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Halo: ODST, to quote another time travelling hero, 'oh boy!'. Where to start? After the absolutely phenomenal success of Halo 3, Bungie was always going to be hard pushed to beat the bar they themselves set so high. But wow, have they done it.
Intended as a simple expansion pack, it wasn't long before Bungie turned Halo Recon into a full-blown game we now have as ODST. Interestingly, the game boycotts Master Chef and settles instead for a squad of Orbit Drop Shock Troopers (ODST - I know, cool or what?). Unfortunately, our heroes seem to have left their energy shields at home, which means jumping from high places is gonna hurt, and also that you take a lot more damage than usual and need to use health packs to heal yourself, which just adds to the individual style of the game.
ODST is very strongly plot based. It's interspersed with lots of cinematics that are full of emotion, character and some laughs ("Get dis fing offa me!") This whole getting to know the characters approach makes ODST feel very story like, and I loved this. For anyone interested, the story follows an ODST squad as they're dropped into a city, separated by an accident in a space battle, and their search for each other, taken, interestingly, from several view points, each with one or more levels each, and each offering a different style of play, from Buck's street shoot-outs to Dutch's long journeys behind enemy lines.
Bungie have mashed together Gears of War 2 Horde and Halo 3 multiplayer. In short, a whole lotta awesome!
Oh, and most importantly there's the Rookie, who acts a the detective, piecing together what happened to everyone after they crashed. All of Rookie's levels take place during the night, which offers lonely, creepy levels as opposed to the action-packed daytime, a contrast which offers a brilliant depth to the game.
ODST offers six hours of campaign play. Upon hearing this, the unanimous decision from my friends was 'Pwah! Six measly hours? I'm not paying 35 GBP hard earned for six hours!'. How wrong they were. To me, the campaign may have been short but it more than made up for it by its sweetness. The focus here has been on quality and this really got my Halo bones twitching again and brought back all those great moments from the previous Master Chief fuelled outings.
ODST also offers a new feature seen never before in the Halo franchise: Firefight mode. To give you an idea, it's like Bungie have mashed together Gears of War 2 Horde and Halo 3 multiplayer. In short, a whole lotta awesome! I could play Firefight for hours, racking up points and kills. The only problem is you can only play two player local on one console or up to four players online, but they have to be friends. No random matchmaking here, which is a pity if, like me, all of your friends haven't gotten around to buying it. Oh, and speaking of multiplayer, Bungie have very thoughtfully included a second disc with ODST containing every single Mythic map created for Halo 3. Woopee!
The visual style has changed a bit since the last Halo game, you might be pleased to know. ODST manages to look even more stunning than Halo 3, its flawless city blocks, upturned cars and scary Covenant Hunters coming together to make something that'll blow you away. Another nifty add-on: ODST features something called VISR mode, which turns your view into a kind of half-real, half line drawing, with friendlies outlines in green and hostiles outlined in red.
In many ways, it's hard to believe this game is the sequel to Halo 3.
This shows real thought by Bungie, because it transforms an otherwise hard-to-navigate and very dark night mode into a beautiful outlined image. The only problem I had with the visuals was a deep desire to see ODST as a third person shooter. In the brief times when you picked up a plasma cannon or manned a machine-gun turret on the back of a Warthog, your character looks absolutely stunning. In many ways, it's hard to believe this game is the sequel to Halo 3. The differences make for a very altered experience to the "run-around madness" of Halo 3.
For example, the maps, though large, felt very direct and focused in contrast to the Halo 3 maps, where getting lost was just another perk of the job. Another difference is the gameplay. Something about ODST seems just that little bit edgier, that tad more challenging, that slither more of fun served to you on a silver platter. I don't know ODST is just so fun to play, so addictive, so different. It's a nice new take on how you play in the Halo universe.
Halo: ODST the best game of the franchise yet.
ODST may be different to the previous Halo's, but don't think that any of the magic has gone. Itís still every bit as addictive. I was finding it hard to tear myself away from the campaign, and when that ended - I tell you, I almost cried - Firefight stepped in to satisfy my cravings. I got the feeling that when a game is this good, and ODST really is this good, it's hard to put the controller down. The combination of stunning visuals, great gameplay, addictive multiplayer and a well-built story has made Halo: ODST the best game of the franchise yet. Do want!
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