Diehard fans of Bungie’s Halo series have been waiting with bated breath for the all new title in the series, Halo 3: ODST. What was originally intended to be just an expansion to the incredibly successful Halo 3 soon began to take shape as a fully fledged game in its own right. It comes complete with its own scenario (boasted by Bungie to last six hours, though experienced players may work their way through more quickly), a new multiplayer mode and a disk crammed full of additional maps for the online play of Halo 3 that previously had to be purchased separately. The question that remains is whether the former expansion has developed enough to be worth the expense of a full Xbox 360 game.
Say farewell to Master Chief; you’ll take control of a member of the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) squad. Unfortunately you and fellow crew members are blown off course from your attempt to wage war on the Covenant ship threatening New Mombasa. Crash landing to the surface you’ll find yourself alone, the rest of your squad scattered. Your initial mission to discover their fate is played out through a series of flashbacks, triggered through the discovery of certain objects about the map of the city which you can explore more freely than in previous titles within the series. Don’t be put off at the thought of endless flashbacks interrupting your gameplay as it’ll be you taking control of other members of the team as you work your way through their own stories.
The campaign is certainly the best feature that Halo 3: ODST has to offer. With a compelling storyline, incredibly effective use of flashbacks and a very atmospheric setting; as ‘The Rookie’ who you’ll first play you’ll stumble upon burnt out vehicles and sirens wailing away to no one in the deserted city landscape. In just a few hours, however, you’ll find the campaign completed and yourself left with the not so thrilling prospect of hours of Firefight play, ODST’s new cooperative multiplayer mode.
Within this mode you will face wave after wave of enemies. Your mission? To kill them all. It’s great for the first few attempts and the higher difficulty levels are sure to present a challenge, but before long you’ll discover that the same formula is used in each level. The AI in ODST is good and the covenant baddies won’t know exactly where you are lurking, developing a certain amount of suspense as they search the city for you. But that alone is not enough to redeem a feature that is sadly lacking in innovation. Firefight can be played online, but only with an invited group of friends, there is no matchmaking option. For a game mode that only really comes into its own with four or more players that seems something of an oversight.
Halo 3: ODST is certainly worth a play, if only for the campaign. Those familiar with the series will find some changes interesting; you no longer play as the superhuman Master Chief, meaning falls from large heights will cause damage and your health will drop steadily. It’ll take a while to get used to but you can seek some solace in the return of the sniper-esque pistol, reminiscent of the quality of Halo 1.
With graphics and controls that echo the game’s predecessor, Halo 3, and little to offer other than the campaign you may find yourself reluctant to fork out the cash required for its purchase. However, fans of the series will certainly be sure to argue that for that stunning story alone, it is worth it.