An RTS based on the Halo universe? Why not? It sort of worked for the Lord of the Rings franchise, and it seems as though Bungie’s baby has a little more of the Midas touch in the gaming world than Baggins and Co.
Ensemble (Age of Empires) knows it has to do Halo Wars right, however. Not only will Halo Wars be repping the universe soon, but they’ll also be challenged with the daunting task of making decent real time strategy for a console.
Let’s face it; aside from lighter hearted titles like the recent Overlord, there isn’t much to brag about in the RTS genre currently featured on the Xbox 360. But from the looks of Ensemble’s demo at E3 2007, we may finally have something to look forward to in the real time strategy genre on Xbox 360.
The best decision Ensemble made, after choosing the Halo universe as subject matter, was to build Halo Wars for the Xbox 360 right off the bat. This isn’t some made-for-PC game that ends up a 360 disc due to some marketing meeting. Halo Wars is built from the ground up to be a console-only SKU, which means it comes from the factory with a controller-optimized nav system.
We nabbed a decent glimpse of Halo Wars’s control system in Ensemble’s demo, which featured a good blend of the types of gameplay activities that will go down when the UNSC decides to get nasty. But first, we were given a quick tour of the UNSC base, which consisted of everything from soldiers doing pushup drills to Warthog mechanics hard at work. We also saw a nifty vehicle construction node that quickly spit out a few hogs after the tester accessed Halo Wars’s de facto rotary menu. The rotary menu pretty much does it all when it comes to the creation and management of resources, and it’s a one button affair in Halo Wars to boot. Simple as pie.
Before the newly created Warthog’s were summoned, two separate squads of marines were sent to engage a few grunts that convened northeast of the UNSC command center. This is where we learned about the simple-yet-effective troop movement system in Halo Wars, which happens to come in a variety of flavors.
The A button quickly cycles through available troops. Pressing and holding A will select multiple troops via a large reticle which actually grows in size as the button is depressed. The reticle is the answer to quick mouse movements of course, and we’ll thank God tonight in our prayers that Ensemble didn’t try to port the PC rodent’s jittery maneuvers into Halo Wars.
Once the opposing infantry divisions faced off, it was readily apparent that the marines didn’t stand a chance. With a single soldier on his last breath, the savvy tester summoned the two earlier-created warthogs to the battlefield. Surprisingly, the heavy guns on the hogs did little to damage the pesky grunts, but the heavy tires did. Yes, running over Covenant swine is just as effective in Halo Wars as it is in the world’s greatest FPS.
The demo fast-forwarded to a grandiose and more heated battle already in progress. A full squad of UNSC hopefuls and vehicles were in a good position behind some metallic cover and definitely holding their own against Covenant opposition. Just when we thought the good fight would be victorious, a scarab shot a devastating beam that nearly wiped out the entire lot of brave marines. This nasty “tinsect” was nearly unbeatable from the ground, but we quickly learned that the UNSC air support is nearly unflappable, and takes much pride in their destructive deluges. The radial menu, once again, called the shots as the user called in a multi-blast air strike that turned the mighty mech into a fiery wreck.
We actually noticed a lot of similarities between Ensemble’s RTS and Bungie’s FPS, since the Dallas-based developer did such a fine job in honoring this original IP. For example, Warthogs properly fishtail and sport the same physics and handling set as the first person shooter (even though the A.I. does a better job of driving than most human soldiers), with weapons fire both looking and sounding just like the whup-ass you’ve opened up a thousand times before on your adversaries. Covenant troops and vehicles are to scale and Halo-accurate as well, which again might not be a big surprise, but there’s surely no mistaking Halo Wars as a part of some other universe than Bungie’s after the first fire-up.
The Halo Wars level that we saw was brief and sadly hands-off, but we’re sure that Ensemble and Microsoft will keep us in the loop on this one. Look for much more coverage on Halo Wars once we get our MJOLNIR-covered mitts on a build.
source from http://previews.teamxbox.com