Halo 3: ODST Review – No Master Chief, No Halo 3 Flood, No Problemo!

A couple of weeks ago, Worst Buy was running a buy 2 get 1 free promotion on video games. And even though these days I have nothing but clients who don’t want to pay me, this was a deal I couldn’t pass up. After much deliberation I ended up getting Halo 3: ODST, Borderlands and some other game that I can’t remember at the moment that was also $59.99… Oh yeah! – Tekken 6.

So after finishing up Tekken 6’s achievements, and finishing up Prince of Persia‘s achievements, I thought it’d start a nice “change of pace” game in the form of Halo 3: ODST. You know, a palette cleanser as it were before I jumped into the fray with the likes of Assassin’s Creed (which I still haven’t opened) and Master Ninja on Ninja Gaiden II (which I’m dreading like the plague).

I Know I’m a Bit Behind
So if you know anything about me, you know that I have a pension for starting games that everyone else finished a long time ago. I think “what had happened” was that I was playing Ninja Gaiden II forever since it has achievements that make you beat the game only using one of its seven weapons one at a time. Obviously, that kind of put me back a bit in keeping up with the new stuff. Sometimes though it turns out to be a good thing because when it’s time for for me to buy “new games”, I end up getting them for $39.99 or more often, $19.99… Which is all to say that I know ODST came out a while ago and once again I’m late to the party.

Halo 3: ODST Story
Before I started ODST, I really didn’t have an idea of what I was in for so much as the story went. I pretty much gathered that it wasn’t a “new” addition to the Halo stuff in that it took place on Earth during the invasion by the Covenant and now after playing through the game, I can tell you that’s exactly what’s going on…

You basically control different members of an elite squad of soldiers known as ODST or Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. Outside of the intro, I don’t think the the fact that you’re ODST ever means anything in the game but it’s kinda cool nonetheless. Kind of like you’re a member of the SEALs or something. Anyhoo, during the course of the game your squad gets separated and you have to fight to get reunited all the while seeing the action in one particular city from very different points of view.

Halo 3 ODST Gameplay and Presentation
This is Halo. It feels like Halo and it plays like Halo. If you’ve played Halo 1-3, you know what’s up. Fortunately, the game designers has the opportunity to do some different things with game presentation (since there’s no Master Chief) and in my opinion they really did a good (and in some places) a great job with it. Like I said before, the game is told through the experiences of essentially 4 different soldiers. And when one story ends another picks up… Kinda. For instance, at the end of a level that you play through as “The Rookie”, you’ll pick up say a bent sniper rifle at the end of the level and then the next level will have you play through as another solider that ends up bending up that rifle you previously found whereupon you resume the game as “The Rookie”. I dunno, at the beginning of all these back and forths, it was a bit confusing… But then it started to be pretty cool.

Das Musak
Oh, and one think you have to give props to the Bungie people on was all of “The Rookie” levels. Most of them have him going through the city at night, and when he’s doing so there’s hardly (if ever) any music playing. Instead you get really awesome environment sounds such as police sirens, phones ringing, metal dragging on dumpsters and rain in the distance. As you’re reading this I’m sure you’re wondering what the big deal is but let me assure you that when they’re the only things you hear and for a few stretches you don’t even see any enemies, it’s just a real treat (especially if you have a halfway decent surround sound system). They really play like nothing else you’ve previously seen as far as the Halo games go, and walking around at night, only hearing these things and then stumbling into constant Covenant patrols… You just really get the feeling like you have no help… The Covenant are taking over and that you’re basically screwed. Very very cool.

Firefight – Yeah, it’s Horde Mode
So Halo 3 ODST does provide a new mode in the guise of Firefight which (for all intensive purposes) is Halo’s Horde Mode from Gears of War 2. You fight wave after wave of Covenant on various maps, either alone or with up to 4 people co-op. And let me tell you, It’s JUST LIKE Horde Mode except that I find Horde Mode much more fulfilling for basically two reasons. Numero Uno: I don’t know that there’s an end in Halo 3’s Firefight. In Gears it’s Level 50 right? You’ll find that without some “end” to shoot for, you might find yourself around the 45 minute mark wondering why you’re still playing. And for Numero Dos: You cannot save your progress in Firefight. Can you imagine trying to play Horde mode from level 1 to 50 without the ability to start at a level you’ve previously cleared? This point is driven home when you go for the 200,000pts in Firefight achievements that will probably have you playing for 60-90 minutes easy. It sucks.

And on the Subject of Achievements…
Outside of the Firefight achievements, I really like the ones in this game. They’re not all tied to multiplayer and not all tied to Live and most importantly, they’re achievements that you can get with a little work and patience. Again, the only gripe I have on the Achievement side of the ball is directed towards the Firefight ones… Instead of making you score 200,000 pts in Firefight, I would’ve loved to see those at 100,000 esp with the Achievements only worth 5 pts each. And because it’s often you vs TONS of Covenant in open spaces, I would’ve loved some achievements for Killtaculars and Killtrocities or something since you can definitely get them with a little work… Or getting so many points in the bonus rounds.. I just feel like they could’ve come up with some better ones if took 5 minutes to think about it.

Overall Conclusion (No Halo 3 Flood = WIN)
I have to say, I bought this game basically because there was nothing else I wanted at the time and didn’t want to waste a good deal but I’m actually really happy with the game! Before playing it, I really thought of it as nothing more than an overpriced expansion to the main game and even though it doesn’t add anything new as far as weapons or gameplay – It DOES tell a new story in the Halo universe that plays and feels differently than anything else preceding it.

Furthermore, I don’t think that there have been any other characters in the Halo universe that have as much personality as the ones in this game – Def not Master Chief and prob not even that black guy that orders him around all the time (Sgt Johnson I think?). Maybe it’s because you get to see these guys faces a lot more or maybe it’s because they’re just so much more human than Master Chief. Whatever the reason, I’m really sure. BUT I just feel like this game has more heart than anything else in Halo – Which admittedly might not be saying much, but proves to be enough to carve out a nice little place for ODST amongst the other Halo games.

Black Friday 2009 Sucks

If you know me, you know that the holidays are my favourite time of the year. We have Thanksgiving and Christmas (which are great excuses to eat lots of fat food) and then there’s of course – Black Friday!

Year after year I look forward to Black Friday. I think it’s probably because for one, I like to buy things. And secondly, the prices are usually so great that it provides a great excuse to buy things! But this year, I can say for sure that I could really care less about Black Friday. If you go to Bfads.net (which is where I go to typically stay up on the latest Black Friday deals), I think you’ll see a general consensus that for whatever reason, there are very very few good deals to be had. I don’t know if it’s because of the economy, I don’t know if it’s because there’s no more Circuit City, but the ads are just not attractive.

And what may be worst of all – It seems the only decent Black Friday has been put out by… Walmart. Are you kidding me?! I HATE shopping there in general! And now knowing that everyone and their mother will be there and after the mad trampling last year!? Child please. But you know, even after Best Buy and the rest disappointed me, I still had hope for Micro Center. After all, Micro Center and what used to be CompUSA always AT LEAST have great deals on hard drives. And as I scanned through the Micro Center Black Friday ad, I found that one deal – And pretty much nothing else.

Maybe what’s going on is that I don’t “need” anything this year… Though I have to believe that never stopped me in the past. I’d always find a reason to start building a new computer, replace some home theater speakers, buy some new video games, get a new [fill in the blank]…

But this year, nothing. Black Friday 2009 sucks.

How about you guys? Is there ANYTHING you’re really excited over this year?

Motorola Droid vs Apple iPhone

I have the LG Chocolate and it’s a nice little phone in that “it works”. But when you put it against a current smart phone or “super-smart phone”, it couldn’t be farther from the pack. The screen is tiny, the camera is passable, typing text on it blows and it does the web so badly it doesn’t warrant getting a data plan.

But things might be changing as it seems that yours truly is eligible for an upgrade! (Well truth be told it’s my wife who is eligible but she stole my last upgrade so I’m gonna steal hers). And as things are picking up in my various businesses, I’m really looking to get a phone that will allow me to keep up on my various projects and might also allow me to do some development to expand my ever growing list of services for my web design company. For these reasons and the fact that I’m a Verizon customer, the new Motorola Droid is looking very attractive to me.

Their kicka$$ launch site helps too!

If you don’t know, it’s the latest contender to the iPhone here in the states and it seems to be getting some pretty good publicity and reviews. And even though it’s all but a certainty that this will be phone I upgrade to, I’m still very curious as to how it stacks up against the iPhone. I’ve checked out a few reviews and previews including Shoemoney’s comments here (where he says that he’s going to switch from his iPhone to the Droid) but I’ve been most impressed with the review on CNet putting the two into a big pseudo prize fight.

You can see the CNet video above and I think it’s PRETTY fair though I don’t know how I feel about the thing ending in a tie, giving so much worth to the whole reception/dropped calls thing. Now when you say that, it of course sounds funny as one of the main functions of a phone should admittedly be making and receiving phone calls. Again, it’s just amazing to me that the scores just happened to balance out completely. In any event, if you’re looking for a quick comparison of the phones, you could do a lot worse.

Curious – Anyone out there have Droids? Like? Don’t like?

Prince of Persia Epilogue DLC Sucks

If you don’t know, I’m a big fan of the new Prince of Persia. And when I say that I’m talking about the Prince of Persia, Sands of Time trilogy for XBox (even though the first was the best in the series) and then the new addition to the franchise, Prince of Persia for the 360.

Sometime in the last week or two, I finally went back to the game (I had beaten it once already) and cleared it out again since I missed a few achievements on the way up – Most notably the ones for beating it under a certain amount of time and having Elika save you under 100 times. Have to say, the same was surprisingly enjoyable the second time through especially since I didn’t have to worry about getting every light seed which really drew out the hours the first time through.

And after I beat the game again and got the 1000 out of 1000 on achievements, I remembered the DLC for the game, “Epilogue” which is supposed to really setup the next game and provide a better ending for the first. Well if you couldn’t tell from the title, I thought the DLC sucked! If I had gotten it for 400 pts I think I would’ve been fine with it.. But for 800 pts?!

Don’t do it kids. Don’t do it.

I Feel Cheated
I’d like to think that when it comes to games that I’m pretty in touch with what’s hot in the streets (even though I don’t own a copy of Modern Warfare 2). Point being, I could’ve swore that the Prince of Persia Epilogue DLC was heralded as a great experience with new gameplay including an additional new power for Elika. Well let me tell you that those claims are BIG stretches! In fact, I can’t even break that stuff down into separate paragraphs for the most part because the additions to epilogue were so minimal and passable it barely warrants mention much less a full explanation. So let me tell you what they added…

These freakin’ things are everywhere. And by everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE. IT SUCKS!

In combat, the prince can now dash towards opponents by tapping the A button and then in the ensuing clash, if you push the right button that pops up, your opponent is dazed for a second. Amazing isn’t it!? (Oh and on an aside, the bosses you face are the same ones from the main game and they take less imagination to beat than the first time around [if that’s possible]). Also, it seems that the developers made a decision to make traversing the Epilogue as frustrating as they could, replacing intelligently planned out puzzles for corruption and darkness everywhere and at least one giant puzzle that you solve by mostly dumb luck.

A New Power is a New Lie
Continuing on, Elika has a new power plate that when activated has walls appear out of nowhere so that you can continue dashing and jumping and so on and so on. Even though I love Prince of Persia, I got the distinct impression while playing the game that the developers thought we were idiots. Here’s why – They say Elika has 4 powers right? Wrong! I’m calling shenanigans! The green one that has you running up walls, fine. The yellow one that has you flying, I’m good with that. But let’s be serious, the blue one and green one just jump you to another platform. To say it another way…

They’re exactly the same powers w/ slightly different animations!

And now they’ve done it again with this “new power”! You know what this new power is like?.. You know when you beat a boss in the game and have to escape from their land and you’re on some huge slide when the ground before you “just happens to break” so you have to Elika-jump over it? It’s the freaking same thing as the “new power”! – You hop into this power plate, you start wall running and in the middle of the run SOMETHING HAPPENS requiring you to jump. BLEH.

The Ending – To this Review and to the Epilogue

Jason says : "Back to Action!"

He was always my favourite Power Ranger.

Yes, I am finally back to blogging! And I think my blog is back too! It took a minute there to get it back in working condition and truthfully I’m not sure if it’s even there YET, but I think it’s pretty close. (#):)

So a lot has happened since we last spoke but I have a pretty good feeling that this time I’m going to be back for a good little while. First, an explanation as to why I’ve been gone for so long… Basically a LOT has been going on – Thankfully I don’t think any of it is bad stuff, but it has definitely been stuff that would keep me from blogging on a consistent basis. Because of that, I thought it would be better if I just took a little vacation while I got most of my affairs in order. Here’s the short list:

  • I no longer am working for the man! Of course this could change any day, but for now I have my freedom.
  • I have been working A LOT on my huge secret project and actually just “finished” the first incarnation of The Dude Registry!
  • I replaced all the speakers in my car (but since they’re greatly underpowered the work is just beginning).
  • I had a SAW marathon leading up to the SAW VI and had a blast doing it.
  • Am really in full swing with my web design company and have created a lot of good work.
  • Had the first real Halloween with the kids.
  • I got my first 1000pt 360 game under my belt courtesy of Batman: Arkham Asylum and followed it up with The Prince of Persia.
  • And finally, I fell in love with Twitter all over again.

You know, I’ve really missed blogging and it has really become apparent lately that I have time to write again. I’ve played with the new Droid phone, did some research on car amps over at Crutchfield, and played some cool games in between… But trying to sum up all these experiences in 160 characters over on Twitter is just no bueno. I can do better than that! And I’m not really sure who is reading this blog anymore, but I’m gonna try and go out with a bang in 2009 and get the readers back up! Who’s with me!?