Halo Wars Review

10 09 2009

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The popular science fiction story, Halo, has been adapted so many times you would have thought its fan base would have become bored by now.

Aliens with blasters straight out of a Star Wars film, masked green men who remind us all why facial expressions are important in acting and all female characters being either GI Jane or computer programs have been used since Bungie began developing games 10 years ago.

But no matter how often the series has been the result of humour, its books are still being sold every day, its internet comedies are still being watched by thousands all the time and the covenant are still being killed on a regular basis with the 10 billionth alien being slain worldwide in the single player campaign on April 14th 2009.

Halo Wars is the newest edition to the wide branch of Halo adaptations. It is set 20 years prior to the events of Halo combat evolved and doesn’t follow the first person shooter genre that Bungie has pulled off so well in the original trilogy. The game is set in the 26th century in 2531, 6 years after the human race has been attacked by an alien force known as the Covenant. The UNSC (United Nations Space Command) are locked in battle with the brutal enemy during the events of Halo Wars, but instead of seeing this through the eyes of a single Spartan warrior, we are able to command armies from a bird’s-eye view of the battle field. The RTS (Real-time Strategy) genre has generally been exclusive to the PC in the past but Ensemble Studios decided to break this chain and develop the game exclusively to the Xbox 360.

Halo Wars follows the path of the Spirit of Fire, a UNSC warship, and its crew. The gameplay focuses on a military combat system as well as base construction and resource management. It stays true to its name as an RTS title though many have been very critical in that there is no option for a keyboard. I personally loved the layout of the controls. The Ensemble team worked at them from the ground up on the controller and not on the PC, which is usually then converted from a keyboard layout to a controller. I admit that when I first played Halo Wars I was having doubts on whether or not I could have put my $120 to better use, even if it did come in a 3D packaging with a bunch of collectable content that any true Halo fanatic would die for. But as soon as I became used to the controller set up, it became one of my favourite games. So to all you PC fan boys, get over yourselves and give it a chance. The controls are very simple and easy to use. A tap of the ‘A’ button and a unit is selected while a double tap will select all of the same units on the screen. Using the ‘D Pad’ players can zoom across the map to home in on key locations and with a single press of the ‘LB’ your entire military force will be selected making it increasingly easier to mass an assault.

The design of the game is very interesting. It presents some of the well known locations in the Halo universe in a great way but also introduces us to new and imaginative locations. Even if you don’t like the game it is well worth the money just to see the in-game campaign, cinematic cutscenes. The SGI works are incredibly detailed, reeling you into the story. As every game has its positive points, no game is without its faults. The in-game graphics are not parallel to the cutscenes to say the least. They are somewhat too vibrant and bright making a war scene look like the painter Turner went overboard with the fluoro colours. The AI is impressive at times but as soon as an army needs to pass through a small space, they seem incapable of forming a single file line but instead get stuck; making the player wish Ensemble had included a ‘delete unit button.’

The strategy involved in finishing the game has been put in question quite often in other reviews but they have obviously never played the game on Legendary or Automatic 100 skill level. They are right in saying that to beat the game very little skill is needed, but as soon as you crank up the difficulty and actually have to form well planned assaults the strategy side of the experience shines through.

I can definitely recommend Halo Wars whether you want a great RTS game, new insight on the Halo universe or even a $120 collection of cutscenes.

8.5/10

Dashby

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