Halo 3 ODST is Bungies new addition to the Halo franchise. It takes you out of the metal boots of the Spartan super solider Master Chief and drops you into the leather boots of an elite squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (hence the ODST addition to the title). Rather than an entire new game this is an expansion to Halo 3 and there isn’t a full campaign, what you get for your money is; a brand new ODST campaign, a new multiplayer mode called FireFight, access to the Halo Reach beta and the complete Halo 3 multiplayer experience including all the Halo 3 Map packs that are out at the moment and some new maps.
The campaign takes place in New Mombasa just after the Covenant have invaded, you start off in an orbiting space ship and after a brief introduction to the members of your team you are strapped into a pod and launched towards the surface. But of course something goes wrong and you wake several hours later separated from your squad and alone in the big city, and what a big city. In a move away from the normal way that Halo moves you through the game the team at Bungie have left New Mombasa as an open hub area, with new missions opened up as you find clues to the fate of the rest of your team. This new method of moving through the game allows the designers to change the pacing of the game in a very clever way. On the one hand you a solitary trooper walking through an eerily deserted city trying to take out bands of enemies as quickly as possible. And then you can be dropped into a completely different scenario, for example much earlier in the day when there are groups of marines with you and much larger set pieces going on. This all works pretty well and is a great new way to play Halo. Your trooper is also a little bit more vulnerable than Master Chief, this is mainly noticeable with slightly longer shield recharge times and not being able to punch your way out of a tricky encounter. Overall the campaign does a very good job of condensing a whole Halo game into a much shorter time but it leaves you wanting a lot more.
The new multiplayer mode FireFight for most people will be the biggest draw. This works very much like the recent horde mode for Gears of war, with waves of enemies coming at you from all angles on specially made maps. FireFight is great fun, the game keeps the challenge high and you and your team will find it tough to get through. Especially as the game throws curveballs at you by activating skulls, these skulls are randomly turned on and can really change the behaviour of the enemies and make a massive change to the game. The one problem with FireFight is that there are no matchmaking options, so you have to know friends with the game if you want to play online. Some might not consider this an issue as the thought of playing a co operative game with the general standard of people on Xbox Live might send shivers down your spine.
The last definable part of the package (the Beta for Halo Reach multiplayer won’t start until next year) is the complete multiplayer disc. This is a separate disc and has every map that’s been released over Xbox Live so far. Halo multiplayer is still top of the charts for games played the community is still strong and it’s very easy to get a game. On top of that it’s an incredible polished multiplayer system and could keep you involved and playing for a very long time. But this pack will only really be worth it to you if you haven’t picked up the maps that have been coming out.
Overall it’s a good package with a very high standard of game design along with a clever twist on the traditional Halo game play. If the game had been released at an expansion price point (£20 - £25) it would have been brilliant. But the short campaign and the fact that some of the elements in the game will have already been purchased by Halo fans keeps this from getting top marks.