The heroes are different. The plot and structure are different. The settings are different. Why, then, did we warn you not to think of Halo 3: ODST as the %26ldquo;bold departure%26rdquo; from formula that the pre-release buzz might have you believe? Because below that intriguing new surface lies the same basic game you%26rsquo;ve been playing since 2001. That could be a very good thing, depending on your perspective, but it%26rsquo;s a truth that needs to be addressed.
Take the new ODST protagonists, for example. Although they%26rsquo;re not scientifically-enhanced Spartans like Master Chief, they control and play almost exactly like them. They%26rsquo;re a little shorter and a little slower, of course. They can%26rsquo;t jump quite as high or regenerate health quite as quickly. Changes like these don%26rsquo;t make an enormous impact on the overall gameplay, however, and the average player will barely notice them. The tweaked health system is carried over from the original Halo, in fact, and additional distinctions %26ndash; like the inability to dual wield weapons or use equipment %26ndash; are annoyances. Why can an ODST swing the Gravity Hammer with ease, but not figure out how to activate a Bubble Shield?
The missions often feel familiar as well, an inevitability since you%26rsquo;re blasting through them with the exact same vehicles and the nearly the exact same weapons that Master Chief had in his games. For instance, a Warthog romp through the city%26rsquo;s zoological nature preserve sounds awesome, and is really fun, but doesn%26rsquo;t play too differently from the Tsavo savannah sections or Ark desert areas in Halo 3. Sniping Jackals across the roofs of the police headquarters is extremely reminiscent of sniping Jackals across buildings in Halo 1 or Halo 2. You%26rsquo;ll encounter plenty of the franchise%26rsquo;s infamously repetitive hallway combat, too.
Still, ODST will surprise you. We%26rsquo;ve been in Banshee dogfights before, but never in the midst of a rain-drenched metropolis at night, with glittering windows and glowing exhaust trails transforming the entire scene into something out of Tron. We%26rsquo;ve taken down a Covenant dropship before, but never had to destroy three or four Covenant dropships in a row, on foot, while trapped at the top of a skyscraper with a handheld missile launcher. We%26rsquo;ve killed plenty of Grunts, but never spun wildly in circles, trying to mow down wave after wave of kamikaze Grunts before they reached our single, exposed turret in the middle of the room. Unexpected moments like these are peppered throughout the campaign, and keep Halo 3: ODST from coming across like a total rerun.
Extra special mention must also go to the aforementioned Rookie mission, in which you search New Mombasa for your missing teammates. Everything is different here: the setting is dark, the atmosphere is somber, the music is moody, the enemies are unpredictable and the gameplay is nonlinear. You%26rsquo;ll plot your own path through the city%26rsquo;s streets, alleys and plazas, sometimes choosing to run or drive across an open block in order to save time, and other times opting to cut through an office building%26rsquo;s cramped inner passages in order to avoid one of the randomly generated alien patrols.
This is the section in which you%26rsquo;ll be forced to turn on your cool ODST night vision, brightening the night and outlining shadowy enemies in red. This is the section in which you can hunt for the 30 collectible audio files, unlocking both a side story and supply points across the map. This is the section in which you%26rsquo;ll hear saxophone solos added to the score and briefly feel like that film-noir detective . This is the only section of ODST%26rsquo;s campaign that really does represent a brave new direction for the Halo series%26hellip; and because the scenario acts as a hub for all the game%26rsquo;s flashback stories, you%26rsquo;ll get to return to it again and again.