Luckily, the Covenant's energy shield technology is at your disposal. By building one or more Shield Generators on your base, you'll add a layer of protection that the UNSC bases won't have access to. A double-shielded Covenant base bristling with fully upgraded defense turrets it's just as scary a sight as it sounds when you encounter it as an unprepared UNSC commander.

Shield Generators are cheap and quick to construct, which is great if you're playing as the aliens and a real pain in the MJOLNIR armor if you're trying to bust through them. In addition to Energy Shields, the Covenant also have another trick up their sleeves. Each alien base comes with a gravity lift that will transport any unit placed on it directly to wherever your leader is on the battlefield.

Each team in Halo Wars deploys with a leader, a hero unit with special abilities, who you'll get to pick at the beginning of each multiplayer or skirmish match. You'll have access to different troop types depending on who you pick, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. If you like using the UNSC's Spirit of Fire support ship to unleash devastating attacks from above, you'll want to go with Capt. Cutter or Sgt. Forge.

Even a fully shielded Covenant base is no match for a full-on assault.


If you'd rather use brute force on the ground, go with the Covenant Arbiter, who terrifies his troops into doing whatever he commands. The Prophet of Regret, the alien Hierarch that everyone loves to hate, has a particularly nasty Cleansing laser beam to match his personality.

Unlike the UNSC, Covenant leaders actually appear on the battlefield in multiplayer as fighting units with their own attacks and upgrade paths. Human leaders simply determine their army's options (although Forge is playable in the campaign). It's a smart distinction that gives the Covenant faction a unique twist. Matched unit-to-unit, UNSC forces are a bit more powerful than their Covenant counterparts, but Ensemble has worked hard to bring balance to each side.

UNSC bases don't have Energy Shields, but each of its leaders can call down attacks on Covenant bases from orbit. And the Covenant may have gravity lifts that can transport units to their leader's location, but the UNSC's Capt. Cutter has access to Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, who can pod in anywhere on the map to devastating effect.

War is hell.


Most of the vehicles you've come to associate with the Halo universe are here, including Warthogs, Banshees, Hornets and Ghosts. Later in the week, we'll take a closer look at how the units in Ensemble's RTS compare with their FPS counterparts and introduce some of the brand-new troops and vehicles than Halo Wars introduces to the world that Bungie built.

Tomorrow, we'll be delving deep into Halo Wars' multiplayer modes – how they work, what's on offer and the strategies you'll need to know if you want to put your friends to shame. Stick with IGN Xbox 360 all week long for more Halo Wars coverage, including our final review on Friday.