Commanding Spartans is almost as fun as playing as them
Keep in mind that Halo Wars is the first rts I've ever played(go on, call me a noob), so my standards for the game were based on the same standards I have for all games. Be fun and give me reason to play after the initial first run.
I beat the campaign and for the most part it's pretty good. What I liked most about it is that most of the missions have you doing pretty different things. Almost none of the missions feel similar. Halo Wars probably has the most varied single player experience I've played in years. Which is totally awesome.
My only complaints for the campaign really is that the pacing for the story wasnt all that great and to be honest the characters aside from the arbiter and spartans just werent really that interesting. Everyone pretty much fit into some very familiar arch types. It just fealt like things were kinda zooming on by before you could settle comfortably as well.
In other words you sorta undertsood what was going on but some of the finer details were hazey, kinda like Halo 3. After beating the campaign I watched the theater mode(Not to be confused with Halo 3's theater mode that lets you watch gameplay. This theater mode allows you to watch cut scenes) and after that I went and got my facts straight on Halopedia(nerdy vash is nerdy).
The campaign supports 2-player co-op and I was kind of concerned how exactly this would work. I've gone through the campaign with one of my friends and I'm glad to say it works. It's not perfect, but it works and it's certainly not bad.
How it works is typically a mission will start out and you and your buddy both get a part of how ever many units there are(and if one player so chooses, they can give their units to their friend). You both share bases and budget, how ever. Assuming your playing with a friend and not some random retard this can open doors to strategies that would be harder to pull off on your own. For example one mission has you repairing a part of a space ship while simultaneously fighting of Covenant infantry on the ship. What I did was take all the cyclops and repair the ship while my friend took everything everything else and fight the covenant aboard the ship. The missions were much easier when we split up the tasks this way.
Besides the co-op, the mission variety and the adjustable difficulty the campaign will have you coming back in form of skulls, black boxes and campaign scoring. Skulls are alot more trickier in Halo Wars than they were in Halo 3 or 2. Not only are they hidden in a certain part of each level, in order for them to even show up you must complete certain tasks. For example to have the skull in the first level to show up you need to kill one hundred grunts(this is the most difficult skull to get in the campaign as a matter of fact). Black boxes on the other hand stay in the same location in the campaign, so you need not worry about having to complete special tasks.
As for campaign scoring system the game will grade you based on performance will gold silver bronz medal and other stuff like that. Your score is based on how quickly you complete the mission, if you complete any of the special side quests and if/what skulls you have activated during the mission(the skulls can make the experience harder, easier or just goofy like scarabs shooting rainbow beams and grunts exploding in confeti).
I guess I'll adress one question that some probably ask. Does it feel like Halo? I'd say thats a definite yes. All the weapons make the exact sound effects they did in the older games. Most of the covenant races make an appearance, save for the drones which is made up in tenfold by the first ever in game appearance of the egineers(besides, who liked the drones? really? ). Almost all the familiar USNC and Covenant vehicles make an appearance. Both the USNC and Covenant make some smack talk in battle which is pretty cool.
I'd say that Ensemble did a great job making it feel like Halo. Almost all the new units fit in perfectly, especially the Locust. The only ones I don't really like are the Vampire and the Cyclops. It's basically a flying needler. As for the the Cyclops it's really not that bad, but why would the UNSC discontinue giant mechs? Because supposedly they did.
The soundtrack, it's awesome. I love it. I'd say it's the best sound track in the series after Halo 2. What more can I say? I'll likely buy the sound track. And for the graphics, I guess their okay. Theres not much I can really compare them to. This is the only console(or just RTS) I've ever played. I mean, things arent extremely detailed, but why would tiny on screen units be detailed? If anything is impressive though it's the animations. The battles going down on the ground aren't just these continually recycled animations, if you look closely some times theres some real hand to hand combat going down between these tiny spartans and elites and it's pretty cool.
I almost forgot to mention, the game comes with a sort of time line mode. You can unlock events in the time line by finding black boxes and winning skirmish games with each of the leaders and winning skirmish games on each map. The time line details mostly events that happen during and around the events of Halo Wars for the most part. Most stuff regarding the characters. It also helps put some perspective on how long the events of Halo Wars takes place. It feels like maybe two days, but according to the time line the game's events happen in a the time frame of about a week.
Then there are certain events that are detailed in the time line that have you scratching you head such as when the Brutes took over the role of the Elites in the covenant, which happens over twenty years after Halo Wars.
Okay.... Now I'm mostly done with the story and campaign... I think.
For mutliplayer... Theres not much I can tell you except I suck. I suck really bad and I doubt thats going to change any time soon. I typically like building up my forces. And I havent really learned how to repel some of those rush strategies. So I lose, alot. Hopefully I will get better.
Okay, now that my suckatude is out of the way I can atually talk about what the multiplayer is like. It reminds me of Gears 2, but not quite in a bad way. It's similar in that theres not enough game types but theres a good amount of maps. The game only has two modes. standard skirmish and death match. Skirmish seems to be a normal match where you just try and destroy the enemy base/s and units. Death match seems to be the same thing but you start off with a ton of resources and fully upgraded units. You can play these in varations of 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3.
I'm not sure why the game couldnt come with a free for all mode. And concerning game tyes two just doesnt seem like much. I'm not familiar with RTS that much but I could see game types from Halo working here to such as capture the flag and king of the hill.
The lack of game types though is almost made up with the abundance of maps. The game ships with fifteen maps which is more than I've seen any console multiplayer game ship with aside from maybe Unreal Tournament III.
I've been hearing people complain about how the game only has two playable factions. I'm not sure why this is such a problem. But I guess this is some what remedied by the fact that there are six different leaders, each leader having a handfull of unique units and speacial leader powers.
With the two races and six leaders one will probably ask, is the game balanced? Right now I can't say for certain. Like I said I'm new to RTS, so I probably havent learned all the counter tactics. Right now things seem mostly balanced. The covenant's max population is ten more than that of the UNSC but UNSC units are generally more powerfull. The main problem seems to be though that rushing for the Covenant seems too effective. The covenant leader is an actual unit(the UNSC one isn't actually there). And while this may present a problem as the covenant leader can die(I forget how you respawn them but I know you can), it presents a significant advantage for rushing.
See, the Covenant bases come with a teleport pad that teleports any units to the leader. So it makes rushing much easier. Theres that and ODSTs... They seem to rape everything. Once players have managed to upgrade to ODSTs you can drop them into the battle field via a special leader power with Captain Cutter. The problem with this is that you can just constantly keep dropping ODSTs if any of the ones die on the battlefield making it very hard maybe even impossible to fend yourself off from a bunch of ODSTs. Eventually they will overwhelm you. Fortunatly former Ensemble employees formed Robot Entertainment and will be supporting Halo Wars, so any unfair advantages will likely iron them out with a patch. In fact there is a patch in the work right now.
On top of the up coming patch DLC is currently being developed for the game with three new multiplayer game modes and a new set of achievements to earn. So if you start getting bored of what in the box you have that to look forward to.
I'd reccomend it to the hardcore Halo fans. The ones that care about the lore. I'd reccomend it to people interested in the RTS genre but haven't gotten into it. I'm not entirely certain it's for the hard core RTS fan, but if they came expecting a top of the line RTS game I'd doubt they'd be be happy with it, but they'd be over expecting if they thought Halo Wars was going to be one of the best games ever. Ones thing is for certain though, Halo Wars is a fun game.