The long awaited sequel to the game that proved that an RTS can work on a console has arrived, 8 long years of waiting has finally arrived and Saul Marau delves in to find out whether it has been worth the wait.
The story takes place nearly 30 years after the end of the first game where captain Cutter and the crew of the Spirit of Fire have just awoken from hypersleep after having entered it after destroying the forerunner fleet. The crew find themselves orbiting the ark, a facility responsible for the construction of the Halo Rings, However it becomes apparent that a splinter faction of the Covenant called The Banished Who are led by a brute called Atriox are inhabiting the facility and it is up to Captain Cutter and his crew to stop them from using the facility and utilising the Halo rings for their own ends. Fan of the series know that the Halo rings were designed to combat the flood which are a parasitic life form by wiping out all life in the galaxy causing them to starve them to death.
The game was designed to work with a controller from the beginning not a port over from the keyboard and mouse interface as most Real time strategies are. Halo wars simplifies the control system by having the game take control of lots of the background work such as having the units automatically engaging enemies intelligently selecting targets and also moving at the pace of the slowest unit so it is not left undefended.
The selection of units has been simplified so you can select single unit by clicking on it, a double tap will select all units of the same type a tap of the shoulder button selects every unit on the screen and a double tap will select all of your units. You can also hold down the A button to paint select your units selecting only those that you need.
Graphically the game is very impressive and the character models are sublime down to the tiniest of details. The Orchestral score is in my mind perfect and it all comes together to make a fantastic experience which is only let down by the fact that the mission structure seems the same as any other RTS game and I feel that the developers were playing it safe.
There are a variety of multiplayer modes as well as the fact that the campaign can be played in Coop, all 12 glorious missions. All of the staples of multiplayer are here with a variety of matchmaking options and custom game modes, I feel that because there are only two factions the developers have had the chance to make sure that both factions are perfectly balanced.
However the surprise to the package is the new Blitz mode which is a fast paced card game mode where you fight to control zones and earn points by controlling the majority of these zones, the first to 200 points wins. Before the match starts you choose a leader and a hand of cards out of those available to you and certain cards can only be used by certain leaders, There is no base building in blitz instead you use 12 cards which take the form of either Units or powers to summon new units or stymie the enemy. Each card takes a certain amount of energy to use with more powerful cards using more energy and also has their own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes cards have special abilities that can help turn the tide of battle. The beauty of Blitz mode is that the game is more tactical because you are limited to what you can take into each match. The downside to blitz is the use of microtransactions. This is because you can buy card packs this gives an unfair advantage as multiple copies of a card levels up your existing card making it more powerful so buying packs increases the odds of getting duplicates. This I feel gives an unfair advantage over someone who doesn't buy the packs. Microsoft I feel have looked at the profits made by mircotransactions by other companies such as Rockstar Games and have seen how lucrative they are.
All in all I can highly recommend this game; it shows that an RTS can work on a console when developed correctly and it shows the love that Microsoft has for the Halo franchise.