Halo Wars  is another try of the RTS genre on console.  With Ensemble Studio making its last great opus force and Halo slapped on as a title does Halo Wars shake the RTS genre on consoles like a MAC blast or does it get splattered by a ghost?




RTS games on console have been simplified and streamlined to work on a controller and Halo Wars in no exception.  The A button does most the lifting from selecting units to moving them. with the left and right bumper playing a small role in unit selection also.  The X button will tell units to attack a specific building or unit and the Y button uses units special attack or ability.  The D-pad brings up an ability whell that lets you use different things such as heal or MAC blast(only humans get the ability wheel).  Your units will attack enemies automatically while they are moving or if they are sitting idle and one crosses their view point.

Base building is simple, you put up your main building and then build point come attached to it.  Upgrade your main building and you get more build points.  Building units or building is as simple as clicking on the building and using the joystick to select what you want.  This isn't nearly as fast as hot keys used in PC RTS titles but you can only do so much on a console.

Resources are as easy as building a supply depot or warehouse, depending  on if you play as humans or elites, and they gather in 10 supply every few seconds.  These can be upgraded to bring in faster supply and you can build as many as you want.  Unit cap is 40 for humans and 50 for elites once you max the upgrades for them.  This works out fine because the game demands you keep sending units at the enemy to get a new base or defend your own.  Units build fairly fast, even the more powerful ones, so it is a good balance.

The controls are tight and are well refined and feels like the best console RTS I have played, also played LOTR:BFME 2 and some of the CC games.  However there are some things that feel off.

First off are the expansion bases.  Squares appear on the mini map where you can build another base.  This is ok but everyone can see it.  I don't mean they can see that your building in a certain area but your opponent knows the places that you can build.  Since you can't just build anywhere there are no real ways to stay alive by hiding a base off the beaten path.  This isn't a major problem, just a gripe and something I personally don't like.

Next is the balance between the two races, humans and Elites.   Each race gets hero units that you can pick before the matches start.  The humans get a unique D-pad skill depending on the hero they pick and the Elites get an actually hero unit that has a special skill.  However the humans can also build 3 Spartans that can jack enemy vehicles or take control of yours to make them stronger and once they get destroyed the Spartans jump out and keep attacking.

The hero units for the Elites are nice and even a little bit broken.  However the humans overall are far better as a race.  Unit to unit the Elites don't really compare at all.  While a pack of Elite units can stand up to humans of the same class, Grunts verse Marines for example, the human one wins almost every time.  Even the uber powerful Scarabs are no match for a few Scorpion tanks and a cyro bomb.

Also something that was a bit strange was the exclusion of the Flood as a playable race.  This was their first showing in the Halo series' story so they should have been added in.  Plus they do show up in the single player a fair amount and it seems that the development team put enough work into them to make them their own playable race but just didn't.  A free DLC would have been nice to add them in.

As for the single player, it's pretty short and fairly easy.  I beat it on heroic with a friend and we hardly had any trouble with it.  It might have taken us 10 hours to get through the 15 missions so if your go at it on normal it might take 8 hours.  The nice part is that you can play it co-op and it works out well as long as you can get along with the person you're playing with.  You share everything, from a base to supply, so you have to make sure you're on the same page and don't build 40 marines and nothing else.

Halo Wars is a good experience with gameplay.  It doesn't try to do anything to extreme but it refined the mechanics on the RTS on console and leaves a pattern for other to follow.  However the lack of balance with the humans and Elites and the omission of the Flood as a playable races hurts this game slightly.  Also the camera should have allowed a little more zoom out.

Gameplay: 8.0/10



I'll be honest the story wasn't that great in Halo Wars and I think it would have been better suited as a FPS in this sense.  The writing was questionable most the time with no real strong parts, the cast was forgettable and the feel of the epic story that Halo titles in the past have had just wasn't there.

You play from the human side of things which makes sense since you have never played as the Elites in any Halo.  You go around trying to stop the Elites from raising an all powerful army that would crush humanity into space dust.  It is a typical story with twist that are so easy to see you can call them out 3 stages before they happen.

Not having an Elite campaign I think hurt the game.  It would have lengthened the single player experience and got players use to using them for online play.  They could have just tossed in 8 or 10 missions which would have added about 6 hours of play and game time as the Elites.

They do add in a nice timeline of the Halo events which is welcome if you want to go through and look at it.  Helps tie things up and sometimes tells the story better than the game does.

Honestly most people didn't get this game for the story.  they got it fort the co-op single players, which works out well with team work like I said, and the online game play, which I'll get to later.  However the story is still part of the game and it is by far the weakest part of the game.  The only reason to go back is to beat it on a harder difficulty.

Story: 6.0/10



Online is dominated by 3 things, heroes, special units and Scarabs.  This isn't a bad thing though for the most part, just a warning.

MP consist of various game types and can be played 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3.  Mostly death match or team death match are what are played which seems normal for any RTS title.

The maps are a good size, big enough to keep the opponents away for a bit and small enough to allow your forces with good speed.  The maps have creeps on them as well as terrain and map control devices such as teleports, energy walls and sniper towers.

Heroes for the Elites are one of the most used and broken elements of the game online.  I have been beaten by people simply because they use the prophet and his special ability, Cleansing.  The move can rip building apart and devastates units.  This would be fine if it had a cool down of 2 or 3 minutes but you can use it as much as you want as long as you have the supply to do it.  Even the Brute Chieftains' Vortex can slaughter units and lay the hurt on buildings at the cost of only some supply.

This wouldn't be so bad if the heroes could die fairly fast but they don't.  Heroes have tons of health and can be healed up once they lose it.  I've even seen the chieftain run around with 50 engineers, not lying, to keep him constantly healed so his opponent couldn't touch him.  Even all of this would be ok if the penalty for having them die was high or the rebuild time was 5 minutes or more but again it isn't.

Special units dominate the playing field for the humans and even sometimes for the Elites, if the players isn't using hero or Scarabs only.  The special units are insanely powerful compared to most other units in the game but they aren't over powered in the way heroes are.  Hawks control the skies, Grizzly Tanks roll over anything on the ground and ODST can drop from anywhere and surprise you opponents.  The use of these units is vital because they can be game changers when used in force.  They aren't ridiculously powerful however so make sure you work in tandem with your allies and be ready to rebuild.

 Scarabs are used a lot online which surprised me.  They cost 20 supply and 3000 resources to build and really aren't all that great.  they add a great punch in the Elites attack force but most players build 2 of them and have nothing else on the map.  This leaves their bases open to attack and if you have an Anders on your team you can just cyro bomb the Scarabs to freeze them and then kill them.

All in all the online is fun and the main reason to get this game.  There is little lag, when it happens it's mainly due to having 200 total units on the map and all of them attacking or moving, and there are still between 5000-8000 people online at a time.  If you can get past the heroes, or just use them yourself, it is worth trying but be warned that main of the players are extremely good and you might get hammered your first bunch of matches.

Multiplayer: 8.5/10



The sound is nice.  The explosions and movement of units sound like they are real enough to be believable.  Guns sound like their counterparts from the FPS Halos which is good.  The units all have a few little lines they say which add to the war feeling.   Even you base has building noises coming from it when a building is being put up.  The sounds of the game a good.

The music is what you expect from Halo, simply great.  Halo has some of the best music in recent gaming memory and it was implanted into Halo Wars as well.  Nothing more really to say about it the music is great.

Sound/Music: 8.5/10



The game looks really good when playing it.  The humans lack color and the elites are colorful just like in the other Halo games.   The units look like their counterparts from the FPS titles which is all good for the fans of the series.

The human buildings look good but the Elites look far to similar to each other.  This isn't anything big but it can be confusing for a while.

The map details look good too but nothing that is fantastic.  The ice effect from the cyro bomb and the blast from the MAC cannon look pretty nice.  The air strike leaves shot marks in the ground and tread marks are left in the snow.

The game looks good and has aged well enough but still doesn't look awesome.  But everything about it is very good.

Graphics: 7.75/10



RTS titles have unlimited replay value.  You can always start up a game against the computer or play against a friend online.  It still has a pretty heavy following, given how good the gameplay is and the fact it's a Halo title, so finding a match online won't be a problem for a while still.

The SP doesn't have much replay however.  Once you beat it there is little to go back for, black boxes and skulls, and you can beat it on legendary on your first go I think.

Replay: 7.75/10



Halo Wars is by far the best RTS title on consoles that I have played.  It has solid gameplay and a good online community still.  If you are looking for an RTS on console and haven't tried one yet this is where to start.

However it has problems.  Hero units online are broken and the races aren't balanced that well.  The strange omission of the Flood hurts the value slightly because it would have been another race to master and play as.  The story also felt more like fan service then anything you'll be talking about after you beat it.

Overall get the Halo Wars if you love Halo or want to try an RTS on consoles.  Just expect to play it online and don't expect a story really worth anything.


Overall: 8.25/10

(My review is not an average of my numbers but what I feel the game as a whole should get.  The numbers under each category are based on what I think those categories are in general when compared to most games on the market today.)