A while ago Halo 3 was released to end the amazing Halo series and thus forming a trilogy. Well, what we all thought was the end of our beloved Master Chief anyway. While that did end the return of the Master Chief, the huge success of the game and series as a whole urged Bungie to put that plasma tarnished hat back on, and release some more content for all its fans. What started off as content via downloadable content, similar to the additional episodes of Grand Theft Auto IV, has now become so much more than that. In fact so much more so that they decided to release their new content via 2 brand spanking new discs. I bring to you, Halo 3: ODST.
Now you're thinking in order for that to work they have to include something special. Something that makes it worth it, and most of all, something that doesn't make you feel ripped off when your copy of the game arrives through the post. That something is called Firefight. Oh, and they've also thrown in a campaign mode too for you all to play.
The campaign mode follows the same layout as the rest of the Halo series. Play on easy, normal, heroic and for that extra challenge, battle against the Covenant on legendary. You start off as a rookie ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) who has been recruited into the elite squad of soldiers. Wait, what's that? You've just crash landed in the middle of New Mombasa City and you have to search for your fellow soldiers by finding clues and solving the mysteries? Sounds familiar. Anyway this is where a little annoyance of mine bugs me. The game is broken up into different sections, and without spoiling the whole plot, you play as the 'rookie' and as some of the other ODSTs. Now that's great and all but when you're the rookie, everything is set at night, making it far too dark. You can't see a thing! The main reason behind all this is to show off the new VISR mode, but seriously, all the rookie bits are far too dark. The VISR mode allows you to switch it on and off, and when on it helps you see in the dark as well as highlighting points of interest. You have to use the VISR a lot for what seems like long periods of time, as you'll just be walking around on your lonesome in the dark with the occasional enemy or two to kill. Thankfully you can't get lost due to the HUD system. Just head towards the marker on your HUD and if you think you've gone the wrong way, you can easily click to open the map and see the right route for yourself. It just seems like pointless walking around to find a clue to then go do a mission, however, on the upside the missions are really good fun, and makes the lonely walk in the dark a little worthwhile.
The missions are set in a flashback style where you play as other ODSTs from the clues you have found. Throughout the various missions you will be driving Scorpion tanks, flying a zillion banshees and trying to tackle the occasional Scarab. These missions are mainly set in the daylight, so none of this constant darkness nonsense, and it's only then that you can notice the improvement in graphics over it's predecessor. I'm a little disappointed that with the amount of time Bungie have had (well over a year), they haven't improved the graphics tenfold. They have improved never-the-less however as with most popular games these days it's all about gameplay, gameplay, gameplay and that's something ODST excels in.
Keeping the same basic engine as Halo 3, ODST will feel and play as expected for any fan of the series. Some minor things have changed however as you can't duel wield your weapons, and the grenade throwing mechanism seems to have changed a little, as I couldn't seem to throw them as far as I did in Halo 3. The duel wielding inability seems to have a few people miffed, although I'm personally not to bothered by it. I was more interested in the best part of the game - Firefight.
Firefight is truly awesome. They have obviously looked at the success of Horde found in Gears of War 2 and the inclusion of Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty: World at War and thought 'Wow. We must get something similar in our Halo series, somehow'. Firefight allows you and your offline or online friends to show off your amazing (or not so amazing) skills in a massive points scoring game. You can play on several maps all featured throughout the campaign in which wave after wave of enemies of all shapes and sizes try and pin you into a corner, and eventually kill you enough times so that you run out of lives. Each wave gets harder and harder, and after each set different skulls get switched on. For example, you could play some sets where the enemies are grenade happy and just constintly bombard you with nades, or on another set you might have to bash your way to gaining your health back.This makes for great gaming and as it's points based, there is plenty of replayability to try and beat your own or a friends high score. The only downside however would be that Firefight does not contain matchmaking, which means you can only play with yourself or with offline / online friends. This is a real shame as when playing by yourself it's really hard to obtain any sort of decent high score.
As mentioned right at the start of this review ODST ships with 2 discs. Disc 1 contains the campaign and the excellent Firefight mode and disc 2 (known as the Mythic disc) contains the multiplayer side of things. The multiplayer is exactly the same as Halo 3's multiplayer. So much so that gamers from both games can play against each other. The good thing about the Mythic disc is that you gain access to every downloadable map found in Halo 3, as well as 3 brand spanking new maps that you can't get without the Mythic disc. This is great if you haven't got any of the DLC from Halo 3, however people with all the previous DLC for Halo 3, like me, may feel a little let down.
All in all this add-on to the series is a worthy one. With the RRP of £34.99 you can't really go wrong as Firefight alone is amazing. Chuck in some good missions, some new multiplayer maps as well as all the previous DLC available, plus a Halo: Reach BETA code, and you have one hell of an add-on game. If you're a fan of the series, or are just looking for a game to tie you over until Modern Warfare 2, ODST is a must have for you.