Saturday, February 14, 2009

'Halo Wars' demo really shines

Originally published on on February 01, 2009

Purple much?

When I heard about the upcoming 'Halo Wars' RTS, I had some reservations. I have played RTS games on consoles before - 'End War,' 'Lord of the Rings' - and only 'End War' really got my attention. However, after taking the 'Halo Wars' demo for a spin, color me impressed.

As stated above, I am not a fan of RTS games. And honestly, I've gotten an earful from PC types who declare 'RTS games are at home on PCs, not consoles.' I thought they were correct. Now, I am having my doubts.

Created by the now-closed Ensemble Studios, 'Halo Wars' takes place 20 years (though I am sure in the game it said 25 years) before the events of 'Halo.' You can start the 2-campaign demo with an optional beginner or advanced tutorial, or just hop into the fray. You can also play the Skirmish mode - which matches gamers against bots - no online in the demo - but it's still a good challenge.

For the campaign mode, you lead Sgt. Forge, who has the task of rounding up a few good Marines in need of leadership. After you recruit more units, you'll make your way to your base. The Covenant has taken up residence there - it's your job to evict them with deadly force.

After you clear the base, you will have the opportunity to build the base to your liking. You will be commanded to do a few structures first - create 5 Marines and build a set of barracks, but after that's done, you can do whatever you want.

You can choose from building supply pads - essential for your wealth in the game - building reactors (to raise your tech rating which opens up more options) - a vehicle depot and turrets to keep the Covenant raiding parties in check.

In the Skirmish mode, you have a lot more options. You can only play 1 v 1 in the mode, but you can switch between recruit, normal and difficult AI levels. Believe me, it makes a huge difference.

Just like the campaign mode, you build your base and your unit. However, you have everything unlocked in this mode on the demo. You can create air units, ground units and even use 3 Spartans - to finish the fight.

You can also research new blood - which adds abilities to your Marines. If you add enough upgrades, you can turn your Marines into ODST Shock troopers.

The controls are very good. It's easy to regroup all of your units at once - left bumper on the controller - and move them to another location. Also, it's easy to single out units to have them do various tasks - like take up extra crates.

The enemy AI can be intense too. When a Scarab comes your way, look out. You'll need to call in the heavy artillery to take them out.

Overall, it's a somewhat simplified RTS that has the potential to bring non-RTS types to console. The name 'Halo' on the game helps - the 'Halo' sounds rock too, but this demo really shines. I definitely look forward to playing the finished product.

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