Xbox One, PC
February 21, 2017
Creative Assembly, 343 Industries
It’s fair to say the advertising campaign for Halo Wars 2 has been one of the best in recent years. Not only did it have an amazing trailer at E3 featuring an original exclusively written song called “I Know You” by White Buffalo, but the follow up “War of Wits” videos, The Sale‘ and ‘The Armrest‘ are hilarious and have been massively successful at marketing the game.
I’ll admit it now: I’m a bit of a die-hard Halo fan. I’ve loved the franchise right from the very first moment I took those first legendary steps with the Master Chief on the original Xbox console. Battling through hoards of Covenant and Flood (the true bringers of nightmares), many glorious hours were spent with my favourite Spartan.
From the moment the game booted I was an emotional wreck. The soundtrack to Halo Wars 2 is truly outstanding and had me weeping little gamer tears of joy. I actually found myself sitting in the game menu listening to the opening music for what most would consider a disproportionate amount of time. This was a continued theme throughout the game and the vivid soundscapes composed by Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White and Brian Trifon truly carry the emotion being told in the story itself.
Getting into the game, (once I was suitably sated with the menu music) Halo Wars 2, like all RTS games, takes place largely from a top down view point. Naturally as you might think this would present some story challenges, but 343 Industries and Creative Assembly have overcome them with ease. Keeping the sense of involvement between the player and the units on the ground, and whilst the music certainly helps here, its the incredible voice talent which seamlessly piece together story and strategy.
“Atriox introduces himself in what can only be described as a very one sided round of Spartan whack-a-mole.”
For those who played the original, expect to see some familiar names and faces as well as some new ones too. One of those new faces is the new bully on the playground, Atriox. As far as big evils go, Atriox would be right up there. He’s a badass Brute with a B! Atriox introduces himself in what can only be described as a very one sided round of Spartan whack-a-mole. Commanding a massive army of Brutes, Covenant deserters and mercenaries known as The Banished, if they weren’t fearsome enough already, they also come complete with shiny retrofitted Covenant and Promethean tech upgrades. Fear not, humans! All hope is not lost for Captain Cutter, Anders and the crew of UNSC Spirit of Fire have travelled all the way from the original Halo Wars and will take up the challenge to stop Atriox in his brutish tracks. Along with Isabel, an AI located on the Ark’s surface, Atriox doesn’t stand a chance… does he?
Another small genius in this game can be found in the way the banter between troops evolves throughout the course of battle. Those seemingly throwaway units you continue to mass produce react appropriately per the current situation, which once you realise, can make sending them to their sometimes pointless deaths a little bit more heartbreaking. It’s all these little details; story, animation and voice talent combined, which help take this game to another level, making the Halo Wars 2 campaign reach a level of depth and create a sense of quality I’ve not experienced in an RTS for some time.
Actually, one of my favourite things thus far about Halo Wars 2 has been the story in its campaign and its beautifully rendered animation. This is largely due in thanks to the CGI studio Blur, famous for its work not only on games but also other mediums such as film. The studio talent is showcased to perfection here and it’s yet another display of how close animation has come to replicating real life. When paired with its exceptional soundtrack, Halo Wars 2 as a production simply comes alive.
While it’s the story mode in Halo Wars 2 which really shines, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed the multiplayer aspects of RTS games and in particular the player versus AI battle modes. In its predecessor this was one of my favourite game types, setting up multiplayer battles against AI combatants and I’m happy to report the same holds true here.
“I myself, not being a complete RTS noob found this game type to be crazy stupid fun like a Legendary Grunt with a Needler.”
Multiplayer options for Halo Wars 2 are fairly similar to those of the original. Firstly, players have the ability to play the campaign together, which is great for those gamers who love to game with friends or who aren’t quite as familiar with RTS gameplay yet still want to play the game and experience the story. Also on offer is Rumble, which is a PVP mode pitting your RTS building talents against others in online battle with upto 6 players. I myself, not being a complete RTS noob found this gametype to be crazy stupid fun like a Legendary Grunt with a Needler. By this I mean, no matter what you do or how well you think you’ve prepared you’re still going to get hurt, like a lot!
There’s also Skirmish, this is more of a custom game option which allows players to verse AI combatants or create custom games with their friends. As well as the old favourites I’ve mentioned, Halo Wars 2 comes with an all new battle mode called Blitz which is a combination of RTS and CCG (collectible card games) being added to the line up. I can easily say I don’t think an RTS has ever been so jam-packed with content.
Lets dive right into the new Blitz mode, unlike your standard RTS battle, Blitz combines fast paced RTS tactics with those of a CCG. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this new game mode. Before a Blitz match, each player chooses and customises their 12 card deck. Each deck has a leader from the main campaign who’ll offer different play styles and unique card types. You can also save up to three custom decks for each leader which for the CCG fans planing is a great feature as a good deck can totally change the flow of battle.
In team matches, partners can build their decks together to help compliment each other’s armies and best annihilate the enemies. In Blitz base building and resource gathering is void, Blitz gathers everything into a single energy resource, which you spend by playing cards. Each card represents either a unit you can bring forth onto the battlefield or a special ability you can activate, cards have different energy costs, with large powerful vehicles and game changing abilities costing the most. With new cards able to be earned via winning matches and completing daily challenges, I can quickly see Blitz becoming my absolute favourite game mode to play.
- Gripping story
- Stunning graphics and evocative soundscape
- Blitz mode is the shiznitz
- Halo for RTS fans
- RTS gameplay can be unforgiving for newbies
It’s clear Halo Wars 2 is no mere spin off. Visually stunning with a compelling story and exciting game modes, there’s just so much to love about this game. While playing on a console works well I honestly believe Halo Wars 2 will find its home with the keyboard and mouse players out there. Any RTS requires a lot of hot swapping between units and the ability to keep your eyes on numerous sections of the battlefield all at once. So with these facts in mind the functionality which is offered on a PC for RTS players over a console is still far greater in my opinion .Either way, I can’t recommend Halo Wars 2 highly enough.