The lights are on
A year and a half ago I purchased Halo 3: ODST. Originally Halo 3: Recon, Microsoft decided to make a full-priced release out of an otherwise $30 expansion. The result? I don't think it's worth $60, but the price has gone down since launch and it has many great features to keep you hooked. ODST takes place during the events of Halo 2, as the opening scene shows the slipspace jump the Prophet of Regret made over New Mombasa, Africa that he made in the Metropolis level of Halo 2. A side-story is also buried under audio logs players find throughout the city chronicling the events for young Sadie Endesha as she tries to rescue her father and escape the city before it is overrun by Covenant forces.
ODST's campaign is remarkably different from other Halo games'. Instead of playing through the game in a linear path, between missions players are roaming the streets of New Mombasa as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper on a classified counterintelligence op. This open world structure embraces a more tactical approach for co-op, and the game finally brings much-needed features to the table, such as the ability to set waypoints and having a detailed map of players' surroundings. Players can choose their route through the urban nighttime environments, but they will have to fight a squad of Brutes, Jackals, Grunts, and occasionally Engineers regardless of which route they take - while their map details enemy positions, it's hard to go on an all-out stealth. It's just a matter of choosing which cover appears better.
This game should be treated as an expansion, not as a new game. Enemies are still the same, there's still the obligatory (but very exciting) Scarab boss battle, and it fills in the gaps of what the hell was happening in New Mombasa after the slip-space rupture. Vehicles are still the same (although with some tweaks) and overall the gameplay is largely the same, just with different environments.
The best addition in ODST is the Horde-like Firefight mode, although it is different from Horde in that you face intelligent Covenant forces, rather than mindless cannon fodder. With good enemy AI and a variety of maps from the campaign, this will keep you occupied for a longer period of time, but expect the occasionally swearing whenever the skull Black Eye is turned on, or an enemy Brute Chieftan rushes your friends with the devastating Gravity Hammer.
Halo fans will be thrilled with ODST, and one scene that involves a missile pod made me feel like a bad*** commando slaughtering hordes and hordes of Covenant ships effortlessly as I defended a downed Pelican.
I think Halo fans should definitely pick up ODST, but Halo haters won't have their opinion changed - the new Firefight mode is more than enough to compensate for the silent protagonist and 5 hour campaign. The game also includes the map packs for Halo 3, so offline players aren't missing out on the new maps.
I love Halo, but honestly, I think ODST was a complete flop. the story structure was crap, and it seemed at times that the game didnt want me to progress, making me look for a bowling ball sized sphere in the middle of a mountain of metal scraps and crash remnants just to start a flash-back mission. The missions them selves where great but that whole open world layout in between missions didn't work.