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Halo 3: ODST continues the epic Xbox 360 franchise and tells the story of the infamous Orbital Drop Shock Troopers as they defend New Mombasa from Covenant attack. Leading up to the events in Halo 3, players leave Master Chief for a while as they assume the role of a new character - the Rookie. With a new open-world structure and a story told via flashback, Halo 3: ODST on the Xbox 360 console takes the Halo franchise into darker territory as the Master Chief is nowhere in sight and the Covenant are more dangerous than ever. Add to this the inclusion of three new multiplayer maps as well as the Legendary, Heroic and Mythic map packs and you have a massive package. Prepare to drop.
With the main component of the previous Halo games absent, ODST has the large Master Chief sized hole. These are big boots to fill for this latest instalment of the epic story. But it proves that the Halo universe is more than capable of supporting a different protagonist. The action takes an excellent film-noir style presentation, complete with hidden audio back story, and equally satisfying combat.
Although the advantages to being a SPARTAN Super-soldier are replaced with the vulnerability of being a fallible shock trooper, Halo ODST has a harder edge that the previous games. The shock troop 'Helljumpers' still pack a formidable punch and the impressive array of weapons, but need more stealth and cunning due to the absence of recharging health. Series veterans will be delighted to see the return of the famous pistol from the first Halo game on the 360, improving the combat and complimenting the new weapons also available.
As with Bioshock and Red Faction: Guerrilla, the story here is told via flashback. Players relive the moments of the missing ODST squad and slowly piece together the events surrounding the invasion of New Mombasa. These linear missions follow a similar path to Halo 3 with many spectacular set-pieces and scripted moments providing the usual high-quality sheen to the gameplay. Where Halo 3: ODST differs is with the hub-world of New Mombasa.
Here, playing as the Rookie, the game turns into a darker, stealthier experience as players creep around the Covenant patrolled streets of the ruined city. This takes the game towards the darker tones of Killzone 2 on PS3 as the film-noir stylings lend an uneasiness as you search for clues about the fate of your squad. A series-new visor (with undertones of Metroid Prime Corruption on Nintendo Wii) comes into play here that shows features of interest amongst the murky surroundings. The beacons that Rookie finds trigger the linear flashback missions and the story slowly unfolds as you discover the fate of your team.
A Halo game wouldn't be complete without its multiplayer and Halo 3: ODST introduces a new mode - Firefight. This is a survival mode similar to that found in Gears of War 2, and as such opens the multiplayer aspect of the game to the more casual audience. Playing co-operatively with up to four players, Firefight is all about players assisting and helping each other as they face infinite waves of enemy Covenant, as opposed to the all-out carnage of the usual Halo deathmatch. ODST's 2nd disc contains the full multiplayer experience including the Mythic, Heroic and Legendary Map packs as well as the addition of three new Halo 3 maps.
This change of protagonist from the Master Chief to a faceless Rookie felt a little odd to me at first. But when the missions start coming thick and fast, in that traditional Halo fashion, I was fully immersed in this wonderful universe again. The darker tone and the surprising sombre side-missions that build up the tension added a humanity to the story that was unexpected and impressive.
The biggest attraction of this new Halo game is the inclusion of the Firefight multiplayer mode. Getting together with three other friends over LIVE and teaming up through the never-ending levels proves that co-operative multiplayer is the way forward. Combine that with the four-player campaign co-op and Halo 3: ODST will keep me busy for a long time.
Given that ODST is a fresh direction for the Halo franchise, it succeeds well in delivering a satisfying first-person shooter with a compelling story. The multiplayer is as solid as ever and the new mode of Firefight will see Halo 3: ODST live long in your Xbox 360 console.
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