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Halo 3: ODST (X360)

Halo 3: ODST (X360)

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Halo 3: ODST was originally planned as an expansion to Halo 3 and was being marketed more as a filler to keep the fans happy until Halo: Reach was released late next year. What we have ended up with however is an excellent single player campaign as well as a new cooperative mode called ‘Firefight’. The developers have even included a second disc brimming with maps to offer more to the dedicated Halo fanbase.

Many may be surprised to hear that Master Chief is not the character of choice in ODST – you take control of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) and these highly skilled soldiers are well equipped as fighting machines. The limitations when compared with Master Chief are noticeable, for instance they can only aim one weapon at a time and they have a health bar which needs to be recharged with health packs once their shield is depleted. They also can’t jump as high as Master Chief and they can’t fall as far either. Their endurance to damage is also not as impressive as they take far fewer bullets to die.

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The storyline this time around is a little more focused on the characters at hand, rather than some quest to save the world as is often the case when Master Chief is involved. This actually has the side effect of making it much more realistic than other outings and it brings a fresh perspective to the franchise rather than another epic romp through space with the formidable Master Chief at the reigns.

The game starts above Earth with a group of ODST’s preparing to enter the atmosphere in one man pods and join the battle for New Mombasa. The characters are well fleshed out and make the whole experience extremely satisfying – Buck is the squad leader with others in the team specialised in various combat tactics. You take control of the newbie to the team, a shy and inexperienced soldier, out to prove himself and hopefully stay alive in the process. There are no tutorials or guides, you are immediately placed into the heat of the action.

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The story takes place just as the story of Halo 2 is unfolding with Master Chief kicking the covenants ass and forcing the Prophet of Regret to make a rush escape for his life. This unfortunately happens just as you enter the atmosphere heading towards the planets surface and the shockwave from his escape scatters the team in the middle of flight and consciousness is lost as they all hit the ground.

Several hours later your character regains consciousness however during his blackout most of the battle for New Mombasa has unfolded and it did not go very well for the humans. The graphics are very impressive with the rain falling down and fires lit in various areas with the remnants of some electronic signs still active. The covenant are searching the city for any human survivors and are killing everything in their path. You are one of the last few alive and you have to try and stay that way as long as possible.

One of the main tasks is to find your team mates you lost in the explosion and you enter into the city in the attempt to locate them. The environment is desolate and unfriendly and the developers have managed to create the feeling of ultimate loneliness in a foreign land – helped by the haunting music. Bungie have developed a great artificial intelligence called the Superintendent, a system which runs the cities many facilities. He ends up offering your character help and support with health packs and tips on locations. This AI system is a great creation of Bungie Software and is a prime example as to why their games are so popular and successful.

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Halo 3 OSDT plays differently than anything in the franchise before because you take a skilled soldier on what basically turns into a futuristic murder mystery experience. You quite often travel through the night with an OSDT visor enhancing your vision as you hunt for clues to find one of your colleagues. Every time you find one of your comrades the game switches to a previous experience in your unit during one of the many daytime battles – you get to know your teammates via a series of flashbacks. These battles are not like the experiences in the city, they are brimming with action and bloodshed. You ride in tanks and many other vehicles and destroy your enemy in everyway possible.

This system of shifting time between the past and the present has been proven in the past to be confusing and a little off putting but in Halo OSDT it works surprisingly well because Bungie have managed to implement it very well – you feel as if you are really remembering these members of your team as people, rather than faceless 2D cardboard cutouts. The musical score is also stunning which helps to set the mood throughout.

The campaign is a wonderful experience and I had a blast playing it from start to finish, however it doesn’t work as well in cooperative mode as the feeling of tension and being alone is obviously lost – there is also the point that some of the areas are really not meant to be played in cooperative mode and it seems like it was tacked on later to appease a larger audience, rather than being an equal setting for a specific userbase. Playing the game first on your own is definitely recommended – I completed it in approximately 6-7 hours but I didn’t rush through the environments.

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Working through the campaign there are times you will unlock areas to play in the new cooperative Firefight mode. This is a four player setting to test skill and endurance across a total of eight different maps and two of them are also set in day and night time frames. Firefight is a total blast and I am positive will be a huge success with the fanbase as it combines wonderful settings with addictive gameplay. It may not be anything particularly original or inventive but again the Bungie implementation is wicked. The action is neverending with Covenant wave after wave proving a challenge and as you get further into the action the game unleashes difficulty modifiers (or skulls) which increases the difficulty and number of units to fight. Cooperation is a key element of the success of this experience as the team shares a pool of lives and health packs which means you can’t just play this solo or you will suffer in the long run.

If cooperative mode is not your thing then the second disc has every single Halo 3 map released to date and a trio of three new ones to make the deal even better. The three new maps are nice additions, two of them are small arenas and the last one is huge and perfect for flag team matches. This is sure to appeal to the hardcore fanbase who are still very active online even if they already have most of the other maps on the second disc.

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Halo 3: OSDT is a great success for Bungie, what started out as an expansion pack/time filler has turned into a worthy purchase with a great single player campaign and frentic online action with the new mode and maps. Sure, the single player aspect is a little short but it is very appealing and well scripted. Any Halo fans reading this need to pick this up, as soon as they can!

Great gameplay from the single player missions and the multiplayer is as good as ever with the new maps.
The Engine is a little dated now, but its still effective and attractive.
Awesome soundtrack and scoring throughout.
Firefight is amazing.
(Not an Average)


Very highly recommended if you are a fan of this popular franchise.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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