Halo 3: ODST’s waypoint system makes it my favorite Halo game

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Since it first launched on the Xbox 360 again in 2009, Halo 3: ODST has remained a singular entry within the sci-fi shooter Halo sequence — and in line with builders who labored on the game on the time, that was totally the purpose.

According to Joseph Staten, ODST’s artistic director and lead author, the core growth group that labored on the game had initially been assembled to work on Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s cancelled Halo Chronicles. “When that project fell apart, we were left with this really experienced core team of guys, all of whom had been around since [Halo: Combat Evolved],” Staten informed Kotaku back in 2009. With the dissolution of Halo Chronicles and Halo Reach already effectively into manufacturing, Staten and the remainder of the group determined to create a brand new entry within the Halo universe — one that might probe at in any other case missed corners of its world by way of the attitude of somebody apart from franchise hero Master 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 group members within the aftermath of town’s occupation. The game 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 favorite game within the Halo sequence.

In Halo 3: ODST, the waypoint system includes environmental messages like “slow down”

Image: Bungie by way of Polygon

There’s so much to like in regards to the game, 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 sequence’ extra offensive-driven fight loop, to its moody, noir-inflected, orchestral jazz rating. But what endures as my favorite a part of Halo 3: ODST is one thing that has by no means fairly been replicated by some other Halo game, or actually some other game 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 position of “the Rookie,” a silent protagonist and a current addition to a shock trooper group. 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 pressured 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 chargeable for New Mombasa’s city infrastructure — with a purpose to achieve a greater grasp of the place you might be and what occurred to your group.

Once 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 grow to be accessible by way of the game’s menu. This waypoint directs you to the primary of a number of artifacts left behind by members of your ODST group, prompting playable flashback missions as seen by way of the attitude of certainly one of your 4 teammates. But that’s not all. As you make your approach by way of the city-hub to your vacation spot, one thing unusual begins taking place to the setting round you.

Several of the video billboards all through town start to alter, as if reacting to your presence. While at first these look 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 town, alerting you to roaming Covenant patrols and alternate routes to soundly keep away from detection. While 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 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. While 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 game’s world.

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

Image: 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 setting of New Mombasa, and I questioned why so few video games since have discovered a approach 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. Aside from that, most waypoint methods in first-person video games exist as both non-diegetic elements of the game’s consumer interface or comically apparent methods just like the glowing inexperienced arrow that factors the participant within the “right” 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 in regards to the game’s narrative design is an intrinsic byproduct of the actual story Bungie was attempting to inform by way of that game — which solely additional emphasizes why Halo 3: ODST is my absolute favorite Halo game.

Fans of Halo haven’t seen something within the sequence fairly like Halo 3: ODST within the 12 years since its launch. While 2010’s Halo: Reach was a prequel, it was additionally Bungie’s swan track from the sequence, and subsequent entries produced by 343 Industries (except for Halo Wars 2) have largely centered across the post-Halo 3 story arc of sequence protagonist Master Chief. Whether there’ll ever be a possibility for a future facet story-like entry within the Halo sequence just like Halo 3: ODST continues to be an open query. Until then, the game stays a powerful and deservedly lauded entry within the franchise, filled with tiny touches which might be nonetheless price remembering, appreciating, and studying from.