For me, Halo has been the most important and crucial franchise for Xbox since its launch alongside the original console way back in 2001. It remains so today. Especially as it is looking like the next installment, Halo: Infinite, will launch alongside the new Xbox console next year (or at least that’s where I’m putting my money).

However, if you’ve only played Master Chief’s adventures, then you are missing out on a fantastic game in Halo 3: ODST. Many months ago I ranked all the Halo games and this made it into the top 5. That is simply because it’s Halo through and through, but not as you know it. 

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Halo 3: ODST started out as a small, short campaign which was pencilled for release between Halo 3 and Halo: Reach. However, once the decision had been made to focus the story on the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs), the project started to balloon from there. It still remains shorter than other Halo titles, however the aim was to provide a different experience from the franchise norm and this certainly proved to be the case.

The game tells the story of events on Earth just after the covenant corvette performs a slip-space jump during Halo 2. Set in New Mombasa, you play as new recruit “Rookie” in an open world setting where you go on to discover, in turn, the story of each ODST. You get to play through a scenario as each team member to discover exactly what happened to them. You may recognise Edward Buck, played by Firefly’s Nathan Fillion, from a couple of other entries in the series. From there it starts to become clear just how important the ODSTs are in stopping the Covenant from taking key steps in winning the war. It’s top Halo storytelling.

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The key difference to how Halo 3: ODST plays is that you can tackle any mission, in any order. As you explore the streets of New Mombasa you will also encounter Covenant patrols which you can choose to fight, or to sneak past altogether. You will also discover snippets of “Sadie’s Story”, which gives a gritty view of the war from a civilian perspective.

In fact, the whole feel of Halo 3: ODST is grittier, and much darker than other games. The Covenant occupied streets of New Mombasa are dark, moody and filled with danger. Not only this, but the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, it’s a real triumph. Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori rose to the challenge of creating something different, and produced a haunting, hopeless and deeply emotional score to hammer home the bleak narrative of the game.

The missions provide a nice juxtaposition to this and are great fun to play. The only slight disappointment for me is found in the amount of Brutes you have to fight off, who are by far my least favourite of the Covenant enemy forces. There’s the usual Halo mix of on foot and vehicle action, as well as a diverse range of locations across a besieged planet Earth. The game does an excellent job of illustrating how badly the odds are stacked against you. It’s maybe just a little less bleak than Halo: Reach however…

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As well as an enjoyable single player campaign which ties in really well with the story of the original trilogy, Halo 3: ODST boasted a multiplayer mode called “Firefight”. This was new to Halo, and is essentially a co-op gameplay mode for up to four players on Xbox Live. It was invite only, so no matchmaking, and featured most of Halo 3’s multiplayer traits, such as skulls and leaderboards.

The Halo universe has always fascinated me, and the games have told an easy to follow but gripping story. Halo 3: ODST expanded on the narrative and provided a unique experience in the franchise, whilst losing nothing of what makes it great. I honestly cannot recommend this game enough, and if you are a Halo fan who is yet to play it, make this the next game you play. You won’t regret it.

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