This is yet another great addition to the Halo trilogy. Halo Wars takes the player 20 years before the original Halo: Combat Evolved, but in an entirely new game style. Halo Wars is not a first person shooter (FPS) like the previous installments. Instead, for the first time in this series, this title is a real-time strategy (RTS) game.
You play as Sergeant Forge of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC), on your way to retake a base that was previously captured by the alien opposition the Covenant. As you work your way to the base, you’ll pick up reinforcements to help take it back. Once you have done so, you are then transported to a planet called Arcadia which has a population under 3,000,000 and is a vacation site for humans that turns into a war zone. As you proceed further into the game, you receive more unlockable units, which help you fight against the Covenant forces.
Halo Wars also has a mode of play called Skirmishes, in which are you can fight as either the Covenant or UNSC. Both the Covenant and the UNSC have three leaders to choose from that will give you extra bonuses. If you choose the UNSC, the three leaders you get are Captain Cumer, Sergeant Forge, and Professor Anders. Unlike the Covenant, the UNSC leaders have an ability that automatically gives your buildings an upgrade. The Covenant does not have bonuses toward their buildings, but have a special power that can be used to obliterate enemy units.
The three Covenant leaders are Arbiter, Brute Chieftain, and The Prophet of Regret. The Arbiter’s special ability lets you control his movements without having to press X to tell him to go somewhere; you move your left analog and he goes there while your right analog swings at foes. Brute Chieftain’s special ability is a Vortex that explodes when you press A. The Prophet of Regret has my favorite by far, which is a little thing I like to call “The Jesus Beam”. A huge beam comes down from above and you control everywhere it goes, dealing unbelievable amounts of damage. To be able to control one of the leaders, you would have to do it in a Skirmish or multiplayer. You don't have a choice on who you get to play as in the campaign, unfortunately.
You start off with basic marines as ground units, but can upgrade them into deadlier soldiers called ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper). These are the top of the line marines which are twice strong and preferred if you're going into combat. Along with the ODSTs, you can also control the beloved Scorpion tank and its upgrade, the GRIZZLY. As for the Covenant, you are able to control grunts, hunters, jackals, and of course, the locust. The locust is the smaller version of the Scarab, which you can also control but costs a hefty amount.
Unfortunately, there is no campaign for the Covenant forces. As for playing as the Covenant forces, you would have to play the Skirmishes, online, or connect your Xbox 360 to another console and play a friend in a one-on-one.
Unlike most RTS games (e.g. Age of Empires, Empire Earth, Age of Mythology), Halo Wars makes it somewhat easier to produce materials to build your base. In most RTS, there is more than one piece of material required to build a unit or building. In Halo Wars, all that is required to train your units or build your buildings are supplies which are obtained from the Spirit of Fire (or the mother ship) above. Building a supply pad is how to achieve this getting your supplies.
Although Halo Wars was not a product of Bungie, who made the the first, second and third Halo installments, it's still a nicely made game. It still has all the same vehicles, units, and sounds. The sounds are still amazing. You can hear everything in Halo Wars as you would in any of the other Halo installments. If you listen when a Spartan loses his or her shield, you’ll hear it charge back up. All of the weapons and vehicles sound the same also, to make it more of a familiar feeling for previous Halo fans.
If you had a Spartan, they also had shields along with a Dual SMPs, Chaingun, and a Spartan laser. All of which are obtained by upgrading your Spartan unit at the barracks. Spartans can still take control of enemy vehicles which is a very nice thing to have when you are being attacked by the entire enemy army.
The intro music to Halo Wars is the same as it normally is for Halo. It’s still that soft, slow music score, by Stephen Rippy, with the epic feel that just makes you want to play. Along with the music are beyond excellent cut scenes (precursor for a movie planned for 2012) and are also perfect for keeping the story line in full throttle.
Halo Wars is bringing RTS style games back to life. After playing my first mission, I was instantly hooked. I played through the campaign non-stop until I had beaten it, which took me about seven to eight hours total. That’s about average for me to beat most games. I then tried the online play and loved it as well. Along with forming your own strategies to build your base quicker and bigger, you also have the ability to team up with one or two other people to help take on the same amount of people on the opposite side. If Ensemble Studios creates another Halo game just like Halo Wars, I will more than likely pre-order it as soon as it's announced for sale.
Halo Wars is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Blood, Mild Language, and Violence.