Halo Wars Review
Note: This was also written for a school newspaper, a.k.a. for the wrong audience. I'll get right on top of the proper rhetorical strategies when I start writing reviews specifically to put on GiantBomb, but this all I have for now... didn't want to see all the work go to waste.
Now, this may come off a bit biased because I am to HALO fans what HALO fans are to normal people. This HALO game, though, is not so much about Master Chief unloading justice into a xenophobic alien species conglomerate as it is about a whole bunch of space-marines unloading justice blahblahblah. See, while every other HALO game has been a first-person-shooter, this one (developed by the well-respected Ensemble Studios and Microsoft) is a Real-Time-Strategy (RTS) game that was developed for the XBOX 360 “from the ground up” as Ensemble employees stated ad nauseum in various interviews and stuff. See, usually RTS’s are played by people who have absolutely no social skills and a mouse-button-finger that would put the most determined woodpecker to shame while at the same time challenging Monica Lewinski’s multi-tasking abilities. This RTS was made for the XBOX 360, though, so the controls are made for console gamers, which is a nicer way of saying they were dumbed down for the people who aren’t geniuses wasting their time on gaming while they could be fixing global climate change or planning spectacular Swiss bank robberies. But anyways:
Graphics: The graphics are satisfactory for an RTS, maybe even a little better. You can’t zoom in and see the tears on the marine’s faces as their companions are blown to wherever dead bits of code go, but you can zoom in enough to see tracer bullets flying through the battlefield. The graphics do the job, basically; they’re not amazing but they don’t disappoint, either. That’s only the gameplay graphics though. The pre-rendered cinematics actually caused my jaw to forcefully fly off of my face and hit me in the lap, which impressed several surgeons who said “that’s not possible” to which I replied “you obviously haven’t played Halo Wars.” I won’t even describe how awesome the cinematics are because a picture’s worth a thousand words, and those cinematics run like, 60 pictures (frames) per second.
Gameplay: You play a commander in charge of a base. You get supplies from the overhead Spirit of Fire mothership and you can make stuff, like buildings that train troops, create vehicles, improve technology, or bring in more supplies. Basically you get supplies, train units (infantry, vehicles, etc.), then go for the objective(s). Objectives usually consist of “make units, go here, kill stuff” which is why moms should not buy this game for their 8 year old (then complain about the video game industry turning their sweet little boy into a model student from the “Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold” school of how to deal with bullies). It all works pretty well, but the lack of mouse control can easily be missed by people who have played computer RTS games. The battles can be quite spectacular when there are a lot of enemy units and an equal amount of friendly units, and it’s fun to watch the explosions for those of us who don’t pretend to have grown out of liking explosions. You could do all of that micromanaging and strategizing that has killed so many game-addicted young men, but that’s for losers and the XBOX 360 is for manly men who only play video games in the down time between varsity sports and Friday nights.
Storyline: the HALO universe is – for lack of a better term – totally freaking huge, and Halo Wars’ story is great as is the story of the other HALO games. It takes place before the events in HALO: Combat Evolved, and is mainly concerned with messing up whatever the Covenant (by the way, the Covenant is the xenophobic alien species conglomerate) want to do. Again, the gameplay is still go-here-kill-stuff, but the amazing story is told by way of cutscenes using the aforementioned mind-blowing pre-rendered cinematics and some in-game moments.
My final word: It’s fun, it looks good, sounds good, and has a HALO-quality storyline. The only thing this game leaves you wanting is slightly better controls and more HALO.