Halo 3: ODST prepares to drop

PAX 2009: Bungie contingent offers insights into the development of anticipated Xbox 360 shooter, indicates 8-10 hours of gameplay, no DLC.

Who Was There: The Halo: ODST panel held during the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, titled aptly enough "Prepare to Drop," featured a small battalion of Bungie crew. On hand to represent the studio were creative director Joseph Staten; design director Paul Bertone; composer Marty O'Donnell; executive producer Curtis Creamer; community director Brian Jarrard; cinematics director CJ Cowan; art lead Michael Woo; and senior designer Lars Bakken.

New Mombasa under siege.

What They Talked About: Halo 3: ODST is locked and loaded for a September 22 release on the Xbox 360, and judging by the popularity of its 2007 predecessor, the title will be more than a bit of a big deal. With that release date looming, a host of Bungie staff offered a bit more insight into the history behind the game.

Creative director Joe Staten began the PAX panel by briefly touching upon the fundamental decision to create a game that followed the orbital drop shock trooper, rather than, say, Master Chief. In fact, Master Chief and the Arbiter were originally discussed as lead characters for the game. However, the team decided that bringing Master Chief or his close compatriots back would weigh too heavily on the game, and the studio wanted to start fresh with something new.

After eventually arriving upon the orbital drop shock trooper, the team began by designing the drop pod and its process of falling from the sky, as could be seen in the initial teaser trailer for the game. The drop pod went through a number iterations to amp up its dramatic feel, art lead Michael Woo noted, with cinematics lead CJ Cowan saying that the interior of the pod and its initial impact constituted the biggest opening for a Halo game yet.

The discussion then moved to the game's environment, better known as the arid, east African town of New Mombasa. Having made appearances in Halo 2 and Halo 3, the team quickly realized that fleshing out the city and bringing it to life required a number of changes; a process Woo called agonizing. Re-creating New Mombasa in intricate detail was made all the more difficult due to the nighttime gameplay that Halo 3: ODST will offer.

The process was aided along, however, when Staten made the decision to bring a gritty, film noir aesthetic to the game. The decision allowed Bungie to deviate significantly from the often colorful environs that have defined previous Halo games, giving the team the chance to introduce high-contrast colors, as well cinematic lighting.

The film noir theme extends well beyond art, with Staten noting that the genre's hardboiled detective was the inspiration for the character that players will control. It was important, he said, to make the character dark and mysterious, showing concept art of a lone soldier walking through a dank alley in the rain on a dreary night.

Film noir also heavily influenced the game's sound. Before playing a sample tune, composer Marty O'Donnell noted that Halo 3: ODST will feature sound that markedly contrasts with previous installments in the serious. He then cued up a somber tune that featured melancholy string instruments and a wayward piano, which stirred up sentiments of the old black-and-white detective films.

O'Donnell also inadvertently revealed that Halo 3: ODST will feature about eight to 10 hours of gameplay--which Staten quickly asked everyone in attendance not to repeat--for which he composed about three hours of music. Notably, before the game transformed into a full-priced venture, Bungie had indicated the game would be a "three-to-five hour expansion pack."

The panel then shifted back to the art direction, with various concept art and screenshots shown of New Mombasa at night. Notably, one shot showed the city being flooded by a wall of water, indicating some kind of natural disaster of biblical proportions. Other shots shown included ways in which the team went about breathing life into the city, with one example being signage that had a decidedly ironic element a la Starship Troopers.

Also in the art vein, various vehicles and weapons were shown, including a revamped Pelican and what appeared to be a heavily armored dump truck. The team also noted that two of the primary weapons in the game would be a sound-suppressed pistol and sound-suppressed SMG.

As was the case with Halo 3, Bungie has tapped a number of vets from Joss Whedon's cult-sensation Firefly to lend their voices and likenesses to the game. As has previously been announced, this includes Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and Adam Baldwin. Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer, who Blizzard Entertainment recently announced would voice Kerrigan in Starcraft II, will also lend her voice and likeness to the game. Again offering a bit of a slip, O'Donnell noted that Fillion's character and Helfer's character have some smoldering romance that will impact the game.

Staten concluded by offering a few details on Sadie's Story, which will apparently be a tangential plot line from the perspective of a New Mombasa civilian caught up in the ordeal. The story, which will emerge as a player progresses, details the events leading up to the arrival of the orbital drop shock troopers.

A number of odds and ends were also offered during the Q&A portion of the panel. According to community manager Brian Jarrard, people should "be sure to keep your ODST disk handy" for when Bungie begins to talk more about its next Halo project, Halo: Reach. Senior designer Lars Bakken also stated that "there are no current plans for doing DLC for ODST," though Jarrard quickly chimed in with a practiced community relations response that Bungie is always evaluating its options.

Takeaway: With only a few short weeks left until Halo 3: ODST's launch, gamers will soon know how well Bungie's latest effort will complement the franchise. As is becoming more and more obvious, the game will represent a marked departure from the vibrant Halo aesthetic, with the film noir bent offering more complex and, possibly richer, characters.

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Discussion

488 comments
MetalMan300
MetalMan300

@spotty6 Calling halo a bad game is a truly ignorant fanboy comment. Just look at all the critics reviews, a few years down the road the Halo series is going to be a classic of the FPS genre, just like Half Life is today as well. So basically that would be like me calling MGS4 one of the worst games of the year, or saying that Killzone 2 has bad graphics. There's no base for Halo's supposed badness since it has little to no faults. How anyone can call a game that redefinaed the FPS genre is beyond me.

I_Like_Muffins
I_Like_Muffins

Wow... Really peoples, who cares? You can like what you want to like, no one else is going to affect that so just get over it and move on. This is a comment thread for Halo 3: ODST. If you don't like it or don't think it'll be good, say so. But enough preaching that everything else is better, etc. And for the love of God, -enough- with the friggin' console wars. Halo Wars was bad enough, I think we can do with less wars for a while. Anyhow, I can't wait for this game, I think it'll do great justice for the Halo series.

spotty6
spotty6

@picklesrocks how do you think i played halo 3 i have an xbox ofcourse and i play it regularly with l4d im not a fanboy but halo really was a bad game and about mag psn will be able to keep it lag free due to a update around the time im just sayin but xbl could not do that

picklesrocks
picklesrocks

@spotty6 wow fanboy, MAG is the future of online play? why because it has 256 players? dont even try to preach to halo players about that that game will probably lagg immensely due to the fact that sony doesnt even have a moderately good online service so 256 players in hundreds of matches? hmm yeah cos thatl work. oh and dont say that the demo was fine that was only because it was on a high end bandwidth so get over yourself, and halo was not terrible, i agree it wasnt the greatest game ever but it was so go back to your ps3 FANBOY

spotty6
spotty6

would be good if you had friends and what idiot would play this crap mag is the future online game for everyone except you because you have no friends:)

punkpunker
punkpunker

ODST is a great idea for the series, playing as a tough spec-ops instead of a super-killing machine. i wish it supports dlc for campaign

facistinabag
facistinabag

@ xtremeflem2day Yeah, maybe you could one shot someone through a wall with an AK on hardcore mode, after the guy got hit by a grenade. It's damn near impossible to do that. You should try playing the series before you s**** on it. All games have their noobs, Halo's got the hammer noob, which is 10 times worse than a fisher in cod. And if cods so nooby, why do you need shields in Halo? Because we all know halo's multiplayer is just Fire + Grenade + melee over and over again. Despite my dislike for halo's multiplayer, I'll may end up renting this.

GOWzztrippinzz
GOWzztrippinzz

Never been a big Halo online player, although I have greatly enjoyed the franchise. I've recently been getting deep into FPS online gaming and probably going to be on ODST constantly, just hope I don't get wrecked by all the Halo freaks when I'm still bad..

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

@spotty6 Lmao you lost the fight long ago, we both know it, get over it, ill go hang out with my friends and play bad@ss games while im at it, while you go spend your life crying in jealousy? sound fair?

jeffv541
jeffv541

I hate: Fanboys Fratboys nonbackwardscompatible systems and DLC!!!!!!!!

meke186
meke186

I like dlc but we wont be needing any in odst since it has every map. (but who agrees dlc for prototype would be awesome)

spotty6
spotty6

@xtremeflem2day i played halo 3 for a couple weeks but i have to say that game was terrible

badiie05
badiie05

Lookin Awesome but no DLC :P

scarface_dm
scarface_dm

I didnt have high hopes for this, but now I seem more and more interested :D

KoruKinshi
KoruKinshi

Now this is looking quite promising...

lamprey263
lamprey263

PS3 fanboys are jealous because they haven't had a midnight launch for anything PS3 exclusive since the PS3 went on sale.

HaloGears402
HaloGears402

I think this will be much better than Halo 3. The graphics looks fabulous and the game play great:)

xtremeflem2day
xtremeflem2day

Man there are plenty of ps3 fanboys who try to say halo 3 is bad, but they're just jealous cause they dont have it. Others try to say its bad, but theyre bad at it. Great game, 100 % skill, not like nooby cod where its about camping in the corner with ak 47/stopping power for 1 hit spray kills. Halo 3= unique with weapons, aiming, grenades, invis, all that good stuff. Just hope they dont lose that halo feel with ODST, but it looks pretty bad@ss.

Asgorath777
Asgorath777

Perhaps it is predicable, but I personally am really looking forward to this release. I know some people don't like the Halo universe, but speaking for myself I really enjoy it. And this looks to be a fine addition. I'm gather glad it became a full game in the end.

athenian29
athenian29

A lot of people have complained about there being "no DLC." Well, that's not what they said. What they said was "there are no current plans for doing DLC for ODST." That doesn't mean that they won't do it sometime later. And really, why not? More skins and maps for Firefight? Why not? And of course they'll continue to make map packs for Halo 3 - neither of these games is even close to "dead."

allegra_geller
allegra_geller

sounds to me like there is no dlc because the dlc IS the game...i'm still skeptical this will be good in any way. i wouldn't pay even 40 for it. bleh.

BoondockSaint22
BoondockSaint22

This looks sweeeeeeet . Halo 3 raped and is the best online. ODST should be good

zakkess
zakkess

id prolly get this game for the maps and the firefight mode lol..firefight should keep me busy for a week like nazi zombies did :o

ReD_FeLony
ReD_FeLony

They put the words Halo 3 into the title; HALO 3 ODST, so you can't complain when you find out you just bought more or less the same game, except you can't dual wield, you have night vision goggles and you heal up in a different way, worth full retail? Recommended rent

greyberserker
greyberserker

So they doubled the initial gameplay offering from about 5 to about 10. To me that means the price should have gone from fifteen dollars to thirty dollars, not sixty. I will rent this game, I might enjoy it, and then I will move on. Maybe in this game the soldiers will be able to sprint, take cover, and be more than a walking turret that punches people.

SpiritOfFire117
SpiritOfFire117

We get it. You think Halo sucks based on your own fanboyish excuses. That's not going to stop me from getting ODST on opening day. And you know what's funny? Five years ago alot of the haters wouldn't even know what an ODST was until a game included it as a subtitle.

Janpieterzun
Janpieterzun

Wow that's a lot of excuses not to get it. All those words and reasons all you people are typing just translates to= LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL UR P00R to me.

RavenSoS
RavenSoS

I loved Halo 3. I love the Halo universe in general. Firefight mode looks to be very entertaining if Horde mode from Gears of War 2 is any indication. What bothers me about the game is that it has the same multiplayer from Halo 3 with all of the maps that I, and many others, already paid for and downloaded. The 8 to 10 hour campaign might take that long for the casual gamer (and when I say casual I mean hardly ever plays) but even for the average gamer it probably won't be that long. Normally whenever they tell me how long it SHOULD take, I shave a few hours off if not cut it in half. With that all being said, I am not convinced at all that this game will be worth my $60 when it releases. I think I'll wait until the price drops to something more suitable for what is, basically, half a game.

macca366
macca366

I'm always up for a romp in the Halo universe. My only issue with my impression of ODST so far is the possible lack of epicness in the story; in combat evolved etc all your efforts were about saving the entire universe, I liked that grand feeling. I'm not sure if ODST will pull off the 'detective,' relationship oriented story well and make it exciting, but who knows it might work.

-White_Knight-
-White_Knight-

I'm not too comfy with this... Halo 1 through 3 have felt more..... official... I guess. This feels like a money-hungry snake waiting to attack helpless addicts :( damnit... I trusted you, Bungie!!!

kingcole225
kingcole225

Also you guys are saying the graphics are horrible why would I play this. First of all I've always loved the Halo 3 graphics and I still think they are on par with the average graphics, second of all is that really why you're no going to play this game? I mean that's sad. This whole "they are cheap and they just put Halo on it and everyone buys it" doesn't even make sense, Halo Wars got a 6.5 and barely anybody played it (I did because I love RTS').

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

Im preparing to drop a deuce.

kingcole225
kingcole225

Salarian Chemist Even I love Halo ODST and I'm so going to get it (you doubters haven't even researched Halo 3 ODST, stop hating on this game when you don't even know what it is) Halo 3 ODST has the same engine as Halo 3 so the graphics are the same. What I would want as DLC is extra missions on campaign. Like side missions so there would be your normal story but you could forget that and go help some marines pinned in a building by the covenant, or maybe even give a whole new story. Seeing as it's an open world campaign this stuff seems like it would fit.

THORINATOR
THORINATOR

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kvan33
kvan33

I loved Halo 3, but this gets a "meh".

spotty6
spotty6

gamespot what the hell ive came on here once everyday since last saturday and this is still the top story omg ign seems good rite now

ShroudedEagle
ShroudedEagle

No DLC? Heresy! We should get SPI armour to use in Firefight, plus more Firefight maps ;)

mr0806
mr0806

Well there is nothing anyone can say or do to hinder my getting this game... Can't freaking wait!!!!!!

ShootumUP26
ShootumUP26

im a ps3 boy and i still think halo rocks Vasot you douchebag

UltimateRAGEX
UltimateRAGEX

I'm more excited about the new Halo 3 maps coming with it, they coming on ODST?

DeadlySpartanII
DeadlySpartanII

ALRIGHT! Cant wait for this game :D But since my xbox 360 is broken, I can wait...

DAMSOG
DAMSOG

The first halo gave you power, the sequels slowly took all that away. Now you dont even have armour? Fighting the same old enemies....more money....please.

Switchblade777
Switchblade777

another example of bungie re-releasing halo yet again..... maybe they'll make some more money from more idiots like Salarianchemist here, who thinks "YES! a brand new Halo game with an SMG with a silencer?! and lets see??? THREE new maps WOW improved graphics and DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT???!!! and not to mention 10 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY??!!! damn i've never seen anything like this before!!!! i'll shell out another 100$ and play the third bloody game all over again! i just don't get why xbox fans hold HALO in such high regards? its not that good!

SalarianChemist
SalarianChemist

@ Weddum: I agree with each thing you said. Let me reply with my thoughts on each area you talked about. 1. Graphics Halo 3: ODST has a new graphics engine that offers a lot more detail than Halo 3. This new game relies more on zooming in on enemies because the Pistol has a 2x zoom. Halo 3: ODST lets you see facial expressions on enemies like Gears of War does. It looks awesome with the new graphic detail and the new style of vivid lighting. 2. Downloadable Content Halo 3: ODST will never require any type of downloadable content, because it is a full game that finishes the Halo 3 storyline. We learn all the things that happened between Halo 2 & Halo 3 at New Mambosa. 3. Gameplay 10 hours of gameplay is a lot for a shooter! And its actually a lot more than that if you try and get achievements and hidden items. People don't realize that Uncharted on the PS3 can be beaten in only 4 hours. And the big difference between Halo 3: ODST and other shooters is the 4-player co-op mode and the new FireFight mode, which provide infinite replay value with other people. And the fact that Halo 3: ODST comes with a bonus disc for multiplayer is awesome. The bonus disc has all 21 maps for Halo 3, plus three new maps. The way this bonus disc even has new achievements for Halo 3 is awesome! It is particularly cool how you can unlock certain things in Halo 3: ODST if you were able to get certain achievements in Halo 3 -- it all ties in together for a lot of gameplay fun.