Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Ensemble Studios
N Amer - 2008
E3 2007 Preview
Ensemble Studios have certainly made a name for themselves on PCs with their hugely successful Age of Empires games. However, now the developer is setting their sights on consoles. This time around, they are setting their sights on some pretty big game, tackling the beloved Halo universe and modeling a console real-time strategy game after it. Those out there who are worried about the games should fear, as the game will be very faithful to the Halo franchise, and will have a streamlined control scheme that will make the whole experience feel right at home on the Xbox 360. Scheduled for a 2008 release, Halo Wars should do a fine job of bringing the series into new, uncharted ground.
The storyline for Halo Wars will take place twenty years before the original Halo, with the forces of Earth and the Covenant amalgamation of alien planets locked in the middle of a huge interplanetary conflict. The demo build was concerned primarily with the UNSC forces as they used the familiar vehicles and weaponry that fans of the Halo series have come to know and love.
Halo Wars has been in development for two and a half years now, and the team at Ensemble have spend about six months of that just working on the controls in order to ensure that they will be easily adaptable for a wide range of console gamers. Selecting units will be done using a combination of the A and X buttons, with A selecting your units and X positioning them around the map.
You can hold down the A button to “paintbrush” units on the field, moving the cursor over the ones that you want to select. If you get too far from home, then the D-Pad will allow you to snap right back to your base. Creating your vehicles is an easy matter of selecting the building to create them and then selecting them in a circle menu.
The game will give you access to a ton of vehicles and units from within the Halo universe, from infantry units to Warthogs and Scorpions. There is a new vehicle, Orcs, which are basically smaller fighter jet-style ships used for escort and attacking.
The E3 demo also gave some insight into the battle elements of the game. On the jungle planet, Harvest, featured in the demo, the player had a hundred units staging an attack on a Covenant base. Warthogs would have the same physics as they would if you were actually driving them in Halo, as they would fishtail and jump ravines just like you’d expect. The smaller infantry units would get wasted by the enemy, but then larger crafts, like Scorpions with huge missiles and anti-aircraft capabilities swept in and begun shooting the banshees out of the sky and evening the odds.
However, the enemy seized this opportunity to whip out their big guns, and unleashed the Scarab, a huge mechanical beast that popped up and began frying the UNSC units by the boatload. A quickly placed blast from an orbiting spacecraft put an end to this, and victory was achieved by the UNSC side.
While not present in the demo, the developers stated that Spartans would be a playable unit, but would not elaborate as to whether or not we’d get an appearance from the big M.C. himself. The game will also feature a co-op multiplayer mode when it releases in 2008.
Ensemble’s upcoming RTS in the Halo universe will feature a faithful storyline and console-friendly controls.
Reviewer: Steven Hopper
Review Date: 07/13/2007