I’m not the world’s greatest Halo fan, but even my eyes were impressed with what I saw at Microsoft’s closed door presentation of the game at E3 today. Halo 3: ODST is a new tweak on a familiar world.

At the closed door session, a dude from Bungie said when the game launched it would come as a two-disc set: one with the campaign and Firefight multiplayer mode and the second a Halo 3 competitive multiplayer disc, which will have three new maps, including a remake of the classic Midship map, and all 21 original maps.

Bungie says ODST is a brand new campaign. They showed the opening movie for the game, which showed some officer types dressed in battle armour discussing the plan of attack on the planet below. They’re standing at a huge holo-map. An ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper) soldier called Buck (I think) is talking to a female soldier called Veronica (I think), who he insults. She walks off. Next we see three troopers trying to decide which weapons to take on the mission. one of them sees a weapon good in close combat situations the ideal thing to do the job. A fellow soldier thusts a shotgun into his hand, telling him this will do the job.

You play a rookie, of the strong and silent type, who gets separated from his unit when a drop pod landing goes wrong after a massive explosion disrupts the landing. Just prior to the explosion a Covenant ship is seen warping out of the area.

Chronologically, the game takes place between Halo 2 and Halo 3, in a recently attacked New Mobassa. Your story starts six hours after the drop onto the planet’s surface. You’re injured, Covenant are patrolling the street, and you’re alone. You can get health packs from a dispensing machine that is still working, despite power being down all over the city, but Covenant are everywhere.

There’s a new visor mode which illuminates your view of the world, as well as targeting and identifying enemies and allies, and in the demo I saw you’re armed initially with a sound-suppressed pistol and shotgun.

“You’re not a Spartan, but you’re just as combat effective,” said the Bungie dude.

In a departure from previous Halo games, there’s no longer a motion sensor and you can’t dual wield weapons anymore. There is, however, someone (a person? A machine? That isn’t clear) called the City Superintendent who is your only ally in the city and he/it helps you by providing a fully interactive 3D map that can be downloaded to your helmet, as well as providing assistance to help you find objectives. Beacons on the map show points of interest.

Once we got to the Oni Alpha complex, where a bridge has been blown up, you activate a beacon, which then brings in a flashback sequence, where you play as another ODST who landed two hours after the drop ship landing. This time you have to prime charges on the bridge then blow it up.

Bungie says the flashback sequences are “high action classic Halo” while the exploration parts where you move through the streets of New Mombassa as the rookie are more slower paced.

Next we saw some of the Firefight mode in action, through a film captured by Bungie of staffers playing a map called Security Zone on Legendary difficulty. In the multiplayer, each team has seven lives: every time one of the players on the team loses a life, it affects the whole team. Once all lives are lost, it’s game over.

Apparently Firefight is made up of varying waves of enemies, with each round made up of five waves of enemy. It sounds a little like Horde from Gears of War, but apparently it isn’t, and the difficulty level gets progressively harder as you progress through each wave.

From what I could gather from this demo of Halo 3: ODST, it’s the same solid Halo universe with a pretty nice looking graphics engine backing it up. It’s just been twisted slightly to the left to give a new story, some new life perhaps, from the eyes of a character who is neither cybernetically engineered nor a legend.