Halo ODST's Firefight Rally PointS

The almost pit-like Rally Point map of Halo 3: ODST's firefight mode fills the smallish level with a never-ending stream of enemies and at least one Wraith tank.

The level had its first outing at Cologne's Gamescom this week, drawing crowds to Microsoft's booth to spend ten minutes each with the game in a four-person coop firefight.

ODST's firefight mode is Bungie's answer to Gears of War 2's horde mode, throwing never-ending waves of enemies at the four Orbital Drop Shock Troopers controlled by players.

The walled-off ODST area took up the largest section of Microsoft's Gamescom booth, allowing 32 players at a time to check out the game.

When I swung by this weekend, the main line into the area had a 45 minute wait. Xbox Live gold members were able to sign up to wait in a shorter line and after playing were giving a free hat or poster. Players who scored more than 15,000 points in the timed firefight were also given a Halo 3 backpack.

My ten minutes with the game netted me a mere 5,000 or so points and two deaths, but I didn't manage to bring down the Wraith that spent the early part of the firefight peppering us with plasma mortars.

As with the three other firefight maps already shown off in ODST, Rally Point is drawn from an area in the single-player campaign. Because the maps have the potential to weaken the single-player experience if seen early, Bungie has been very tight-lipped about how many there are in total.

Rally Point is set in sector 10 of New Mombasa. This piece of the city forms a natural crossroads, making certain parts of the relatively small map killing zones. The spawn point for players is in a bunker of sorts that opens up onto the map near a series of plateaus leading down to the ground. There are also some rooms higher up on the map where covenant troops can spawn and flank what initially appears to be a relatively defendable position.

The bunker spawn point has areas for grabbing extra ammo and grenades. There are also mounted weapons that can be manned or pulled off to help mow down incoming troops.

The initial wave of enemies come from drop ships, but as the level progresses enemies begin to spawn in those rooms at the top of the map, forcing the four players to move back and forth between the high and low ends of the map to prevent getting flanked.

It's a map perfectly suited for the four-player coop mode, providing enough cover and enough enemy access points to create a difficult, but not impossible challenge.

The key to survival, as with any map in this mode, is to remember to stick together, something that becomes increasingly difficult as enemies begin to spawn at different ends of the map.

I've only played two of the Firefight maps so far, but this was my favorite because it felt a bit more like an arena than a big rectangle with a monster closet on one end.

Check out our Bungie-guided tour of the three other maps if you're interested in the coop that ODST has to offer when it hits the Xbox 360 in September.