Platform(s): Xbox 360
Developer: Ensemble Studios
To be honest even after the months of coverage and hype, Halo Wars wasn’t really on my radar, even being an avid Halo fan. Surprisingly though I found myself playing the demo several times. I’m so conditioned to crappy ports over years, (Starcraft, Supreme Commander, ect) that I hardly care when a real time strategy comes to a console system. I must say that Halo Wars gives me faith in RTS’. Not to say that Halo Wars is flawless. It does have its shortcomings and I think the more hardcore RTS gamers will probably stick to their computer for strategy games.
Story / Campaign
The campaign starts out nice and slow and in typical fashion the first few levels are essentially training. Scattered throughout each level are skulls that you can collect for achievements and activate certain abilities. There’s a nice diversity to the mission objectives that’s thankfully more than; “protect this” or “destroy that”. While the story obviously doesn’t involve Master Chief, its fits nicely into the Halo universe and adds some nice dimension to the story. The cinematics in this game are absolutely gorgeous and there is a theater option that lets you go back and watch each scene, which is handy. I was sorely disappointed that there wasn’t a Covenant campaign. The game begs for it and it’s the biggest void in the story mode of Halo Wars.
Multiplayer offers you your choice of 6 different leaders, each with their own unique units and abilities. There’s a decent difference between the units, leaders, and abilities while still maintaining balance between the races. There may only be one campaign story but there’s a nice selection of multiplayer options to choose from. Between Xbox Live, split screen and online co-op, you’re covered. There are a few minor options I found myself wishing they included; such as having the ability to choose your start location and the option to have matches that are 2 on 3, for example. No surprise that your AI teammates prove mostly useless while the AI opponents will demolish you 7 minutes into the game. You will notice a little lag when you get enough units to converge on the battlefield, buts it’s manageable.
Ensemble really nailed the RTS genre for the console, even though the bar had been set pretty low by so many half-assed ports in the past. The controls and navigation are solid and intuitive. The simplicity of the controls is really what helps make Halo Wars work on the 360. Ensemble set out to make a strategy game for the 360 and turned out a great game because it was designed for a console and not a simple port. Yes, the game does feel some what incomplete with only a UNSC campaign. Never the less, much like Halo instilled hope for console FPS’, Halo Wars shows us that you can make a great RTS on a console.