Halo 3: ODST Firefight Mode Hands-On

We dropped into the city of New Mombasa and set about slaying the covenant horde in the game's new Firefight mode.


Halo 3: ODST

It's been almost two years since Halo 3 came out, and although the game still enjoys popularity on Xbox Live, there is significant anticipation for a new game in the series. With Halo 3: ODST, Bungie has taken the well-known universe and created a whole new story within it, taking place between the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3. Rather than play as Master Chief, you play as the Rookie, an orbital drop shock trooper in the war-torn city of New Mombasa. We were lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the game's new four player co-op mode, Firefight, to see if it lives up to the esteemed Halo name.

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Firefight takes inspiration from Gears of War 2's Horde mode and pits four players against wave after wave of covenant enemies via system link, split-screen, or Xbox Live. The prematch setup looks similar to the one in Halo 3, and the party leader can choose different match settings and the map. However, once the game begins, there are a number of changes that give the game a different feel from Halo 3.

The first thing we noticed was how differently the Rookie handled compared to Master Chief--he can't jump as high or move as fast. The Rookie also lacks Master Chief's shield for absorbing damage; instead, he uses something called "stamina." The stamina bar works much like a traditional health system. It has a gauge at the top of the screen showing how much stamina you have left and can be replenished at health stations.

New weapons have also been introduced in ODST: a suppressed submachine gun rifle and an Auto Mag pistol. The rifle feels like a much tougher weapon than the standard Halo 3 rifle--it's louder, has armour-piercing bullets, and a great zoom for picking out enemies from afar. The gun feels very powerful, but it extended shooting results in some pretty hefty recoil, so we found it best to fire in short bursts. The Auto Mag harks back to the much-loved pistol from the original Halo and is also very powerful--even such large enemies as brutes and hunters can be taken down by it. And, it has a zoom mode, which allowed us to pull off some very satisfying headshots.

Microsoft was showing off two of the maps in Firefight--Security Zone and the previously unseen Alpha Site. We spent most of our time on the Alpha Site map, which mostly takes place indoors. The map is made up of a vast cavernous building complete with art deco pillars and a multitude of storage boxes to take cover behind. There were also platforms that extended from each side of the map to the outdoors, which allowed covenant ships to land and drop off more enemies for us to battle against. The usual Halo suspects make a reappearance, including grunts, drones, and hunters. The enemies that appear are never the same each time the level is played, and though we got hunters on one play though the map, the next time, we were inundated with brutes instead. However, some enemies are unique to certain maps, such as Wraiths, which only appear on the outdoor levels. This random element means no two games are the same and adds to the intense and unpredictable feel of the mode. Teamwork plays a big part in Firefight, and in order to progress through the waves, we had to work together with our teammates. Sticking together, using cover, and covering all sides of the attack are all key to making it through a wave alive.

The Firefight mode introduces several gameplay mechanics. Each team is given seven lives, which are shared between them. Extra lives are only given after the completion of each wave, but if all the lives are lost, then the game ends. There's an unlimited number of waves to play through, and each wave has a number of stages to complete. In each stage, greater numbers of enemies attack the team before starting over again in the next round. After a wave is completed, skulls are introduced, which give the enemy extra abilities. In our game, we saw a skull called "catch" added to game that caused all the enemies to throw grenades and bombard our team with plasmas. We were also told of another skull called black eye where the player can replenish stamina by launching melee attacks on the enemy.

Certain skulls will cause enemies to bombard your team with plasmas.
Certain skulls will cause enemies to bombard your team with plasmas.

Medals make an appearance in Firefight and are awarded for performing special kills, such as headshots with a charged-up plasma pistol. The game tracks both individual and team scores, which makes the mode incredibly addictive as you try to rack up the highest score. There are also score multipliers to help the team along, such as double kills, triple kills, and killing sprees.

Though the game is graphically similar to Halo 3, the art style is slightly different. It retains the "futuristic earth" Halo look, but adds a twist of film noir with dark and moody environments. Bungie mentioned that the game had been influenced by the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, with much of the game taking place at night and the gleaming lights of the city glowing in the background.

Halo 3 ODST is shaping up to be a great addition to the Halo universe, and the addictive just-one-more-wave feeling to Firefight could prove to be a great timesink in multiplayer. We can't wait to get our hands on the finished game, so keep an eye on GameSpot for more on Halo 3: ODST before the game is released on September 22.

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