I finally beat: Halo 3 ODST

Halo 3 ODST is the latest Halo game from Bungie.  Originally planned as DLC (that’s downloadable content for you greens), there’s enough spit and polish gone into this fine example of a game to push it into prime time status.  A full retail release.

It don’t hurt that it also includes a Halo 3 multiplayer disc. The full Halo 3 multiplayer suite as if you were playing the original and it’s fully backwards compatible. Anyone out there tho didn’t jump in on the original Halo 3’s “map packs” can get them n’ more here.  That makes this disc shiny and your Halo 3 disc all manner of useless.

For the fans who did pony up the dough, you’re fan enough to appreciate the main adventure. For fans who don’t care about playing Halo multiplayer, this title ain’t for you. It may be the best Halo single-player campaign, but make no mistake: this is still Halo.

Yes, that’s right, I said the best. This isn’t with hind-sight either.  Halo 3’s campaign was disappointin’. No argument there.  Halo 2’s was alright, with a strong beginning a weak middle, and an infuriatin’ ending.

Wait. That gives it much too much credit. It had no ending.

So that leaves our shiny ODST vs the original behemoth that is Halo. Even at the time, having arrows drawn on the ground to point you where to go and massive amounts of backtracking did not make a fun experience.  What was fun was playing with a friend, either friendly cooperative-like, or a bit competitive bar brawling fun.

ODST is fun by your lonesome.  You can play this title solitary.  It still supports splitscreen co-op for 2, or 4 over live, but it ain’t dependent on it.  That *alone* speaks volumes.  Having characters you care about, having a story that’s fun to watch, and having both fun action piece levels (as flashbacks) and a whole new nighttime mechanic make for the best Halo experience yet.  Speaking of the characters, watch the above clip. Your squad is composed of Mal, Jayne, and Wash from Firefly, and Six from Battlestar Galactica.

And one other random guy.

The voice acting is well done and it’s fun to take the Serenity crew out for another fight.

As fun as a campaign can be, you can only play it so many times before it gets a mite tiresome.  ODST introduces a new mode specifically designed for friends to play together in a mode that is not entirely like the single player campaign done coop, but not entirely like other coop modes you may have seen before (ala Gears of War 2’s Horde mode).  Firefight has 4 players fighting together against waves of enemies on new maps specifically designed for this mode.  Every round introduces randomly activated skulls that’ll drastically change the way things’ll play out.  While the wave will consist of the standard Halo enemies you’ve grown to love to hate, the skulls will be your true nemesis.  A combination of skulls may make enemy shields resistant to bullet damage, requiring you to acquire an enemy energy weapon to disable them.  Combined with a skull that requires you to melee attack enemies to regain any health and you’ll find yourself in a very defensive, difficult fight.  Another round may activate skulls that cause the enemies to throw grenades as if they were fireworks on Unification Day; this leads to more enemies with a bit more vulnerability and soft-squishy parts, but it also means that wave must be taken out quickly and cleanly before you find yourself knee deep in ticking potatoes.

Unfortunately, as much fun as an endlessly generated co-op experience sounds, it isn’t without some cracks in the veneer.  Firstly, it can be a bit on the rough side.  In ODST, you aren’t Master Chief.  A single Brute is a dangerous foe and the only quick way to kill them is with a full clip of bullets to the head or a grenade up the 驴.  The waves do not scale with the number of players present, so while the first few are manageable, the game expects you to have all 4 players playing.  Which leads to my main complaint: there is no matchmaking available for Firefight.  Halo 3 has some of the strongest matchmaking services available, and unfortunately due to the architecture of how Firefight was built, Firefight mode can’t use any of them.  If you don’t have 3 friends who want to play over Xbox Live, then you are a floater in the great beyond.

Well, technically, you can bring in one other person splitscreen with you, but two ain’t enough to tackle this.

So, there you have it.  The ODST disc includes a great campaign and a strong cooperative mode, if you have three crew members you can count on and bring in with you.  The Multiplayer disc includes the best multiplayer FPS of 2 years ago, but is still one of the strongest and includes all previously released DLC + a couple more exclusive maps, allowing you to play on any playlist.

If you didn’t like Halo, then this ain’t for you.  But if you grew weary of it, this may be a title to look at. It’s fresh and different enough to provide the spice of life.