Why 343’s next Halo Xbox game needs to be a return to ODST

With its smooth jazz and iconic New Mombasa streets, we need Xbox's next Halo game to return to the remarkable world of Halo 3: ODST.

Halo Infinite ODST sequel: Concept art for Halo ODST showing a soldier wearing full armor and aiming a pistol. In the background is an Xbox logo and a blurred image of New Mombasa in the rain.

Xbox, where is my Halo ODST sequel? After the recent news that a former 343 Industries employee has been working on an unannounced Halo project, possibly even in Unreal Engine 5, I think it’s high time we returned to the tactical themes and rain-drenched streets of Halo 3: ODST. Long over a decade later, ODST still stands as arguably the most unique Halo game to date and leaving it behind constitutes leaving a golden opportunity behind too.

As much as I’ve been loving Halo Infinite’s multiplayer modes in the latest season – so much so that Halo Infinite is the Xbox exclusive I’m most excited about in 2024 – it’s missing that flair that both Halo Reach and Halo 3: ODST have; I’ve all-but ignored Infinite’s campaign if I’m honest. With Xbox undoubtedly thinking about what’s next for the franchise, I’m hoping we see a new Xbox game in the series take inspiration from its most forgotten entry.

Inspired by the news that an unannounced Halo project is now in development, as was spotted by ‘IdleSloth’, I was compelled to take a look back at one of the best FPS games series, inevitably getting caught up in a wave of nostalgia for Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach. Returning to ODST in particular, it’s impossible to ignore the vibe.

Halo Infinite ODST sequel: ODSTs fighting Covenant forces in an urban environment, with a grenade exploding in the distance.

The impact of ODST is not felt in the loud, bombastic firefights but in the quiet moments of walking the city streets – often alone and shrouded in darkness. The ODSTs – grimly also known as Helljumpers – are soldiers like any other who have endured hellish warzones, not quite like the super-soldier Spartans that lead every other entry. Buck, Dutch, Mickey, Romeo, Dare, and The Rookie – all soldiers in the shadow of a great war that, intentionally, have little direct impact on the narrative. They don’t ‘finish the fight’ as the iconic Master Chief does, they merely do their job (one they know little about) and pass the baton on.

Despite that, Halo 3: ODST was full of heart. Its core characters formed a tight-knit squad tasked with getting in quickly and, ideally, getting out alive with the objectives complete. This bond, paired with the more fragile nature of ODSTs, suppressors, smooth jazz, and pouring rain made you feel like an elite squad sneaking behind enemy lines in a desperate attempt to win a losing war. Complete with Halo’s iconic visor HUD and ODST’s unique night-vision capabilities, in many ways, ODST felt like it should have been a tactical shooter and borrowed less of Halo’s traditional all-out action – most evident in the various vehicle sections.

My hope for Halo’s new project is to once again feel like a small cog in a machine like ODST did, yet invoke a more hefty, tactical feel to the gameplay. Imagine orbital-dropping behind enemy lines with your team, decked out with silenced weapons and limited armor, and ordering your allies to cover areas or push locked doors. Treasure each and every shot you have left and keep stock of your medical supplies though as you’d have no support, just you and your squad. Think Halo meets Ready or Not or Zero Hour, both tactical FPS games emphasizing small-scale conflicts and methodical action.

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From Halo 4 onwards, including Infinite’s campaign, I’ve felt it’s time to give the Chief, and possibly even the bombastic action of the Spartans altogether, a bit of a break. Before moving on to Destiny, this was seemingly Bungie’s philosophy as well, releasing Halo 3: ODST and then Halo Reach, both of which struck a more somber and grounded approach that, to this day, still leaves me in awe.

If Xbox truly wants to wow with a more emotional and unique Halo campaign experience, then I think it should instead look to ODST and Reach rather than the original trilogy that evidently inspired Halo 4 onwards – which, at times, felt like mimicry. I think then we’d be left with one of the best games in the Halo franchise, taking the diverse sandbox and slick feeling of Infinite but infusing it with the more grounded – often bleak – approach of ODST. Oh, and of course it needs to have plenty of rain and jazz…

In between daydreaming about this mythological Halo ODST 2, why not take a look at our equally radical Xbox Developer Direct predictions? Hopefully, Microsoft delivers a big old curveball alongside all the info it’s promised on the likes of Avowed and the new Indiana Jones game, which has a surprisingly underwhelming name according to recent leaks.