The latest installment of the Xbox 360 “Halo” franchise arrives today,

and fans worldwide are lining up to get their hands on the wildly popular game, dubbed “Halo 3: ODST.”

The abbreviation in the title stands for “Orbital Drop Shock Troopers,” a group of fighters well-known to “Halo” fans but only as supporting characters in previous versions of the game. PC Worldsums it up like this:

The idea for ODST began as an expansion pack for “Halo 3,” just a couple hours of first-person run-and-gunnery devoted to the unsung heroes of the series, the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, aka the guys blown to smithereens as you piloted Master Chief around the last three games like a Jedi bulldozer.
“Halo 3: ODST” technically counts as “Halo 3-point-five,” except that’s not exactly right. Its story occurs before the operatic gunplay of “Halo 3″ (PCW Score: 85 percent), so it’s really more like “Halo 2-and-a-half.” In “Halo 2,” the alien Covenant attack Earth and you engage the early parts of that game repulsing them. In retreat, one of their faster-than-light jump ships generates a disastrous shock wave above a fictional African city. In “ODST,” you play a “rookie” United Nations Space Command soldier trapped in the city after the calamity, scouring the wreckage for your missing squad-mates.

Microsoft expects big sales and high demand for the game — but do gamers agree with the hype? Early reviews are largely positive. Crispy Gamer hailed the game’s Firefight feature, but expressed doubt that the latest “Halo” offering has kept pace with similar action-game franchises like “Call of Duty,” “Left 4 Dead” and “Gears of War.”



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