By Neil McCormick
Has two years really elapsed since Richard Dean Anderson took to the streets of Dublin to help promote the launch of Halo 3?
Halo 3 has been a phenomenal success – at time of writing this (Sun 20 September 2009) according to bungie.net some 2,235,843 games had been played in the last 24 hours by 856,239 gamers.
Two years on, earlier this week but embargoed from reporting till now, I got the chance to get a hands on impression of Halo 3 : ODST whilst attending a Xbox 360 Media Event in Dublin.
Lets be honest, Bungie do not really have to work too hard to produce a high selling game. Halo fans are going to buy it in their droves. They want to fill in the story between halo 2 and Halo 3. That coupled with the fact it ships with all the Halo 3 Multi player maps, plus 3 additional new maps, and that is before you mention it includes a beta key to the final Halo game: -Halo Reach.
I cant really give a full impression on the game, or give a review as I only had less than an hours playing time. However during that time I got to have a look at the start of the campaign and try my hand at the new Fire-fight co-op mode.
You play the part of “The Rookie” and as the game starts you are aboard a UNSC Heavy Cruiser called “UNSC Say my Name”. You are part of a squad of ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) consisting of Dutch, Romeo, Buck and Dare (Veronica), originally tasked with taking part in the mission to attack the Prophet of Regret’s Assault Carrier. However upon entering the HEV or drop pod the coordinates of your mission are changed. The new destination is New Mombasa.
Whilst dropping, a Covenant Ship jumped into Slipspace, leaving behind some nasty shock-waves. These shock-waves cause your pod to short circuit and crash land way off course. You are unconscious and come to after some 6 hours have elapsed, totally disorientated, you free yourself and drop to the ground. The screen takes on a reddish tinge and it is at this point I realised playing the game – you are no Master-chief – drops are going to hurt. And that is before you feel the affect of a Covenant round hitting you.
At this stage, you are playing in the dark – quite literally it is hard to see and you have little to go on besides an instruction to find medical supplies. You are playing in a vast expanse of down-town New Mombasa,
As I said you are playing in the dark,so its hard to see, thankfully your helmet is equipped with a VISR, which offers night-vision -highlighting outlines and markers and is capable of identify beacons and hostiles. The covenant are outlined in red on the display. The VISR also provides access to an overhead map of the city for plotting routes back and forth across it.
Equipment wise you are armed with a suppressed sub-machine gun and a high powered silenced pistol. If you run out of ammunition the usual robbing of Covenant corpses will provide you with replacement weapons. The pistol is as close as we are likely to get to the pistol from the original Halo. The picture below will show you just how beautiful it is.
At one point myself and the coop companion I was playing with got totally confused to what the objective we had to do was. We had came to a door which we knew we needed to go past. But we could not, because as our Xbox Guide at the event explained we still had some objectives to complete.
If you look at the compass at the top of your screen there is a blue shape indicating the direction to go . As you complete objectives the blue is replaced by white. It is only at this point you can proceed.
This opening level gives you a chance to familiarise yourself with the controls while you follow a series of tutorials throughout the level- how to update your map, gather intelligence etc.
Sadly it was at this point I had to stop playing, the Microsoft Representative needed to demonstrate the Sky Player referred to in my previous report.
Later on, I got the chance to try the new co-op mode – Fire-fight. Up to four people can play this co-op mode as it takes on waves of Covenant. As each level is completed the difficulty ramps up. From my play-through, I can inform you that there are only 5 lives shared between the team. It is now becoming obligatory for game releases to include this style of play. Gears of War 2 had Hoarde Mode, Call of Duty World at War – its waves of zombie nazi.
You really do need to work as a team, playing this if one person goes off on a Rambo Style run the whole team will perish. You need to be at the top of your game, covering your own back and your team mates – pointing out precisely where the covenant are coming from.
That said, it’s a fantastic mode. Probably the best mode from the game if I am honest. Addictive, fun and more, all captured in this one mode. In my honest opinion – it is this that will give the gamers their most reward. This game mode seems perfect for a Friday night session with mates, playing into the small hours with a nice beer or two.
ODST looks perhaps too much a lot like Halo 3. The graphics maybe need re-tweaked, its not quite as next generation as some titles have produced of late. But who am I kidding its Halo – as long as Bungie has not messed up with the gameplay it will be a success.
I metioned above its dark – very dark and I dont particularily like dark in games. If it involves having to squint to make things out – im afraid its not for me. Yes you have VISR but its still an effort.
Its been a hard challenge for Bungie – how to have a successful Halo game with its main character missing. I think they have succeeded in fulfilling their remit. I am loathe to give it a score as I have not finished the game yet.
A full review of Halo3 ODST will be on electro-candy in due course.
Halo 3: ODST is out worldwide on September 22nd 2009 and is exclusive to the Xbox 360.
For more information on the back story, take a look at the following link.