Review: Halo Wars
An RTS title based on one of the flagship Xbox franchises? Surely it's a cash-in, right?
- Worth The Time?Yes
- Things LovedGreat sound, true to the series visuals are pretty to look at, narrative is surprisingly good. Simple but effective gameplay.
- Things HatedCan't compare to PC RTS, Controls leave some to be desired. Over-simplified in some regards.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of Halo, consider giving this a look. If you're a fan of the typical PC RTS then you'll likely be disappointed by this simple console offering.
- Name: Halo Wars
- Genre: RTS
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: Xbox 360
- Developer: Ensemble Studios
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Price: R600
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Halo Wars takes place in the 26th century Halo universe. In 2525, humans were attacked by a collective of alien races known as the Covenant. The Covenant declared humanity an affront to their gods, the Forerunners, and have aggressively waged war against the humans, under the auspices of the United Nations Space Command. The game takes place in the year 2531, roughly 20 years before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo Wars opens on the colony world of Harvest, six years after the planet was invaded by the Covenant; UNSC forces are still engaged in bitter conflict with the Covenant on the ground, and the UNSC ship Spirit of Fire is sent to investigate why the Covenant are still interested in the planet.
When the game begins, you’re introduced to the new cast of characters set 20 years before the original Halo meaning that Master Chief is no where to be found yet. Instead, we are introduced to a new cast of characters which includes Lieutenant Forge, Ellen Anders and Serina, a super-intelligent and highly sarcastic artificial intelligence with a dry and sardonic sense of humor, aboard the Spirit of Fire. Who are currently embroiled in an ongoing conflict with Covenant forces.
During the course of the game you’ll visit different planets, and eventually run into a few old friends, depending on how much of a fan of the Halo franchise you are so many of the locations and some of the characters will be well known too fans. Halo Wars does a really great job of delivering the story of the Halo universe, and my favorite franchise when it comes to making me care for the side characters in a story that is usually dominated by Cortana and Master Chief. The cutscene in between missions in Halo Wars work really well to drive the story forward, not to mention they are visually stunning to look at.
The beauty of Halo Wars is its simplicity, and that it does not focus heavily on resource gathering and tech tree management, this all adds up to a gameplay formula that is light on the boring kind of micromanagement that we are used to in real time strategy games these days. Halo Wars is very reminiscent of StarCraft in that it just adds enough depth to be interesting, and lets the players strategy take care of the rest during the game. The tech trees in Halo Wars are highly streamlined but still very important in the game.
Upgrades like the marines’ rocket launcher and the scorpion tanks canister shell makes all the difference the damage units can deliver, and can easily turn around the tide of a battle. Bases are self-contained complexes with a central hub surrounded by expansion pads, these pads are for building structures such as a barracks and vehicle depots. And also limits you to the amount of buildings you can build per base adding another element of strategy to the game.
For the back end of Halo Wars all that you need to worry about is supply units for building units, upgrading and building, technology for upgrades and population which limits the amount of troops you can use on a single level. Supply points automatically come in when you build a supply pad and can also be gathered from crates that are located all over each map. The simple things in Halo Wars cost minimal recourse units to build like the Marine up to more evolved units like the ODST infantry and Spartans, which costs a lot more to produce.
The simplicity of Halo Wars does not end here. Most of the levels on hand are really short but loads of fun to play, and the replay value for each level is really high when you want that perfect scores collecting all the skulls and black boxes during the course of the game. Every mission I played had a pretty straight forward goal and objectives, and the way you can complete each is already set out for you. Halo Wars is a perfect example of a game that works well with less complications and more simplified gameplay.
The graphics in Halo Wars is extremely faithful to the Halo universe when it comes to the presentation and overall look of the game. People will immediately feel at home when they first see the very Halo like menu. The game maps are varied and highly detailed with lots of added touches which only adds to the overall Halo like feel of the game. The units in Halo Wars aren’t as polished as some of the PC RTS games out there today, the game looks great and more importantly it runs great no matter how many units you throw into a single map.
I absolutely love the Halo Wars music, it is right up there as one of my all time favorite game soundtracks, and I must say that Stephen Rippy did a cracker of a job on this. The soundtrack for Halo Wars took almost 2 years to complete, he started composing it back in April of 2007. And it involved the FILMharmonic Orchestra and was composed and conducted solely in the city of Prague the capital of the Czech Republic. You can find a interview with Stephen Rippy here, some really insightful stuff in the article. And shows you what kind of effort goes into making a soundtracks for a game like Halo Wars.
Halo Wars uses the console controller’s A-button primarily for selecting units and the X-button for moving to or attacking a target. Selecting a unit gives the player the option of commands and selecting certain buildings brings up a circle menu, the most important menu in the game, which is used for creating units and buildings and researching upgrades. My only complaint here is that it would have been nice to be able to select only some of your units instead all of them, this would have made commanding your units much easier in the game, but overall the controls work really well for a RTS console game.
How much you enjoy Halo Wars and how you perceive Halo Wars completely depends on what you are expecting from the game. If you are looking for a PC RTS experience from Halo Wars then I can guarantee you that you will leave disappointed. But if you understand and appreciate that this is a console RTS game then you are going to be in for one very enjoyable game. Which I can highly recommend, to friends or fans of the Halo franchise without any reservations.