REVIEW: HALO 3: ODST "THE ROOKIE" FIGURE
There's a new HALO video game out there, called ODST, focusing on the highly popular Orbital Drop Shock Troopers from the Halo concept. And to accompany this new game, McFarlane Toys has produced a new figure, released in the newest assortment of HALO action figures, of the central playable character of this new game, an individual known simply as "The Rookie".
Based on online reaction, the figure, much like the game, has proven to be immensely popular, so I consider myself fortunate to have found him. Let's turn to a Wikipedia entry about the new game for some backgound information on Halo 3: ODST, and its central character.
Halo 3: ODST is a first-person shooter video game, developed by Bungie and published by Microsoft. It was released on the Xbox 360 video game console exclusively on September 22, 2009, nearly two years after the initial release of Halo 3. Players assume the roles of elite human United Nations Space Command soldiers known as Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) during the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3. After the alliance of alien races known as the Covenant attacks Earth, the player explores the ruined city of New Mombasa to discover what happened to their missing teammates, separated from each other as they entered the city.
Instead of featuring recognizable characters such as the Master Chief from previous games, the developers focused on the ODSTs.
Much of ODST's development team started work on director Peter Jackson's Halo Chronicles, during the production of Halo 3. However, the failure of the Halo film and the subsequent cancellation of Chronicles meant that a sizeable team no longer had a project.
The developers spent weeks deliberating what characters to focus on. At one point, they considered making the game a Covenant-themed story about an elite strike force. Instead, the developers looked at human characters, and ultimately, the protagonists they settled on were the ODSTs. "The ODSTs have always been fan favorites," Bungie community director Brian Jarrard explained. "We never really got inside [the ODSTs]," story director Joseph Staten said, and he saw that game as an opportunity to flesh out the black-armored soldiers.
Making the player an ODST required gameplay changes to preserve the classic Halo formula while branching it in new directions. Bungie began development of ODST in March 2008. ODST was the first Bungie title completed in less than three years; production lasted 14 months.
Bungie and Microsoft first showed ODST in a playable form at E3 2009, where the game's release date and retail versions were finalized. Halo 3: ODST ships as a two-disc set. The first disc contains the campaign mode as well as the firefight co-op mode, while the second disc contains the multiplayer mode with the complete set of Halo 3 maps. Owners of the game receive an invitation to participate in the upcoming Halo: Reach multiplayer beta in 2010, while pre-orders included a token to unlock recurring Halo character Sgt. Johnson as a playable character in the Firefight multiplayer mode.
On release Halo 3: ODST became the top-selling Xbox 360 game worldwide. More than 2.5 million copies of the game were sold within two weeks of release, totaling more than $125 million in sales. ODST claimed the overall top spot in UK game sales, becoming the 12th highest sell-through for a single platform title in the market.
Halo 3: ODST is a shooter video game with gameplay taking place from a first-person perspective. The game features an open world environment in the fictional African city of New Mombasa.
ODST takes place in the 26th century, when humans under the command of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) are locked in a war with a theocratic alliance of alien races known as the Covenant. During the events of the 2004 video game Halo 2, the Covenant discovers the location of Earth and launch an assault on the city of New Mombasa in Africa. Though the UNSC manages to repel most of the fleet, a single ship lands above the city and eventually retreats via a slipspace jump, creating a shockwave that destroys a part of the city. While the rest of Halo 2's storyline follows the carrier to a ringworld called Halo, ODST focuses on the aftermath of the shockwave, where the Covenant still occupies the city.
Although the gameplay of ODST bears a strong resemblance to previous Halo titles, the player does not assume the role of the enhanced human supersoldier Master Chief. Instead, the player controls a lone UNSC soldier, known as the "Rookie". Since the player does not possess the Master Chief's advanced armor and reflexes, they cannot jump as high or move as fast. Instead of the Chief's damage-absorbing energy shield, the game uses a stamina mechanic. After taking damage, the screen flashes red; the player regains stamina by resting. If the player receives more damage past their stamina threshold, their health takes a permanent hit. Players restore permanent health via the use of medpacks scattered around the game environments.
The soldier head-up display (HUD) is different from the previous series, with red outlines for the enemies as a result of a new feature called the VISR (Visual Intelligence System, Reconnaissance). The VISR also gives players a compass and outlines important items in yellow, but it has no radar. However, the aiming reticle remains. As an ODST the player has access to exclusive weapons, including a suppressed submachine gun and pistol that is a throwback to the Halo: Combat Evolved weapon.
The game's campaign mode can be played alone or with up to three other players. As the Rookie, the player's goal is to discover what happened to his missing teammates. After finding a piece of evidence left behind (a sniper rifle hanging on a lamppost, for example) a flashback is triggered and the player assumes the role of the missing soldier in a daytime setting. After players find the first beacon, the choice of where to go next is up to the player. This leads to the option which, unlike other Halo games, will allow the player to play the campaign levels in any order they want.
ODST contains a new cooperative game mode called Firefight. In this game mode, players take on increasingly difficult waves of varied enemies and see how long they can last. Firefight includes new medals as well as the ability to play co-operatively with up to three other players over Xbox Live or System Link. There are a total of ten campaigns, of which three of them are unlockable. The enemy characters that appear in each wave are randomly generated, meaning that players will be unable to anticipate the strength of the next wave prior to its arrival.
As to "The Rookie", the game's main protagonist, he is a young unnamed member of a special military unit, the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, known as ODSTs or Helljumpers. ODSTs often deploy in small, one-man Human Entry Vehicles (HEVs), launched from spaceships in the upper atmosphere. The Rookie is assisted in finding his teammates by Mombasa's city maintenance artificial intelligence known as the Superintendent. The Rookie's teammates are Buck, Dutch, Romeo, Mickey, and Dare, a UNSC Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) agent in charge of the squad's operation.
The game begins with Dutch, Romeo, Mickey and the Rookie discussing plans for assaulting the Covenant Prophet of Regret's ship above New Mombasa. Buck arrives and introduces Dare. The team enter their HEVs and drop through the atmosphere toward the ship; at the last minute, Dare changes their trajectory to miss the carrier. The Covenant ship enters slipspace, sending a shockwave toward the ODSTs; the Rookie's pod collides with another and crashes to the ground, knocking him unconscious for six hours. He awakens and proceeds to find clues as to what happened to his squadmates. Along the way, he discovers clues and evidence of his squad's exploits while he was unconscious.
I don't really want to give away much more of the specific plot than that, since I don't want to ruin anybody's gameplay, but feel free to look up the WikiPedia article for further details.
So, how's the figure? Pretty cool, really, and rather distinctly different from Master Chief or any of the Spartans, including the ODST Spartans.
Some time back, McFarlane produced a standard ODST soldier. Lacking the genetic enhancements of any of the Spartan divisions, the ODST was somewhat shorter in stature than the various Spartans. Most Spartan figures stand approximately 5" in height. The ODST Soldier figure stands slightly under 4-3/4" in height. That doesn't sound like all that much, but given the scale, it's fairly considerable.
The Rookie figure borrows quite a few molds from the first ODST. This isn't especially surprising, since except for the color scheme, they are to a significant degree the same type of trooper, it's just that in the new game, the ODST's take center stage.
The Rookie uses the same head, upper legs, and to a degree, chest and back equipment as the original ODST figure.
However, there are also significant differences. The Rookie has entirely different arms, additional equipment on the chest and upper left leg, and the boots are distinctly different. There's a degree to which I think it would require a complete inventory list of parts used from McFarlane to be entirely certain which parts came from the original ODST figure, and which were created especially for The Rookie.
There's no question that the arms are entirely new -- and they're sort of a mixed bag as to whether or not they're an improvement or not. The upper arms have an extra articulation point in them, but the end result is an almost pointless double upper arm swivel. I mean, honestly, why bother? One would've been sufficient.
The shoulder armor, although similar to the original ODST, is more ornate, and certainly comes from a different set of molds. It doesn't want to stay put all that well, either. It just fits into a peg, however, and is no hindrance to the articulation. I personally recommend a couple of drops of good glue.
One VERY distinct improvement, however, are the hands. They're painted a little oddly -- the fingers and thumb are showing, and are painted in flesh tone. I think this is the first time I've seen this on any otherwise-armored Halo figure. However, what makes them especially an improvement is the wrist joint.
Most of the HALO figures in my collection -- which includes a fairly large cast of Spartans and the first ODST -- have a painfully small, thin ball-and-socket wrist joint. Given that McFarlane's HALO figures have a tendency to be heavily painted and, as such very prone to stuck parts.
The Rookie has a double joint, that works a lot better. The entire wrist and hand assembly is inserted into the lower arm along a rotation point, and the wrist has a back and forth movement separate from this, along a peg joint. It's still pretty thin, but it looks sturdier than the usual. I've heard several Halo collectors comment on this, and some wouldn't mind seeing it become a transitional trend in future Spartan figures.
You don't have to worry about confusing your Rookie figure with the previous ODST. Their color schemes are significantly different. The original ODST figure had a color scheme that was largely steel grey, with a dark blue visor on the helmet. The Rookie has a color scheme that's prominently features a dark metallic olive green, and the helmet visor is a lighter greyish-blue.
Most of the paint work is neatly done, but there's a few sloppy areas that rather clearly look as though they were done by hand. Of particular note are some extra little widgets that were added to the chest armor. These are black, but have sculpted circles in them, that were painted grey -- and not very well. Rather obviously, someone at the factory just took a brush and dotted it four times.
I am not ignorant of the particulars of mass production, but this sort of sloppiness really does tend to bother me, since it is avoidable. It's called "paint stencils".
The Rookie is well articulated, although on my figure, many of the articulation points needed a little gentle encouragement to move into proper operation. I've heard for a long time now that a good way to get a figure with stuck parts to loosen up is to place the stuck area into a pot of boiling water. While I've never trued the technique myself (although I've certainly had reason to), I almost find myself thinking that this whole figure could stand a good dunking. Ultimately, though, I was able to get him mobile.
The Rookie is poseable at the head, arms, a weird double-swivel on the upper arm, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, although the ankles are hindered a bit by the design of the boots. Many of these points have multiple ranges of motion. The package boasts that the figure has 24 points of articulation. I suspect that depends a bit on how you count them. I'd call it a fair if perhaps mildly conservative estimate.
Weapon-wise, The Rookie comes with a small but impressive-looking rifle. Nicely detailed, it's colored in a dark metallic grey, with black handle. The figure also comes with a display stand, octagonal in shape, with the "ODST" logo printed on one side, and the "3" logo from Halo 3 sculpted on the other. No footpegs, but then this figure doesn't have any holes in the bottom of his feet to accommodate one anyway.
The bottoms of his boots are very nicely detailed, however. Interesting tread pattern. Overall, the detail level on this figure, as with most of the Halo figures, is excellent and astoundingly intricate, reflecting well the look of the armored soldiers in the game. These aren't Star Wars Stormtroopers or Clone Troopers here -- they're a lot more rugged-looking than that, and the level of detail on their uniforms reflects that, and McFarlane Toys has done an excellent job bringing that to the toy aisles.
So what's my final word here? Clearly, the new Halo 3: ODST video game has proven itself to be immensely popular. While some would say that goes without saying, if one considers the vast universe of video games that is out there these days, that ANYTHING can manage to garner the sort of popularity and prominence that the Halo concept has, is remarkable, and is a testament to the concept and its creators. There's not that many video games that get translated into the action figure aisle, let alone comic books, paperback novels, and other formats, the way Halo has.
And the new game has become a welcome part of it. So it's no great surprise that the figure of The Rookie, the main playable protagonist in the game, has become similarly popular. And indeed, it's a cool figure. He might not be all that easy to find, but if you enjoy the world of Halo, or especially the Halo 3: ODST game, then certainly you'll want to track him down.
The HALO 3: ODST figure of THE ROOKIE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!