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Halo 3: ODST

E3 2009: Halo: ODST Preview - Halo With a Twist ... And Some

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I think part of the problem with Halo 3: ODST’s build up until now has been that Bungie came out the gates calling it a “value orientated” title when clearly that isn’t the case and now it’s kind of back fired on them. Ever since Microsoft announced the price hitch at E3, a select group of people have become a little dismayed holding the belief that the price is intentionally hitched because it’s Halo, but that’s partly Bungie’s fault anyway by building up preconceived notions that it was in fact a budget title. In the same way that Left 4 Dead 2 is a fully blown sequel, Halo 3: ODST is a fully blown spin-off and boasting just as much, if not more value.

ODST is essentially a multi branching game with many different aspects of the title to get stuck in to. Yes, it will be 2 discs and the second disc will offer all 21 Halo 3 maps to-date with 3 new ODST maps added in as well. The first disc however is likely to get all the attention and will offer you access to the ODST campaign, a “horde” like survival mode called Firefight and of course, access to the Halo: Reach Beta when that goes live, whenever that maybe.

The ODST campaign is nothing like you’ll ever have experienced in the Halo universe. Gone is the over powering and indestructible Master Chief, and instead we play a slightly weaker rookie ODST member who seems to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Separated from the rest of his squadron and 6 hours after the initial drop, the rookie will awaken in the large, mysterious city all alone. From there you're faced with the task of having to work out what happened to the rest of your squad by doing detective work and piecing together all the information you stumbles upon from around the city.

The campaign has a very mysterious vibe to it, offering two different styles of play. On the one hand we have the sandbox aspect of the title and that takes place in the big open-world New Mombassa at night. Seeing as you’re not Master Chief, you’ll be more vulnerable and can’t expect a shield that recharges after every fire fight. Instead, you’ll have to contend with a multi-layered health system, with players able to take a small amount of damage via a regenerative stamina bar but after that runs out, the damage you're taking will eat away at the player’s non regenerative health. If you find yourself running low on health, you’ll have to navigate the city and find a health station. This new, “I’m not invincible” gameplay mechanic definitely adds a more strategic and tactical element to the title; two words that are rarely associated with the franchise.

During the night-time sandbox aspect of the title, the rookie can rely on the help of a local AI, the Superintendant, who will attempt to help you round the city and starts by giving you a map of it. Seeing as this aspect is non-linear, the map is essential to your objectives and allows you to zoom out, plan your route and set waypoints. It also adds points of interest on there as well. The city is pretty damn huge and players can expect to spend a lot of time exploring. Of course it isn’t all puppy dogs and exploration, you’re likely to encounter Brutes and Grunts on your journey so beware, just don’t expect to see Elites though. Under the cover of night and as your vulnerable rookie self, you can make use of ODST’s new weapons as well. The sound suppressed SMG and pistol come in handy when you want to make a mess in the city without so much as a sound; again adding to the strategic and tactical elements of the title.

Being an ODST trooper, you’ll also have access to a special ODST Visor which has a low lighting vision mode and can detect local enemies. When in the line of sight, the local enemies will have a red outline around them making it easier for you to pick them out of the relatively dusk environments. It will also highlight items of interest as well, which acts as a path way into the second aspect of the game; the flashbacks.

Whilst the rookie is wandering the streets of New Mombassa he’ll come across items that his, now vanished, crew members had dropped. Picking up these items throws the rookie into a flashback from the missing ODST squad members' timeline, effectively telling the story of events that happened to them after they crashed on the surface of the planet. A great story mechanic and one we’ve rarely seen in games in general, yet alone in the Halo universe. The first flashback Creative Director Joseph Staton runs us through is the flashback of Dutch; the heavy weapons specialist of the squad, starting the proceedings off by blowing up a bridge. This aspect of the game takes place not under the cover of night, but in the broad daylight and looks to fill the rookie in on the six hours he has spent away from his squadron. So the two themes of the game are apparent; the night-time scenes are stealth and exploration orientated, with the daytime scenes being more combat and objective orientated.

Just a quick word on Firefight before we close up here. Firefight is a 4 player co-op “horde” style mode where you and your squad take on wave after wave of  the Covenant trying to last as long as possible and trying to net as many points as you can. There isn’t a set wave on this either with Staten calling them “endless” but he did note that the 4 players share a common pool of 7 lives which is an interesting take.

Chances are Halobot’s are going to pick up ODST anyway regardless of the press it gets from now until release and whatever cost it comes in at ... and damn straight they should. Halo 3: ODST offers what seems like a much richer experience with more variety than any Master Chief adventure could possibly offer you. We tried to squeeze a few details out of Staten regarding campaign length but the closest we could get to a definitive answer was that it would feature a “nice, long campaign.” Close but no cigar. Either way, Halo 3: ODST definitely seems to add more than enough content to warrant its full retail price and we’re hoping the campaign lasts double figures in terms of hours. And if it doesn’t, 3 new maps and Firefight should go a long way into helping improve the longevity of the title.

Halo 3: ODST will be available exclusively on the Xbox 360 from this coming September 22nd.




 
 

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Developer:
Bungie Software
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US September 22, 2009
Europe September 22, 2009

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