I wouldn't consider myself a huge Halo fan. I wouldn't even consider myself a fan of first person shooters. From Goldeneye to Call of Duty, the genre holds very little appeal to me. Despite that, for reasons unknown to me, I enjoy the Halo game franchise. I had only played multiplayer in the first two as I never owned a Xbox. When I finally purchased my 360, I made sure to pick up the third entry.
I originally bought Halo 3 for the multiplayer. I didn't give a damn about invading aliens and the end of the world. It was a played out story we all knew. What I wanted was competition. This was my first time playing against other players over Live. I had my ass handed to me, repeatedly. After a few days of abuse, I decided it was time to learn the fundamentals in story mode. Having never played story mode in the first two, I was surprised how easy it was to pick up. The simplicity of it was astounding, considering the amount of product that has come as a result of it. From the games to books and now an anime series, it has become a juggernaut. I cleared through on normal and went back to multiplayer. I had my ass handed to me, repeatedly. But now, I had an understanding of the affection fans had for it. The story was simple enough to latch onto and enjoy, without having to think too much. The same can be said of the actual game play. Regardless of it being online or played on legendary, not a whole lot of strategy is involved. It's simple fun. From bashing someone with the butt of your gun to the elegance of a head shot, it's easy to grasp and have fun. No complicated controls or weaponry. As an example: I used Halo as an initiation game with my girlfriend's dad. He's in his late fifties and hasn't played a game since the Super Nintendo. Right away, he was able to run and gun. By no means is he the greatest player, but it was easy enough for him to pick up a controller and learn to play within five minutes. I've had to bring over Halo 3 for free for all matches nearly every Sunday for a year now.
When I saw coverage start for a new Halo, I wasn't too excited. I figured, I own one and it played nearly identical to the two preceding, there's no need for me to get a new entry. It wasn't until I saw the live action trailer that I took notice. In a minute, I went from little interest to pumped and eagerly awaiting the release. No longer was this a simple game of a super soldier gunning down aliens with little regard to his own regenerating health bar. This time I was a lone soldier in a moonlit city full of enemies with nothing but my wits and a little ammo to get me through. What really hooked me, though, was a new mode called Firefight. Here, I could work with other players towards a common goal of survival. Instead of three on one local matches filled with hate, I could be the backbone of our team. We could overcome hordes of enemies together and have fun while doing it. I did the research, and nearly everywhere I was told it would support four players locally. This had become a must have for Sunday gaming sessions with the in laws.
I picked it up on release day filled with glee as I thought about what strategies I would use in this strange new world. Upon putting it in the tray and watching a riveting intro, I was thrust into the role of a new character, the Rookie. I was thoroughly pleased with the new night vision and the new scope on the pistol. Eager to test them out, I found my first patrol. Then I realized something. This was the exact same game I bought a year ago, only with a new wrapper. I was disappointed. All of my new strategies were for naught. I could still run in, guns blazing, and walk away with little to no adverse effect on my well being. I thought to myself, "Well, this can't be all bad. The game play is the same, and I like the game play. There's also a new story to enjoy. There's still potential to be had here."
The story consists of you following a beacon on your compass to a piece of equipment left behind by one of your team. When you find the piece, you play through a section with the corresponding member and unravel what happened while Rookie was unconscious. I had read that you could find them in any order you like, but every play through, the game automatically finds the next one for me and the story plays out like it should. Promotions touted this as a detective system, prompting exploration of a dark and dangerous city. Batman is a detective. Rookie follows a glowing point on his compass until he sees what he's looking for lying in plain sight. Again, there were no twists to be had with the plot, just more simplicity. While this wasn't awful, I wanted something more. I wanted Halo presented to me in a new way, something that would make it exciting to find out what happens next. Instead, I traveled from point A to B and blew up a lot of stuff along the way. I cleared story mode within a day and thought, "This isn't a total loss. It wasn't what I had hoped for, but it was still fun. And hey, there's still Firefight."
Firefight, nothing is more misleading than Firefight. The big reason I bought ODST was this mode. I wanted to bring it over to the in laws and engage in some coop fun. Wasn't gonna happen. FF only supports two players locally. "Well, shit, wish I had known that." If that wasn't bad enough, Bungie decided to not include a matchmaking system for the mode. Instead, you have to play with people on your friends list. I can count the number of people on my friends list with one hand. None of them have ODST. So to date, I have yet to play Firefight with ANYONE. I managed to get through 15 rounds on my own, but in the end it felt like masturbation. Sure it was fun, but it's better with a partner.
In closing, ODST is a good game. Very misleading, but still enjoyable. Had I known the truth, I probably would have held off until the game hit the $30 mark. If you have plenty of friends who are into Halo, you'll get much more for your money than I did. The game comes with a second disk specifically for Halo 3 multiplayer with all of the maps included. It seems like a nice incentive, but is kind of worthless for players like me who've already purchased all the maps. All in all, not bad, but it could have been better.