|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.
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.
Senior Contributing Writer