Halo 3: ODST

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating.

Content sum up: While blood effects and language are relatively mild, overall violence is more fantastical than realistic, and it totally lacks the grotesque and disturbing Flood's presence; with the inclusion of bumped-up suggestive themes (including a couple of low brow jokes), Sadie's (optional but integral side) Story (that contains riots, murders and attempted rape) and the fact that the battles are as stressful and heart-pumping as ever, it's simply more suited to the mid- teens and up. So, I recommend this game for ages 14+.

Blood: The blood spurts in negligible amounts, and then splatters onto walls and floors in light to moderate amounts when alien Covenant or Human soldiers are shot or hit; Humans and alien Brutes shed red blood, but remaining Covenant forces shed glowing neon green, blue and/or orange blood. Blood and bodies do linger, and there is static Human and Covenant blood splattered on walls and floors, along with their unbloodied bodies scattered throughout. There is no option to turn blood off.

Specific scenes of blood (& mild gore):

(The ESRB didn't mention that there is a mild scene and reference of gore; "reference" in regards to optional, collectable "Audio Logs" that tell "Sadie's Story.")

  • After the ODST team successfully hold off a Convenant attack, a Brute Chieftain (hulking, ape-like Covenant alien) uses its Gravity Hammer to pound an ODST, Romeo, in the chest, causing him to fall back and gasp violently in pain. It goes to finish him off when their sergeant, Buck, jumps on its back, pulls up its head and plunges a Combat Knife into its jugular with a *shff/squish* and a moderate jet of (red) blood. The others help beat and pull it down as Buck continues to do this, while light, visible trails of blood eject from the Brute's body and it audibly moans/groans in pain—Buck walks over and pulls the knife out of its neck (with a *shff*) and uses a few shakes to fling the blood off. And later, after finding a safe place to rest, the team sets down Romeo's injured, wheezing body, as Buck uses a healing device to inject a foamy substance into the wound (this isn't seen in any detail; he is armored); this protects his punctured lung from collapse.
  • The below scenes pertain to the Audio Log that tell "Sadie's Story," in which this nineteen year-old girl tries to escape the Covenant invasion of her city, with the help of the Vergil, an AI construct who runs every facet of the city. The logs are joined by a slideshow of abstract, graphic art stills (roll-over for example), but despite the stills, anything close to blood, gore and violence is (in almost every instance) solely implied through sound effects and closed captions, not seen.
  • When the Brutes find Sadie, her friend Mike crashes into the group (as you hear their dying groans). Upon closer inspection of Mike's ruined car, Sadie and Mike note one of the Brute's "paws" in the grill, prompting her to remark, "Eww."
  • After Sadie's forced to meet with Kinsler (city's corrupt police commissioner) at his train (if Sadie hadn't, he threatened to kill her father), Sadie tries to make it past the violent crowd of civilians—who also want to board his train, in order to escape the Convenant forces. To let Sadie through, and scare off the riot for his own sake, Kinsler orders his men to open fire in the crowd. They do, as you see a very brief still with light blood splatter, accompanied by their screams.
  • Once Sadie enters his train, Kinsler bluntly tells her he already killed her father by ordering his men to trip the fire safety system in his building; causing him to suffocate and freeze. To save Sadie from Kinsler, Mike encourages the crowd to rush the train; he succeeds, as Sadie has Vergil open the train doors remotely. Kinsler then falls into crowd, as you hear the crowd pull him down and tear him to (literal) pieces (with tearing/squishing sounds and his screams).

Language: There are over a dozen uses of d*mn and hell, under a dozen uses of a**, two uses of b*tch and "balls," ("Do you ever get tired of busting my balls?" and, "You ever fall for a woman...make sure she's got balls [guts]") and one use of bastard and SoB. Other than the main script, Human soldiers will infrequently use hell, d*mn, a**, bastard, (very rarely) SoB, and they'll call certain bug-like enemies "Bugger(s)" (this is also mildly rude British slang) during gunfights. Throughout Mombasa city portions, you can collect a total of 30 (optional) "Audio Logs," which tell side narrative, "Sadie's Story." The Logs have under a dozen uses of d*mn, hell and God, three or under uses of bastard, SoB and a**, and one use of p*ss, a**hole, God d*mn and "p*ssies" (used like the word "coward"). There is no option to turn language off.

Suggestive themes: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating)

  • When their new female captain makes her entrance, an ODST member remarks to himself, "Hello beautiful!" And as he and a couple others in the team discuss the new captain's arrival, one of the men asks the other what kind of armor she was wearing; he then replies, "Dunno Mickey. I wasn't looking at her gear."
  • It's mentioned that second-in-command, ODST sergeant Buck, and Veronica, the captain, have a history. This is confirmed as Veronica tells him over radio, "You really don't remember. That night? What you asked me in the morning?
  • After finding the Engineer (a stunning but odd looking creature; roll-over for an example) and entering an elevator, Buck takes a whiff of the creature and says, "Whew, Lord, that thing stinks! Kinda reminds me of my..." It trails off there as Veronica stops him with an abrupt punch to his face, for unrelated reasons—and after a few heated words, Veronica gives Buck a quick but passionate kiss.
  • As Buck and Rookie watch Veronica's unwavering resolve, Buck says, "Take my advice rookie. You ever fall for a woman....make sure she's got balls (guts)."
  • In one of the optional Audio Logs—with adjoining graphic art-like stills—that tell Sadie's (side) Story, you hear as Commissioner Kinsler, head of the city's police (an acquaintance of Sadie's), saves her from a rioting crowd by escorting her to his car. After she tells him her destination, he says its too dangerous, and that, "I'd like to take you somewhere much more...private." Kinsler tells his driver to put up the partition, as he proceeds to talk about Sadie's late mother, and then begins to make advances. Sadie sees this and tries to have Vergil (AI construct that runs the city and her friend) to remotely stop the car (in order to escape), but finds that his car isn't on the grid. She slaps Kinsler, causing him to remark "(chuckles) Just like your mother" as you hear struggles, and he says that since it's the end of the world, "Nobody cares what happens to one...lost..soul!" Upon hearing this, his driver, Mike, abruptly stops the car, pulls Kinsler out, punches him several times, shoves him down, and then drives Sadie away to safety.
  • As he and Sadie cross a crowded bridge, Mike tells himself, "Jeez, Branely. The things you do for a kiss." (they continue to flirt in a light manner throughout).
  • In one of the last Sadie's Story Audio Logs, Kinsler forces Sadie to travel to and enter his train by threatening to kill her father. Upon her arrival, Kinsler bluntly states that he has already killed her father, causing her to break out into a sob. This prompts Kinsler to say, "Please, get all your tears out now. It's a long ride, and I don't want to hear you moaning all the way to Nairobi. Well, come to think of it...I might." (Vergil prevents Kinsler's attempts with an exploding panel).

Use of tobacco: (The ESRB didn't mention this in their rating) At one point in "Sadie's Story" Sadie and Mike find a man smoking a cigarette—you can hear his puffing a few times, and a couple of stills show the clouds of smoke coming from his cigarette; and in the Epilogue after the end credits, Major Johnson (a recurring character in the Halo universe), tosses the Engineer a lighter, sits down, pulls out a cigar and clenches it in his mouth, as it lights it—he then inhales and blows out a puff of smoke.

Violence: Set during Halo's 2 timeline, this tells the story of the Rookie (a member of a special Human military force known as ODST; Oribtal Shock Drop Trooper), and his fellow ODST members. Their mission; infiltrate the Covenant Assault Carrier hovering above New Mombasa city (Earth) and capture the Prophet of Regret. As they use their HEVs (Human Entry Vehicles) to drop into the Earth's atmosphere, the Assault Carrier makes the jump to Slipspace (a.k.a, light-speed), creating a damaging EMP wave that causes all electrical equipment, including the ODSTs' HEVs, to immediately fail, as the ODST team plummet towards Earth. The Rookie awakes six hours later at nightfall, his HEV crashed in the ruined city and no sign of his fellow teammates in sight. To reunite with his team, the Rookie will navigate the ruined, nighttime streets of New Mombasa with a little help from the city's AI, Vergil, as he fights patrolling Covenant forces and searches for clues to his teams whereabouts among the wreckage...

After awaking from your crashed pod, being introduced to the city's AI, Vergil, and its interface, and learning the basics, you will set out to find your missing team. And the base gameplay consists of navigating the nighttime streets of New Mombasa city with your VISR, a night vison-like visor that outlines environmental objects in yellow, your allies green and enemies red. You'll then use your real-time map of the city to locate a beacon of that allies last known location, and travel there as you combat patrolling Covenant head-on, or use alternate sidepaths and abandoned buildings to flank them, or side-step them all together—as you explore the streets, you can collect Audio Logs that eventually reward you with locations of allied weapon caches, along with vehicles to get around faster. Upon reaching a team member's last known location, it will flash back to that point in time, as you play from their perspective. These daytime portions are more action-oriented, and consist of fighting waves of the Covenant forces as you fend them off with your varied arsenal of weapons and vehicles.

Your sole enemy are the alien Covenant and their many types; (squeaky-voiced, pint- sized) Grunts, (lizard-like) Jackals (that carry sniper weapons or full energy shields), (winged, bug-like) Drones, (hulking, ape-like) Brutes (all of which are fully armored; some later types have stealth cloaks) along with Brute Chieftains (more resilient, and equipped with a giant, one-hit kill Gravity Hammer), and the massive, deadly Hunters (with extremely resilient armor, a body shield on one arm and a laser assault cannon for the other). You'll be fighting them with Human weapons; M6S pistol, MA5C Assault Rifle, M7S—silenced—Submachine Gun, M41 Rocket Launcher, M90 Shotgun, SRS99D- S2 AM Sniper Rifle, Spartan Laser (beam cannon), M7057 Flamethrower (disc 2 multi- player only), and M9 Grenades (frag grenades). And Covenant weapons; Plasma Pistol (charged shot disables enemy shielding), (scoped, mid-ranged) Carbine, Brute Plasma Rifle, Needler (shoots shards of energy), Spiker (fires metal spikes), Mauler (shotgun pistol), Particle Beam Rifle (sniper rifle), Fuel Rod Gun (cannon), Brute Shot (grenade launcher), Gravity Hammer (emits one-hit kill shock waves)...

Plasma Grenade (that stick to enemy on contact), Spike Grenade (that stick, and then shoots out shrapnel), and Flame Grenades (set enemies aflame). Along with a variety of pilotable vehicles, including Human forces (jeep-like) Warthog (armed with either a Heavy Machine Gun Turret or Gauss Cannon) and Scorpion (tank); and the Covenants' Ghost (hovercraft with front-mounted lasers), Brute Chopper (over-sized, motorcycle- like hovercraft with front-mounted cannons) and the Banshee (an aircraft armed with lasers and a plasma cannon). The combat system is over-the-top chaos, and consists of using the above arsenal (or turrets, which can be used on their bases or pulled off and lugged around) to shoot away at the enemy Covenant (or Humans; friendly-fire is enabled, and allied soldiers can be killed in the same ways enemies can, at any time, inadvertently or not) and your surrounds (bullets chip away at walls, energy weapons scorch the area); the butt of your weapons to attack enemies in close-quarters (or, if undetected, down them with one stealthy hit from behind)...

And grenades (including the Flame, sticky Plasma and shrapnel shooting Spike types), nearby explosive objects (like abandoned cars, etc.) and all other explosive-oriented weapons, along with aforementioned vehicles (which you can hijack from enemies—or they you—with a quick kick, and then run them and random object down) to take out all close-by enemies, as the ensuing explosions (or your Gravity Hammer) fling them dozens of feet, kick up dust and scorch their vehicles to husks. When shot, Brutes and Hunters react in a subdued manner, as they growl in anger and fall back, and Grunts will react almost comically, running for their lives (Jackals do this too) as they scream in squeaks, or remark in disbelief, "He was my friend!" after you destroy one of their equally cowardly allies. Add this behavior with their inhuman appearance, and combat leans more towards the arcade, even cartoonish; not the realistic. The nighttime city portions lend a haunting, lonely feel, with ditched cars, roadblocks and piles of refuse scattered about the ruined streets, where the very hostile Covenant patrol in place of its civilians—what's worse; you're left to deal with them alone.

The daytime flashback portions are more action-oriented and intense, with wide-open battlefields and huge skirmishes, as Phantom dropships fire at your position with high powered turrets, dropping in waves of Covenant that open fire and begin to flank you from every direction with no delay. It only steps up, as the Brutes toss out protective Bubble Shields, fire with grenade launchers, evade attacks with jetpacks and cloaking devices, attack with Gravity Hammers (killing in less than two hits), and then flat-out rush you with their bodies when close to death. All the while Grunts fire from turrets; Jackals snipe you from afar or crowd you in groups with energy shield—that block all direct fire; giant Hunters bombard you with their deadly arm cannons (that kill in one hit), block your fire with their shields (their only weak point is their back) and charge you with their bodies in close-quarters; Wraith tanks fire cannonballs of energy from infinite distances; and Banshees barrage you from the sky. And in most instances, all the above happens at once—the odds are never in your favor...

Specific scenes of violence:

(The below scenes pertains to the "Audio Logs" in "Sadie's Story".)

  • As Sadie uses an ATM machine's communicator to talk with her stranded father, an old "Crone" threatens her with a shotgun and tells her to step away from the machine. As the crone tries to break into the machine, Sadie watches from her hiding place while an invading Brute approaches, rips the ATM off the wall and uses it to crush the crone, killing her—her screams and this act are heard.
  • While Sadie speaks with her father over a communication device, he tells Sadie that he sees six Engineers surrounding a seventh and disabling its built-in bomb (the Covenant install these for safety, as Engineers are organic computers with vital intel—as a side note, it is a bit pathetic when you discover the fact that the Engineers are innocent slaves, since they're destroyed by you throughout). You then hear several explosions as Sadie's father chimes back in and observes that the first six Engineers sacrificed themselves in order to free the seventh.
  • When Mike and Sadie reach a facility containing Vergil's on-switch (he has been disabled), they find a corrupt cop standing among downed bodies of fellow cops he shot down in cold blood. Upon seeing the two, he sticks them up, as another officer arrives from the elevator, sees the murderer, remarking that he thought this armed murderer was recently fired. This angers the corrupt cop, who then shoots the questioner three times dead (heard—including his dying gurgles—not seen) as he says he didn't like how his victim used to use up all of his half-and- half anyway. A swat team barges into the room and opens fire—the corrupt cop shoots a few of them down—and soon kill him (his dying gurgles audible).

You'll fend off waves of the Covenant in a small room with a lone turret, as kamikaze Grunts flail in, plasma grenades lacing their bodies; evade a mammoth enemy Scarab carrier's heavy fire as you take it out with a Banshee from close-range; and navigate a cramped hive full of swarming Drones. And as an ODST, you're not even close to as resilient as Master Chief. Unlike this Spartan, your health will not fully recover unless you find and acquire health from stations or packs which dispense it. If you can't find health in time, and take too much damage, the screen will go red as your character's breathing quickens in pain—you have to keep on the constant move to survive. As for age, while blood effects and language are relatively mild, the overall violence is more fantastical than realistic, and there is a complete lack of the grotesque and disturbing Flood's presence; with the inclusion of the bumped-up suggestive themes (including a couple of low brow jokes), Sadie's (optional but integral side) Story (involving themes of riots, murders and attempted rape) and for the fact that the battles are as stressful and heart-pumping as ever, it's just more suited to mid-teens up.

Content review posted: 11/08/09

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