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Video Game of the Week – Halo 3: ODST

Regular visitors to The Online Mom might be surprised to see a review of Halo 3: ODST, the latest addition to Microsoft’s incredibly successful but M-rated video game series. The violent and trigger-happy Halo franchise is often cited as the poster child for everything that is wrong with video games. However, we thought we would use the release of ODST as an opportunity to take another look at the Halo brand and see if its reputation is still warranted.

First of all, there is no denying the overall success of the Halo franchise. The first three Halo games sold over 27 million copies worldwide. When Halo 3 was released in September 2007, it grossed more than $170 million in the first 24-hours, beating the record set by Halo 2 three years earlier. As a comparison, that’s almost three times the opening day box office for Dark Knight, the highest-grossing opening day movie of all time! The success of the video games has led to best-selling novels, spin-off games, and a host of other licensed products.

None of this is to suggest that Halo warrants anything other than its well-deserved “M for Mature” rating, but it does suggest that the game is embraced by far more than a few impressionable and vulnerable teenagers.

So what is Halo all about? If you are unfamiliar with the storyline, the games center on the experiences of the Master Chief, a cybernetically-enhanced human super-soldier, and his companion Cortana. The Master Chief aids future humanity by battling the Covenant, a military alliance of alien races. Halo 3:ODST is a prequel to Halo 3, where players assume the role of an elite human soldier – an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) – known as The Rookie.  The Rookie explores the ruined city of New Mombasa looking for missing allies.

As with all the Halo games, ODST is a first-person shooter (FPS) game, which means you experience battle through a first-person perspective, firing weapons and killing or wounding the enemy. And make no mistake, killing is what the game is all about. Whether you are the Master Chief in the earlier games or The Rookie in ODST, you are constantly under attack from human and alien forces and are required to kill them if you want to survive.

Most of the criticism of Halo centers on this constant killing and the blood and gore that results. However, maybe because of a slightly different graphics package, or maybe because a lot of the kills are aliens, or maybe just because it was intended to be that way, the killing and blood-letting in ODST does not appear to be as intense as the earlier versions of Halo. Many critics have suggested that Halo is no longer anywhere near the top of the list when it comes to violence, having been easily “out-gored” by the likes of Fallout and Resident Evil.

Our view of ODST and the other Halo titles is that parents should strictly follow the ESRB rating of M for Mature. In other words, the title may be suitable for persons aged 17 and older. Whether you think it’s suitable for your 17-year-old is a question only you can answer. However, if you have an Xbox 360 and your teen is used to seeing R-rated movies and has no trouble separating fact from fiction, then Halo 3: ODST might just be one of great action-packed FPS classics of our time!

Note: the ESRB warns that its rating system does not cover gaming interaction online.                       

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Sci-Fi, First-Person Shooter
RRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature

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