Monday, February 23, 2009

Halo Wars (360)

Halo wars has been anticipated for a long time as it's promised a streamlined console strategy game tying in with the halo universe.

Unfortunately for all of us, it was immediately eaten by the hype monster.

The plot is relatively unknown to me at this point. I haven't quite finished the campaign, but I hope to soon. In tl;dr fashion - Bad shit happens, and it's set 20 years before the trilogy we all know and love. There's a good assortment of characters which fit into the universe well, we've got an arbiter, a brute chieftain, the prophet of Regret. For the humans, we've got mister battle hardened soldier™ sergeant John Forge. No, he's not spartan 117. Sassy female A.I. Serina, Captain James Cutter of the Spirit of Fire (no star trek here) and Ellen Anders, professor of something. I don't know what. Like I said, they tie in with the universe very well.

The gameplay is where it shines, with some fun battles to be had. There's a great assortment of units and familiar faces. As you begin a skirmish or battle you select which commander you want - each has their own special abilities and units. Captain Cutter can call in the Elephants. Remember those giant, really freakin' slow mobile bases from Halo 3? Yeah, those ones. Guess what? They're giant, freakin' slow mobile bases. He can also upgrade marines into ODST helljumpers who can be launched across the map with a special ability of his. There's some other stuff, too. Anyway - Base management is very simple, with scrolling with the left stick over buildings and just hitting A to open up windows. You then point the left stick in the direction of what you want to train and hit A again. Works the same as the covenant, but they play a little differently. Onto them. Their leaders don't sit around in ships above the planet, they get up close and personal as incredibly powerful combat units with spectacular special attacks.

For those who like to have matches against CPU opponents, there's a skirmish mode included. There's a slight lack of content, however. You'd expect a bit more maps. DLC man to the rescue.

The graphics are good for the most part, as you'll see some nice shine and shadows, along with great detail for units. My only two complaints is that you can't zoom in all that far to see the action. The other being a few awkward framerate drops when things get heated up. You can see the marines holding teeny tiny assault rifles, and the spartans with their teeny tiny spartan lasers. And also the covenant, with their teeny tiny needlers and carbines. I'll tell you what's not teeny tiny, though. The units.
You can see some impressively large units stomping and flying across the battlefield, such as the scarab, the covenant's uber weapon of uberness. And also planes. Lots and lots of planes. With big missiles. biiiiiig missiles.

The controls are good, actually. I was surprised. They take a little getting used to, but once you get a hold of them, they work very well. The left bumper selects all your units, the right selects all on screen, and X moves. Y controls special attacks such as running enemies over with the warthog and tossing grenades with the marines. The right stick can rotate and zoom in the view, with a handy reset as you click down on it. Up on the d-pad selects the covenant's leader or opens the human's power window. Through this, they can fire mac-cannons, repair a group of units, launch helljumpers, that kind of thing. Right goes to anything important that's happening (such as being attacked), down hops to your largest group of units, and left cycles through bases. Like I said above, base management is simple with a few presses of the A button and merely pointing the left stick in a direction.

Halo wars comes with an incredible orchestral soundtrack to keep up with the shooter trilogy. It's filled with a collection of great pieces that play when you're assaulting a base and engaging enemy units. The sound design is good, as well. There's a familiar set of sounds from all the units, such as marines firing their assault rifles and spartans with their lasers. Yes, the banshee's "howl" is included too.

Overall, halo wars is a fun strategy game. You'd best be a fan of the series beforehand, however. It leaves anyone else in the dark.

Not alone in the dark. Oh god no.

Graphics - 8.0 Like I said, an awkward framerate loss keeps it from being better. They're good, though.

Control - 8.0 The control does very well for a console strategy game. It's not terribly good for micromanaging, however.

Sound - 9.0 A brilliant soundtrack and a great assortment of sounds keep the game from being dull.

Value - 7.8 I hear the campaign's a bit short, plus a lack of skirmish maps is a disappointment.

Overall - 8.0

It's fun while it lasts. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go chill with my posse of 19 other players online.

Special Thanks to Angely Grecia of PeadPR for sending down the limited edition!

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