This is probably the biggest release of the month and the most awaited release for Halo fans. Personally I was very excited about the launch, the trailers were fantastic, the hype (as usual) was great.
To quickly summarise how I felt about the game I would have to say that the campaign portion was short, boring and annoying. But firefight is extremely enjoyable. I guess the campaign felt more like a training exercise than an actual part of the main game. Especially since campaign will probably take you 4 or 5 hours to complete from start to finish, your average firefight games will be over an hour each. Spent over two hours playing a single game last night, the only problem with this model is that I’m less likely to play consecutive games that last two hours as it is a major investment. I go more in depth after the break.
Campaign was a pain for me, I played it through on co-op, which made it more bearable but there were just so many problems with the entire scenario that I almost gave up on it, I did however finish the entire thing in one sitting. When you first drop into the game you get into the game the game teaches you how to use your hud, but the process is painful, you cannot skip steps or even the whole tutorial and it’s bleeping ang blooping at you the whole time. I found it extremely annoying to have to go through a tutorial on something that A) I could have figured out on my own, B) Barely used anyway and C) Had a bunch of stuff I didn’t care about, thanks Bungie but you’re off to a bad start, especially since I have to do this every time I start a new game.
Secondly I have to gripe about the health system, Bungie opted to stick with the continuity of the series and ODST do not have shields like in Halo 3. Instead one has a health bar and “stamina” for which there is no actual display, instead, when your stamina runs out your whole screen goes red. So at any one time you can only tell whether you have full stamina or no stamina. Personally I found it pretty annoying to have my whole screen saturated by red half the time and as there is no display for how much you have remaining it can be hard to gauge how much fire you can take before you run into cover, a simple bar display instead of the whole screen turning red would have been a lot nicer.
My major gripe with the campaign side of things was the lack of any real story and the human interest was terrible. The story drops you off in the middle of new mombasa with no real objective other than go here then go there. There is nothing story wise that is compelling you characters forward, except for the sergeant who probably loved that woman but it really didn’t come across well. At every cutscene I was waiting to be wowed by some revelation or intrigued by a plot twist but none came. Needless to say the whole campaign felt like a grind fest and was mainly comprised of walking down empty streets between groups of enemies.
Another few other little niggles I had with the campaign included the audio files that were scattered about the place, what were they? Why was the voice acting so bad? Why did it sound like a really bad daytime soap? I still can’t tell whether the audio files were supposed to be real events or a daytime TV programme we had tuned into! Skipping between squad members seemed like a good idea to me at the start, but really just broke up the flow, one minute you would have been picking up new weapons then all of a sudden you spawn with different weapons elsewhere, I just really didn’t see the point, and again the lack of story made it pretty pointless in the first place. Half of the time spent in campaign is walking down empty streets, I had a quick game yesterday as I am doing it on legendary now and almost the whole 10 minute session was spent just walking through deserted streets halfway across the map, hella boring. Lastly there’s the enemy AI, they just seem to have been programmed to be annoying as possible grunts do their kamikaze grenade thing waaaayyy too often, nearly every time it was because of a grunt running at me with grenade in hand, sometimes 3 at a time!
I think that about covers the gripes with the campaign. Now on to firefight: Like Gears of war and Horde before it firefight pits you against never ending waves of enemies in a co-operative multiplayer environment. Unlike campaign this is pretty much non stop action and it’s where all of the parts of the game that did not stand out in campaign really shine.
Some of the weapons in firefight are a real joy to use, the pistol is fantastic, taking out grunts with a single headshot just feels satisfying, especially as you get a medal for each headshot and medals for just about every other kind of kill. I can’t really explain it, I think it’s probably that you’re icing a whole load of enemies in seconds with accurate headshots with a silenced pistol, it makes you feel leet 😀 Other weapons aren’t as impressive as the pistol, but the game changes every round adding different twists to gameplay, unlike GOW and Horde the skulls system in ODST really seems to add that extra tactical element to the game, rather than just making it harder. Some skulls make it so that bullet based weapons are almost useless against shields so you have to use plasma weapons, there are enemies that have so much shield it takes and age to kill them, but use the plasma pistol overcharge and the shield is down in one shot. It adds a lot more variety to the game experience as it forces you to use different weapons and other than the pistol you never really feel that you’re missing out because you don’t have a certain weapon.
Firefight itself is structured wave by wave, there are so many waves in a round and after every round you get extra weapons, health and lives. Not only that but the skulls change every round adding more difficulty and challenge, so far I have only reached set 2, was very close to set 3 but got foiled by a gravity hammer weilding brute, he just would not die! The only real criticism with firefight mode is that I’m unlucky and I seem to get hit with a lot of instant death scenarios where I’ve just owned 5 grunts in the head then I run round a corner into a grunt doing one of those kamikaze grenade runs or something similar. Again though the health system can be annoying as some of the skulls mean that your screen will be saturated red for minutes at a time and sometimes you will lose your stamina very quickly for seemingly no reason.
So overall I really love firefight for the feeling of accomplishment you get with every kill and the competitive nature of the scoring system, firefight is ODST and ODST is firefight. Campaign is an empty shell of what it could have been, I personally feel as if Bungie wasted all of the time they spent on the campaign, designing the maps, recording the dialogue/ Oh wait, I remembered another gripe: Bungie billed the city AI as a big part of the story but it really isn’t until towards the end when it just pops up from nowhere.