There are two big risks this game runs. First, as the first Halo game not developed by Bungie Studios, it could tarnish a well-made games property and piss of fans by, you know, getting things wrong. Secondly, an RTS on a console is inherently risky. RTSes are generally PC games, reliant on keyboards and mice to navigate large numbers of units quickly, and while the Great Console RTS has certainly been attempted, it hasn’t yet been perfected.
Halo Wars comes close enough for most of us. For Halo fans, it provides a solid dose of Halo story and world. The characters are generic, but the cutscenes incredibly well made. The additional units for both UNSC and Covenant (love the locusts!) fit well into existing Halo lore.
A Locust, the Scarab’s little cousin
As for RTS lovers, there’s something to like here as well. Ensemble Studios simplifies the RTS formula, forgoing the resource gathering and cutting out the ability to define and control groups of units. But the rest of the game is solidly traditional: the cursor, the overhead view, the base-building all signify a simplified yet still complex strategy game with plenty of possible routes to victory – or humiliating loss.
Halo itself is a redefinition of a PC genre for the console – the shooter. So I had hoped for perhaps a more radical redefinition of real-time strategy for the console with Halo Wars. Ubisoft’s recent EndWar presents a near-flawless voice control system. Bungie Studios have themselves made an RTS, before Halo, with Myth. That game did away with the base-building altogether to concentrate on combat, and it worked very well.
Halo Wars makes no radical moves, but is still good, clean, addicting fun. If you’re into a) Halo, b) RTSes, or c) all of the above, you should get on it.