For a start you can't jump quite as high, there's no motion tracker, and the health system has been altered, so that you cannot regain it like the Master Chief could. This means that, yes, you have to scurry around the city finding health packs, old school - an interesting change we predict won't necessarily be to everyone's satisfaction. In addition, there's a new VISR mode, which you activate by pressing X. This acts as a sort of night-vision mode, where enemies appear with a red outline, while friendlies appear with a green outline.
In terms of new weapons, there's the beefed-up silenced SMG, now with optional zoom, while the other is the Automag, which is similar to the much-missed pistol from Halo 1. Complete with zoom facility, "you can fire it as fast as you can pull the trigger. It's a completely awesome new weapon," according to Bakken.
In addition to a promisingly weighty sounding single-player campaign, Halo 3: ODST also ships with the Gears of War 2 Horde-style Firefight multiplayer mode. Played out in tight, enclosed environments with three buddies (over Live, split-screen or System Link), you face wave upon wave of Covenant forces. With seven lives in reserve, the game carries on for as long as you can survive the onslaught. To make things more interesting, the enemy type varies every time you play, meaning its impossible for players to simply learn the sequence.
On top of that, the skulls system imposes different gameplay conditions with every round, so that, for example, in round one, 'Tough Luck' makes enemies harder to kill, while later, 'Black Eye' forces you to melee enemies to get your stamina back. On the whole, it's too early to tell how big a draw Firefight will be, but it does address the one key question about the high bar to entry to playing Halo 3 online. We especially appreciate the fact that Firefight revolves around playing with friends, as opposed to smack-talking lunatics. Unless you happen to have smack-talking lunatic friends, obviously.
According to Bakken, Firefight should appeal to veterans as much as cowering newbies. "I think the really cool thing about Firefight is that there's a set of skills people have been honing for, what, nine years or something like that at this point. Firefight allows people to not actually jump into the online arena and play against strangers in a competitive way. It allows you to play with your buddies. You're sitting together on the couch, or you're sitting together on Live, playing split-screen or whatever, and it allows you to play in kind of a non-confrontational way, and I think that's going to be cool for a lot of people that aren't really interested in competitive multiplayer side."
And of course, for those of you who live for the Halo 3 multiplayer experience, Halo 3: ODST offers everything and a little bit more. For as well as rounding up the entire Halo 3 multiplayer map collection to date, Bungie is throwing three additional maps into the pot: Longshore, Citadel and Heretic - the latter of which is a remake of Midship from Halo 2. Interestingly, this multiplayer map portion of the package comes as a separate disc and runs as an executable.
One final nugget Bungie has added to the Halo 3: ODST package is exclusive access to the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta program, which is set to kick off later in 2009. When asked whether we're likely to see the game in any meaningful form this year, Bakken said: "I would bet that we're not going to see it this year - only because I think we want ODST to shine this year." So there you have it.
With Bungie still very much intent on keeping a hand-off approach to ODST's press reveal right now - only allowing us to play one Firefight map - it's tough to draw too many conclusions from what we've seen to date. If the promises of an expansive single-player campaign hold true, and Firefight offers the kind of compulsive online thrills that it should, few people will question that this doesn't warrant its price tag. With more multiplayer maps and access to the Halo: Reach beta adding the icing to the cake, then Halo fans are going to be feeling pretty pleased come 22nd September.
Halo 3: ODST will be released on 22nd September. For more from our interviews, check out the Eurogamer TV Show that accompanies this preview.