Previews// Halo Wars - Multi-Player

RTS games on home consoles have been very hit-and-miss

Posted 20 Feb 2009 14:55 by
How far can Halo go? Plenty far, if you ask Microsoft ? Master Chief has had his metal mug displayed on everything from Burger boxes to Mountain Dew cans and theatre trailers. And that was just for promoting Halo 3, a campaign that was as epic as the game?s own single-player mode. There?s a lot of life left in the franchise, with movies being rumoured and books being published, so it only makes sense that we see more games that outline the war between the UNSC and the Covenant.

Halo Wars doesn?t take a first-person perspective though. It doesn?t even follow the same genre as the other Xbox games, instead taking a Real Time Strategy approach to exploring the events that occur before the 2001 classic. An ambitious step, considering that RTS games on home consoles have been very hit-and-miss, but Ensemble ? guided by Microsoft Game Studios? lead producer Jason Pace ? seems to have put its expertise to work quite well here.

Taking place 20 years before Master Chief?s debut in Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo Wars tells the story of Sergeant Forge, a UNSC troop leader, as he tries to fend off a galaxy-wide invasion from the Covenant. Despite the change in genre, the familiar presentation and visual style of the Halo franchise remains ? the first thing you notice is that this feels like a valid Halo product, rather than an RTS with Halo characters tacked on it.

This was one of the primary objectives of Ensemble, as Pace explains; ?The whole team, including myself, are huge Halo fans, so the main thing we wanted to do was to make sure this game felt like a part of that franchise. To do that, we had to take a step back and discover what makes Halo ?Halo?.

?It really came down to two things: the concept of ?heroism?, in carrying the torch for humanity and being Earth?s last hope; and the sheer visceral, engaging action that is present throughout the game.?

Of course, one of the other major problems for Ensemble was how to create a console RTS that didn?t oversimplify or dumb down the core experience.

Pace said that the Age of Empires studio wasn?t fazed by the challenge, and it approached Halo Wars no differently than their other projects.

However, it shows that they were keen to show that a genre best played on a PC can succeed using an input device that?s somewhat less intuitive than a keyboard and mouse. The controls are mapped pretty well to the Xbox 360 controller, with simple camera zooms and a decent scroll system allowing you to see all of the action you need to. If there?s somewhere you need to focus on urgently, you can use one of the triggers to speed up the scrolling.
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