HALO WARS is whole new direction for the franchise, and for Bungie too for that matter. They’ve gone from making a genre redefining First Person Shooter to a Real Time Strategy, but have the guys at Bungie got what it takes to create a whole new game under the HALO franchise? I think they may have just about pulled it off…. just.
The title screen straight away made me step back and say ‘oh, ok then’ in a bit of shock. It was not what I was expecting – visually it had a similar layout and colour scheme to the HALO series, which made it instantly recognisable without me having to read the title, but the music…. what is this music? I then had to read the title – ‘yep, it’s HALO WARS’, but I instantly felt detached from the game. It felt like it was a whole new and separate game and not part of anything else. Maybe it was just my expectation of was different to the reality, but the original HALO theme was so in-tune with everything that HALO was, I couldn’t help but feel sad. (The same sort of feeling I would have had if Larry Hagman, who played JR in Dallas, was replaced half way through with another actor…. You see it and know it to be true, but you can’t quite believe it.)
When the game started it gave me the option to take movement training. I accepted and was given a breif once over the basic controls. Unlike many other RTS games, they were simple and to the point, and gave plenty of time to practice before moving onto the next instruction.
Once the basic training was over, it was time to start the campaign. I was introduced to the main characters with a beautifully put together cutscene, the quality of the animation, textures, voice acting is incredible as you would expect from a HALO game.
The in-game controls play out very well, albeit a little on the basic side when compared to Command & Conquer or the recent Tom Clancy’s EndWar. A – Selects the currently targeted unit, A (hold) – Opens a tagging circle to select multiple units, RB – Selects ‘local units’ ie. what is onscreen at the time, LB Selects all of your units. However, if you have units garrisoned in a building or behind cover, then they are not selected by pushing the LB, and if you don’t know where you left them, they can be quite hard to find.
The camera controls were a big issue for me. There is no visible option to to jump across the map, so when i got the ‘Unit under attack message’ I straight away started scrolling the camera across the battlefield (with no option to increase the speed) towards the flashing red indicator on the map. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, my units they were already dead and the ‘fog of war’ has once again covered the area so I didn’t know if they were killed by 1 enemy unit or by 100.
The zoom control in this game is almost completely worthless as it doesn’t go far enough out or far enough in, it instead sits around the middle of the scale. During the heat of battle I found it very hard to select individual units to assign individual targets. Now I’m playing this on a 42 inch screen with full 1080p HD while sitting 3 meters away and I’m struggling , so I can’t imagine anyone being able to play this on anything smaller. The distance also made me feel a little detached from the action, as I could only just make out what was happening down on the ground, eg. a soldier ducking in and out of cover to take down an grunt or diving out of the way of a plasma grenade.
The vehicles do tend to get stuck when in a group, they don’t push past each other, they try one or twice to pass then they just sit there and wait for you to move the other units out of the way by hand. I’m hoping that these things will have been fixed since the demo was made.
The first part of the demo was a straight, run and gun with your available units, which gave me a feeling for how the game would play (minus the dodgy camera controls and obvious lack of the trademark HALO theme tune). The second part of the demo introduced me to the games resource management engine. Nice and simple, power and supplies – power is generated using reactors which can be upgraded (if you have enough supplies) to a x2 reactor. Supplies are generated by building a landing pad for freighters to regularly dock on and also out in the field by targeting supply crates and sending your infantry over to them.
All in all, I would say it was fun to play, but if I hadn’t have read the title and if it didn’t have Warthogs or Pelicans in, then I wouldn’t have though it was part of the HALO franchise.
HALO WARS is scheduled for UK release on the 27th February 2009.
- Gameplay – 9
- Graphics – 10
- Sound – 7
- Controls – 5
- Overall – 8