Halo 3 is one of the most popular games for the Xbox 360, and in the years since it was released its multiplayer component has dominated Microsoft's online game matching system, second only to Activision's Call of Duty series.

Halo 3 is one of the most popular games for the Xbox 360, and in the years since it was released its multiplayer component has dominated Microsoft's online game matching system, second only to Activision's Call of Duty series.

With Halo 3: ODST, fans will get a new cooperative mode to play with friends plus a short and uneven single-player side story to the main Halo experience.

Originally announced as a Halo 3 expansion pack with a budget price, ODST is instead being released at full price thanks to the inclusion of multiplayer features (including all the available multiplayer maps). Even with the online combat portions, though, this hardly feels like a title that deserves a $60 price tag.

The single-player story centers on a squad of alpha-male space marines called Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, or ODSTs. Players will spend the four to six hours of gameplay flipping among five of these characters as the story of a city under siege by alien invaders unravels.

The central character, known only as "The Rookie," is a voiceless, faceless character with no apparent personality. Thankfully the remaining squad members add character to the tale, but the story itself feels a bit too formulaic.

ODST's campaign flips between flashback sequences and a nighttime "hub" setting, where players wander alone through the streets of New Mombasa to unlock clues to the fate of The Rookies' companions.

The whole experience is supposed to impart feelings of isolation and discovery as the player acts as a detective, but since the game feeds you all the details in order, there's little actual detecting to be done.

A number of actors from the failed Fox TV show Firefly play the key roles in ODST, and while the voice acting itself is well done, the cliched script really leaves them out to dry.

ODST's Firefight multiplayer mode is the best reason to pick up the game. You and your companions work together to resist random waves of alien foes, with each successive wave becoming more difficult. It's playable both online and with friends on the same console.

Ultimately Halo 3: ODST is an average game that would have been better received as a downloadable add-on or a budget-price title. Only die-hard Halo 3 fans need to own this game. Otherwise, it's best to wait and pick up a discounted copy in the coming months.

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