February 6, 2009

959 words 5 mins read

Halo Wars – Fun for the whole Family*

*Only true for exceptionally small values of Family; like 1 (2 if you have another Xbox 360 and want to do system link).

Decided that I should post a follow up to Jon’s Article with a bit more about the game.

First off, I had forgotten that yesterday was the day the demo would come out so I didn’t get a chance to start the download before I left for work, but thanks to the NXE I was able to queue it up over the web so that when the xbox did get turned on, it would start the download shortly thereafter (note for any xbox engineers reading this: any chance we could get the ability to wake up our consoles to download these things?). Got home, started the 1.4 GB download and then watched Stargate: Continuum again (didn’t want to use up any bandwidth via Netflix Instant Watch). Universe was eventually saved so I switched back to the xbox and it was still downloading… so I played a little Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, did whatever a spider could and then the demo was ready.

First up… a warning about photosensitivity that you actually have to press the A button to get through (first time I had actually seen one of those that required interaction to continue). Then the game; I recommend starting with the tutorials even if you have played an RTS before; they can be a bit slow at times, but they do teach you the controls. That being said, if you’ve ever played an RTS before, feel free to skip the Basic tutorial. The controls are fairly intuitive for anyone who is used to playing the xbox: Left Stick moves you/your view and Right Stick controls the camera, A accepts your choice, B cancels; the usual controls.

After the tutorial I played the campaign, of which you get to play (I presume) the first two missions. In typical RTS campaign style, you don’t have access to everything at first (like Spartans), you have to get access to these things through plot relevant parts of subsequent missions. Most people will play through the campaigns once and then be done with it. What gives a game like this (and say… Starcraft or even C&C: Generals — Zero Hour) its sticking power is the Skirmish/Multiplayer mode.

You don’t have too many choices on how to play Skirmish, just whether you want to be USNC or Covenant, what your opponent will be, and finally the AI difficulty (Easy, Normal, Heroic). First play through I took the defaults (USNC vs Covenant on Normal) and took my time, ooohing and ahhhing at all the shiny things I can build and various unit noises (“aww, we got grunt bits on the grill” — Warthog) as well as the various upgrades (more on that below). Then I decided to switch it out and make it Covenant vs USNC which was a little different for upgrades as well as leader powers (as Jon noted, USNC can fire a MAC; Covenant just has a leader unit and its power) and it went much quicker. Lastly, this morning I played again (USNC vs Covenant) and went even faster.

In general you need a certain amount of power (granted via Reactors for the USNC and Temple upgrades for Covenant) for upgrades; they are also fairly linear on a per unit basis (see list at bottom for USNC units), which greatly speeds along the upgrade process (no thinking involved, you want better Marines, just hit the Marine Upgrade button).

The ability to pick whether you were upgrading weapons, armor, shields, and/or special abilities in Starcraft seems to have spoiled me. It would be nice if I got to pick which thing I was upgrading (i.e. maybe I don’t care about a units special ability right now and want just more damage/defense), but in order to make this game playable on a console, that is something that needed to be sacrificed (sub-circle menus would not really work).

Air Field

  • Hornet: Wing Men (damage), Chaff Pod (defense against rockets)

  • Vulture: Mega-Barrage (special ability upgrade)


  • Marine: New Blood (damage), RPG (special ability upgrade), Medic (gain a heal over time), ODST Super Unit (damage)

  • FirebatFlamethrower: Flashbang (special ability), Napalm Adherent (more damage), Oxide Tank (damage)

  • Spartan: Chaingun (damage), Neural Amp (faster vehicle jacking), Laser (damage) Base

  • Fortress (2 more building spots)

  • Warthog: Gunner (gets a gun), Grenadier (damage), Gauss Cannon (damage)

  • Elephant: Twin Engine (speed), Defense Turrets (guns available when deployed), Ceramic Armor (more defense) Field Armory

  • Adrenaline (Faster Troop Movement)

  • Reserves (decreases training time)

  • Reinforcements (+10 population cap)

  • Medium Turret, Large Turret

  • Medium MAC (Fire 2 Shots instead of 1), Large MAC (Fire 3 shots), Super MAC (4 shots) Misc

  • Supply Pad: Heavy Supply (faster supply drops for this specific building)

  • Reactor: Advanced Reactor (Adds 2 Power instead of just 1) Vehicle Depot

  • Scorpion: Canister Shell (damage), Power Turret (damage)

  • Cobra: Deflection Plating (defense), Piercing Shot (damage)

  • Wolverine: Volley Ability (special ability), Dual Launcher (damage) Couple last notes… this game was really made for a console, you have easy to navigate circle menus that get you where you need to go quickly (though the first time you play, you will spend time reading everything on said menus, then you’ll get used to the icons). Currently, there are no plans to make this available on the PC, which I am thrilled about. A keyboard player would still have advantages over a console player (hotkeys and what not), but this game really plays smoothly on the console.

  • If you haven’t played the demo yet, then get out there and make it so, of course if you aren’t an xbox live gold member, you may have to wait a bit longer to get access.