Being a United Nations Space Command ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) means that you are a generally mal-tempered fellow who gets his kicks by dropping from orbit in a small metal coffin onto the battlefield – usually right into enemy lines to take them by surprise. You are considered the best of the best by most everyone and are looked upon with shock and awe wherever you fight. Nevermind those mythical ‘Spartans’, being an ODST is what its all about! Hoorah!
The game starts prior to the events of Halo 3 as you are a rookie ODST just joining his first squad aboard the UNSC heavy frigate Say My Name. You meet your squadmates, three of which are voiced by Firefly alumni Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk. The actors all give good, solid performances in their respective ODST roles and it really feels like they enjoyed the work of recording it.
The Say My Name gets into orbit above New Mombasa and starts dropping your HEVs (Human Entry Vehicles) containing ODSTs when the High Prophet of Regret takes his ship into slipspace, creating a massive shock wave which destroys a good portion of the city center, while also throwing all of your HEVs off-course. This slipstream entry should be familiar to those of you who played Halo 3. Most of the game is spent showing the player’s character finding his comrades. You will play as other characters in the game though, mostly to show their sides of the adventure as it unfolds.
Gameplay as a human ODST and not a Spartan-II soldier is definitely a different experience. Not nearly as resistant to damage, you will find that cover and concealment become increasingly important as the battles get heavier. Thankfully, and this could be considered a problem by some, Bungie does not overwhelm you with Covenant forces to deal with in ODST. Sure, the battles will challenge you at times but more often than not you will be stealthily-dispatching your enemies when possible, thinning them out before making a frontal assault.
Part of the ODST arsenal is a helmet which uses an augmented reality system to enhance your vision and better your combat and navigation about the city. When activated it casts an, at first, off-putting filter over the camera and ups the contrast slightly. It doesn’t seem all that useful until you realize that it will definitely help you see in low-light conditions thanks to its wireframe outlining of the terrain. Also, the augmented reality system can be used to hunt for clues to your squadmates’ whereabouts.
Part of ODST will be spent looking for these clues and you will have to put on your detective hat because they can be difficult to find. The city is laid out in a rough spoke and wheel pattern and is fairly open in every mission. If you take the time to explore all the nooks and crannies you will no doubt find health stations, ammo, and new weapons to fight the Covenant with – a heavy pistol and silenced machine gun.
The game will be enjoyed by fans of shooters as well as the Halo series. However, some might be disappointed by the singleplayer/coop campaign’s short duration coupled with the game’s full-release product pricing ($60). Afterall, you pay full-game pricing and you will no doubt expect a full-game. Thankfully, Microsoft and Bungie have thrown in some additions to soften the blow of this high cost. Halo 3: ODST includes every add-on map for Halo 3 as well as three new maps not seen before. Also included in the purchase is the option to beta test Halo: REACH sometime next year.
One of the more interesting things I found with the game was how the developers organized and refined enemy AI. You will often encounter groups of grunts being escorted about by an Elite or Brute. The interaction between the species is really fun to watch and you will have plenty of time to do so when sneaking about.
In Halo 3: ODST, you will not be able to recharge your health after taking a moment’s rest. Instead, you will have to deal with your stamina meter which acts similar to the shield system found in Halo 3. However, you will also have a health display which, if it empties, so do you. You will have to replenish your health and med stations throughout New Mombasa. Along the way you will be aided to these stations as well as clues about other ODSTs by a ‘dumb AI’ known as the Superintendent. The Superintendant will do fun things like change traffic lights, road signs, etc in order to get you where you need to go. Its a fun, yet effective gimmick.
Overall, Halo 3: ODST is a mixed bag of Halo goodness. Sometimes you will yell at it for costing so much and very obviously only being a short expansion. Other times, you will be yelling at the top of your lungs something like, ‘Die covies! Die!’, as you empty whole mags into enemy troops.