Past Entertainment

For the week of 3/16/09

‘Halo Wars’ succeeds where other console war games sucked

By, Ezra Mann (Editor in Spoof)

(These articles have also been published at www.fuelltothefire.com and soon at www.b-scared.com )

Image copyright of Microsoft Game Studios and Ensemble Studios.

Very rarely when an entertainment entity milks a franchise do the results please other than the caffeinated fan boy. Even when reviewing this particular title I had actually grown rather bored with the series and did not expect much, even felt a bit of pre-dread when I learned it was entering the strategy genre.
As a whole, strategy games that have been either ported or created for the console have been met with utter condemnation or just fallen way short of a computer alternative. Yet, despite history and despicable trends, we may just be witness to the coming of a new possibility. “Halo Wars” does not absolutely blow when it comes to being a war game and may just be the best of the storyline so far.
Set in the early years of the UNSC/Covenant conflict, a prequel if you will, gamers join the crew of the “Spirit of Fire,” guided by the AI bombshell Serina. The game has an almost “Star Trek” feel to it with some unscheduled exploration thrown in to spice up the bloody warfare.
It is up to you to lead, protect and at times even babysit forces, with limited, but efficient bases (or sometimes just available forces) in scenarios that force you to use what you have wisely or be wiped out by the enemy. You’ll get to see familiar units including spartans, warthogs, scorpions and elites, modeled to better fit the style of play. The game itself can be completed within a few days or so, but is done in a way that will please even those who never even cared for “Halo” before.
I am impressed with the efforts of Microsoft Game Studios and Ensemble Studios for this collaboration that is both visually appealing and easy to control. The graphics all around are clean as well as crisp with nary a pixel out of place and make the worlds an enjoyable setting for the carnage.
The controls never even once gave me trouble and I was able to select units and build what I needed without even flinching. The only thing that got under my skin was that the Xbox 360 froze a few times during load screens, but was not an issue because no progress was lost after a save. Even playing online was tolerable through skirmish mode, though I must admit that sharing a base in co-op took a bit to get used to.
In the end, I’ve got to give props and say that if other strategy offerings follow this model, then they will be on the right track. I’m actually hopeful that more is added through downloads or a sequel because when the credits rolled I wanted to go right back to the battlefield.
Most should be able to play the game with limited gore shown, but it is a bit to violent for the youngest of gamers. As far as a purchase this game is worth picking up and wouldn’t hurt as a rental either. “Halo Wars” for the Xbox 360, for kicking butt and not pissing me off, you earn a cool five out of six toggles.

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