Review

Halo Wars Review (Xbox360)

Halo started life as a real-time strategy game before being transformed into the epic FPS saga that we all know and love, so Halo Wars signifies the closing of the circle in a sense, returning to the very roots from which Halo originally evolved. Although not the first game to attempt streamlining the RTS for the console crowd, it certainly shows that Halo Wars has been built from the ground up specifically for the Xbox 360. Halo Wars’ greatest triumph is the intuitive nature of its control scheme, which allows you to do (almost) everything you can on a PC using a mouse, with a controller. It may not be as fast and precise as a mouse and keyboard set-up, but it’s as close as you’re ever going to get using an analog stick, triggers and face buttons.

There are relatively few commands to memorise when playing Halo Wars, as the interface has clearly been built with accessibility in mind. Selecting all units is mapped to the left bumper while commanding all of your local units is on the right. The A button selects an individual unit whereas holding it down projects a blue area that you can use to paint over as many units as you like. During the early missions, it’s entirely possible to get away with manically jabbing LB to select all units before sending the full force of your army into battle and the soldier AI is such that in small skirmishes they can handle themselves perfectly well. However things get much tougher a lot sooner than you’d think, which you’ll quickly learn calls for quick thinking and a far more considered strategic approach than simply throwing wave after wave of expendable manpower at a target.


Sgt. Forge is the macho hero of Halo Wars. He's no Master Chief, although he is a bit more chatty.
Top tip: deactivate the bridge here to send Covenant Grunts to their death and earn a 5G achievement while you're at it.

Each of the games fifteen missions involves a different challenge, injecting a real sense of variety as you’ll never be sure what you’ll face next. One particularly memorable mission involves a stationary Scarab still undergoing construction that must be destroyed before you can progress. Sending your units in to do the job is suicide as wandering into its searchlight causes instant destruction. After trying to bomb it from all angles with everything you’ve got, you soon realise that destroying the seven heavily guarded nodes powering its active head is your best bet. Eliminating the nodes slows the speed at which the head moves, but doing so successfully is a task that requires careful planning, meticulous resource management and a precise sense of timing to ensure your tanks don’t get blown to smithereens by the menacing Scarab’s death beam. That this mission takes place only halfway through the game gives you an idea of how tough Halo Wars can get, so anyone concerned that just because this is a console RTS, it’ll be diluted and toned down somehow, forget about it. Halo Wars is hardcore, offering as much a challenge as you’d expect from any PC strategy title. Some missions are time-sensitive too, adding an extra degree of panic to proceedings as you formulate the best approach to beat the objective before the clock runs down.

One thing that has been pared down in order to make fighting through Halo Wars’ missions a bit more manageable are the micromanagement elements that give PC RTS games such enormous depth and detail that would simply prove too overwhelming on a console. Instead your primary concern is with building your base, which acts as your hub of operations. A tidy, well laid out grid that you can use to construct supply pads for generating resources, barracks to train marines and vehicle plants to churn out heavily armoured tanks, the core of your base is the fortress, which can be upgraded to open up to seven slots to build upon. Before you know it you’ll have constructed a formidable station from which to mount your war effort.

While not all the single-player missions require you to establish a base, the multiplayer skirmishes positively rely on your ability to successfully assemble an efficient foothold before moving on to wipe out your opponents. With support for up to six players, skirmish brings much-needed longevity to Halo Wars after you’ve exhausted the single-player campaign. There’re six different factions to experiment with, each with their own unique abilities that grant various advantages in battle. Skirmish requires a quick trigger finger to build your army before your rivals do, and then brazenly march upon your opponent in an effort to destroy and win their base. Base sites are predetermined, so the player with the most bases across the map will always be at a greater advantage.


Fraught encounters like this can turn into long battles of attrition if you're not careful.
A full-sized UNSC base in all its glory, turrets and all. The incidental animations on the buildings are nice too.

Returning to the campaign is always an option of course, highlighted in the multiple Halo difficulty levels (heroic, legendary etc) and the medals that are awarded upon completion of each mission. There are secondary objectives to fulfil, collectibles to uncover and with it a great deal of potential replay value if you’ve the inclination to earn every gold medal and gather every hidden skull. There’s also campaign co-op, which is great for trading tactics with a like-minded buddy. For most however, the crux of the game will ultimately lie in the multiplayer skirmish mode, and although it lacks the objective based intricacy of single-player, instead giving players a base from which to then amass an army faster than the opposition, it’s still a lot of fun – especially when you’re winning.

Ensemble has managed to execute quite a feat in adapting the action-oriented universe of Halo into a genre not normally associated with high-octane bombast and instant gratification. That Halo Wars not only serves the IP but the genre as well while incorporating a genuine sense of dynamism and action is remarkable. Question marks may hang over the lifespan of a game like this where the single-player campaign can easily be finished after a few days of intense play and the long-term appeal of multiplayer depends entirely upon how much you’re willing to repeat the grind of base building before embarking upon an attack. For those used to the extreme depth of the PC RTS, there may not be enough to chew on here, but for those of us simply looking for an entertaining, all-action strategy game, there’s really no need to look any further than this.


The results of a Scarab attack. One of these beasts can easily decimate a large army. Take them down fast!
Harvest is a planet that's been transformed into a desolate snow-covered wasteland by the Covenant. Make them pay!

Fans of the Halo franchise are well served with a hefty chunk of backstory and a faithful adherence to the universe with all of the elements you recognise from the popular FPS titles and a lot more besides. It ticks all of the cool boxes too, whether it’s a Spartan jumping onto a Wraith tank and punching their way in to commandeer them, Covenant Scarabs decimating everything in their path, Hornets engaging Banshees in frantic aerial battles or simply an iconic Warthog leaping a chasm whilst firing off grenades, there’s plenty in here to keep any demanding fan happy.

Even non-RTS players and non-Halo fans will be hard pushed to find something they dislike in Halo Wars. The interface is slick, the production values are high and the level of polish renders this a true Halo experience, right down to the menu screens and evocative soundtrack. Halo Wars emerges as not only a great game, but also a significant step in adapting the RTS for home consoles. As such it’s a game that is more than worthy of your time and attention so, what the Halo are you waiting for?

Top game moment: It has to be any moment that involves the Spartans arriving to save your sorry ass.

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Comments

By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 20, 2009
BlitzKrieg
nice, i cant wait for it, just 5 more days!
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 21, 2009
JamieSI
Check back on Monday for more on Halo Wars :)
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Feb 21, 2009
JustCommunication
After playing a bit of the Demo, it's clear that the game focus more on the action then the actual strategising, although there is still a fair bit of it to utilise. However, seeing as in this IS the home console, I don't mind. The consoles simply can't handle the micromanaging that you find on PC's. Hell, sometimes I can't handle the micromanaging anyway, even if it is on a PC.

Looking forward to playing the full title.
By Nakerman (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 21, 2009
Nakerman
I'm really enjoying this game at the moment, and also gave it an excellent 8/10 for another site. A really entertaining entry into the RTS genre.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 21, 2009
herodotus
I have DoW II, so I might be confuzzledd with this one.
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 22, 2009
BlitzKrieg
its a good game, the only sad thing, enesembles done for:( but we continue to play, after 2million downlaods for the demo!
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 23, 2009
JamieSI
Although new studio's have been started :)
By Nakerman (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 24, 2009
Nakerman
Can't wait for people to start getting this. 16 users were online yesterday, which takes a long time to get into a game.
By Masterspeed (SI Newbie) on Feb 27, 2009
Masterspeed
it comes out in about...*looks at watch* NOW! in uk XD buuuut i gotta wait until its about 3 in the afternoon before i go buy and i can tell you the wait is freaking eating me ALIVE! just like halo 3 did...speaking of which when i finaly got my halo 3 legendary edition i took the cover off it and it gave me a paper cut...damn you cardboard about box for the box
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 27, 2009
JamieSI
It's a great game Masterspeed, they have nailed the controls for RTS on a console. I'm sure you'll enjoy it, although it is a little odd seeing the Halo Universe so small :p
By Marco_Fiori (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 27, 2009
Marco_Fiori
No matter how hard I try to enjoy RTS's on a console, I can't bring myself to accept that developers have done a good job. It may well be the best effort yet on a console, but I'll always feel as though it's missing the sensitivity of a mouse.
By liltspackler (I just got here) on Feb 27, 2009
liltspackler
ive been waiting for halowars for ever! its been driving me nuts! i even got up extra early to get the demo. its a really good game cant wait to buy it.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Feb 27, 2009
Wowerine
Halo RTS is something we've been waiting for. If I ever get Xbox 360 this is gonna be my first game. :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 27, 2009
herodotus
Most reviews I've read, have stated that this is an RTS for folk who don't play RTS's. In other words, console gamers. If it does ever come to PC (which it won't), it will be roundly shunned, as is "TC"s Endwar" (for PC).
By Benadeto (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 27, 2009
Benadeto
Hey hey hey.
yeah i tried the 360 demo download on my mates xbox... really fun.
the whole thing with the marines don't just shoot they throw grenades and the warthogs ram the crud outa guys... AWESOME!!
Yeah well thanks Bungie! u guys deserved the Nick ( Benadeto ) Mobile Infantry medal of Approval.
Nick ( Benadeto )
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Feb 28, 2009
Wowerine
You are right about EndWar. That game sure looks more simpler than other RTS games like Empire: Total War. The whole fancy voice command thing is just hype... I hope they won't make a mess out of HAWX as well. And it's a shame that they are letting go of SC: Conviction so easy (that game was rumored spring 2008, thats about a year of going backwards)...
By benny180 (SI Core) on Mar 04, 2009
benny180
Seems good,i guess this is why they shut down the "Halo mod" for command and conquer generals!it all makes sense now!i wonder if this will ever come out on pc never really liked rts game on a consol,except for red alert on the ps1...or was it ps2....cant remeber.anyway this should give a "full circle" feel to the halo line.
By nickgipe (SI Newbie) on Mar 04, 2009
nickgipe
really sweet game...i cant wait for it to come out
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 05, 2009
Wowerine
Like the thing that happened with HoMM, when they got their FPS implementation, just the opposite way.
By Vista (SI Newbie) on Mar 07, 2009
Vista
Since i dont have a xbox 360 but my friend does so i just writing comments to try to win the console and Halo Wars so there i said it im like poor and cant really afford much
By snake1422 (I just got here) on Mar 07, 2009
snake1422
it looks fucking awesome!!!!!!!
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
BoneArc
Well i never knew that Halo was a RTS and then we all played Halo Combat evolved and we were amazed!And then with Halo 2 We were dissapointed because it was for VISTA Only BUT, we all saw Torrents Of Halo 2 For XP and People Trying To play it for XP and all those sorts of things but why did Those people made torrents and other stuff to play it on XP or vista?!?!?!? Because it gave them Hope that other people will try to Help them with these things and that they will have the satisfaction of seeing people play the game on XP Without buying Vista which in some countrys is a load!

Then Halo 3 went into our hearts as The 1st FPS For most people because of the unique Gameplay moves and the ability to make maps With more presicion But it was for Xbox!

And then We were all suprised to hear about a HALO RTS!!!!! and most of all ON THE XBOX!!!!!!!!!! So all of us have seen The Trailers and the gameplay and the demo and we liked it :D :D :D :D
So i think taht everyone here agrees that Halo RTS and on teh xbox is Made then we think IF teh halo gaems before it were great so is this one so? are we right or wrong? Only time will tell


So let there Be HALO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bye all see you soon
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
BoneArc
Lol 1 more thing he elites look so cool with dual-wielding Energy swords :P

Man i wish we could dual wield Energy swords in halo 3 or halo 2 :)
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
BoneArc
where do you guys come up with these things?

keep up teh good work :D :D :D :D
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
BoneArc
What do we get if we collect all the skulls? Anyone though about that?
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
Wowerine
It's good. I played it this morning in the local game shop. Quite good. I0m sure it was the full game... But the number of units you can create isn't kinda enough compared to Empire: Total War. :|
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Mar 10, 2009
BoneArc
well i kinda think they made it that way cause if you had 100 units you wouldnt be able to keep track of them all will you?

anyways i cant find anything here in Bulgaria ( in Europe )

here in Bulgaria there are no Shops full of games and Consoles which you can try :( :( :(

and i cant find Halo 2 - 3 or Halo wars or even Halo Combat evolved and here everyone is downloading torrents so ....

i am stuck between Illegal business or Waiting till i am 18 and move out of Here and coming to AMERICA!!!! or CANADA!!!!!!

and i hope i can win that Halo wars Prize and the Halo wars customized Xbox :)

Best of luck Wowerine :)

:( :( :( :( Downloading torrents :( :( :( :(
By homebrewer (SI Newbie) on Mar 11, 2009
homebrewer
Master chief anyone? microsoft is now milking the halo series but i think i would try to play this first and see if its great.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 11, 2009
Wowerine
I might try this game for real one day. And I mean full game. 8)
By ying12345 (SI Newbie) on Mar 15, 2009
ying12345
its possibly the single greatest strategy game for any console I've ever played... well except for the settlers on the pc that was amazing, but yeah amazing game
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 15, 2009
Wowerine
Some of us are going to play it very soon. ;)
By benny180 (SI Core) on Mar 15, 2009
benny180
you probably will wow!
By halowarsstrategy (I just got here) on Mar 18, 2009
halowarsstrategy
The best leader for a Marine Rush is Captain Cutter. Check out my Halo Wars strategy.

Captain Cutter Elephant Turtle

To execute this Halo Wars strategy, your starting build order should be Supply Pad, Supply Pad, Reactor, Turret, Supply Pad, and Turret. While you are building the Supply Pads, a good Halo Wars strategy will require you to move your Warthog to collect supplies, where they can add to your much needed supplies to start your Turtle strategy. Once you have produced your second Turret, a good Halo Wars strategy will require you to build an Elephant for its’ defensive capabilities, and then a Field Armory to upgrade the Turrets. A good Halo Wars strategy will take advantage of Turrets and Elephant, their upgrades, and the infantry producing ability of the Elephant. The goal of this Halo Wars strategy is to sustain an early blow from your opponent, and quickly counter-attack while your opponent is vulnerable. Also, don’t forget to use your Disruption Bomb to fend off a Covenant Leader Rush strategy as part of your UNSC Halo Wars strategy. This Halo Wars strategy will fail if you waste too many of your resources expanding to a new base.

If you wanna see more stuff about Halo Wars strategy, then you should check out:
www.halowarsstrategy.com
By halowarsstrategy (I just got here) on Mar 18, 2009
halowarsstrategy
www.halowarsstrategy.com
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 18, 2009
herodotus
I'd like to hear what Wowerine has to say when he's played it. Go Wow.
By RockPaperNuke (SI Newbie) on Mar 22, 2009
RockPaperNuke
How do the controls pan out? I'm used to PC Keyboard/mouse controls.
By slaythat (SI Veteran Member) on Apr 14, 2009
slaythat
Halo Wars is a fun strategy outing for fans of the universe, but it feels simplistic and short alongside other games in the genre.

The Good:
Superb selection of UNSC and Covenant forces Easy to play once you grasp the controls Engaging storyline and cutscenes Good mission variety through campaign mode.
The Bad:
Covenant not playable in campaign mode, Flood not playable at all Small unit counts and map limit the scale of battles Very few multiplayer options.
By melzerith (SI Core) on Jun 30, 2009
melzerith
wow anyone else get that error message trying to go to page 4?