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Xbox 360 Review: Halo 3: ODST

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Halo 3: ODST has taken over my life. Ever since the game came out I have found time to play it every single day, which is kind of unusual considering my otherwise hectic schedule. With that being said I have some mixed feelings about the game.

The story is nestled well into the Halo universe and there's no denying the atmosphere is incredible.  It follows the exploits of an elite team of ODSTs (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) on a special mission. Things go wrong as they are on their way down to the streets of Mombasa and the squad is separated from each other. As the Rookie of the squad, you scour the darkly lit streets by yourself trying to find your fellow ODSTs. As you come across "beacons" you'll experience a flashback that puts you in the shoes of the other members at varying points. The game deftly strings the different stories together and the characters are interesting enough to pull the rest of the experience together. The thing that's important to note is that you won't miss Master Chief and Cortana. Things are handled so well here that the Halo motif is kept intact without the famed Spartan.

The gameplay is traditional Halo, except the ODST members do not regain health and they have a visor that helps in darkly lit areas. This all means you have to play the game differently, since you can't run in guns blazing Rambo-style and expect to make it out unscathed. Imagine going up against a Hunter on Legendary as a significantly more human player. It's kind of scary.

Now, when you play the campaign you have the option to go at it solo or with some help, should you happen to have some friends to play with. Both play out like you'd expect, though the additional team members definitely helps through some of the tougher parts. With that being said, two friends and I plowed through the campaign on Normal in about three hours. That's the negative aspect of the campaign game. It's just not long enough. And at the end it also kind of, well, just ends. Let's just say it leaves you wanting more.

Firefight is the other mode you'll find on the ODST disc. This one is an interesting mode very similar to Gears of War's Horde mode. Basically you and some buddies go up against wave after wave of Covenant. Five waves make up a round and three rounds make up a set. As the rounds progress the game turns more skulls (game modifiers) on to increase the challenge. The amount and difficulty of enemies also progressively increases. Running low on ammo and getting swarmed by Hunters and hammer-wielding Brutes is more than challenging enough. Oh, and you also share the amount of lives and there's a cumulative score that increases with each kill. The problem with this mode? You can't search for games. You can only play with people on your friends list and that can leave you high and dry sometimes. Come on Bungie! Give us the ability to find Firefight members!

There's a second disc included here, but all that is featured there is the complete Halo 3 multiplayer. I must admit I haven't played this since 2007, and after joining a match only to have my eardrums blown out by someone screaming obscenities and racial slurs, I was reminded why I stopped playing. There are good and bad here of course, but you really have to pick and choose when you play and what you play. The multiplayer component is still incredibly solid and fun so it's a good addition, plus includes all Halo 3 maps on one disc.

All in all, Halo 3: ODST is more than just an afterthought of marketing ploy. It's a well-produced game that expands the Halo universe even more than the main franchise has done. There's plenty of meat to this game and whether you're tackling the campaign solo or with a friend, or just playing Firefight, you're going to have a great time.

Halo 3: ODST is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Violence.

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