Halo 3: ODST: What’s Been Bugging Me All Day

Let me preface this with some disclosure. Plain and simple, I am a Halo fan. The game I have logged the most time playing this generation has been Halo 3. I’ve been looking forward to Halo: ODST, anticipating a new single player campaign, a revitalized Halo 3 multiplayer community, and the all new co-op mode Firefight. Furthermore I have yet to play the game.

With that said, I feel regular readers of my ramblings know I generally am pretty fair in my critical analysis of games or movies. I have no problem calling something what it is, good or bad. While personality and bias seeps into anyone’s writing I feel I treat everything with the same eye (or I don’t review it).

This morning I woke up to Tweet alerting me to a small, yet brewing controversy over at NowGamer (A site I have never really paid attention to) over their Halo: ODST review. I like controversy and I also like to read reviews that generally go against the grain, even if I don’t agree with them. To be blunt, I find it all quite entertaining.

So I sought out the review in question, which received a 6.3. On most scales (including NowGamers) a 6.3 is a fair to passable game perfectly respectable providing you back up the score with text. To be outright fair 2/3 of the article does this. Honestly, if I had written that text, the score probably would have been lower but I know the pains a writer goes through to pick an appropriate score for a title having done so myself in more than a few published reviews and in the end the decision is ultimately on the writer or publisher of the text.

What irked me about NowGamers review of Halo: ODST was not it critique of the game but rather the acerbic tone the entire first third of the article takes against everything from the title of the game to the hype and fanbase the series has gained over the years. Does the review make some good strong points to justify why the game gets the score it does? Certainly but for me the first third of the review negated any criticisms because it seemed like the author had a chip on his shoulder when he sat down to write the review. After reading that I didn’t feel like the writer reviewed Halo: ODST as a packaged product but rather reviewed the hype and prior news reports around Halo: ODST.

In anycase, this isn’t about well written hate speak against a popular game, it is about the response NowGamer felt compelled to release a response based on some outcry about their review and score. For starters I don’t like when review sites feel the need to officially defend their reviews to their readers. People are going to bitch and moan about anything that remotely disturbs their perfect little world. My take is if you publish a piece by one of your writers, you are publicly acknowledging that you support the author and his/her piece so a public response to some outcry is not needed.

Secondly if you insist on doing a response piece starting it out by deflecting blame for your review to what other sites did is petty and unprofessional.

NowGamer posted:

NowGamer did not expect the commotion over yesterday’s 6.3/10 score for Halo 3: ODST for one very simple reason; that we’re quite frankly stunned that the game has been averaging eights, nines and beyond.

While I agree with points that the review author makes, especially when discussing the ten point review scale and how gamers have come to expect scores on a 7-10 score scale, he all but admits to reviewing Halo: ODST as a five hour single player campaign that doesn’t offer anything else. Knocking it for looking two years old is a valid complaint. Knocking it for not being DLC given the contents of the package is not. And once again using other sites as a deflection device is not cool.

Dan Howdle posted:

It’s totally fair to say that, had ODST been downloadable for similar money, we would have been – a little – kinder, but even still, seeing nines appearing all over the place makes us very sad indeed. The pressure, it would seem, to score something based on the name it carries, rather than on its content has reached new levels of the absurd.

But my main problem with the review and the response is that the author doesn’t seem to ever grasp that he was tasked with reviewing a complete packaged product. His whole argument seems to rest on, this should have been DLC. For better or worse, Halo: ODST is not DLC it is a complete packaged product with a five hour campaign, a new multiplayer co-op mode and a fully fleshed out competitive multiplayer portion that already has a large community at hand.

Dan Howdle posted:

NowGamer will never shirk from its responsibility in the face of pressure from either fans or publishers; to call it like we see it

That comment, which closed the response piece, struck me as odd because his review never seemed to call it like he saw it but rather how he wanted to see it. Anyway, I’m done rambling.


2 thoughts on “Halo 3: ODST: What’s Been Bugging Me All Day

  1. Full disclosure: I am NOT a Halo fan, while I thought 3 was a good game I thought the hype accounted for the high scores it received at the time. It was good, but not perfect.

    You make an interesting point about judging it on the merits of what it is rather than what the reviewer felt it should have been. My question to you would be: Where does value fit in (at all) when awarding a final score? If it’s a low score because the reviewer felt that it should have been delivered exclusively then I agree with you. But if the score was low because the reviewer felt the total package wasn’t worth $60, that’s a different story. Of course if that was the intent they did a poor job of explaining it.

    1. To answer your question, for me handling value in reviews is a tricky proposition and it depends on who you are reviewing the product for and how those people look at value. In the case of ODST, which I have still not played (although it is sitting above me waiting for me to crack the seal), the game offers a campaign mode, firefight mode and the entirety of the Halo 3 multiplayer component plus three new maps. If NowGamer was a Halo fan site I could agree with their approach at least in concept, however they are supposedly a real games journalism site and as such shouldn’t just assume that everyone who is reading their review has Halo 3 or more specifically has Halo 3 and has bought all the map packs. It would be fine to say, that for diehard Halo 3 fans ODST maybe doesn’t offer you the most bang for your buck and that it might have made more sense as DLC but you also have to acknowledge that only a small percentage of players actually buy all the DLC packs and that the package may offer a good bit of value for those people who haven’t. NowGamer’s review never did that. The reviewer seemed to have a chip on his shoulder from the get go, anytime he said anything nice about the title it was followed up with a snarky comment that negated what he just praised. And it only got worse with the response letter which bluntly tried to state that NowGamer had more integrity than any other site out there that gave the game an 8 or a 9.

      I plan on reviewing the game in the next week or so, so I suppose I’ll see how much value is really in the game.

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