For nearly eight years now, developer Bungie has continued to please Xbox owners with their “Halo” franchise. Two years ago, “Halo 3” set the benchmark for gaming sales, surpassing every previous release in the entertainment industry. Not only did it outsell every other game on the Xbox 360, its opening day sales topped that of the “Spider Man 3” feature film opening. Needless to say, the games protagonist Master Chief has left an indelible mark on the gaming industry. However, fans of the series were told that “Halo 3” was the culmination in the saga- that we had seen the end of Master Chief. Though this is true, Bungie is soon releasing “Halo 3: ODST”, a game in the Halo universe that does not involve Master Chief, but does involve all of the previous goodies plus a lot more! Not being an avid “Halo” fan myself, I must admit that is a welcome addition to the franchise and is possibly my favorite game in the series. Read about this amazing title after the jump.
Don’t get me wrong- the “Halo” games have always been good. We all know about the various awards the games have garnered, but for me, this one really sticks out. “ODST” takes place between the second and third “Halo’s” and it is definitely a welcome change of pace. Instead of playing as the almost indestructible Master Chief, gamers take control of various members of the ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper), characters prevalent in the second game. The troopers are not fitted with the same Spartan armor as the Chief, so they actually take damage and can die much easier. Though playing as the Chief had its obvious benefits, the troopers definitely have some nice advantages.
Since you are more susceptible to injury this time around, the trooper’s helmets are equipped with the new VISR (Visual Intelligence System Recon Class) system, which will aid them in not only combat, but exploration as well. This system, which is turned on by a simple button press, highlights the surrounding elements in a helpful color-coded pattern. Nearby friendlies are highlighted green, enemies in red, and all other entities are yellow. Though this may sound simple, it adds a unique element of strategy- since this game uses the old-school health pack method (each trooper has a stamina bar that can replenish, but once stamina is empty, actual health gets affected), entering areas heavily fortified is not always the wisest choice. With a simple click to turn on the VISR, you can see enemies from a distance and then formulate a more strategic form of attack…trust me, it’s pretty sweet. The VISR can also act a full blown map of the area, and players can set waypoints to their next objective, making your path of attack and exploration very clear.
Though we didn’t ask for anything new, the single player portion of this game certainly delivered. Though the nearly bulletproof body and superhuman jumps are no longer included, it feels just as fun to play as an actual soldier that must use wits and tactics to defeat the Covenant. The ODST made their appearance in “Halo 2” when players landed on New Mombasa (Earth), and this is where this game takes place as well. One of my favorite additions of the game is that you are almost always playing at night, where the darkness and rain make the game feel much more engaging. Throw in classic vehicles, great cinematics, and a silenced sub-machine gun, and everyone should be seriously impressed by the single player experience.
These days, every game that does well has an excellent multiplayer portion in its package. “ODST” is no different. Besides being able to play the entire campaign cooperatively, Bungie has introduced Firefight mode. Though it is very similar to Horde mode from “Gears of War 2” and many other games have started to include something similar, Firefight surpasses all of them in overall fun and depth. You and up to three other players all take control of your favorite ODST and enter a battlefield on New Mombasa. Before each round begins, weapon and health racks are available for the player to gear up. Once the round starts, pandemonium breaks loose as wave after wave of Covenant enemies storm you. The waves vary based on difficulty and squad makeup, and five waves make up a round. It is only after each round that the players have time to set up a defensive perimeter and visit the weapon and health racks. Three of these rounds count as a set, and after completing a set, the bonus round is activated. What makes these rounds and sets so interesting and competitive is that various skulls from “Halo 3” are activated to increase difficulty and the necessity to strategize. Some of these include “Black Eye” where the players stamina will only recharge when they melee an enemy, and “Mythic”, where enemy health is doubled. The group of players is given a determined number of lives, and each time a teammate dies, one life is taken from the pool- as you can see, teamwork is paramount in this game mode.
Since Bungie put so much time into developing this unbelievable mode, most people will probably forget to think about a separate competitive multiplayer portion. However, we all know that the multiplayer portion of “Halo 3” was legendary, and Bungie is taking full advantage of it. “ODST” contains a second disc, entitled “Halo 3: The Complete Multiplayer Experience.” This disc comes with every single map ever released for “Halo 3”, plus three new additions. Since I didn’t buy all three of the previous map packs, this disc is downright amazing. With the new material, the total map count is 24, and each one is unique and enjoyable. Even if you previously bought all the map packs, the three new unreleased maps are a welcome addition (and it comes in the package anyways!). Hands down, this is now the definitive multiplayer experience on Xbox 360, and it will be interesting to see how this game stacks up with “Modern Warfare 2” when it releases in November. Bungie made a very smart move including the “Halo 3” multiplayer, because there was almost no way to make it better, so why even try?
If you can’t already tell by what I have written, I will make it very clear- go buy this game. The brand spanking new single player experience is much different than any previous release in the series, and will ultimately prove to be a great addition to the franchise. Firefight mode is downright incredible, and should have people playing for months, if not years. Throw in possibly the best multiplayer ever on the Xbox 360, and you have yourself one heck of a game. Even if you are not a huge fan of the series, there is no denying that is just an excellent game. From the graphics to the score to the overall game play experience, this is one fall release that should not be missed.
Campaign Mode: A
Firefight Mode: A
Multiplayer Mode: A
Overall Rating: A