What about them? What if you’re one of those countless Halo fans who only plays the game on multiplayer and not the single player campaign? What if you’ve never played an RTS, have no idea what one is, and only bought the game because of the word “Halo” on the front? To you I say, you’re gonna love the cutscenes. But seriously, I think you might love the game too if you only give it a chance.
Because if you are a Halo fan, Halo Wars is essential. The aforementioned cut-scenes are nothing short of awesome, putting previous efforts in Halo to shame. Even though it takes place years before the events of the original Halo: Combat Evolved, the action in Halo Wars fleshes out a lot of the story, while being awesomely conceived in its own right. The story only gets richer. But the in-between, the actual game, is not to be missed.
Sure, Halo Wars takes the typical path in its campaign of ramping you up to the entire tech tree, while teaching you the fundamentals of movement and warfare through simplified escort and discovery missions. But leave it to the deft hands of Ensemble Studios – some serious RTS heads on the scene who disappeared far before we were ready for them to – or maybe head writer and video game industry Zelig, Graeme Devine, to make those levels that seem so rote in other games seem like they matter in this one. Maybe it’s the benefit of the Halo license, or maybe it’s just immense talent on their part, but it just works.
So the story is good, the controls are great, it does right by the Halo license, what’s left? How about the A.I.? Is it challenging? Unfortunately, this is one arena in which Halo Wars stumbles a bit. It’s not that the game is too easy or too hard. The problem is, it’s both. It’s either too easy or too hard. It’s never in-between, where I feel like I’m truly evenly matched with the A.I. It never once surprised me or made me think, which is a bummer. I may always have multiplayer, but I would love an A.I. match that felt even.
There are some other quibbles with the game. No Covenant campaign comes quickly to mind. Let’s hope they’re saving that for downloadable content. But really, nothing else to slam the game about. Halo Wars is undoubtedly fun; one just worries if it’s not enough for one group of gamers and too much for another. If you’re part of that middle ground like I believe I am, then you’ll love Halo Wars as much as I did.