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Halo 3: ODST Hands-On and my Mobile Tour Experience

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

***Check out this article and more at LoadingReality.com***

Since August 22nd, Bungie and GameStop have joined forces to provide hardcore Halo fans a chance to play a little of Halo 3: ODST before it’s out in stores September 22nd.  The Halo 3: ODST Mobile Tour as it’s being called began Redmond, WA and will end this coming Saturday, September 19 in North Babylon, NY.  Fortunately for me the tour made a stop in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA just this past Monday and I was able to see and play for myself what ODST has to offer.  There aren’t many games or many developers that could pull something like this off so I had to take advantage and share my experience.

You've come a long way baby

You've come a long way baby

Check the pictures to get an idea of what the Mobile Tour’s rig looks like.  It’s pretty impressive, and totally appropriate for its purpose.  Granted, this bad boy was no doubt hauled around by the tractor trailer off in the background more than it was actually driven but nevertheless you can still appreciate the effort that was put into this promotion.  When I arrived a small section of the parking lot of a large shopping center was sectioned off for gamers to line up and wait their turn to play the latest Halo incarnation.  Nerds were aplenty, and there was even some lackluster cosplay taking place that I regrettably didn’t get a photo of (picture a 15 year old girl with a Master Chief helmet and toy gun dressed in shorts and a t-shirt……).

At any rate there were only 20 some odd people in line when I arrived, which I didn’t think was too bad.  The event runs from 12am to 8pm, so arriving at 2pm I figured I was hitting the sweet spot between the eager early birds and those arriving from work/school.  It turns out most of the people in line had already played once and were coming back for more, and informed me that you were allotted 10 minutes of playing time which I thought was pretty fair.  The bad thing is…….you’re allotted 10 minutes of playing time, which makes even a small line pretty arduous to wait your turn in.  

After 15 minutes of waiting, it was like an angel appeared.  There were only 7 players ready to play, and no one else in front of me wanted to go in without their friends.  I was ushered to the front of the line like I was waiting in line for a roller coaster, which was pretty cool.  Sure, I was “that guy” who came by himself but it cut my wait time in half so I was okay with it.

Upon arriving to the front of the line you then wait for the current players inside to finish up while a guy politely explains the differences between ODST and the previous Halo games if you’re not familiar, and that we would be playing in Firefight mode.  More on that in a bit.  Everyone also got a card explaining the new control scheme and a cool little plastic mini-ODST helmet with a tiny stand to put it on.  I accepted them (naturally), however at this point I’ve gotten so many worthless trinkets tied to video games and sporting events my first thought by now is usually “which drawer will this sit in forever, because I can’t throw it away for some reason.”  Regardless of my trivial ramblings it was still a nice touch, since you know they probably won’t be available anywhere else.

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Once we were inside the truck we weren’t allowed to snap photos, although I did have a chance when the employees were making sure the doors were closed.  I declined.  It’s kind of like stealing a pack of gum while the old man at the register is distracted:  you’ll probably get away with it every time, but if you don’t you’ll be ridiculously ashamed.  Anyways, the inside was a pretty ideal gaming rig.  Basically there were 8 Xbox 360’s each with a 26″ flat screen TV hanging from the ceiling.  The chairs were higher up like stools and were just right.  It was also pretty dark but black lights provided enough for you to do what you needed to do.  All in all it was a pretty sweet setup.

After all that it’s time to finally talk about the game itself.  If I were to sum it up all at once I would say that if you like Halo, all is well and good and nothing I’ve seen on the Mobile Tour will change the fact that you still need this game.  I’ll delve a little deeper to explain why.

Like you’ve probably heard, you’re an ODST now, not the Master Chief.  This means you’re essentially one of those grunts that frequently tagged along with the Chief in previous Halo games.  What this means for you during the game is that your shields barely regenerate, so dying is a very real possibility.  Dual-wielding is gone as well, however as a consolation the old pistol from the original Halo is back and is virtually the same as it once was.

The only change in the default controls is that the X button no longer reloads, which is now the job of RB.  Instead, the X button lets you enter Visor Mode.  Oftentimes, and especially in dark-lit areas, you’ll want to turn this on and probably keep it on in order to highlight enemies, weapons lying on the ground, etc.  This comes in handy when there are swarms of enemies around and you want to make the most of your ammunition and your shots.  Obviously it can be a lifesaver in Firefight mode, where you’re facing 20-25 enemies in each wave.

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As far as how your ODST controls, it feels very clean and similar to the previous games.  There’s no wondering if you’ll like the new changes or not as far as not being able to play as the Chief control-wise because it feels pretty much the same.  Your ODST will move a little slower naturally but that’s really the only foreign element I noticed.  One thing I noticed myself doing during Firefight was distancing myself from the action.  The new shield system had me pretty gun shy (no pun intended), so that certainly felt different tactically.  We had unlimited lives at our disposal however in the full version you’ll have seven in this mode, so exercising caution may be something you’ll have to implement more.

Some videos and articles I’ve seen on the Internet have touted Firefight to the Nth degree, which I’m not going to do here.  That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, it just is what it is.  You and up to 3 friends (no matchmaking) are dropped into a limited area and 5 waves of Covenant forces are sent in one after another with a small breather in between to reload and find weapons.  Doesn’t sound like much, and believe me it’s not but it’s still fun, just straight forward.  It’s just not the revelation I’ve seen some major outlets treating it as.

Perhaps I can summarize by saying the ten minutes of play time went pretty darn fast.  It’s a lot when you’re waiting, but once you’re in you’d love to keep going.  Unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to get back in line, especially when I saw that it had doubled in size.  The highest scoring player in our group was awarded a Halo license plate holder that read WARTHOG on the bottom, which was cool aside from the fact that I didn’t get it!  And that was it.

Let’s be honest, you were probably already purchasing Halo 3: ODST if you’re reading this, however the message here is that the Mobile Tour is a really cool experience if you’re given the chance to do it in the future and most importantly, I can say unequivocally that even with just the small taste of the game that I experienced, there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the tweaks they’ve made with the gameplay system.  In this case a little change turned out to be a refreshing spin on a proven formula.  Check to see if you can get your hands on ODST with the Mobile Tour before its release.

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