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Halo Wars review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Tons of cool units
  • Looks beautiful
  • Captures the Halo universe
  • Limited tactical potential
  • Jerky framerate
  • Typical console RTS control woes

 A whole new genre for one of the most valuable properties in gaming, or a basic Command & Conquer-alike with the Halo name slapped on? Our early enthusiasm waned with the closure of Ensemble and a less-than-stellar preview version, and despite trying our best to see the positive side, Halo Wars remains a damned difficult game to warm to.

 

The borrowed foundations will be immediately familiar to RTS fans. You start with a base that can be customised with a limited number of bits to make it capable of producing different types of vehicles and soldiers, including many you won’t have seen in the proper Halo games. Depending on how you develop your army, you’ll have access to flamethrower marines, modified Scorpion tanks that lob devastating cluster bombs, Elephant mobile fortresses, multiple grades of Warthog jeep and even a handful of Spartans.

Bases can be expanded and upgraded, adding self-defense capabilities and extra modules for developing technology and processing resources – the game’s currency. Larger maps allow the building of multiple bases, making it possible to max out the army and hit a unit cap which can be increased, in some cases, if you have enough resources to spend.

 

After a while you’ll amass the kind of war machine that would breeze through any of Halo 3’s iconic set-pieces – a fearless, multi-skilled task force equipped to fight on foot, on wheels or in the air, and capable of replenishing itself as it rumbles through enemy strongholds. But no matter what specialities you decide to invest in, the tactical potential of any battle is woefully limited. When the bullets start flying it almost always degenerates into a headlong charge towards the enemy, the limited controls and jerky framerate lending your army all the responsiveness of a broken shopping trolley after a treacle spillage on aisle nine.

 

Placing stronger units towards the front of the pack and having long-range ones at the rear would seem to be the most sensible option in a battle, but no preset formations are allowed here. You have to try moving small groups of them individually, which is a real pain when there are countless enemies camped out nearby. While you’re struggling to assemble a particular group, any units not under direct control will succumb to bloodlust and start attacking, even if it’s a bunch of marines against a Scarab.

 

You can’t easily split the army and try flanking the enemy. The only real variation you can introduce into these predictable wars of attrition is to command units to launch their secondary attacks by tapping Y. It takes a while to recharge, and as soon as it’s ready you’ll want to do it again and again – because your opponent will be doing exactly the same.

When there are several players, either human or AI, you can team up with allies and co-ordinate attacks, but each player is still stifled by the same limitations that plague the solo campaign. It’s a shame because the cutscenes are of a supremely high quality and the presentation mimics Halo 3’s clean precision. Essentially, then, Halo Wars looks the part but it’s basically all show. There was a brilliantly innovative online RTS series a few years back that had the same sort of fun and depth as Halo – Bungie’s very own Myth games, now sadly forgotten. Reviving something like that would have been a lot more appropriate than the generic, inflexible Halo Wars.

 

Feb 20, 2009

More Info

Release date: Mar 03 2009 - Xbox 360 (US)
Feb 27 2009 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Microsoft
Developed by: Ensemble Studios
Franchise: Halo
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence, Mild Language, Mild Blood
PEGI Rating:
16+: Violence

67 comments

  • jscriber100 - September 18, 2010 3:09 p.m.

    i still need a 360!AGAIN!
  • fastrak - February 18, 2010 4:22 p.m.

    Everything you said in your article is true but i still think this game deserved better than 7 i like it alot.
  • Ricochet3438 - December 12, 2009 2:13 p.m.

    Well personally I liked this game, especially the cutscenes that looked absolutely beautiful. However, I found it unchallenging. For instance, just making 30 marine squads could get the job done nicely.
  • CreeplyTuna - August 17, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    i want a new age of empires, not a new game that is not good
  • PadraicSeebrr - August 4, 2009 6:44 a.m.

    I'm a Halo fan and an RTS fan. Don't feel like lookin up whoever posted that you can't be both, but I'm the proof you can :P.
  • thatonekid1995 - June 22, 2009 8:28 a.m.

    you cant say This game sucks.. 1. this the first Halo game not made by Bungie 2. It's just a side game not part of the Halo Franchise 3.It's an RTS not a FPS all the little fanboys saying it sucks its because its not for you 4. The game isn't really a Halo!! Its a (bleep)en' part zero - meaning its not to be a big time game only a before part 1 thing 5. Its not about the halo 1, 2, or 3 its about the first war with the covenant!!!
  • gamer49 - May 17, 2009 2:11 a.m.

    this game is really fun.
  • xXgodlypunkXx - May 3, 2009 6:57 p.m.

    this gamewas quite possilbly the worst RTS ever. (asside from goblin comander). that being said, i enjoyed the beautiful cutscenes. its really the only reason to play the game
  • Mittenz - March 25, 2009 6:39 a.m.

    Amatarasu, you are correct in saying Bungie most certainly not need to make the strategy game of the year, probably why Ensemble made it. Anyways, I myself picked it up for 2 reasons: Mythic map pack and an introduction to RTS's and I feel it served that purpose rather well. I myself would have given it maybe an 8 but then again, I am fairly new at RTS's and dont have much to compare it to, but I would recommend this to anyone like me looking for a bridge into this genre. reCAPTCHA: old cloth
  • gamerdude77 - March 11, 2009 1:54 a.m.

    wow a halo game with a score under 9
  • Coolbeans69 - March 9, 2009 11:11 p.m.

    @ Muchomexicano halo's age isn't over yet. R u kidding? We still have f@#$ing halo 4 to look forward to and Halo Wars wasn't THAT bad. A 7 is still good and a lot of people liked halo wars
  • unhappymatt1 - March 6, 2009 5:27 p.m.

    I bought it and I like it. I don't let reviewers tell me what I should like.
  • Crossleft501 - March 6, 2009 6:05 a.m.

    oh and Amatarasu I wasnt aware that playing Halo qualified you as being mentally retarded good god you sound like a jackass
  • Amatarasu - March 4, 2009 4:24 a.m.

    it doesn't have to be good for stratagy,it's a HALO game,it's appealing to HALO fans,and HALO fans don't use stratagy,HALO fans rush in headfirst,they don't corner the enemy,they rush in,sure a true rts fan would be pissed off at this,but bungie dosen't need to make the strategy game of the year for people who arn't useualy the ones who use stratagy
  • mikejr13 - March 4, 2009 12:49 a.m.

    hm, don't know if i'd agree fully with you on this one. however many of your points are very true. i especially love how the game really feels like a halo game and also how well done the online is. i probably would have given it an 8 or 9 but 7 is still good. well done.
  • oryandymackie - March 1, 2009 5:35 p.m.

    yeah, the whole idea of Halo is ruined in this game. And "Unoriginal", no offence but, where have you been the last few months?
  • Daywalkr - February 28, 2009 2:56 p.m.

    I still might rent it. Lol
  • Spybreak8 - February 27, 2009 10:22 a.m.

    Hmmm, I felt the controls worked very well, I play most of my RTSes on PC as well, and I'm really in for the story campaign. The game feels very halo-y so I wouldn't say its a sell out with the Halo name. The demo reminded me of BFME and I loved BFME. Have you seen the cutscenes, they look amazing, top notch quality! If there are framerate issues this can be fixed later on with a patch, that's what happened to Univere at War:Earth Assault. I can't wait for the game and since I can't play Halo 3 online I'm not grabbing the LE. I am getting the flame warthog from amazon from preordering it however, (free bonus).
  • gameinfo - February 27, 2009 12:54 a.m.

    well, this looks fun!
  • jackf-11 - February 26, 2009 1:08 p.m.

    Stop making things up lappy.

Showing 1-20 of 67 comments

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