The problem with the VISR, however, is that it's linked to the Superintendent to such an extent that it often feels as if your hand is being held too tightly. Way points clearly show you where you need to go to find the next flashback clue. They're not pinpointed to the square inch, but they may as well be. Like in EA's flawed gem Dead Space, in ODST you're never in any doubt which way to run to get to where you need to go. You can even press up on the d-pad for a reminder of where to go. You can ignore the Superintendent's help, of course, but on a subconscious level it makes you less inclined to go off the beaten track and simply stumble across stuff, perhaps the greatest joy open world games can bring.
Accompanying the VISR are two new weapons. The new M7 submachine gun is a medium distance weapon great for reducing enemy shields to zero in the blink of an eye. Halo fans, however, will be more excited by the new pistol, the M6C/SOCOM. It's a powerful, incredibly accurate weapon that comes complete with a sound suppressor, a zoom and a rate of fire limited only by the speed of your trigger finger - basically it's the pistol from Halo: CE. It's incredibly satisfying to use, just a complete and utter joy. Dropping Grunts and Jackals with headshots from ODST's pistol is thrilling. Using the SMG to wear down a Brute's armour then, the millisecond before the clip runs out, switching to the pistol to drop him with a headshot, is the stuff of FPS dreams. One of Halo's greatest strengths is how tight and satisfying simply shooting stuff is. ODST's pistol is the pinnacle of that, and is the best video game pistol ever created.
You might think that the night/flashback dynamic, and the differences between the Rookie and Master Chief, would combine to create a very different Halo experience. It doesn't. After half an hour or so, ODST feels just like Halo. No, you can't jump as high or run as fast, but the Rookie's limitations soon become unnoticeable as you get to grips with killing impromptu Covenant patrols that drop unannounced from low-flying Phantoms. The flashback missions feel particularly familiar - they're signature Bungie and classic Halo. There are Scorpion tank road trips down highways, Scarabs to destroy, Banshees to fly, Hunter face-offs, Warthog madness and, of course, Wraiths. There are even one or two comedy moments where you'll find UNSC soldiers talking to themselves - something of a Halo trademark. Put simply, ODST's memorable missions and set pieces mostly feel like more of the same.
Graphically, too, ODST is classic Halo. While the game's art has significantly improved, with some stunning blood red night skies complete with crumbling skyscrapers and billowing smoke clouds, the quality of the graphics overall are as they were two years ago. This isn't surprising given ODST has been built using the Halo 3 engine, and like Halo 3 it displays at just under a 720p resolution. Halo's look is certainly distinct, a colourful, bright style that contrasts Covenant purples with UNSC greys and browns. It doesn't quite match the heights of Gears of War 2 or Killzone 2 of course, but it occupies a unique place – ODST is quintessentially, unmistakeably Halo, and many fans will be delighted by this.
Some, though, may have been hoping that Bungie's next Halo game - and remember it's been some two years since the release of Halo 3 - would be significantly advanced not just graphically, but in gameplay terms. The argument will go that ODST is an extension of Halo 3, hence the title: Halo 3: ODST. This argument, however, will again be countered by those who feel the game's campaign is too short - I beat ODST on Heroic difficulty in just over five hours.
Length aside, the campaign is not without other problems. The story is a largely un-engaging affair. The mysteriously silent Rookie is hard to love, and certainly lacks the heroic appeal of Master Chief. His squad mates are classic cliché-ridden space marines, with personalities that aren't explored to any great detail. The plot makes more sense than previous Halo titles, but is still hugely silly. The ending is barmy, and seems as if it should have had a massive bearing on the Halo universe as a whole, but clearly didn't because it's ramifications never came up in Halo 3.
Bungie will point to the hidden BioShock-esque audio recordings (you can listen to them as you continue your exploration) that tell the tale of a young African woman, called Sadie, as she fights to survive the initial Covenant attack on the city as well as rescue her father. The collection of the 30 audio recordings is entirely optional, acting as a sort of meta-story that runs underneath the main plot. You don't have to find them, and to be honest there's little motivation - the voice acting is awful and laughably hammy.