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Impressions of Halo 3: ODST campaign -- Life in a sandbox


Call us foolish, but walking into the Bungie demonstration of Halo 3: ODST at E3 last week, we had no idea that the main campaign mode consisted of, more or less, a sandbox environment. Truth be told, we knew of stealth bits and that, as per the title of the game, there was something to do with Orbital Drop Shock Troopers in the story, but not much else.

Bungie's Lars Bakken commandeered "the rookie" -- the character you'll basically use as a vehicle through New Mombasa's variety of flashback missions -- introducing us to the character in an opening cutscene rather reminiscent of previous Halo games from a style perspective. We are introduced to "Dutch" early on, the subject of our one guided flashback mission of the walkthrough, who's a bit of a fast-talking hardass, as ODSTs are wont to be.

Gallery: Halo 3: ODST | 36 Photos

Soon afterward, we're dropping to New Mombasa in the midst of a massive firefight and ... we've collided with another drop pod! To be honest, most of what you saw in the trailer above is what we saw in action, only with a couple folks from Bungie breaking down things as we went along. We saw the drop, a troop of Covenant, a bit with "the Superintendent" (a mute AI who assists you throughout the game), and the eventual flashback to the destruction of the bridge. Rather than reiterate those here any further, we're talking strictly what we took away -- information-wise -- from the meeting.

(click to scarab-size)

After hitting the ground, "the rookie" hops from his pod and runs into a patrol of various Covenant forces -- Mr. Bakken chose to engage those forces head on, confirming verbally in the process that dual-wielding has been taken out of the game and the pistol has returned. The folks from Bungie also confirmed the ability to employ stealth throughout New Mombasa, technically allowing players to move through the sandbox "without firing a single bullet."

The point in doing this, they explained, would be to reach each of the flashback mission portkeys without encountering much resistance. You'll need to be much more careful in general, as you'll have no motion-sensing radar in the HUD anymore, nor access to equipment. Apparently, being an ODST means you have an enhanced sight-mechanism which scans for enemies and mission objectives, but doesn't remember them, on a map in your visor. Ruh oh!

We also got a good look at the "Firefight" multiplayer mode but have written an entirely separate hands-on with it, so you'll have to check it out for more info. Halo 3: ODST will be shipping with two discs: one containing the campaign mode and the other consisting of a self-contained Halo 3 multiplayer content pack ("Firefight" and all previous Halo 3 multiplayer maps, DLC, and three new maps). We're going to prepare ourselves to drop everything (you see what we did there?) and play the game when it hits stores on September 22.

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