Halo 3: ODST

Shorter yet punchier, Halo 3: ODST is the best Halo yet.

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Microsoft Halo 3: ODST
  • Microsoft Halo 3: ODST
  • Microsoft Halo 3: ODST
  • Microsoft Halo 3: ODST

Pros

  • Firefight the four-player cooperative mode, great flashback missions, addition of a night vision visor

Cons

  • No competitive multiplayer mode, major issues with NPC marine A.I, exiting the game via the Xbox Guide button means you lose your campaign progress. Graphics need a facelift.

Bottom Line

Get ready to trade in your Halo 3 disc for Halo 3: ODST. The new Firefight four-player cooperative mode showcases how well Halo's weapons and enemies balance each other's strengths and weakness almost perfectly. And Halo 3: ODST comes with a second disc that features the entirety of Halo 3 multiplayer on it, including three new maps.

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In my opinion, Halo 3: ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper)is the best Halo game yet. The campaign is shorter than in previous games, but the quality makes for a punchier, action-packed thrill ride from start to finish. That's about six hours on Heroic difficulty if you're an experienced shooter like myself.

Then there's the new Firefight mode, where four players fight against waves, rounds, and sets of increasingly difficult Halo enemies. Even more fun, addicting, and offering more replayability than the campaign, Firefight is in large part what makes Halo 3: ODST the best Halo yet.

I can't pass off the shortness of the ODST campaign as worse or on par than Halo 3's though, because it truly is a more fulfilling experience in every way. The story actually makes sense, and each flashback mission is beautifully crafted to cater towards the elements that make Halo such a great shooter. For example, driving vehicles in Halo is the most responsive and satisfying vehicle experience compared to driving in any other console game, and the Uplift Reserve flashback mission features just that-massive arenas built for epic vehicle combat. Another example is the pure versatility and balance in Halo's weaponry against the Covenant, where in the Tayari Plaza flashback you'll be challenged to use every weapon if you're going to come out alive.

The flashback missions in ODST are Bungie's best yet; I enjoyed playing them solo and look forward to teaming up cooperatively and playing each level again on the Legendary difficulty.

Shocking Flashbacks

Now you might be wondering what a flashback mission is. In Halo 3: ODST you play as not one supersoldier, but four unique ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) soldiers that have been split up from each other. The character you primarily play is the Rookie. Your mission is to regroup with your ODST squad after a botched landing in New Mombasa where each ODST gets split up. You'll search for beacons that lead back to your squad, but each beacon (or item) has a back story that you'll play through in the form of a flashback mission. These flashbacks are the stories about what happened to the other ODST soldiers. As you discover more beacons and play more flashbacks you will begin to peace together the full story of what happened to each member of your squad.

The flashback missions are an awesome way to tell the story. They keep you guessing about what happens next, and they can be played in any order. However, even though the missions can be played in any order, my first play through felt as though I was being led through which order the stories are supposed to happen in. During my second play through, I switched the missions up and could tell the stories didn't transition as smoothly and a scripted order became apparent.

Dual Wield, Or Not Dual Wield?

The biggest difference I appreciate about ODST compared to previous Halo games is that you cannot dual wield as an ODST. Though dual wielding was fun and exciting in Halo 2 and Halo 3, I feel as though it complicated the control scheme and didn't add any additionally or necessary value. That's why I pleased to report that ODST returns to Halo's grass roots and only lets you operate one weapon at a time.

If only there was a competitive multiplayer mode to ODST, then we could truly compare to see how Halo fans universally feel about dual wielding. Would you continue to play Halo 3 with dual wielding or prefer the old school ODST multiplayer without dual wielding?

What's more to ODST is the addition of a night vision visor. Because you'll be exploring the wreckage of New Mombasa at night as the Rookie, the night vision visor shines new light on your tactical situation. Activating the visor allows you see in the dark, and it helps to identify important objects, such as outlining enemies in a bold red stroke, friendly units in green, vehicles in blue, and collectibles in yellow. (Audio logs can be collected throughout the city adding more to the ODST story and unlock achievements.) The visor is my favorite new addition to the Halo series and helps to set ODST apart as a more tactical and strategic shooter.

That's about as far as the innovations stretch in Halo 3: ODST's campaign, unless you count the one new alien type, which really can't be called an enemy because it's nonviolent. The Engineer is a flying alien that overshields any Covenant within the area, but their real purpose is to supplement the ODST story. Sorry, I don't want to give away any spoilers here, so you'll just have to find out about the Engineer's role on your own. Engineers can also be a real pain the butt in Firefight mode because of their strong overshield ability.

Cream of the Crop

As I said before, Firefight mode is the real highlight of Halo 3: ODST. Firefight is a four-player cooperative mode where you take on waves of enemies to earn top scores on the leaderboards.

After finishing the campaign, Firefight is all I played with the other media reviewing the game alongside me. What's addictive about this mode is earning points, which pop up for every kill you get, earning double and triple kills, sticky grenades, etc. What's more is you'll want to earn the achievement for each of the ten Firefight maps by achieving 200,000 points (it's harder than you might think). Firefight showcases how well Halo's weapons and enemies balance each other's strengths and weakness almost perfectly. I think it's even better than Gears of War 2's Horde mode and Call of Duty: World at War's Nazi Zombies.

Not Without Faults

Halo 3: ODST is not without fault. There are major issues with NPC marine A.I., especially when vehicles are involved. In the Uplift Reserve mission, marines will not fill the driver's seat of a Warthog if you were previously in it, and the gunner will just stand there. So if you leave the Warthog behind, you'll be down a marine, or two if both the gunner and passenger seats are occupied. Additionally, they are not smart enough to flip a vehicle back over and will just crowd around it until you help them out.

The biggest issue I ran into was that all of my information did not save during my first play through. I had to restart everything over. Here's what happened: I exited the game through the Xbox 360 guide button to go straight back to the dashboard. I saw that the game was saving my checkpoints after each flashback and assumed I could resume my campaign from the last autosave. Wrong! Because I did not officially "save and exit," all of my campaign progress was lost. I could replay the missions I completed, but I could not resume my campaign from my last position with all of my progress. Epic fail, Bungie. Exiting the game via the Xbox Guide button was a poor decision on my part, but I won't be the only person to do this, especially if the game tells gamers that it's saving the checkpoints.

Last but not least, the graphics haven't seen much of a facelift since Halo 3. Games like Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Uncharted continue to outshine ODST's graphics. Halo 3: ODST appears to run at a resolution slightly below native 720p, however, the framerate almost never drops below 60 frames per second, which is crucial to any online shooter and what we've come to expect from Halo games.

Stop, Drop, and Shock

Get ready for the best Halo game yet when ODST hits stores this coming Tuesday (or Monday night if you pre-ordered the game). I say trade in your Halo 3 disc for Halo 3: ODST because you won't look back at that campaign once you play ODST. Plus, ODST comes with a second disc that features the entirety of Halo 3 multiplayer on it, including three new maps. (I'm stoked about the Heretic map, it's the perfect recreation of my favorite Halo 2 map, Midship.) See you online in the heat of Firefight.

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