Halo 3: ODST - multiplayer hands-on

Come for the competitive multiplayer, stay for the Firefight

With so much E3 hype surrounding Halo 3: ODST's significant solo campaign, are you worried the Chief-less entry has abandoned its original, buzzed-about multiplayer content? Fear not, frag fans. ODST has enough classic and fresh online content to clutter the cargo hold of a Covenant dropship... and then some.

The game includes two discs. One contains the new single player and the brand new Firefight co-op mode (more on that in a sec); the other features all previous Halo 3 maps - including those from standalone Legendary, Heroic, and Mythic packs - as well as three more, freshly spilled from the minds of Bungie's dedicated multiplayer design team. On a recent trip to their studio, we picked the brain of senior designer Lars Bakken, who gave us the scoop on this trio of new locales that the competitive online community will soon know like the back of their battle-scarred hands.

First up is Heretic, a much-demanded remake of Halo 2 fan fave Midship. Bakken stressed that the update was kept as %26ldquo;faithful as possible to the Halo 2 version,%26rdquo; but stated fans can also expect some %26ldquo;crazy bells and whistles.%26rdquo; Among the upgrades is an obvious increase in the overall visual fidelity and even a few eye-catching surprises, not the least of which is a menacing Covenant armada cruising by the window. Don't crane your neck too much checking out the new scenery though, as Heretic still sets the perfect stage for intense close quarters combat. In addition to the familiar layout, Midship fans will even find their favorite weapon drops unchanged.

Citadel is a 100% new map, boasting Forerunner architecture and based on part of Halo 3's campaign. The claustrophobic setting hosts a center platform - a rocket sits there to entice players to its unprotected perch - and two levels with open bays. Bakken recommended 2x2 or 3x3 Team Slayer, CTF, Oddball or King of the Hill matches to get the most bang from Citadel's arena-style set up.

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