Halo Wars is a title that is set twenty years prior to the Halo event. As such Master Chief is not involved in this title at all, however, you do utilize Spartans. You command the UNSC as you battle the Covenant forces in a variety of locales. The game opens up with a brief cinematic of the battle that took place on Harvest and that is where your journey begins. You will be tasked with a wide variety of objectives throughout the campaign as you fight to retake your base, save civilians from the Covenant, try to wipe them out completely and more. As you progress through the campaign you will be rewarded with some amazing looking cinematics that help to move the story forward. Ensemble did a tremendous job with these cinematics as I found myself watching them multiple times. Fans of the Halo series are familiar with Cortana, however, she is nowhere to be found in this title. Instead you have Serina there to help you out through your journey. Ensemble did a great job in giving Serina a personality as she won’t hesitate to make a sarcastic comment or warn you of the risks involved with your plan. The character development and voice acting in this game is also top notch as you become increasingly familiar with each of their respective personalities.
One of the major concerns that people had when this title was first announced was how Ensemble would handle real time strategy controls on a console. Other companies have tried in the past with mixed results at best. Thankfully Ensemble completely nailed the control scheme. The original Halo title helped set a precedent for first person shooters on a console and I believe that the franchise has done that once more, this time in the strategy genre, with Halo Wars. Hopefully companies who make future strategy titles on consoles will utilize this simplified control scheme. You can select individual units simply by pressing the “A” button, hold down the “A” button so you can control multiple units at once or hit the “LB” button to select all of your units that are on the battlefield. If you want to quickly send some units to two different spots you can select them all and then decide which units will go where. It is a very nice system that seems to flow really well. The campaign itself also has some really nice pacing. You always seemed to be doing something a little different with there also being bonus optional objectives for you to complete.
With this being a title set in the Halo universe there are also a bunch of different options for you to explore. There is the campaign of course, however, you can also choose to participate in skirmish matches or take your skills online and see if you have what it takes to successfully command your unit. Halo fanatics will get a kick here as you can control the Covenant forces in the multiplayer and use all of their special tactics. There is also the option of going through the campaign cooperatively with one of your friends either through a system link or Xbox Live. There is a Halo timeline for you to explore which covers events throughout the Halo series which should prove to be an invaluable resource for those who think they know everything about Halo. Of course the whole timeline is not unlocked at the beginning and you unlock more events on the timeline by completing certain objectives throughout the campaign. Then there is the Theater mode. Here you can watch all of the cinematics that you have unlocked by going through the campaign. Once you have gone through the campaign and unlocked everything you can choose the “play all” feature and watch all of the cinematics from the game from beginning to finish without interruption. It’s a great additional feature and it will take you around thirty minutes or so to watch all of the cinematics in that fashion. There is also your service record with all of your statistics that you can check at any time similar to how Bungie has done it with previous Halo titles. When you first start the game and enter the main menu there are also tips and trivia for you check out. One piece of trivia that popped up when I was playing was the first name of the Arbiter. You also have skulls to find in the campaign similar to the skulls you found in Halo 3. You can turn these skulls on and off and each one will have various effects.
Overall this is a tremendous addition to the Halo universe. Another question that has been asked throughout the development of this title is whether the Halo fan base would like this game since it is not a first person shooter. I believe that Ensemble has done a tremendous job with this title and that those same people who enjoy the Halo shooters will also enjoy this title. If you have never played a real time strategy game before this would also be a good game to play to introduce yourself to the genre. There is quite a bit here for newcomers and veterans alike. You can hone your skills in the campaign and then once you are ready hit Xbox Live and challenge the world. With a Halo title comes a certain amount of expectations and Ensemble has hit all of them. This is the best real time strategy game to ever hit a console.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network