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Posted on: Nov 09, 2007
WORDS BY: Ryan McCaffrey
Talk about going old-school. Halo Wars — the headline announcement at last year’s X06 show – is taking Halo back to its origins. And no, we don’t mean with a shooter prequel. Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game, which is how Halo was originally conceived. It’s being handled by Ensemble Studios, who will rely on their glowing RTS track record (Age of Empires series) as they do the heavy lifting while Bungie provides support.
Set in 2531 at the onset of the human-Covenant war (read: before the events of the first Halo), the story follows the crew of the UNSC support ship Spirit of Fire and spans multiple planets. Every Halo standby is included: Warthogs, Banshees, Scorpions, Ghosts, and so on, plus a slew of new rides, including the tank-esque Rhino and the Wolverine, an anti-air tank/Warthog hybrid. They all sound exactly as they should, and thanks to the carefully crafted physics engine, everything moves properly, too. In fact, watching Warthogs fishtail around the UNSC base was like watching a Halo 3 match from a god’s-eye view.
The highlight of the gameplay demo was a massive skirmish with vehicles and infantry on both sides. As Covenant Banshees plastered UNSC Warthogs — which were busy shooting at and ramming Covie ground troops — the humans countered with the aforementioned Wolverines before the aliens brought in a Scarab, which proceeded to vaporize every foot soldier before Ensemble summoned the UNSC’s MAC cannon (an orbital Hammer of Dawn–alike) to even the scales.
Though we didn’t get to play, the controls seemed even easier than those in Command & Conquer 3: pressing A selects, double-tapping A selects all units of the same type, B unselects, X moves, Y accesses powers and abilities (like calling down a MAC-cannon shot), and LB selects everything. If you’ve never played an RTS, odds are the canonical reverence oozing from Halo Wars will get you to start.