Halo Wars 2 Review
Halo Wars 2 Cover Art
System: Xbox One, PC
Dev: 343 Industries, Creative Assembly
Pub: Microsoft Studios
Release: February 21, 2017
Players: 1-6 Player
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Blood, Mild Language, Violence

The diorama-stilled main menu screen displays the detailed authenticity of the Halo universe, with every unit and vehicle lovingly crafted. When you dive into the campaign, you will find the skill of veteran cinematics studio Blur showing off some impressive cutscene handiwork. The isometric camera angle during gameplay is a staple of real-time strategy games and is simple to navigate, even with a controller. Every combatant in the arena has a unique personality, and the animations reflect their adherence to your orders. The screen can get pretty crammed with action, but I have yet to notice any frame drops, a welcome relief for any RTS gamer who knows that choppy animations can spell disaster. The brunt of the UNSC units get washed out in their standard military green paintwork, so singling out small units from the aerial vantage point can be tricky. Fortunately, each unit type can be easily accessed with the left-trigger. The UI does a good job highlighting the makeup of each group too, as well as providing an activity updated minimap and alerts to keep you apprised of every situation during your match.

Halo Wars 2 Screenshot

Your leader will also spout off notifications, and units will vocally acknowledge your commands. It’s a necessity in a game like Halo Wars 2, but when a match lasts close to an hour, the same replies quickly become redundant. The vocal work of the main characters during the cinematics is top notch, with Captain Cutter’s rousing speech to rally his crew causing me to shout, “OOH-RAH!” along with it. The same voice work, though, falls flat during the missions or matches. Every leader sounds one-dimensional in their delivery, coming off as more of a tutorial narrator than anything. Their voices get washed out, however, when bullets and plasma start flying, and everything from the hustled footprints of ground troops to the treads of a Scorpion to an exploding Scarab rings distinctly on the battlefield. The music, as always in Halo games, is masterfully composed. With its soft piano chords, string orchestra, and percussions, the blend unique to series is a symphony for the ears.

Halo Wars 2 isn’t trying to redefine real-time strategy games, but rather give fans of the genre an option on their Xbox One consoles. It’s leaning on Microsoft’s most cherished franchise and using it well. Of course, if you can’t break yourself away from the mouse and keyboard, Halo Wars 2 has your PC covered, thanks to the game being part of the Play Anywhere program. We’ll look to the months ahead for new content, but Halo Wars 2 has everything you need to get started and have you loading up match after match of RTS action.

Sean Engemann
Senior Contributing Writer
Date: 02/16/2017

The cinematics are flawless and the in-game action, while not highly detailed, has smooth animations with no lag.
It doesn’t replace the mouse and keyboard, but they’re good controls for a console RTS.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are top notch orchestrations, crisp combat sound effects, and great voice acting during the cutscenes, but voice acting stumbles and becomes repetitive during matches and missions.
Play Value
It’s a modest start, as far as modes and maps, but gives us everything we need to get the sequel rolling. Blitz is by far the multiplayer highlight.
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
Review Rating Legend
0.1 - 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 3.5 - 3.9 = Good 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair 4.0 - 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The Return of the Spirit of Fire: Experience a riveting campaign which reintroduces the Spirit of Fire to the current Halo timeline, as Captain Cutter and his crew fight a dangerous new enemy intent on conquering the galaxy. Brought to life through detailed in-game graphics and the cinematic artistry of Blur Studio, the story of “Halo Wars 2” dives straight into the chaotic state of the Halo universe directly after the events of “Halo 5: Guardians.”
  • The Dawn of Atriox: “Halo Wars 2” introduces a new menacing villain to the Halo universe– Atriox, the leader of a violent, mercenary force known as The Banished. The Banished bring many classic Halo alien weapons of war to the battlefield with an explosive new redesign, making them more brutal and deadly than anything the UNSC has ever encountered in their battles with the Covenant.
  • The Biggest Halo Battlefield Ever: “Halo Wars 2” takes place on the mythical Ark, the largest, most mysterious and most powerful installation ever created by the Forerunners. The Ark was first introduced in “Halo 3,” where the Master Chief learned that it is the literal birthplace of the series’ eponymous Halo rings. Now players will have a chance to fight to control that power for themselves.
  • A New Kind of Strategy: “Halo Wars” redefined the real-time strategy (RTS) genre on consoles and “Halo Wars 2” is set to take that evolution even further with a hybrid of action-oriented and classic tactical gameplay modes. Veteran developer Creative Assembly (“Total War: Rome II, Total War: Shogun 2”) brings decades of RTS experience to the Halo universe and delivers a game which will be action-packed fun for players new to strategy games and deeply challenging and rewarding for RTS experts.

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