Review - Halo Wars on X360

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The latest incarnation of the HALO franchise is a Real Time Strategy game rather than a First Person Shooter like its three predecessors.  I sat down with the demo release on the XBOX 360. Currently the only platform the game is available on. I foresee a PC release in the future but for now this is what we have to play with. RTS ( Real-Time Strategy ) games are best known as PC games that are ported over to the consoles such as Red Alert 3. From what I read Halo Wars has been designed from the ground up as a console game.  Now for the specifics.

The Demo

The demo is a 1+ gb download from Xbox Live and came down rather quickly. I started the demo and selected to play a new campaign. I chose to go through the tutorial, which I believe is advantageous for anyone who loves a good RTS on the PC like myself. As you can guess the controls are different.  Control Summary below.
   In the tutorial you learn the basics in a one level walk through like selecting, moving and attacking with units. After moving around the map and fighting a couple enemies the tutorial will end and you are then allowed to play the first two level of the campaign.

Spoiler alert (sort of)

I will forgo telling the story as I do not wish to ruin it for you but I will run through the specifics of the levels.

The cinematics are gorgeous as expected but that’s not why you’re reading this article. First level, as expect, is a basic level allowing you to truly get the feel for your units and controls. The colors, shading, and motion of the maps and units are spot on. The responsiveness is all and all good but I did run into a small and annoying problem. In the first mission you are meeting up with small bands of marines as you fight your way to liberate your base. While making my way around a corner with 4 of the “buggies” as I refer to them I moved in on a dug in position to run over the enemy. When they were dead I ordered the units to move on. They didn’t move. I ordered them to move left, right, and down. Nothing happened. I had to select one unit at a time and move it away from location. After all four units were moved I was then able to move then all again and continue with the mission. While not a major flaw it certainly was an annoying one and if you were in a fight could have been the death of those units.  On the positive side if you hover your cursor over a unit while it is moving the screen will move with that unit. With the successful retaking of the base the mission ended. A cut scene ran. Mission 2 begins with you being ordered to reestablish your base and stop the enemy from completing their mission. The base is easy to building, easy to understand what and how to build, but also very limiting in the number of buildings and you are locked into specific locations. At he beginning you build your primary base and then can build up to 5 adjacent building. These buildings can be supply depots, barracks, and power stations. Those are your choices until you upgrade you base.  Oh and you can build four turrets for defense which I recommend. While you are building your forces for the assault you will be attacked a few times from the air via transports.  While annoying they are no true threat. I amassed a small group of 3 buggies, 15 marines and the leader you are provided with from the beginning. I went north and started the attack. After fighting through what I’d call minor resistance I found the enemies advanced base and destroyed it. It’s not a primary objective, which they tell you, I recommend it. Once it is destroyed you can then build our second base. By this time I had a large amount of resources and built the base quickly. You will come under attack here as well and once again your turrets will take care of it. With this base built you rebuild your forces. March on the main objective. Stop the detonator and all done. After the cut scene the demo ends.

Thoughts

At this time I would say the game is worth playing and worth the purchase. I however will wait for the PC version. I found the pinpoint abilities’ of the mouse and also myself looking for the ability to press a button to select squads I have created. These are not negatives against he Xbox version in any way. I have played RTSs for many years on the PC and that is my personal choice. I am betting many others will see this as not worth the argument. I say buy the game and play, no matter which platform it’s on.

Control Summary: (Basics)

A -  select a unit.
X - move the unit to a location.
LB – select all units
RB select local unit
Attacks:
X – attack
Y – Attack with special weapon

Camera

L – move around the map
R – move camera angle