Hello all! Last week, I wrote about the first time I played a game over the Internet. Crazy, right? What will they think of next?

Today brings us a spinoff (or side-story, or something) of the Halo universe, which I’m told is pretty popular.

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Halo 3: ODST is, as the title indicates, a spinoff of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. What follows is based on the Xbox One version, though, because I never played Halo until I got the current-gen version. Anyway, ODST, despite the title, takes place during and after Halo 2 and features a team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers who have crash landed in New Mombasa. As the Rookie, awakening some hours after the crash, you roam around a moderately-sized city and discover clues regarding the fates of your squadmates, fighting Covenant forces along the way.

As you find these clues, be it a helmet, a gun, or whatever, you take control of the various members of the ODSTs and learn what happened to each of them through various missions. It’s a unique structure, especially in a series of games that I thought to be ordinary at first (see linked article, above). Being designed as an expansion of sorts, ODST isn’t particularly long, but I wouldn’t call it overly short, either. It’s a decent length, suitable for the side story it’s trying to tell.

You still look like a Halo dude, though.

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There’s no reason to go into the gameplay too much; everyone knows how Halo plays. The nontraditional story structure and discoverable audio files recounting the story of a civilian girl’s efforts to evade the Covenant invasion are the two main ways ODST separates itself from the main series.

But there’s also the tone. ODST is dramatically different from the main Halo series (and, by extension, most shooters) by offering a somewhat quieter shooter. Playing as the Rookie and roaming around New Mombasa seeking your squadmates is a somber experience; there’s fighting, but a lot of it is subdued. There are few “big” moments during these segments—you’ll often fight just a small handful of Covenant forces during your trek to the next clue. The flashback missions are classic loud, blow-em-up Halo, but even then, there’s a kind of less-epic feel to them. The missions are more grounded.

There’s no “this will stop the Covenant once and for all” moment, nor is there the destruction of some enormous superweapon in the climax. For ODST is the simple story of soldiers trying to get home. They do, of course, stumble upon something that leads into Halo 3, but even so, the entire plot is much more “ground level” than previous or future Halos. There’s something very authentic about that; the characters are more relatable because they’re more ordinary than Master Chief (I like Chief, but he has the personality of your average toaster) or Sergeant Johnson (who is a cartoon). Romeo, Dutch, Buck, Mickey, and Dare (and you, the silent Rookie) have a much more “everyday person” feel than most everyone else in Halo. One could compare it today (slightly) to Rogue One, which took a different look at the Star Wars universe, (mostly) away from the space wizards that populate that old, far away galaxy.

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The game is simultaneously Halo and something different.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the soundtrack, which is my favorite part of ODST. Bungie’s composer Martin O’Donnell wisely avoided overtly military, action-packed themes for Halos 1-3, creating a somewhat more ambient, sweeping soundtrack, but ODST upends that completely by featuring somber, quieter piano themes with a light jazz influence. It’s superb; it’s the best Halo soundtrack in my opinion, and likely yours too. Have a listen to...just, any of it:

I mainly bought ODST for completion’s sake, and also because it cost me $5. Also, I was deep in the Halo rabbit hole at the time, soaking in all of it (though I have yet to play Reach or Halo 5). This little side adventure about ordinary soldiers just trying to escape turned into possibly my favorite Halo title, and I think other shooters could learn a thing or two by ODST’s more measured, grounded pace. But ultimately, there’s a place for both this and loud, nonsense shooting. As always, I’m glad I eventually got around to Halo.

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Thanks for reading my stuff! Yell at me on Twitter about why I’m wrong, and/or suggest other games I should cover! Hit the comments! And, I’ve got a new site coming soon, which may be just a basic blog for now, but stay tuned.

Next time, I replay an old arcade *ahem* “classic” that’s based on a TV show that’s still on 27 years later, and find out that while some games age gracefully, others just age.