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My Visits to New Mombasa

For some, on a DVD rack somewhere, rests a movie they will re-watch. On a shelf somewhere, rests a book they will reread. On a disc or cartridge somewhere, rests a game they will re-play. For a piece of media to captivate someone much to warrant multiple revisits, must do something that never becomes stale.

Until last year, I never owned that kind of game, and I would suspect that its occurrence remains a rare occasion. Every year or so, usually during the colder seasons, I re-play Halo 3: ODST.

Halo 3: ODST never struck me as a game I would occasionally revisit, especially sinceI never owned a copy of the game until recently. But something about that soundtrack just sounds perfect to my ears. For a while I thought the soundtrack represented the only reason for my revisits, yet listening to it alone does not satisfy.

I need to actually hear the soundtrack in conjunction with view of the dimly lit city streets of New Mombasa, sounds of empting of my SMG magazine and sense of freedom while I wander the empty streets. I enjoy Halo’s mantra of “30 seconds of fun” looping throughout an entirety of a full length game, but I never found the narrative at all compelling. The confusion of the Flood switching sides at a rate what seemed like every other cut scene, didn’t at all assist in my already disinterest in the story.

Instead of the saviour, lone surviving Spartan Master Chief, Bungie humanized the ODST soldiers, gave them faces, names and personalities. A faceless character proves extremely difficult to relate to, and I don’t know what a lone survivor of any group feels like.

However, I do know what it feels like to be alone. We all do. And while I never dropped from the sky in an ODST pod before, I know the feeling of wandering an unfamiliar place, looking for parents or friends.

Many players will argue, even myself at one point (I reviewed it for my high school newspaper), that they didn’t like playing as an ODST soldier. That playing an as essentially weaker version of a Spartan soldier ruined the sense of invulnerability and superiority. I don’t agree with that criticism anymore; I almost remember not agreeing with it when I first wrote it.

I chose to write about ODST at this specific time for a reason – Halo 4. While I don’t think it will replicate all of the specifics of why I continuously enjoy ODST’s campaign, I fear Halo 4 will ruin ODST for me. I fear Halo 4 will suppress my slowly building urge to see through ODST again. Better graphics, new enemies and new soundtrack could distract me from why I keep playing ODST on occasion.

Then I think of the people in a similar position who instead their go-to game sits and the front end of dozens of Final Fantasy or Zelda games.  If these players survived the onslaught of better graphics and orchestrated music, I don’t see why my relationship with Halo: ODST can’t survive either.