If you’ve listened to our post-E3 Halo 3: ODST podcast
, or been paying close attention to word from the show floor
, then you might already have a pretty good idea of what Firefight is. You've been asking for it. September, you'll get your hands on it.
Built on top of Halo 3: ODST's campaign, Firefight is a cooperative game mode that lets you and up to three of your friends put your skills to the ultimate test. It allows you to jump straight into the heart of Halo and experience traditional Halo sandbox encounters with a new, high octane twist. Though you’ve squared off against most of the enemies you’ll face in Firefight before, you’re not going to be able to rely on your past experiences alone to guide you through all of the action. In Firefight, even the most "harmless" enemy can become a dangerous threat when you’re low on ammo, low on lives, and have your back against the wall. Throw gameplay modifying skulls into the mix and you'll find that the combat can become even more interesting and intense.
The Load Out
Each game of Firefight begins in a familiar lobby. This is where the party leader and up to three of his friends set everything up. You can see that outside of some visual treatments, nothing's been removed from Halo 3's campaign feature set. You can still mix and match players over System Link and Xbox LIVE, and of course, if you don't have four Xbox 360s and televisions at your disposal, two-player splitscreen is still in full effect.
From the Firefight Lobby players can choose from the standard Halo difficulty set (Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary) and decide which level they want to drop into. At the outset, you’ll notice you have a select number of missions for Firefight play. You’ll be able to unlock several more by completing the corresponding encounters from Halo 3: ODST’s campaign mode, each tuned with their own unique layout, weapon placement, and, when warranted, vehicles to bring a variety of combat spaces and situations to the Firefight experience.
The two missions we've already put on display for you are Crater (Night) and Security Zone, seen below.
If the party wants to tailor the experience even further, they can elect to enable some secondary skulls straight away. There are four familiar skulls to choose from at the outset: Blind, Cowbell, Grunt Birthday Party, and IWHBYD. These skulls do exactly what you expect them to. Blind removes the HUD elements, Cowbell increases the physics impulses, Grunt Birthday Party (cake is delicious) turns Grunt's heads into confetti when you pop 'em with a headshot, and IWHBYD lets you hear rare dialog much more often (You killed FlipYap!).
It’s also here that you’ll also be able to fiddle with the various character models you’ve unlocked if you haven’t already customized your player model (yes, there are custom armor permutations for use in Firefight), mix and match your armor's color accents, emblems, and backgrounds, and make sure your Service Tag is set exactly how you like it.
If you were eager enough to pre-order Halo 3: ODST through select retailers (thank you, very much), you can swap over to Sgt. Johnson and impress any ladies you happen to have on your squad.
Don't they teach you kids to swear in basic anymore?
You should pay special attention to the difficulty setting. Though most of you are going to want to go in balls to the wall on Heroic or Legendary, you might want to tone it down and give Normal a spin to start. Get your legs underneath you before you ratchet it up. And if you decide to go in with a squad less than four strong, you’re really going to find that in Firefight, the odds are definitely stacked against you.
There is no cap to the time or the number of Waves you can experience in a single game of Firefight. The mission will only end when your squad depletes its pool of lives. Since that stockpile is shared collectively, you’ll only be as strong as your weakest link. Make sure you set your difficulty accordingly.
We realize that plenty of you are going to disregard this warning, taking it as a challenge to your Halo prowess. All we can say to you, dear friends, is good luck. That said, you’ll have much of the full Halo sandbox at your disposal and you’ll be duly rewarded for excelling in Firefight with a dynamic scoring system, heaps of shiny medals, and some all new achievements.
Skulls and Scoring
Initially, no matter which difficulty you choose, Firefight will automatically enable the Tough Luck skull. If you have an enemy in your sights, you can be sure they’ll get out of the way double time should you lob a grenade at their feet.
As you progress through each Set, new skulls will automatically be enabled, forcing you to alter your tactics and giving the Covenant a sharper edge in combat. Think Legendary isn’t difficult enough? Wait until Black Eye kicks in. Or Famine. Or Mythic
. And they won’t just kick in one skull at a time. They’re layered, not only increasing the overall difficulty of Firefight, but more importantly, making your Covenant opponents more dynamic and cunning, forcing you and your squad to adjust combat tactics on the fly.
And if you can stay alive, you’ll be rewarded with higher scores and heaps of medals. Though each enemy class is worth a base number of points, earning medals can modify your tally as you go. Stay on a lengthy streak without dying, and your points will be augmented by a hefty multiplier.
Sets, Rounds, Waves
Firefight begins with Set 1, Round 1, Wave 1. Each Set is made up of three Rounds. Each Round is comprised of five Waves, the base increment in Firefight. In the image above, the players are on Set 1, Round 3, Wave 4. Each time you dispatch a Wave you’ll see new enemy reinforcements dropped into the battlefield, each more combat ready than the last.
The Waves are completely dynamic – you won’t be able to plan your assault – but if you’re lucky, you’ll only be staring down some Grunts and Jackals to start. Then perhaps you’ll see some Brutes with Active Camo and Flame Grenades, followed perhaps by a pair of Hunters.
When the drums begin, you’ll know you made it to Wave 5. Your reward? Chieftains
Drums. Drums in the deep.
Once you and your squad have completed Round 1 (again, comprised of 5 Waves), you’ll be rewarded with a brief respite. Link back up with your squad, check your gear, and grab some of the ammo that’s now been lovingly replenished. You earned every bullet. You’ll get some extra lives as well to give you a little bit of confidence going into the next Round.
Repeat the feat three times, and you and your team will have completed a full Set and we’ll layer on a new skull to make the next Wave even more interesting. How far can you ultimately make it? Well, that depends on your skill, the mettle of the soldiers you bring into the Firefight with you, and whether or not you remember to feed yourself during lengthy play sessions. The Sets will ratchet up ad infinitum. (And that's a really big number.)
Bungie.net Stats Integration
If all of that seems a bit much to concentrate on during a round of Firefight, no worries. Every last kill, medal, and Set, Round, and Wave will be preserved via Bungie.net’s stat tracking. And of course, you’ll be able to track your Firefight specific achievements online too. Enhanced even further from Halo 3’s award-winning suite, players will be given unprecedented insight into their career performance with graphs, charts, and leaderboards to pour through after the mission comes to an end.
And if all of this information on Halo 3: ODST's new gameplay mode, Firefight, seems a bit much to concentrate on amidst all the other E3 coverage, don't worry about that either. We're still spoon feeding you. Stay Tuned - in the coming months, we'll have much more to say about Firefight and Halo 3: ODST.