Halo Wars - updated impressions

Aug 21, 2007

Cannon Fodder on the Genesis started it all, Starcraft on the N64 elevated the conflict and Command & Conquer deployed the first atomic weapons in the ongoing war between real-time strategy games and controllers. Console history is resplendent with examples of RTS atrocities, but Halo Wars is bringing peace with a decent set of buttons to push and a galaxy full of artillery.

The demo begins with a Pelican dropship zipping along a valley, flanked by two new Hawk helicopters, headed towards a distant UNSC base. Upon arrival, a squad of marines disembark and join up with the marines already stationed at the facility. Team Awesome, as we christened them, head out to take on a gang of Grunts and Elites - the latter confrontation is a disaster that left little of our heroes except a smudge on the landscape. See, these are marines - regular, fleshy, trouser-wearing folk, not seven-foot tall Spartan killing machines in shielded armour like Master Chief.

Never fear though, Spartans are in play. Halo Wars is set twenty years before the events of Halo, long before MC was the last surviving Spartan II, back during the emerging wars against the Covenant. One hundred and fifty children were recruited/abducted into the Spartan program, but only 33 made the grade - those 33 will presumably come into play as unstoppable death-dealing monsters in Halo Wars' campaign; but in the demo, they're absent.

So, without ol' Mickey Chief, we play the Warthog card. Clicking on a base brings up a circular menu allowing you to quickly build Warthogs, Wolverines, Scorpion tanks and all sorts of other violent vehicles. Our Warthogs shredded the Elites with ease, and stormed through the stage at speed, leaping a canyon, and dodging a small swarm of Ghosts before running headlong into a Scarab - fifty feet of plasma-spraying, mechanized ouch. Naturally, we bravely fled and deployed an orbital attack from our whopping great MAC gun, flattening the area and destroying Covenant and UNSC alike.