The Halo Franchise is one of the biggest selling games series in history. The original Halo, which debuted on the original Xbox in 2001, was one of the fastest selling games ever and became an instant classic. Since then the Halo has spawned two sequels and a strategy game and has now even branched off into a spin off type game with the new Halo 3: ODST.
In the 2004 game Halo 2, the Covenant, the alien antagonists of the series, discovered the location of Earth and launched an all out assault on the African city of New Mombasa. The United Nations Space Command (UNSC) was able to repel most of the fleet though a single ship landed above the city. The ship eventually escaped via a slipspace jump which created a shockwave that destroyed most of the city. Halo 2's storyline follows the carrier to the ring world of Halo.
Halo 3: ODST takes place after the ship retreats and the marines go off to fight the Covenant. Players take control of a rookie ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) who lands in New Mombasa with his team to figure out what happened in New Mombasa, what happened to the citizens and what happened to the Marines that went to defend it before them.
ODST is the first Halo game to offer players a perspective not from that of the first three game's protagonist known as Master Chief. The story takes place in the same time frame as Halo 2 but from a different point of view.
Since players are not assuming the role of the super human Master Chief, and are instead playing as an average rookie soldier, gameplay will be slightly different. Players will not possess the ability to jump as high or to run as fast. Players will also not have the same damage absorbing energy shield that Master Chief has. Instead, players health will be based on a stamina threshold. Players can regain stamina by resting however, should damage more than that of their stamina bar be taken, players will experience a permanent health loss which can be regained through the use of medpacks scattered throughout the game.
To offset the lack of special abilities, the ODST will have access to brand new weapons for the series which include a suppressed sub-machine gun and a pistol throwback to the original Halo pistol. The players HUD (heads up display) has also undergone a few changes. Now players will be able to enter a scan mode similar to the one seen in Star Wars: Republic Commando and other games. This new feature is called the VISR (Virtual Intelligence System Reconnaissance). The VISR gives you a compass and targeting reticule and outlines enemies in red and important objects in yellow though has no radar.
The campaign of ODST can be played either solo or with up to three other players. As the rookie, your goal is to discover what happened in New Mombasa while trying to regroup with your team. Players receive flashbacks via pieces of evidence found in the game's environments at which point the player takes control of that missing soldier. After you find the first beacon, the next step is up to you thanks to the open world demographic of the game allowing you to play the campaign levels in any way you want.
It wouldn't be a Halo game if it didn't have multiplayer. Halo redefined online multiplayer and it is a necessity for the multiplayer of ODST to be top notch. ODST is a branch off of Halo 3 so it doesn't have its own multiplayer maps. Instead, players will be able to play all 24 multiplayer maps from Halo 3. These 24 maps consist of Halo 3's original maps (Construct, Epitaph, Guardian, High Ground, Isolation, Last Resort, Narrows, Sandtrap, Snowbound, The Pit and Valhalla), the Heroic Map Pack (Foundry, Rat's Nest and Standoff), the Legendary Map Pack (Avalanche, Blackout and Ghost Town), the Cold Storage Map Pack and the Mythic Map Pack (Assembly, Orbital and Sandbox). ODST will contain three new maps (Citadel, Heretic and Longshore). The multiplayer comes to ODST via a second multiplayer disc shipped with the game. ODST will also include a fully integrated version of the Forge map editor from Halo 3.
There is also a new multiplayer mode in ODST called Firefight. Firefight is basically Halo's version of Horde (Gears of War 2) or Nazi Zombies (Call of Duty: World at War). Players will team up to take on increasingly more difficult waves of enemies to see how long the can last. Each player has a set number of lives and the game only ends when all players are dead. Firefight's 10 maps will be unlocked as players progress through the story. Players will be awarded medals for performing special kills and individual and team scores are tracked throughout the match.
Needless to say that ODST will be able to bring both hardcore Halo fans as well as new fans and could quite possibly bring back some fans that grew tired of the traditional Halo gameplay. It adds a lot of new features without completely removing everything that was great about the first three games. Halo 3: ODST is shaping up to be one of the best games of the year and players will get to decide that for themselves when the game releases worldwide September 22, 2009.