Halo 3: ODST marks a couple of firsts in the series. The first is the fact that you don’t play as Master Chief. Instead, you assume the role of The Rookie, an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) who may not be as big and bad as a Spartan, but is definitely capable of handling himself when there’s a fight going on. The second is Halo 3: ODST’s non-linear story. The last is an all-new co-op multiplayer mode called FireFight where instead of teabagging players from around the world, you can collectively teabag a grunt or two.
With all of these firsts, does Halo 3: ODST live up to the Halo name, and more importantly, will it keep Halo fans satisfied?
Halo 3: ODST starts off with you assuming the role of The Rookie who is part of a squad of ODSTs preparing to drop onto New Mombasa. During the drop, an explosion causes you to separate from your squad and it’s up to The Rookie to figure out what happened and hopefully reunite with them. As The Rookie, you’ll be searching New Mombasa looking for clues as to what happened to the rest of your squad. The gameplay mechanics during these times take a more non-linear approach as The Rookie can venture to any part of New Mombasa to find clues. When The Rookie finds a clue, he briefly inspects it, and then the game flashes back to what occured around the time of the particular clue.
During the flashbacks, players take control of one of The Rookie’s ODST squad mates. Each ODST has their own personality, specialty, and unique views on the situation. Although most ODST Recon armor looks alike, each ODST has slight tweaks to theirs to help distinguish who is who. What also helps with distinguishing between ODSTs is the in-game chatter. During missions, ODSTs will make comments to themselves, one another, or even while fighting with the enemy that draw the player in, which also serves as a way for the player to better connect with these characters.
The ODST perform a little different than the Spartans we have all been accustomed to for so many years. For instance, their weapon of choice is an SMG which has one hell of a recoil if you attempt to keep down the trigger as you normally would with the assault rifle. Their secondary weapon of choice is a Magnum, which packs quite a punch, especially if you’re able to perform a headshot. Every ODST is also equipped with a VISR, which when activated illuminates their surroundings with a direct satellite feed that can highlight enemies in your immediate area as well as important points of interest. Accessing the VISR directly allows you to see a map of New Mombasa, information on your current mission, and also play back any audio transmissions you pick up along the way. ODST also don’t have shields as Spartans do. When an ODST becomes injured, the surrounding area of the screen will pulse red. It will fill up to the point that the screen is covered entirely in red to signify the ODST’s stamina is critically low Once the stamina drops to a particular point, then the ODST’s health begins to drop. The only way to bring your health back up is to pick up health packs that can be found at health stations in New Mombasa, as well as particular points if you are in the middle of a mission. In other words, no health regeneration here!
The campaign in Halo 3: ODST compared to previous Halo games is short. Players can complete the main storyline in under 10 hours, although there are audio transmissions that are littered across New Mombasa you could search for to help prolong the game a bit and give a side story as to what exactly occured before the ODST squad dropped in. What the game lacks in length, it makes up for with a compelling storyline, especially if you are familiar with all of the Halo titles up to this point. Halo veterans will be delighted with a number of nods to the Halo franchise.
One thing that could cause some concern with the non-linear portions of the game is possibly going out of place of the flashbacks. An example of this that occured during my play time was having a member of the ODST squad begin the mission injured. This confused me a bit as from the missions I completed before, I didn’t recall any injury. Then, when I accessed another mission, it was revealed how that ODST was injured. It’s a minor issue, but some might be annoyed if they don’t access particular missions in the right order. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing what missions should be accessed first, so you have to hope you take on the right missions in the right order.
There’s an all-new mulitplayer mode in Halo 3: ODST. Firefight has players working together for the first time as a team fighting wave after wave of Covenant attackers. There are 5 waves to a round with 3 rounds to a set. As players progress through rounds, a difficulty multiplier is activated which can definitely make things a little more interesting (such as the double health or catch multiplier, which has Covenant chucking grenades like it’s water). The maximum number of players that can participate in Firefight is 4 players which I found to be an acceptable number as playing with a group of 4 on Normal mode can still pose quite the challenge in the later rounds. Players share 7 lives at the beginning of Firefight. When a member of your squad dies, the number drops. When a round is over, lives are added to the pool as well as additional ammo and health packs.
Maps in Firefight are taken from sections of maps in the campaign, although additional weapons and health packs are placed in particular spots of the map. The maps have a great variation of either wide-open spaces or tight, confined quarters and two maps even have night alternatives. Some maps even include vehicles for your Covenant murdering pleasure. Maps aren’t the only thing that are carried over to Firefight, but characters from the campaign as well. As you complete missions in the campaign mode, you will be able to unlock ODST squad members. The ODST squad members have the same personality as they do in the campaign mode, so if you enjoyed a particular character in the game, then you’ll be delighted by their in-game chatter in Firefight.
While playing Firefight, I realized how little ammo ODSTs receive from the get go. Within one minute of most of my matches, I was already completely out of ammo for my SMG, which I either reverted to using my Magnun or picking up a stray weapon from a dead Covenant. Even though there’s spare ammo, when you have a team of 4 ODST fighting together, the ammo tends to go fairly quickly. I also found it difficult to take a trip back to base in order to restock on ammo, especially during a fierce battle. Regardless of my issues with ammo quantities, Firefight was fun.
FINAL THOUGHT: Halo 3: ODST puts an interesting spin on the Halo franchise. With it’s non-linear storyline, new class of characters to fight as, and all new Firefight mode, Halo 3: ODST is a game neither Halo fans nor fans of the FPS genre should miss.