Thursday, March 12, 2009

Halo Wars demo preview

Name: Halo Wars
System/s: Xbox 360
Developers: Ensemble Studios
Release Date: 3/3/2009

PC users often say "RTS games don't work on consoles," I would like to start by saying, I really don't believe that, any game can work on any console, only if done right. Something like Medal of Honor: Heros proved that the PSP could do a First Person Shooter...

Anyways, the Halo series is one of my favorite, and I've sunk many hours into playing the games. Bungie, the developers of Halo are like old friends to me though, developing a few of my other favorite games, Myth I, Myth II, Oni. Myth was my favorite RTS, and possible my favorite game ever, so when an RTS of Halo was announced, I was excited, even after a cannon-destroying trailer, I still cut them some slack. I heard that it was being developed not by Bungie, but by Ensemble Studios, which I also didn't mind, hearing how famous they were.

[Myth II, by Bungie, 1998]

When I finally saw the game in action I was let down though, as it seemed to really be a RTS with Halo stamped on top of it. A lot of stuff in the game really made it seem not like Halo, from the videos and I was a bit skeptical. I stopped caring about the game, and heard there would be a demo, and a day before the demo came out or so, my Xbox 360 died, which made me have to wait until recently to try the demo.

The game starts off with a tutorial led by perhaps one of the most generic voice actors I've ever heard, they walk you through a lot of parts of playing the game, but they don't tell you some important stuff. Also, you can't skip any dialog in the tutorial, making it very annoying if you understand something early.

The actual game starts with some pretty pre-rendered cutscenes, but the story seems very generic, which is sad, because the Halo universe really interested me, and I read almost all the books, and played the games, so it had to be really bland and unoriginal to throw me off.

[Some fighting in Halo Wars]

The gameplay is really simple, however it works, I had no problems at all controlling any units or playing the game, to me it was as easy to control as any other RTS, no matter what the platform. Everything worked the way it should, but there wasn't a lot of options, and compared to some other RTSes I've played, it was quite simple. Simple isn't a bad thing however, as it didn't drag on as much as some RTSes.

The problem is that you don't have to worry about resources as they are infinite, and you can only build in select areas, so it boils down to something more along the lines of chess, with strategy only in how you move, rather then how you use the environment to your advantage.

This in general wouldn't be much of a problem if the actual combat was more interesting, but as it stands, it revolves around selecting all your units and telling them to attack. Really, I wish there was some skill involved other then that. Myth showed that controlling units in itself was a possible skill, and when they've taken away so much else in this game, it would be nice to have other parts of the game that make up for it.

[One of the Pre-Rendered cutscenes]

Some might say "Well, this was an experiment for RTS games on the consoles!" Well, they might be right, but what about games like the Original Halo? That revolutionized consoles FPSes, no matter how you look at it: Suddenly there was a ton of console FPSes, and they all started to have Halo's mechanics. And the original Halo was a much better, and more interesting game, which is a shame, because everything was there for this game to be a really amazing game, they just didn't put things in the right places.

Overall, this game came off to me as bland, boring, uninspired, and just not that interesting. Sure everything works, and some might say that's a feat in itself, but for me, I will wait for a console RTS, that not only works, but is worth playing through.

Jon God thinks Bungie should reacquire the rights to Myth, and make a forth game.

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