Halo 3: ODST’s waypoint system makes it my favourite Halo sport

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 in line with builders who labored on the sport on the time, that was solely the purpose.

In line with Joseph Staten, ODST’s artistic director and lead author, the core improvement crew 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 venture fell aside, we have been left with this actually skilled core crew of fellows, 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 crew determined to create a brand new entry within the Halo universe — one that might probe at in any other case ignored corners of its world by way of the attitude of somebody aside from franchise hero Grasp Chief.

The consequence 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 crew members within the aftermath of the 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 sport within the Halo collection.

Picture: Bungie by way of Polygon

There’s lots to like concerning the sport, from its free-roaming open-world setting that allowed gamers to comprehend the expertise of combating 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 some other Halo sport, or actually some other sport I’ve encountered, and that’s the narrative design of ODST as seen by way of 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 crew. 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 man-made intelligence liable for New Mombasa’s city infrastructure — with a purpose to achieve a greater grasp of the place you’re and what occurred to your crew.

When you work together with a close-by payphone that begins ringing by itself, a waypoint compass will seem on the prime of your HUD, and an interactive map of the city-hub will turn into accessible by way of the sport’s menu. This waypoint directs you to the primary of a number of artifacts left behind by members of your ODST crew, prompting playable flashback missions as seen by way of the attitude of considered one of your 4 teammates. However that’s not all. As you make your manner by way of the city-hub to your vacation spot, one thing unusual begins taking place to the surroundings round you.

A number of of the video billboards all through the town start to alter, as if reacting to your presence. Whereas at first these seem like innocuous environmental particulars, it slowly begins to set in that these supposedly automated visitors warnings and instructions are literally makes an attempt by the Superintendent AI to speak with and information you thru the town, alerting you to roaming Covenant patrols and alternate routes to soundly keep away from detection. Whereas this can be 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 the town, every of which tells a facet story centered on a younger New Mombasan woman named Sadie with a strong bond to the Superintendent AI. Whereas the missions of Halo 3: ODST are skilled by way of the attitude of the Rookie and his squadmates, the cutscenes that arrange these missions are relayed by way of the attitude of the Superintendent AI, who stays an unstated but ever-present character throughout the sport’s world.

Halo 3: ODST’s diegetic waypoint system tells the player to “detour” down a hallway

Picture: Bungie by way of Polygon

Replaying by way of Halo 3: ODST just lately, I discovered myself impressed by how completely the Superintendent’s presence has been woven into the surroundings 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 up to date 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. Apart from that, most waypoint programs in first-person video games exist as both non-diegetic facets of the sport’s consumer interface or comically apparent programs just like the glowing inexperienced arrow that factors the participant within the “proper” path in 2013’s Bioshock Infinite. As a lot as I’d 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 like concerning the sport’s narrative design is an intrinsic byproduct of the actual story Bungie was making an attempt to inform by way of that sport — which solely additional emphasizes why Halo 3: ODST is my absolute favourite Halo sport.

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 (except 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 powerful and deservedly lauded entry within the franchise, filled with tiny touches which might be nonetheless price remembering, appreciating, and studying from.

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