By Alex Curley
I had fun playing through the campaign on legendary mode, which only took six hours. Am I a master of the sticks? Yes. Is that why I beat the ODST campaign in six hours? No. For the most part, ODST‘s campaign is short. It doesn’t provide a challenge, but it’s fun. Bungie spent a lot of time in the think-tank developing entertaining things for Halo enthusiasts to play through in Halo 3: ODST. Gamers will drive warthogs, banshees, and tanks, and in the process, kill hundreds of Covenant enemies. Gamers will LOVE using the pistol and hunting down enemies with night vision.
When it ends, you’ll be a little confused and upset and probably ask yourself if Bungie is pulling your leg, and Bungie will answer you.
But what’s new in ODST?
One notable change is that gamers will not play as Master Chief, aka Spartan-117, aka John-117. As a result, things are a bit different when you aren’t a seven-foot-tall, bionically-enhanced soldier in a bazillion dollar war machine suit. You can’t jump as high or throw grenades as far as MC. Because of the height difference, enemies will appear much larger. Also, the lack of Spartan battle gear eliminates the familiar reverse-engineered rechargeable Covenant shield that protects you. This makes health packs and internally switching to survival mode a great necessity.
The only new weapons in ODST are the silenced sub-machinegun and the silenced magnum. The SMG is great for mowing down grunts, jackals, and those damn flying bugs. It has a 2x scope, and it’s fairly accurate. You can pick off enemies at medium-long range with a few short, controlled bursts of this weapon. You can also lay on the trigger and control the spread pattern with relative ease. Using the silenced magnum will take you on a trip down Covenant blood-splattered, nostalgia lane, all the way back to Halo 1. It has a 2x scope. It’s powerful, and there is very little kick. A good Halo player can send hoards of Covenant to their maker with this gun alone. There are no new grenades in ODST, but Halo vets will notice a difference in the way grenades are thrown and will be forced to compensate. Also, you will be able to warm your hands with burning piles of Covenant bodies after making nifty use of the incineration grenades in firefight.
While missing the Spartan AI, the ODST helmet (VISR) has some advantages. Specifically, it highlights your enemies and environment at night. The visor does a good job allowing you to play in nighttime environments just as easily as you can in the day. Pressing the ‘x’ button toggles your VISR on and off. Pressing ‘select’ brings up your in-game menu. There are three sections to the in-game menu as presented by the VISR: Nav, Intel, and Comm. The Nav shows an overhead view of a 3D rendering of the map you are currently on. The Intel is very simple and amounts to your current mission objectives. The Comm section allows you to review intelligence gathered throughout the game, mostly from yellow phone booths. All things considered, the new VISR system is just a glorified in game menu and night vision.
There are a few new medals in ODST that are worth mentioning. The ‘untouchable’ medal, previously 20 kills in a row without dying, is now upped to 50. This foreshadows the amount of Covenant devastation will be had when gamers delve into ODST. The ‘invincible’ medal is achieved by getting 100 kills in a row, and it isn’t uncommon to get this medal twice in firefight mode. In firefight, when all of your teammates die, you must finish off a wave of enemies alone. As testament to this action, you are rewarded with the “Hero” medal, which brings your teammates back to life for another chance at victory. Finally, there is a medal for killing an enemy with the needler, or as Halo veterans like to refer to it, the pink mist. There are also small achievements to be earned in the course of the campaign. Players will be notified that they need to pink mist, headshot, etc., a certain amount of enemies to obtain the achievement.
The arcade-style point system is an awesome new element of Halo gameplay that will keep you coming back for more. Headshot one grunt and you are rewarded with a +60 next to your crosshairs. Headshot 2 in a row and you’ll see the points get added on plus extra points for stringing together kills. Headshot 5 in a row and your heart rate will jump considerably as you watch your points jump into quadruple digits. Before starting a firefight or campaign, you can select whether or not you want cooperative scoring or competitive free-for-all scoring. Either way someone is going to end up with more points, which can be redeemed anywhere for bragging rights.
But what’s missing? There are a few features not found in ODST that were commonplace in past versions of Halo. First, and most disheartening, the battle rif… *sniff* … the battle rifle does not make an appearance in ODST. Luckily, however, the silenced magnum does about the same damage as the BR did. Also, the entire Elite class has disappeared from the game. I’m not going to say I’ll miss these ugly aliens, but their disappearance did not go unnoticed. Master Chief and all his fellow Spartans are missing as well; Not even a cameo.
Firefight is Bungie’s version of the hoard from Gears of War 2. There are about 10 firefight maps, some of which you will have to unlock in the campaign. Each map requires a different strategy for each wave and round in order to finish a firefight. There are turrets or missile pods on most of the maps as well. One interesting note about weapons such as the turret is that when you detach them you don’t slow down, whereas in previous versions of Halo, Master Chief would slow down considerably when wielding a turret. How are these ODST troops able to do this? Probably steroids… but who cares? It makes the game more entertaining when you can rack up a “Killionaire” with a missile pod running circles around your enemies.
There can be up to four players in co-op firefight, with two players per xbox, which is fairly lame on Bungie’s part in forcing gamers to buy two copies of the game. To complete a firefight, your team must beat five sets, with each set consisting of three rounds, and five waves for each round. After each completed round, the map is restocked with power weapons, SMG and pistol ammo, frag grenades, and health kits. The game refers to all of this as a “weapon drop.” After each completed set, your team will be treated to a 60 second bonus round in which you are given an endless supply of grunts to mop up with your weapon of choice. Weapon drops occur after each completed set as well. In the fifth wave of every round, familiar Halo music will start to play. (We’re talking about the big drums here.) Sounds will be used to raise your heart rate to get ready for the onslaught of Covenant badassery that is about to be drop-shipped on your head. The fifth wave is always the most action-packed and fun, but the waves leading up to it are fun in their own ways. The first wave, for instance, is usually so easy that you can run right up to the dropship and slaughter all the enemies within seconds. Who doesn’t like a good slaughter to start off a round?
Each wave in a round becomes increasingly difficult. Enemies will gain special abilities and strategize differently, and all of this information will be given to you through the skulls system. One of the first skulls to turn on is called “tough luck,” and will make all enemies evade danger. This skull makes long range grenade-throwing impossible, as enemies will roll dodge despite throwing with ninja-like grace and skill. Enemies will also avoid Needler fire with the roll dodge, causing you to waste ammo. The next skull is called “catch,” and it will turn your standard grunt into a stick machine. This skull causes your enemies to throw more grenades than Rambo shot bullets. One grenade will literally be followed by ten more as your enemies pile on grenades like a sticky blue orgy. Other skulls include enemy shields becoming resistant to human bullets (“tilt”), enemies dropping weapons with very little ammo (“famine”), and enemies getting a 2x health boost (“mythic”). One interesting skull, “black eye,” forces you to beat down an enemy before you can regain your stamina. The skulls keep the game interesting as well as frustrating (see “catch”). To keep things fun, there are four options to turn on in firefight: Physics boost, Random/Rare dialogue, No HUD, and my personal favorite, Grunt Birthday Party. Put a bullet in the head of a Grunt with this option turned on, and I promise you will giggle like a toddler farting in the bath tub.
So how long does it take to finish a firefight? A wise man once said, “don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to,” but he isn’t here right now. My friends, I’m here to warn you that firefight is a time vampire. Your girlfriend will break up with you, your parents will stop making dinner all together, and your friends will have all but given up on you, unless they play ODST too. So, how long does it take to finish? To finish a firefight on normal, slaying our foes as fast as possible, it took us just over two hours. Did I mention there are no breaks? Did I mention Halo is one of the most engaging video games ever created? Can you put two and two together? This game will suck your brains out more efficiently than the brain bug from Starship Troopers. Hunting for guns and ammo between waves is the only reprieve you will get from utter concentration on slaying and not dying. Remember when I said your girlfriend would break up with you? That’s because firefight is a bigger attention whore than she is. If you stop paying attention for more than a few seconds, firefight will punish you, again and again.
Firefight is great because it is nonstop Halo gameplay, which is some of the most exciting gameplay to experience; just ask any Halo enthusiast why they still play the game. While the process of actually winning firefight takes an extremely long time, your attention will most likely not wander far from your television. When you finally do finish a firefight, you will stand up and feel weary from exerting so much energy into the game. But trust us when we say its worth it.
It’s worth every penny.