Let me begin by just saying that I've played Command and Conquer. I've played Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, and I've played Company of Heroes. These are all outstanding RTS games. Absolutely fantastic. Halo Wars is not any of them, but it's alright, as far as RTS games go.
RTS games really don't work all that well with a console controller. The RTS genre is designed to work with a mouse, and while Halo Wars' control scheme is competent, it doesn't really try to make the controller the perfect medium for the genre. It does a decent job, but that's just it - it does what it has to do to function, and nothing more. Ensemble Studios haven't really put much effort into making it really work. It's as if they thought "Look, guys, these games are perfect for mice. The 360 controller is not a mouse. Let's just do what we can, take a coffee break, and then put the rest of our effort into the FMV sequences between missions."
I'm struggling to express my thoughts on this with words, so I'll stop.
Halo has always had a decent story. It's nothing amazing, but it's alright. I'm the first to admit that I got completely sucked in by all the hype when Halo 3 came out. Me, of all people. I knew it was an absolutely pedestrian shooter designed for those who are in a perpetual state of inebriation and those whose testicles have yet to drop, but with that much excitement, I simply couldn't help it. When Halo 3 launched and I got my copy on release day like half a million others, I was excited. I felt like I was part of something monumental.
Of course, I was wrong and it was nothing special, but it still felt good at the time. And when I load up Halo Wars, I remember that feeling. The interface is familiar, and the background music is what you'd expect from a Halo game. But frankly, I think it's designed to make you feel that way. Like it's trying to be really fucking special, and make you think it's special. It's very well packaged, but Halo Wars is still just an average RTS, like all of the Halo games before it were average FPSs.
Ensemble Studios have put a lot of effort into making Halo Wars a spectacle for the senses. Every explosion, every sound effect, every gunshot, every animation be it vehicle or infantry, human or alien, feels smooth, polished, cushioned. This is a style that has been maintained and perfected throughout the Halo series, and it really shows in Halo Wars. They've pulled out all the stops for sure. But something they've not quite mastered is how to make a game feel satisfying.
It's not the most challenging game in the world, and to be honest every mission in the campaign has been done in other RTS games. By which I mean all the RTS games ever.
The game's characters are lifeless and trite. You have the wise, seasoned commander. He wears a cap and gives orders. He knows what he's doing. Then you have the petite female lead, and the rival female lead who's bitchy and cold. Then there's the game's protagonist, also known as That Bald Guy With Stubble From Fracture, and All Those Other Games He's Been In Before.
The story's not particularly compelling, either. But, hey, it's an RTS. Nobody plays them for the Campaign. RTS is all about the Skirmish mode. Incidentally, Halo Wars has no map editor. It's an RTS without a map editor. What the fuck is that? Fuck you. Go to jail.
I think I've said all I can really say. It's every RTS you've ever played before, only now it's called Halo and you're using a controller instead of a mouse, and there's no map editor. It's not a groundbreaking RTS by any means, but it's definitely not a bad game either, especially if you enjoy playing online. Yeah, it's not bad at all. I even kinda like it.
Final verdict: C. You can do better.
Final playtime: Around 6 hours I guess
Yeah. No screenshots in this one. I can't find any good ones to steal and it's not worth my time to hook up my TV tuner. Just imagine Halo. There ya go, that's what this game looks like.