I'm working on my write-up of Halo 3: ODST, but there's a certain side-benefit to the game. It includes its own set of "Vidmaster" achievements and the promise that, if you complete all the Vidmaster achievements in ODST and Halo 3, you can actually unlock the coveted Recon armor type for use in Halo 3 multiplayer.
What's so special about Recon? Well, to be honest, not a whole lot. Let's face it: it's just another armor type. It gives you no special advantage in the game, there are no special properties to it, you don't run faster or jump higher or take any more damage. And yet, this armor, previously available only by the grace of the employees at Bungie if you happened to "somehow" get their attention, was so sought-after that people were willing to surrender their accounts to random people just for the unlikely possibility that this purely cosmetic model skin would be unlocked for their use.
Some say the fact that anyone can now unlock it on their own diminishes the "value" of Recon. There is a point to this — this was a prize that, according to Bungie, was reserved for those who did make some noticeable, positive contribution to the Halo community. Although, the game has been out for two years, I think (and, so it would seem, Bungie agrees) the point has long since been made, and opening it up to the rest of the world isn't so bad.
And it's not like the armor is easy to get by any means. Let's take a quick look at what is involved:
- 7 on 7 Halo 3 — Get 7 experience points in any playlist on the 7th of the month. When this achievement was first released, this involved finding a playlist where you had less than 7XP, waiting for the 7th of any month, and getting the appropriate number of wins. This achievement coincided with a new per-playlist XP system, so ideally it wasn't an issue. However, to accommodate those who exceeded 7XP on all playlists really quickly, Bungie occasionally makes a new playlist around the 7th of the month, where everyone has 0XP. Needless to say, I didn't have that problem; I had plenty of playlists under 7XP when the first 7th rolled around.
- Annual Halo 3 — Finish the last level of Halo 3 with four players, on Legendary, with the Iron skull, with everyone in Ghosts. The thing that makes this one difficult is, because of the Iron skull, if one person dies, the whole team reverts to the last checkpoint. However, making the final run on the exploding Halo in a Ghost, I think, is more fun than in the default Warthog. After doing this once for myself, I've been in a party to help others get this achievement twice since. It's called "Annual" because it only counted on or after 25 September 2008, one year after the original launch date of Halo 3.
- Brainpan Halo 3 — Find all the hidden skulls on all Mythic maps. In Forge mode, you can find a skull on each of the maps in the Mythic map pack. I'm not a fan of "find all the hidden…" achievements, so I automatically go to the internet for things like this. Finding the hidden skulls on each of the six maps (three were only available with ODST's release) was trivial.
- Classic ODST — Finish any level solo, on Legendary, without firing a shot or grenade. Although this wasn't super-easy, there was one level in particular where it was possible to blast through — although a slight glitch where the game seems to consider honking the horn of the Warthog "firing a shot" meant I had to do this more than once.
- Déjà Vu ODST — Finish the last level with 4 players, on Legendary, Iron skull on, without a Warthog or Scorpion. This is extremely similar to Annual (hence the name), except I would argue much harder. Bungie did make it easier than it could've been in this set-up by giving you a pair of Mongooses and rocket launchers for everyone with 999 (!) rockets apiece, but it was still slow-going with many restarts and, at times, checkpoints that just refused to pop.
- Endure ODST — On Firefight, with 4 players, on Heroic, survive to the start of the 5th set. This was, by far, the hardest of the challenges to complete. In Firefight, you have a limited number of lives, and although you can earn a few more, if you run out, the game is over. A "set" in Firefight consists of three "rounds", and each round is five "waves", so in order to get this achievement, you have to survive four complete sets, or 60 waves of enemies. The game makes each round & set progressively harder by cycling the number of skulls activated. By the time you get to the last wave, all the skulls (except Iron) are turned on, so that enemies are tougher, shots do less damage, you can't recover stamina unless you melee, they throw grenades like there's no tomorrow, they dodge your grenades, and what weapons you manage to find have less ammo in them. And if you fail, you can't just restart at the last checkpoint and continue — the whole effort is wasted. I had three failed attempts of note (a fourth, we didn't even make it past the second round), all of which we got to the 4th set (one all the way to the very last wave), and each lasting over two hours.
- Lightswitch Halo 3 — Achieve the rank of Lieutenant in any playlist. This is one that undoubtedly unlocks over time if you play enough, although I managed to get it in a weekend of Double-XP Grifball.
Finally, after a very late night on Saturday and with the help of three other friends, I completed the Endure challenge, unlocking the last of my Vidmaster achievements. I now, officially, legitimately, haz Recon.
Of course, I still suck. :D