Because it first launched on the Xbox 360 again in 2009, Halo 3: ODST has remained a novel entry within the sci-fi shooter Halo collection — and based on builders who labored on the sport on the time, that was completely the purpose.
In keeping with Joseph Staten, ODST’s artistic director and lead author, the core improvement staff that labored on the sport had initially been assembled to work on Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s cancelled Halo Chronicles. “When that undertaking fell aside, we had been left with this actually skilled core staff of men, all of whom had been round since [Halo: Combat Evolved],” Staten advised Kotaku back in 2009. With the dissolution of Halo Chronicles and Halo Attain already nicely into manufacturing, Staten and the remainder of the staff determined to create a brand new entry within the Halo universe — one that may probe at in any other case missed corners of its world by the attitude of somebody apart from franchise hero Grasp Chief.
The outcome was Halo 3: ODST, a first-person survival shooter that takes place in the identical time interval as Halo 2. It’s set within the ruins of the East African metropolis of New Mombasa, performed from the attitude of a non-enhanced particular ops shock trooper tasked with discovering their misplaced staff members within the aftermath of town’s occupation. The sport is a subdued, down-to-earth detective story in an deserted metropolis riddled with scattered patrol squads of Covenant troopers able to tear the participant aside in the event that they’re not cautious. It’s additionally my favourite recreation within the Halo collection.
There’s quite a bit to like concerning the recreation, from its free-roaming open-world setting that allowed gamers to comprehend the expertise of preventing the Covenant in a futuristic metropolis first glimpsed in Halo 2’s E3 2003 demo, to its emphasis on tactical stealth and survival versus the collection’ extra offensive-driven fight loop, to its moody, noir-inflected, orchestral jazz rating. However what endures as my favourite a part of Halo 3: ODST is one thing that has by no means fairly been replicated by another Halo recreation, or actually another recreation I’ve encountered, and that’s the narrative design of ODST as seen by its diegetic waypoint system.
The opening minutes of Halo 3: ODST positioned gamers within the function of “the Rookie,” a silent protagonist and a current addition to a shock trooper staff. Awakening inside a drop pod that crashed right into a constructing following the Covenant slipspace rupture seen in Halo 2, the Rookie falls from the pod and is compelled to heal themselves and fend off a bunch of Brute troopers and Grunt underlings. After you defeat these enemies, your heads-up show will direct you to interface with the Superintendent — a synthetic intelligence chargeable for New Mombasa’s city infrastructure — in an effort to achieve a greater grasp of the place you might be and what occurred to your staff.
When you work together with a close-by payphone that begins ringing by itself, a waypoint compass will seem on the high of your HUD, and an interactive map of the city-hub will change into accessible by the sport’s menu. This waypoint directs you to the primary of a number of artifacts left behind by members of your ODST staff, prompting playable flashback missions as seen by the attitude of considered one of your 4 teammates. However that’s not all. As you make your manner by the city-hub to your vacation spot, one thing unusual begins occurring to the atmosphere round you.
A number of of the video billboards all through town start to alter, as if reacting to your presence. Whereas at first these look like innocuous environmental particulars, it slowly begins to set in that these supposedly automated site visitors warnings and instructions are literally makes an attempt by the Superintendent AI to speak with and information you thru town, alerting you to roaming Covenant patrols and alternate routes to securely keep away from detection. Whereas it is a cool element in and of itself, it’s much more fascinating that the Superintendent AI additionally directs you to collectible audio logs housed in telephones and kiosks scattered throughout town, every of which tells a facet story centered on a younger New Mombasan woman named Sadie with a robust bond to the Superintendent AI. Whereas the missions of Halo 3: ODST are skilled by the attitude of the Rookie and his squadmates, the cutscenes that arrange these missions are relayed by the attitude of the Superintendent AI, who stays an unstated but ever-present character throughout the recreation’s world.
Replaying by Halo 3: ODST not too long ago, I discovered myself impressed by how totally the Superintendent’s presence has been woven into the atmosphere of New Mombasa, and I questioned why so few video games since have discovered a manner of incorporating waypoint markers and instructions into their worldbuilding. The closest modern to Halo 3: ODST’s Superintendent that I can consider are the ethereal messages that materialize across the island of Blackreef in Arkane Studios’ Deathloop, guiding the character Colt on his journey to kill the Visionaries and break the time loop that traps him there. Other than that, most waypoint methods in first-person video games exist as both non-diegetic points of the sport’s person interface or comically apparent methods just like the glowing inexperienced arrow that factors the participant within the “proper” route in 2013’s Bioshock Infinite. As a lot as I might like to see different builders take a web page from Halo 3: ODST’s design by crafting storytelling mechanics that incentive exploration and a focus to environmental design, I additionally acknowledge that a lot of what I really like concerning the recreation’s narrative design is an intrinsic byproduct of the actual story Bungie was making an attempt to inform by that recreation — which solely additional emphasizes why Halo 3: ODST is my absolute favourite Halo recreation.
Followers of Halo haven’t seen something within the collection fairly like Halo 3: ODST within the 12 years since its launch. Whereas 2010’s Halo: Attain was a prequel, it was additionally Bungie’s swan music from the collection, and subsequent entries produced by 343 Industries (apart from Halo Wars 2) have largely centered across the post-Halo 3 story arc of collection protagonist Grasp Chief. Whether or not there’ll ever be a chance for a future facet story-like entry within the Halo collection just like Halo 3: ODST continues to be an open query. Till then, the sport stays a formidable and deservedly lauded entry within the franchise, filled with tiny touches which are nonetheless price remembering, appreciating, and studying from.