Microsoft’s Halo series is easily one of
the world’s most popular first person shooters that originally began on
the XBox and finally concluded on the XBox 360 with not only a
spectacular gaming experience but a storyline to match. Strangely
enough, who would have thought that Halo would spawn a real-time
strategy (RTS) from the makers of one of the world’s most memorable
games, Age of Empires II. Ironically, Halo Wars is also the swan song for
Ensemble Studios and best of all, the developers have ensured users of
the XBox 360 have a flawless RTS experience.
Without spoiling the story behind Halo
Wars, it takes place 20 years before the original Halo game and gamers
control the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire that has been sent to
investigate a Covenant threat. What really sets this game apart from
other RTS titles is the amazing pre-rendered cutscenes that look quite
stunning and really assist in immersing you into this amazing storyline.
For those unfamiliar with RTS games, Halo
Wars is a top view strategy game that has the player creating buildings
and units to protect their base and also engage and hopefully defeat the
enemy. The best part of Halo Wars is the attention to detail, more
specifically the plethora of references made to the Halo series that
both fan boys and girls will simply adore. The game has a
micromanagement aspect to the title in relation to creating and
upgrading units which is ideal for the console the world. That is, it is
not too complicated.
The game features your traditional RTS
gameplay modes that include a story driven campaign mode with 14
missions that can also be completed cooperatively (ala Halo). It’s
thoroughly entertaining seeing all the Halo references and characters in
the game from controlling your Marines or the various vehicles that have
appeared in the first person shooter games. Each of the various factions
that you play handle differently which allows for some great
Although Halo Wars could be considered an
RTS-lite game as Ensemble have ensured to use the console to its full
advantage without the title becoming a confusing PC port (Red Alert 3).
For example, the mouse is the primary device to control your units on
the PC which allows for some quite in-depth controls, however with the
XBox 360 controller, although it could mimic the PC with it’s mouse, the
game would just become a frustrating experience. This works quite well
on the 360 such as using the A button to select one unit, double AA to
select multiple units or the right shoulder button for all units.
The D-pad of the controller allows you to
access the menu system of Halo Wars such as accessing alerts or bases,
whereas the X button is used to target a location or enemy and the Y
button to active a units special ability. Although the control system is
rather a steep learning curve, it allows the player to immediately get
into the gaming from the get go and as you progress so do your skills
and your mastery of the control system. Needless to say, Ensemble have
brilliant mapped the control system of this RTS game well, without the
controls becoming too convoluted or difficult.
Graphically, Halo Wars looks quite
spectacular in high definition with an impressive 3D created gaming
environment and of course, the variety of Halo inspired references. The characters
are well modeled as are the special effects in the game that are
complimented by the amazing prerendered cutscenes that go hand in hand
with the gameplay. The music of the game is inspired by the original
games that includes some great voice acting and a plethora of realistic
In conclusion, Halo Wars is a very
impressive and sturdy RTS game on the XBox 360 and my only complaint
being is handling your units during the last missions which does become
sometimes tedious as you are trying to select the correct units and you
end up selecting the incorrect ones. Needless to say, Ensemble have
created a truly entertaining game with great maps, missions and
hopefully in the future some downloadable content.
Definitely a game for
Halo fans who are interested in RTS.