HALO WARS 2 [Review]: Revive The Spartans.
“I think we’re just getting started”
That’s right, Master Chief, we are just getting started. Years after the initial release of Halo Wars, Microsoft has decided to give us another round of RTS gaming in the Halo universe. Halo Wars 2 was a big hit at E3, and the fans have been waiting for the release with excitement–and, now that it’s arrived, we can dive into the second installation and see if the game was worth the wait…
Right off the bat, allow me to say that I don’t have a lot of experience with the Halo Wars series. I played a bit of it on Xbox 360 and gave it a go with the re-released Definitive Edition on PC. Halo aside though, this “Saint” does have quite a lot of experience with Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. Every Warcraft (yes, there were RTS games before WoW ever existed), every Command & Conquer, every Star Craft, every Age of Empires, Star Wars RTS titles Force Commander and Empire at War, and even some lesser known titles such as Dark Reign (without Norman Osborne, mind you) and Total Annihilation.
So yeah, while I’m not overly familiar with the HW series, I do know my RTS games and how to play them. That said, this game rocks! I actually didn’t expect to like HW2 that much, but it really did turn out well and has me hooked to finish the story. Don’t worry; I won’t give away any spoilers (Hmmm.. that’s hard to do while telling about the story). While the narrative isn’t groundbreaking or going to sit in history as the best game story, it will certainly hold your attention and fits well in the Halo universe. I’m actually itching to get back to the game right now…
Having played many RTS games before, this wasn’t a challenge to learn. It was all very familiar–except the lack of ESC key (PC version) bringing me back to the main menu. Instead that was given to the F10 key. Odd, but at least the key bindings can be changed. In this case the ESC key just cancels a task or unselects any units you had selected, which makes sense and is easy to get used to. For the Xbox version, its business as usual, with the start/menu button bringing up your menu as you would expect.
Personally, I prefer RTS games to be played on the PC, but I did give this one a go on the Xbox One as well. A controller just doesnt offer the same speed a mouse and keyboard can give, but it does work well enough to still be playable. Blitz seems to work OK on the Xbone given the simpler play style; but story mode and multiplayer are definitely best on a PC. If you have one available for gaming, that’s the platform I would use.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
HW2 is definitely a great looking game on both platforms. PC versions will get a boost from higher powered set-ups, but it still looks great on the X1 as well. And both run smoothly too, transitioning from gameplay to cinematics and back without a hitch. The visuals goes well with the world of Halo we are used to, and leave you feeling right at home in another Halo story. The units and vehicles yell out phrases that you’d expect to hear, sometimes amusing and other times belted out to inspire victory at all costs. I enjoyed sitting and listening to the music and ambience of the maps, as they were well composed and crafted. Both 343 and Creative Assembly did their homework with HW2. Bravo.
MULTIPLAYER & BLITZ
So… the Saint isn’t always great. I did make the mistake of going into multiplayer thinking my previous RTS knowledge would help. (Huh-huh!) Take my advice now and do some tutorials–or play against the AI on easy–so you can learn the units, tech building, etc., as there is quite a bit more in this than the solo campaign shows you. I survived a decent length of time, but was eventually shown the door by the AI. Yes, geeks, I lost to AI; but to my defense, it wasn’t set on sleezy and I was the only damn guy for them to attack.
Alright. Yeah. I just sucked.
This game mode is otherwise very familiar to other RTS titles, mostly reminding me of the C&C series. You have a main base that you have to place first, and then build power and supply stations to gain resources. One difference in this game is that the power station isn’t required to keep your buildings functioning, but instead just another form of resource required to build some units. Blitz, on the other hand, funcitoned quite well– which I attribute to it being a simpler game style. Your unit choices are based on the four cards presented to you on the screen; some can be played right away, while others have requirements that need to be met first. After you play a card, it is replaced by another until you use up all of the cards in your deck. I suggest building a few different set-ups and getting comfortable with how the card system works.
Overall, Halo Wars 2 hits the mark. I went in a little leary of whether it would keep my attention or enjoy it enough to play through, and I was surprised that it did on both points. If you enjoyed the original Halo Wars, or you enjoy the Halo series and RTS games, you should definitely pick up this one. 4.5/5 Bibles.
Microsoft/343 Industries/Creative Assembly’s Halo Wars 2 comes out this Tuesday, February 21st.