Halo Wars – Hands On Preview

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Yes it’s true, we have already finished the whole single player campaign in Halo Wars. Problem is, that because of the embargo that only ends on the 20th of February, we aren’t actually allowed to tell you everything about it just yet.

What I can do however, is give you a good idea of what you can expect.

I have to be quite honest when I say that I am far from being a huge Halo fan and from the moment I heard about Halo Wars, I was pessimistic about the whole idea. Sure, turn the big franchise into an even bigger cash cow by spreading out into different genre’s.

But then I heard a few interesting facts. Firstly, Master Chief was nowhere to be seen, and that impressed me considering that he is usually pimped out using any means necessary in order to improve sales. Second, I heard that (the late) Ensemble Studios was working on it, and with titles like the Age of Empires series under their belt, some respect is well deserved because they were one of the few developers out there who really knew how to put a solid RTS title together.

So then, let’s take a closer look.

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Halo Wars takes place in the Halo universe a while before even the first Halo game takes place. The war against the Elite’s is in full gear and it’s up to you and the crew of the Spirit of Fire ship to save the universe… so that Master Chief can save it again in future… multiple times… and then finish the fight… or whatever.

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What is quite different from the other Halo titles, is that Ensemble opted to go the pre-rendered cutscenes route for Halo Wars as opposed to all of the in-engine cutscenes from Master Chiefs little romps around the universe. Once you see a few of these with your own eyes you are going to wonder why in the hell they didn’t do it with all the other Halo titles, they are just that beautiful.

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The most important part of a console RTS, the controls, have been handled very interestingly. The controls are quite simple and allow for any console RTS newcomer to get comfortable with them very quickly, with easy button assignments and a low amount of complexity. I would love to delve deeper into the specifics but you will just have to wait for the full review later this month.

On the technical side of things, Halo Wars looks great as far as console RTS games go and runs at a nice smooth framerate for most of the time, with the exception of those moments where there are a bazillion units exploding simultaneously on screen. Most of the sounds are pulled straight out of Halo 3, so weapons and vehicles should sound very familiar to anyone who has played Halo before.

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Halo Wars offers the campaign mode for both single player and co-operative multiplayer, allowing you to play through with a friend over system link or Xbox Live.

Also included, as is basically standard with RTS games these days, is a full player vs player multiplayer mode as well as a Skirmish mode which lets you play the multiplayer modes against A.I bots.

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Will Halo Wars do for console RTS games what the original Halo did for console shooters? Be sure to read our full review on February 20 to find out.

Last Updated: February 9, 2009

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since ’08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

  • I’m … intrigued :ninja: … look forward to the review

  • DarthPenguin

    Damn you.. there is not point to this article!!!!

    Seriously.. I can some this whole think up in 1 sentence:

    “We played Halo Wars, you haven’t, andit looks awesome and plays awesome!”

    I can’t wait for this to come out.. I watched over 35 minutes of ameplay the other day… this is the first RTS that excites me in a long long time. And it has nothing to do with it being “Halo.” I look forward to your review.

  • janrik

    Having played the demo all weekend.

    I agree. The game is going to be superb.

  • johker

    hehe…This article made in onto N4G.

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