Halo 3: ODST Eight Years Later – A Retrospective Story Analysis

One of the strongest focuses of the Halo franchise is a depiction of war, the casualties and costs that come with a tense fight for survival brutally laid bare. Yet, somehow, it never exhibited its full potential when playing as the Master Chief. The scale and impact of your victories as a Spartan seemed to far outweigh the taxing defeats humanity suffered battle after battle. The smoldering remnants of New Mombasa and the sieged Orbital Defense Platforms and frigates never felt tangible, and even as countless marines died around you, the tone never quite clicked like Bungie intended it to.

On September 22nd, 2009, Halo took a massive leap of faith in a title that strapped you into the suit of an average soldier and stranded you in those same decaying New Mombasa streets. Your squad was gone, your species was gone, and you were alone on a frigid, drizzling night. Finally, the gripping reality of the Human-Covenant War could be felt by the player, as with nothing left, you needed to find a way to persevere. At the dawn of modern military shooters and a slowly fading interest in sci-fi, Halo 3: ODST managed to leave a resonating mark on the industry. We’re still navigating those shadowy, somber boulevards and roadways eight years later.

Halo 3: ODST is not without its glaring faults, leftover issues from a confusing development cycle lingering in an otherwise masterful final product. A sizeable amount of information on the game’s creation has been left in the dark, theories and speculation lying the pathway on the strenuous march back to understand the game’s development process. What is concrete is that Halo 3: ODST began as Halo 3: Recon, and was originally intended to be a downloadable expansion for Halo 3. Without delving too far down the rabbit hole, it’s clear that Halo 3: ODST, while a labour of love and passion, was far from a smooth journey, finished in an astonishing fourteen months. It lacked some of the shine and shimmer that a mainline Halo game exhibited, and perhaps that’s what defined it.

The intentions of releasing Halo 3: ODST as an expansion are common knowledge and very visible in the game, but at first, they don’t really detract from the quality of the content presented. It wouldn’t be fair to judge Halo 3: ODST from the perspective of 2017, with the rate of technological advancement and progression of gaming culture. Whilst some aspects of the game have remained timeless, others are painfully dated, such as the considerably small “open-world” and the lack of real sandbox improvements. All of the critiques behind Halo 3: ODST that have begun to bubble to the surface in the years that followed its release can all trace back to a rushed development cycle and a dated engine. But that is in spite of the heart and soul which has inspired this title to develop an immense cult following in these past eight years.

It is incredibly rare for a title’s story to develop even more meaning as time goes on, but due to Halo’s constantly criss-crossing universe and rich lore, the story of ODST is considerably more investing now than it was in 2009. Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, and Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame make their debut along with Tricia Helfer and Nolan North to step into the boots of Alpha-Nine, a ragtag team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. The player steps into the shoes of silent protagonist The Rookie, viewing the narrative through his visor. The introductory premise is simple enough, a mission gone wrong stranding you in the middle of the already lost New Mombasa, with your goal being to regroup with the rest of your squad, but the game chooses to tell its story of hardship and conflict in a wholly unique way.

As the player uncovers evidence of the previous conflicts squad members were a part of, a greater character narrative unfolds. The main protagonist becomes the city itself. Enchanting vistas of empty plazas and streets, burning cars, and lingering vestiges of civilization like ringing telephone booths imprint an image of casualty in the audience’s mind. The collectible Sadie’s Story audio logs further the impact of the striking imagery by revealing the events leading up to New Mombasa’s downfall, and Halo 3: ODST hones in on its main theme: memory. The entire game is about remembering, whether it be remembering the bustling past of the city, your squad leader remembering the tolls of war as it nears its close, or the player remembering what it felt like to land on a Halo ring for the first time and walk defiantly into the unknown.

One of the stand-out parts of Halo 3: ODST is the excellent sound design and rattling plot devices working hand-in-hand. The lingering feeling of constant victory when playing as the Master Chief is gone because Halo 3: ODST purposefully takes it away. Listen closely to the atmosphere of Halo 3: ODST, the dreary, somber jazz played in tune with muffled chirps and often mortifying silence. Halo 3: ODST’s visual imagery works because it doesn’t bombard you with images of endless corpses or haphazard gore, gratifying a desire to see defeat, because the lifeless city streets whisper enough. New Mombasa feels once inhabited, which makes the sting of pure loneliness even more effective when there’s not a single remnant of Human life left. It’s important to remember that Halo 3: ODST doesn’t end with a Covenant or UNSC victory, because by its closing shot, the player knows that no one walked away victorious. That’s why it works so well.

On March 2nd, 2015, Halo: New Blood found its way onto store shelves, chronicling the future of Alpha-Nine, and in particular, the squad’s standout leader, Edward Buck. Halo 3: ODST has certainly aged in some areas, but when you examine the story, it has only gotten better since New Blood, because Alpha-Nine has been so well realized in both separate accounts. The actors succeed at bringing the ODSTs to life and reading New Blood bonds you right alongside them in every situation. The story is a reminder that the war kept going, and that no member was left the same, psychologically and physically, after it. New Blood’s ending is depressingly gratifying leading into Halo 5: Guardians, feeling like a definitive conclusion to the character arcs started all those years ago. Halo 3: ODST and Halo: New Blood share a similar success story as well as common characters, managing to shed light on the individual stories of the marines that died by the Master Chief’s side for his victory.

It’s a testament to the passion and hard work that went into crafting Halo 3: ODST that people are still discussing it a full eight years later. We’re still wandering the streets as The Rookie, navigating the dark, and pondering when this hell of a night will finally end. As you trot through the New Mombasa alleyways in Halo 2, you’ll always stop and wonder how many people had to die for you to take those steps.

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All Halo Xbox 360 Titles are Now Backwards Compatible on Xbox One

A few months ago, 343 Industries announced at RTX the efforts to bring the remaining Halo FPS Xbox 360 titles to the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility program. Today, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo 4 join Halo: Reach in the program and are available for download now. Halo CEA only includes the campaign portions of the game since the multiplayer experience is already available with Halo: Reach backwards compatibility. Although available prior to today’s release, all downloadable content for these games are free, including on Xbox 360. Here’s the links to the digital versions of each game if you’ve either lost your discs or don’t want to rely on them: Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST Campaign Edition, Halo 4, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

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Podtacular 594: HBO: The Cornerstone of the Halo Community at Pax

It’s no surprise that every year, many people from the Halo community flock to Seattle to attend Pax West in the backyard of 343 Industries, who produces the Halo games, but what constantly brings us back? For many attendees of the expo, it’s a chance to learn about or play the latest in games, whether tabletop or video game related, but this year, there was no Halo presence at the convention, which begs the question: why are we here? 343 does throw a nice community day for some of the fortunate who have made their way out to Seattle, but the biggest attraction has to be the ability to find other Halo fans who are just as passionate about the franchise as we are. Even though Halo Fest only happened once (not counting MCC launch), Pax has always felt like a Halo family reunion to many that attend and it is this reason that we keep coming back. As new faces join every year, we stopped to reflect on the state of the Halo community and came to an epiphany that, we would not all be here and the Halo community would not exist if it weren’t for the efforts of THE cornerstone of the community: Halo.Bungie.Org and more specifically, the godfather of the community himself, Claude Errera. Many of the communities and personalities you know today branched off from HBO in some form or fashion, even us here at Podtacular. This makes for a very interesting retrospective that plays well into this episode. For this Pax cast, we are joined by a myriad of Halo community members and influencers including, from the Installation 01 team: The Chunkier Bean and Greg Wasdyke, from the Sins of the Prophets team, Unikraken and Lavo, CMT SPV3 lead Masterz, Hidden Xperia, Toa Freak and LateNightGaming.

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Halo 5: Guardians Weapon Tuning Test Detailed

The Halo 5 sandbox is ever-changing, always evolving and improving. The upcoming weapon tuning test will be tweaking some major elements of the player’s arsenal, including weapons and abilities. It will begin in early September, with an update on the 4th smoothing out the foundation necessary for the full change on September the 11th. Players will be able to dive into the test playlist and assess the changes, all while 343 analyzes and appropriately adjusts for the feedback. On October 2nd, the playlist will be removed and replaced with the original mode without any alterations, while the evaluated information is considered for the full update coming in November. Changes will affect a variety of firearms and abilities, including the Assault Rifle, SMG, Gunfighter Magnum, Active Camouflage, and many more. 343 Industries highly encourages feedback of all sorts, and you can contribute in a variety of factors, Halo Waypoint’s forums and the Community Feedback Program being some of the best outlets to make your voice heard.

A full list of changes to the Halo 5 weapon sandbox can be found on HaloWaypoint.com in the entire article.

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Podtacular 593: Yapyap the Methane Addict

The final DLC for the Halo Wars 2 season pass includes the most fearsome grunt to ever make his name in the Halo lore: Yapyap the Destroyer. Using his cowardice demeanor, he brings the wages of war to a halt and his methane infused vehicles utter destruction and paralysis to his opponents. In other news, a fan has been working on a Warthog build for seven years, and Godzilla chimes in with his car knowledge on how such creations are made.

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Know Your Enemy: An Exploration of Atriox and His Importance

In 2004, the critically acclaimed and widely anticipated Halo 2 released on the Xbox, hailed for championing in a new age of multiplayer arena shooters and a competitive environment which still sees inspiration from this classic to this day. What did not receive this level of monumental esteem, however, was the story campaign. While by no means poorly executed, the finale seemed to fall flat for many with an infamous cliffhanger that still stings to this day. It’s a painful shame, since Halo 2 accomplished something that later Halo titles would completely miss, up until the recent release of Halo Wars 2. Halo 2 humanized the Covenant and their various races, understanding the oppression of the alien hierarchy and allowing the player to reconsider mindlessly popping Unggoy heads and blasting Sangheili to bits.

“Forty at a time they carelessly sent them in. Forty to break the front lines… Forty to die for beliefs not their own.”

In the Great Schism, a fracturing genocide presented in Halo 2 and Halo 3, the Jiralhanae are portrayed as dimwitted warriors, legions of snarling savages who fell lockstep behind the Prophets. Tartarus, a Jiralhanae figurehead featured prominently in Halo 2, partially toys with these ideas in his wavering faith, but soon becomes just another challenge to be overcome. This is where Atriox truly shines, a beacon of prevailing hope from an empire which treated the Jiralhanae as cannon fodder. Atriox has incredible potential as an antagonist, a perfect opposite to his fellow leader, Captain James Cutter. Cutter portrays traits of commitment, duty, order, and discipline. His harrowing defiance in a world that has all but forgotten about him makes him a sympathetic hero. Atriox, however, finds himself in an opposite position, forging his own path in an effort to avoid the mistakes of an empire which fecklessly neglected him and his people.

The arrival of Atriox as a major figure in the galactic post-war strife comes at a moment where his brand of antagonism is desperately needed. The lackluster narrative experience presented in Halo 5: Guardians was lambasted in almost every conceivable capacity, a monument to all of the game’s sins being its main adversary, Cortana. The return of one of Halo’s most iconic characters was by no means unexpected or shrouded in secrecy leading up to Halo 5’s release, but the context of her actions and her transformation from ally to foe was anticlimactic at best and insulting at worst. Cortana seemed to fall into harmful stereotypes and clichés as a lack of coherent understanding and build-up created a completely botched attempt at moral ambiguity. The goal of a villain is to intimidate, connect, and/or illustrate a point to the audience, and Cortana failed on all three fronts.

“As I suspected, nothing, but a man.”

The narrative of Halo Wars 2 focuses on the Spirit of Fire crew, and their repeated engagements with the Banished, all in an attempt to foil their efforts on the Ark and reconnect with post-war society. It’d be difficult to miss the symbolism surrounding the premise of the game; the idea of moving forward with characters we’ve grown attached to from the beginning of the war. The emotion all culminates for the player with the swell of the music, the beautiful interior of the Spirit of Fire, and the reminder that Halo hasn’t forgotten the military backbone that fueled its notoriety. Atriox’s brutal assault on Red Team is effective because it’s handled correctly, it showcases the brutality of a passionate and intelligent Jiralhanae and engages the audience by bringing our heroes to their lowest point. It serves as a reminder that this new world will not show mercy as long as Atriox has power, and in many ways, he becomes the demon he so desperately tried to escape in the Covenant regime.

Atriox is the prudent response to the backlash of Halo 5, triumphantly managing to become a prominent figure amongst fans despite his fairly recent introduction to the universe. His success is owed to not only his visually stimulating appearance, grizzly and formidable, but the brief characterization he is given. Despite only having seven total lines of dialogue in Halo Wars 2, Atriox has an engrossing screen presence and the struggle to combat this formidable warrior is tangible. He represents the best qualities in a villain, simple in nature, but captivating as you explore deeper into his psyche. He isn’t an all-powerful divine being, nor is he an emotionally barren cardboard cut-out. He represents an antithesis of everything he felt the Covenant stood for, stripping piety and theocracy from war. Atriox is not without flaw, and in his attempts to eradicate the viscous legacy of the Covenant, it would seem he’s simply created his own dictatorial regime. Much like the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, did for the Sangheili, Atriox is a reminder to the human players that there is far more to the alien soldiers than we regard from the other side. After witnessing Atriox claw away the chains of his oppression, we’re forced to humanize the otherwise lifeless adversary, and emit unto them personality.

“I am not Truth. I am not Regret. I am their remedy.”

With a galaxy under threat of Orwellian absolute dominion by a rampant AI fragment, the slimy clutches of a Jiralhanae bent on burying his past present themselves as a fickle alternative. The shaky ground of Atriox’s authority proves itself subtly in Halo Wars 2. The re-emerging faith in the Great Journey of his second-in-command, Decimus, and the straining relations of the various races that make up the Banished, raise questions as to whether the promise of fortune and unity Atriox has offered was merely a pipe-dream. Only time will tell as the line between oppressor and liberator blurs.

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Podtacular 592: The Untold Story of Halo – Transfer of Power, Persistent Support

We make our final stop in the journey behind the development of the Halo franchise starting almost 16 years ago. In our past two installments covering the untold story of Halo we saw the struggles, but massive success Halo became in episode 588, and how Bungie took the vision of Halo through their work on Halo: Reach in episode 590. Now we tackle the final chapter of this story bringing us to the current day developments of the Master Chief saga. It’s not unknown to most Halo fans the animosity Bungie had with Microsoft, especially when they started parting ways and becoming an independent studio again while completing development of Halo: Reach.  As 343 Industries took over the responsibilities of the franchise, new leaders and ideas came flooding in to a company who had never made a game before, let alone picking up the work on a well-established AAA title, but the vision was enough for the studio to push Halo to new platforms and experiences, expanding the universe into a multimedia franchise. While it may look like all sunshine and rainbows from 343 Industries management of Halo, there are still many challenges they face and even more unfolding for the future.

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