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Orbital Drop Shock Troopers drop in to expand ‘Halo 3’

Though game developer Bungie released “Halo Wars” last year, it has been a while since gamers got a new first-person shooter set in the world of “Halo.”

That changed Tuesday with the release of “Halo 3: ODST.”

The newest entry from Microsoft’s biggest gaming franchise serves as a standalone expansion pack for “Halo 3,” but the events of the game don’t feature series protagonist Master Chief.

Instead, the player controls Orbital Drop Shock Troopers as they drop into the city of New Mombasa in an attempt to repel the occupying Covenant alien race.

What results is a game that focuses heavily on urban combat.

The player first controls “Rookie” as he tries to locate his fellow ODST members who have scattered about following their drop into the city. As the campaign progresses, the player controls other members of the group.

Fans of the television series “Firefly” will be excited to find out that three of the actors from the show provide voices for three of the soldiers. “Battlestar Galactica” actress Tricia Helfer also voices a character.

As the game progresses through the streets, alleys and buildings of the beautifully created New Mombasa, you’ll notice a number of differences from what you might expect from a “Halo” game.

Gamers no longer have the regenerative health powers of Master Chief. The ODST’s health doesn’t replenish as quickly, and you’ll have to rely on health packages from kiosks that line the city.

The game also has a detective feel to it. The soldiers must discover clues along the way that will lead them back to the group. There’s also an interesting side-story involving a girl caught in the middle of the Covenant invasion.

The campaign has plenty of strengths, but there is also a disconnect with the protagonists. There isn’t much character development. Because of that, the game feels just like an expansion pack, and less like a game that can stand on its own merits.

Perhaps the strongest part of the game is the Firefight game mode.

It’s similar to the modes from other games in which you find endless swarms of enemies. It was an addicting mode in “Gears of War 2” and “Left 4 Dead,” and it is here, too.

Along with the purchase of “Halo 3: ODST,” gamers also get all of the multi-player maps from “Halo 3” included on a second disc.

While “ODST” has its own substantial campaign mode, the game does feel like a new “Halo” game. We’ll have to wait until next year’s “Halo Reach” to see if we can get a truly new “Halo” game. This will do for now.

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