstered pistol, Six simply flips the safety off.

      I can see how Halo 3: ODST would’ve justified the price tag of being a full game: while beating the campaign was relatively quick, the presence of co-op and Firefight definitely could drive up the replay value, along with challenging Halo 3: ODST at higher difficulties. One of my mates also has The Master Chief Collection, and I’m going to co-op as soon as they get some issues with their machine sorted out. For now, I can give the Firefight mode a go. I believe that Halo 3: ODST was also bundled with the Halo 3 multiplayer, so players who picked up the game would also have gotten the full experience if they did not happen to already have Halo 3.

      It speaks volumes that games from a decade ago are not only holding up against, but outperform many modern games in terms of enjoyability. Games of an older era were definitely made to entertain, by providing players with incentive to explore and have fun for fun’s sake. All of the classic Bungie games are now out, and they’ve been a blast, so it’s all eyes on Halo 4, which will mark the first time PC players get to see a 343 Industries Halo title.

      Liked by 1 person

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