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Halo 3 ODST (MCC) brings a polarizing Halo experience to Xbox One | Review

When Halo 3 ODST first released back in 2009 on the Xbox 360 it was met with some conflicting criticism. This first-person shooter released for a full $60 but some suggested the amount of content within the game was simply not enough to warrant that. Other disagreed, as it gave Halo fans a new experience along with an incredible story playing as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. This approach gives players a new vulnerability and a new take on combat in Halo games.

As the game re-releases on the Xbox One for a very modest $5, it would feel wrong not to have an extended review of the game branching off the full Master Chief Collection review. (If you haven’t read it yet check it out here!)

While Halo 3 ODST is not actually part of the direct story of Master Chief, much of its campaign ties in very well and in a fairly clear manner with the beginning of Halo 3 starting just as ODST ends. Like Halo 3, the fighting is focused on Earth — unlike Halo 3, players take on a role of a much more humble ODST soldier. Throughout the game players cycle through five soldiers with the Rookie serving as the single chararcter players consistently come back to as he tries to uncover the mystery of where his lost squad mates are.

Gameplay

Halo 3 ODST mixes a stealthy approach to combat and the classic Halo formula and it yields fantastic results.
Halo 3 ODST mixes a stealthy approach to combat and the classic Halo formula and it yields fantastic results.

Gameplay wise, the game plays directly off of the Halo 3 engine, but for those that never liked the run-and-gun Halo style that has become synonymous with the franchise this gameplay may be more enticing to you. As an ODST soldier your player is just a tad slower than the Master Chief and also has significantly weaker shields and health. This forces players to turn elsewhere for a tactical advantage — and that advantage comes in stealth.

ODST focuses immensely on stealth when playing as the Rookie, but does open up a bit more when playing as the other characters in missions. When not on a specific mission players continue as the Rookie searching the New Mombasa streets for your team. When going through the world as the Rookie the game invokes a feeling of needing to be careful — needing to be smart about each approach to combat.

The entire game slows down with this new approach and offers gamers a much greater opportunity to appreciate the art-design, music, and other aesthetics that make the game so unique in the Halo universe.

Though when you do take control of the other characters and the fire-fights get a bit more intense the classic Halo feel comes out in a fairly balanced way. Your character is still weak, but stealth isn’t a necessity. Even six years after it released this balance plays perfectly.

Story

Each piece of the puzzle brings you closer to unlocking the mystery surrounding the ODST squad.
Each piece of the puzzle brings you closer to unlocking the mystery surrounding the ODST squad.

While the gameplay is terrific, the story is what will likely draw most fans in. Taking place on Earth in the African city of New Mombasa, Halo 3 ODST takes players through five individual stories of each member of a single ODST squad that had their mission derailed by another commanding officer — Captain Veronica Dare.

As the squad “prepares to drop” into battle their drop-pods are sent awry into the New Mombasa city after their intended place of descent — a covenant cruiser — jumps into slip-space.

From the beginning players take on the role of the aforementioned Rookie who the game pulls back to after each mission. The Rookie is a completely silent protaganist, but the rest of the squad is as vocal as they can be with Gunnery Sergeant Buck, played by Nathan Fillion, being the most prominent of them all.

Also joining the team is Mickey, Dutch, Romeo, and Captain Dare.

The events of Halo 3 ODST are crucial for any fan of the Halo lore. Sergeant Buck and his role in Halo 5 can be traced back to what happens with his ODST squad — though for the sake of avoiding any spoilers, nothing specific will be mentioned in this review.

The entire game plays as a mystery on the Rookie’s end and uncovering that serves as the primary focus all game long. The story is greatly benefited by a collection of audio logs that can be found throughout the city. These audio logs explain the story of Sadie and Vergil — the superintendent program for managing New Mombasa’s public services. While the story is fantastic to play through without this side story, it is truly fulfilling when you find them all. All in all, the Halo 3 ODST campaign is one of the best stories you can currently play on the Xbox One.

Firefight

While the Xbox One version of Halo 3 ODST omits a popular multiplayer game mode that was originally included in the game, it is only fair to make mention of it. Halo 3 ODST includes a 4-player online co-op mode called Firefight which offers a wave-by-wave experience of mowing down covenant. The mode takes small sections of the ODST campaign and creates an area for players to defend together. Firefight is an excellent side to the main game and offers a great arcadey-style with an unlimited number of rounds. A squad simply plays until they run out of a lives with each wave getting subsequently stronger. Though the game mode was good fun, it is but one small drawback in an overall, great game.

Roundup

Good story, good gameplay. What’s not to like?

Halo 3 ODST is well worth the five bucks that Microsoft will be charging for the DLC to the Master Chief Collection. The gameplay is still spectacular, and the mood is set wonderfully playing as the Rookie and the way it contrasts to the typical Halo games is done so tastefully. And while Master Chief isn’t a main character in the game, the story of this squad and what happens in New Mombasa is intrinsic in the overall story of Halo and Buck’s progression ties in fittingly with the upcoming Halo 5.

9/10

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Microsoft’s Russian-only Halo game being released globally through “El Dorito” mod

The Halo franchise has come to Russia in a unique way for the franchise. An online-only free-to-play iteration of the series — simply titled Halo: Online — has been officially released in the Euro-Asian market. While the game has been inaccessible to all other markets modders have been hard at work to expand the availability of the game and to remove the micro-transactions available throughout the game.

Though many gamers have likened to calling this game “Halo 3 PC,” the gameplay shows many features, textures, animations, art, and sounds that were certainly grabbed from later Halo releases. Most notably, the sprint function — originally introduced in Halo: Reach — has been added to the experience.

While the gameplay quality is great, modders have taken to a mod project dubbed “El Dorito” to create their own Halo 3 for PC after Microsoft elected to release the Halo franchise exclusively on the Xbox platform ever since the release of Halo 2 for PC in 2007.

Popular Halo 2 map, Turf, shows up in an updated form in Halo: Online
Popular Halo 2 map, Turf, shows up in an updated form in Halo: Online

The project is not to spite Microsoft, but “Woovie,” someone currently working on El Dorito, explains the inspiration comes from a great admiration that these modders and many PC gamers in general have for the Halo series.

“…The PC audience has been screaming for Halo 3 for years and years, and we saw the chance with this leak. The fact that we could, in theory, bring the game that everyone wants, without the added on stuff that would ruin the game, that’s something we’d be proud of.” – Woovie (Interview with TorrentFreak)

The progress they’ve made is impressive, but there is still much work to be done to fine-tune the gameplay. A major question though is how far Microsoft will go to stop it. A DMCA notice was already sent to the El Dorito github, but the El Dorito team is prepared to fight back.

“In terms of DMCA/C&D mitigation, we have made redundant git backups on private and public git servers. This is to ensure we will always have one working copy. These are being synchronized so that data is always the same,” the modder explained.

“Further DMCAs may happen potentially, it’s not really known at the moment. Our backups will always exist though and we will continue until we’re happy.”

Check out GamingPranks’ gameplay video for a look at the mod’s current progress.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection – Struggling online servers lead to frustrating launch | Review (UPDATED)

Halo The Master Chief Collection is at first glance one of the best deals ever to hit the Xbox platform. Containing every game of the Master Chief saga and encompassing all the multiplayers into one easily accessibly interface.

This is what was expected of the first-person shooter upon its initial launch and while the collection of games does execute the single-player aspects of Halo extremely well, the multiplayer and inconsistent servers hold back the game from being all that it should have been — at least until the developer is able to address and optimize the online gameplay.

Campaigns

Through one menu, almost everything Halo awaits.
Through one menu, almost everything Halo awaits.

If you’re buying Halo to re-experience the beloved story of Spartan 117 and Cortana, then you’ll be enthralled by the Master Chief Collection. With upgrades all around, more detailed story telling through terminals, and an intuitive interface that connects all the games, the Campaigns of the Master Chief Saga are excellent on this Xbox One port. The experience is easy to jump straight into, and 343i allows for players to play any mission in any order they so please.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary & Halo 2: Anniversary

A game that some say was the primary force behind the original Xbox’s success, Halo: CE may be over a decade old, but excellent gameplay mechanics persist over the years and the addition of contemporary graphics make the classic story fun to play again.

The ability to switch between the original visuals and the updated looks is quick and lets players appreciate just how many upgrades that 343i has made to the game.

The audio is tuned as well albeit just slightly in Halo 1. The sounds themselves are virtually the same. The iconic soundtrack still plays just as it did 13 years ago.

Halo CE: Anniversary ports the Xbox 360 remastered title to the Xbox One with little-to-no issues.
Halo CE: Anniversary ports the Xbox 360 remastered title to the Xbox One with little-to-no issues.

While this is the first time many are getting to play the Anniversary edition, the Xbox 360’s iteration of Halo: CE Anniversary had some surprising features not present on the Xbox One. Given how much greater the emphasis Microsoft has had on the kinect on their new console, the MCC version of the game leaves out the original Anniversary kinect commands like “scan” and “analyze.” The commands weren’t particularly that vital, but still an interesting niche non-the-less.

Adding in the “terminals” that were first utilized in Halo 3, the recreation of the original Halo utilizes them in a more eye-candy fashion with quick cutscenes describing some background on the game and foreshadowing what the future holds as you progress — as opposed to that of Halo 3’s abstract text logs. The terminals here actually don’t operate in-game as they once did. Instead, the console will take you to a separate app to view the clips. This seems unnecessary as the original Halo Anniversary had the clips play straight from the game itself without having the players actually leave the open game.

As a singular entity, Halo: CE Anniversary is fantastic, and offers a captivating story with gameplay that is still on-par with other games of today. Its level progression is great, and while there will be some minor A.I. issues and bugs along the way, nothing is significant enough to jar the experience loose.

Halo 2: Anniversary's campaign stands on the same level as other top shooters available today.
Halo 2: Anniversary’s campaign stands on the same level as other top shooters available today.

What is rightly regarded as the most anticipated part of the collection, Halo 2: Anniversary operates in the same vein as that of Halo: CE Anniversary, and much of the appreciation for the game is the same.

Some sounds of the game are entirely re-done and the soundtrack is upgraded as well, but the visuals are what everyone will notice immediately. With the same one-button switch between the old and new graphics, the improvements are incredibly evident.

When played in sequence Halo 2: Anniversary stands out among the rest. Most would be astontished to find the game core of the game is truly identical to the decade old title. The gameplay and graphics are as good as any current FPS available today.

The in-game graphics are fantastic, but the CGI cutscenes by Blur are absolutely incredible and allows first-time players to experience an even deeper immersion into the Halo universe.

The addition of terminals to Halo 2 is identical to that of Halo 1 and again takes you to the outside app to view the cinematic.

Halo 2: Anniversary could have easily stood on its own as a $60 game just as Halo 1 did on the Xbox 360. To see the game bundled with all the other titles is a tremendous bonus

Halo 3 & Halo 4

While they don’t quite get the anniversary treatment, both are great additions to help players fully enjoy the story of Master Chief, and help build the anticipation for Halo 5.

When the Xbox 360 released and the first footage of Halo 3 was revealed, the graphics of the game were above and beyond most of what had been seen on the Xbox platform. Now, when you re-play through the campaign and complete Halo 2: Anniversary with the awesome Blur Studios CGI cut-scenes, you’re thrust into the off-putting lower quality world of Halo 3.

It isn’t awful, but in comparison it just doesn’t seem to keep up with the quality of the other games — especially during its own cut-scenes.

During gameplay minor visual tweaks have improved things a bit, but nothing all that noticeable. Most people will not notice any differences outside of the improved resolution.

Halo 4 itself was strangely exciting. Out of all Halo’s this is still the most suited to the contemporary play-styles that most games have today. The graphics are the same as they once were, but at 1080p 60 FPS, everything looks fitting of being on the new-generation of consoles.

343i ability to re-master these classic Bungie titles’ campaigns and port their own Halo 4 story onto the Xbox One is marvelous.
If this review ended here, the Master Chief Collection would likely receive a very high rating. If you’re a person who’s looking to buy The Master Chief Collection to play some of the best games available on the Xbox platform, this is an awesome buy and a must have game for the Xbox One.

Multiplayer

Update: Over the subsequent months following The Master Chief Collection’s release the multiplayer aspects of the game have vastly improved and any negative impact it has on the game is now nominal.

For all the campaigns do well, the multiplayer does just as well… if only we could get to it. With every single multiplayer map included — even those from the Halo: CE PC game — The Master Chief Colllection’s multiplayer promises so much and does deliver on setting them up.

Halo 2 Anniversary remakes some classic maps from the original 2004 release.
Halo 2 Anniversary remakes some classic maps from the original 2004 release.

In addition to the previous maps, six re-mastered maps in the Halo 2: Anniversary style bring some new life to the Halo franchise..

When you are able to get into a game, the maps are all the well-made designs we’ve come to expect from Bungie and 343i. The mixture of the new and old keep a great balance of falling back to memories of the first play through some players had and the upgraded style that fits the new-age FPS style.

Unfortunately, the servers struggle to manage the influx of players, and even now as the amount of players begins to dwindle down, the servers still leave players waiting for extended periods of time (10+ minutes) for just one single match. Often times when a match is found, the player balance is uneven, and without ranking systems players are constantly thrown into a mishmash of general players with no guide of who is an experienced veteran of the game and who is a new-comer.

As the game launched there were a variety of game modes that promoted classic game-types like team-swat and rumble pit, but since the dismal launch for the multiplayer the game modes have been removed with promises of addressing overall playability of online modes first and foremost and addition of more game types later on.

With how much the multiplayer was loved by fans this is a recipe for failure. Halo 2’s multiplayer, which was what hooked many players onto the Xbox Live platform and enticed many players into buying the Master Chief Collection in the first place is fantastic, and many of the multiplayer game-types that are still available remain centered around the second game of the franchise.

For all the faults the game has with connecting and the server-side technical problems that hold a smooth experience back, every single one of the multiplayer games is exceptional when you do get into a match.

The weapon balance is excellent through the all of the games. The control schemes are easy to manage through universal controller set that players are granted to change to whatever they prefer.

Customization isn’t quite as in-depth as it once was. Rather than allowing players to create custom armor configurations like they had with Halo 3 and 4, an assortment of all completed armor sets are available for players to choose is instead made available already unlocked.

The game itself is very well made and, if not for the server issues, would feel like a finished product.

It’s definitely improving though. With each patch the online matchmaking finds games quicker and small bugs are cleaned up, but its still not quite where it needs to be.

But as of now, 343i will need to keep churning out updates as fast possible to keep the fanbase satisfied.

As the technical issues are sorted out and the developers work to get the game running smoothly, The Master Chief Collection essentially delivers on only half of the game. The single-players are well-done and allow players to experience the riveting story of the Halo games. But despite what it does well on the campaign fronts a reliable patch is still needed to create a more fluent online experience.

8.8/10

Halo: The Master Chief Collection