Here we are everyone, just mere weeks away from Halo 4's release, and if you're anything like me, you've been replaying the series, salivating over trailers, and bidding on Master Chief armor on eBay. Well...maybe you're not exactly like me, but you're probably anticipating the game anyways, if you have an Xbox 360. Isn't that why we all got an Xbox? To play Halo, right? It's one of the most celebrated video game franchises in existence, as it's constantly cited as one of the most important developments in our medium, alongside games like Super Mario, and The Legend Of Zelda.

I recently finished up a playthrough of the Halo series - like I stated above - as a refresher course for Halo 4. I wanted to go into the game totally updated on the series, and fully prepared for any curve balls, or plot twists that might present themselves throughout Halo 4's duration. This means that I've also been re-reading the books that have lead up to this point in the franchise.

During my re-tread of the Halo series, one title in particular stood out more than it did originally. More so than any other Halo title. The game in question was Halo 3: ODST (just in case the title didn't get that across). I was really surprised by this, as it was at one point my least liked game in the series. After getting a chance to take in the game and everything it has to offer, I came away refreshed. Many people claim ODST to be the worst Halo game in the series. Here's why I think it's one of the best.


The Story Is As Good As Anything From Expanded Fiction

One of the most criticized subjects from ODST was, The Rookie. The Rookie was/is the main character of the title, and is - at first glance - your typical silent protagonist. Even chief spouted off one liners right? Why should we settle for this guy? Another facet of The Rookie that's often frowned upon, is the fact that he re-lived the adventures of his squad mates, and didn't really contribute much himself. I disagree with that statement, but we'll get back to that in a second.

First of all, the Rookie was alone. He crash landed in a rough spot, a considerable distance away from his squadmates. You wouldn't hear me talking to myself much either. That's not to say that they couldn't have given him some quirky personality attribute, where he basically talked to himself or something. Wouldn't that have taken away from the experience though? You're alone. Your squad has essentially left you behind, there are Covenant swarming your location, and you have little-to-no idea what you're supposed to do.

A protagonist in this setting who spouts off one-liners, and delivers comic relief, would have simply taken away from the experience. Bungie wanted to make you feel, alone, and deserted. They wanted you to feel like hope was lost, and your situation dire. I think that by making The Rookie, a silent protagonist, they delivered on making the experience as stoic as the setting demanded.

As for the story outside of The Rookie, we got to meet some incredibly diverse, and interesting characters. One of which was Buck, who was played by Nathan Fillion. Outside of The Chief, and Cortana, I'd have to say that Buck was my favorite character from the series. He's an everyman, who's good enough at what he does, that he's considered to be almost on the same combat level as a Spartan. His everyman-ness is what makes him so intriguing. He's got a sort of rocky relationship with a fellow ODST by the name of Dare. She and Buck clearly have a history, but the game decides to leave that relationship up in the air, which lends their situation a certain sense of realism, instead of going in depth with their problems.

Combine both the Rookie's tale of loneliness, with Buck, and Dare's relationship, as well as the other squadmates stories and you have a tale that's on par with a Halo novel. We actually get to go further inside the heads of these characters, than we've ever been able to go with the Chief...well at least until Halo 4 releases anyways.


It Was Halo...But Then It Wasn't

What do you think of when you hear the word Halo? If you immediately thought of lyrics from Beyonce's hit song,'re alright. That song is awesome. But this blog isn't about Beyonce. So in the context of video games, when you hear Halo, what do you think of? If you said something along the lines of, "A first person shooter, in which, you throw plasma grenades into the faces of your foes" then you'd be correct. The core elements of Halo, have always been Guns, Grenades, and well as righteous, chanting monks.

Well, ODST, basically looked at the core Halo elements and said, "well that's cool...let's not do some of that". First of all, the scale of the story, and environment was scaled down dramatically. Instead of globetrotting, or spacetrotting - if you will - through expansive, lush environments, you were dropped into a darkened, and deserted city. Instead of happening upon firefight, after firefight, you could choose to opt out of battle in some situations. There were audio tapes littered throughout the city, that offered more insight into what exactly happened during the Covenant invasion, and before the events of the game itself.

Visuals, were rendered in dark colors, with bright outlines, which gave the game a unique noire atmosphere. Perhaps one of the greatest departures from your standard Halo title, is the soundtrack. Instead of pounding drums, and wailing choirs, we got a soft, melodic, jazzy sound. A saxophone was a primary instrument used in the making of the game, which heightened that sense of loneliness, which is something the base Halo soundtrack, certainly couldn't have accomplished.

It was also the first Halo game to not feature Microsoft's gaming mascot. Master Chief was absent throughout one-hundred percent of the game. To explain how giant of a risk this is, is honestly challenging for me. We're talking about one of the most beloved characters in modern-day gaming, missing from a franchise that he's been the face of for the better part of a decade. It was shocking to everyone. Some were taken aback in a more positive way, while others took to it in a negative light. I was the latter at first, but as I said, I've had a change of heart. I think it was a great decision to give the Chief a break, and focus on the rest of the Halo universe. We all know that, that as long as Microsoft is publishing games, the Halo series will continue on. One day, Master Chief will have to be let go of, for the sake of story. And it's good that Bungie showed that a Halo game could be done well without the big guy. In fact they did this twice with both ODST, and Halo: Reach.

I'm most certainly a die-hard Halo fan. I have been for the majority of my life. When my most loved game franchise is tampered with I tend to get antsy, but after the success of both ODST, and Reach, I have faith in the franchise. I'm even more comforted by the fact that, Halo can be reduced to smaller scale, and tell smaller stories, and still be excellent. I'm also at ease with the knowledge that the Halo series has seen it's share of major changes before, and any changes that might come with Halo 4 in a few weeks, will be welcome. Why? Because Halo 3: ODST showed that the Halo series isn't a one-trick pony. It's a diverse, sprawling narrative, consisting of many stories, both sweeping, and compact. It shows that digging into fiction outside of the Chief, and his struggles can be done. An achievement like that could use a little more love than what has been given to it.