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Game Reviewed: Halo Wars
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Real-Time Strategy (RTS)
ESRB Rating: T
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Humanity’s war against the Covenant (a coalition of alien races bent on destroying all humankind) has been raging on for a few years now. The first planet the Covenant took, Harvest, has been regained by humanity, but the Covenant is not quite appreciative of that yet. This struggle, however, will go far beyond Harvest, as the Covenant have another plan far more sinister, involving Forerunner technology that humanity is not even aware of yet.
Unfortunately, the story of Halo Wars is quite weak, especially when compared to the epic stories told by Bungie’s Halo trilogy. However, the gameplay is quite strong. You, as the player, see all the action from a top-town perspective, watching it all unfold as if you were hovering above it in a helicopter. You have a base of operations; where you train troops and make various vehicles (tanks, mechs, etc.). From there, you command your troops, telling them where to go and what to do. From your overhead perspective, you can tell one unit or many to go to a certain location, take over a building, or attack your enemy. Battles play out well, as infantry fires from behind cover, tanks fire across the battlefield, and airborne machines rain bullets and plasma down on the chaos. It really is a glorious thing for a Halo fan to watch, as large-scale battles unfold between the two factions they are so familiar with.
With that said, this kind of game normally works best on a computer, where the player has a mouse that can be used to easily select units and a keyboard with tons of programmable keys. Ensemble, however, did a good job of porting the genre to a console: the controls are designed well and the strategic nature of this game is intact.
What Parents Need to Know
Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game, meaning that rather than directly controlling your character, you are acting as a commander, telling your troops where to go and who to attack. As a result, the violence is not seen up close, and you are never personally the one acting it out. The weapons range from typical rifle fire to flamethrowers to bombs. If you zoom in to the closest level, you can sometimes see strangely colored alien blood. The only blood that would ever catch my attention was that of the alien Hunters, as it is bright yellow. The blood of the grunts (little, easily defeated aliens) or the elites (huge, fierce opponents), or of humans for that matter, does not call attention to itself.
-The word “damn” is used a few times.
-The word “a**” is used a couple times.
There is no sexual content in Halo Wars.
As with the other Halo games, it is implied that the Covenant follow some sort of religion, but it is not detailed or even really delved into at all in this game. The player can command the Covenant as one of their Prophets in multiplayer modes, and he has a special power in which a devastating beam rains destruction on the chosen target. It is assumed, however, this ability is technological and we are given no reason to assume otherwise, especially considering the Covenant religion was never given credence in the trilogy.
The gameplay in Halo Wars is quite strategic, especially once you get to understand your units and such. It really is a game that anyone could play by amassing any army and attacking, but a truly good player will know what units to make and how to use them for maximum efficiency. Playing online with a friend against other players is a very fun experience. The story, however, (the reason I love Halo in the first place) was very, very lacking. Still, the gameplay is good and the T rating may allow for some people to venture into the Halo universe for the first time.