Halo Wars Impressions: Rock, Paper, Warthog

2. The left trigger feels wasted. Holding it down doubles your scroll speed, except that the default scroll velocity's generally speedy enough. Use fast scroll and you'll simply overshoot targets. Given the d-pad's options to move instantly between units and/or back to your base, the left trigger could have been used for something better...say pinpointing your leader, or managing a special mixed-unit squad of your own creation. [Update: Okay, I'm back from a few larger campaign maps, and I'm rethinking my position on this one.]

Otherwise, so far so good. I've yet to crack the campaign or skirmish from the Covenant perspective. The centralized, layered base building angle's the same for the latter faction, but the technologies and special powers are completely different.

I predict the sticking point won't be whether Ensemble's created an RTS that finally works on a console controls-wise, but whether some of the dumbing down to achieve the latter makes the gameplay too simple. The controls feel properly streamlined and the game certainly has that audio-visual Halo vibe, but it's hard to say whether the basic factional mechanics are going to be varied enough to give multiplayer the iterative legs RTS enthusiasts expect.

Not-yet-final verdict: It's a shame about Ensemble's untimely shuttering, but Halo Wars looks like they'll be wrapping up on a solid note.

Matt Peckham can't beat you with one hand tied behind his back, but he'll try just the same. You can follow his dispatches at twitter.com/game_on.

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