Halo Wars 2 – A terrifying new threat to humanity
The best-selling console real-time strategy franchise, Halo Wars, is back with a sequel, Halo Wars 2 on Xbox One. It’s been eight years since Halo Wars hit the Xbox 360 and Halo Wars 2 is an improvement over its predecessor in virtually every way. Featuring stunning new high-definition graphics, an edge-of-your-seat new campaign with a fearsome new adversary, and thrilling new multiplayer modes—this is the Halo Wars game we’ve all been waiting for.
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Developer(s): 343 Industries and Creative Assembly
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
The Spirit of Fire returns 28 years later
Set 28 years after the events of Halo Wars and shortly after the events of Halo 5: Guardians, you once again take control of Captain Cutter and his Spartan crew. During Captain Cutter and his crew’s 28 year cryosleep, the war between humanity and the Covenant ended. The UNSC warship and her crew were declared lost in space.
As the crew awakes, they find themselves directly above the Ark. Unaware of the events of the past 28 years, they receive a distress signal from the Ark. A Spartan team is sent down to investigate and encounter Isabel, a new artificial intelligence recovered from a destroyed UNSC base on the Ark.
Known as the Banished, this group was born from the rebellion initiated by Atriox—a Brute who was sent on suicide missions from the Covenant and excommunicated for this growing hatred of them. After their first encounter, the Spartan Team is almost decimated. This new threat is more powerful than anything ever encountered and sets the stage for the ensuing battle with the Banished.
In just the first few minutes of Halo Wars 2, I was already drawn by the unfolding story and instantly felt a displeasure towards Atriox and the Banished. 343 Industries and Creative Assembly did an excellent job of creating a new and original villain who is both powerful and intelligent, which fits perfectly within the Halo world. However, the Red Team’s Jerome, Douglas and Alice prove that there is still room for more Spartans in the Halo universe, and hold exciting opportunities for future games set in the Halo universe.
Traditional RTS gameplay with optimized controls
Although Halo Wars 2’s campaign is not particularly long compared to some other PC oriented RTS games, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of missions in Halo Wars 2. These ranged from epic battles to undercover missions to capture and preserve control points. Controlling an enemy Scarab and totally annihilating my adversaries was the highlight of Halo Wars 2 for me. Additionally, each of the missions have several secondary objectives that offer an excellent challenge.
In terms of playability, Creative Assembly have done an excellent job of optimizing controls on the Xbox One. I never really had any difficulty selecting or controlling multiple armies, and switching between bases is super fast with the d-pad. Halo Wars 2’s gameplay is highly accessible for newcomers, while deeply strategic for veteran players.
A visual and auditory RTS delight
Halo Wars 2’s visual style remains consistent with the Halo universe, and I loved the Banished’s visual contrast to that of the UNSC. It reminds me of the Covenant, but with a greater emphasis on the aesthetic of the Brute species. Halo Wars 2 is much more colourful than its predecessor, and the variation of environments that you play in are impressive.
The amount of on screen action that occurs in the game is remarkable, there were several battles where I had enemies coming at me for all sides of the screen and air—all with no slow down. The in-game cutscenes are created by Blur Studio who previously collaborated with developers to create visuals for earlier Halo titles. Let me tell you, they sure are a sight to see!
As with any Halo game, audio plays an important and dynamic role in Halo Wars 2. The emotional tone and instrumental choices used in Halo Wars 2 is simply stunning. Tribal drums, heavy brass, and electronic percussion are used to set the terrifying atmosphere associated with Atriox and the Banished. The use of use of varying intensity levels of music in the game complimented the onscreen action nicely.
On top of the robust story-driven campaign, Halo Wars 2 features a range of multiplayer modes for all types of gamers and interests. You’ll find traditional multiplayer modes such as team vs. team Deathmatch, and objective-style matches that are variants of traditional capture and control map types—Strongholds and Domination. Furthermore, you can test your wits against AI opponents in Skirmish mode—available to play solo, or with friends in multiplayer co-operative.
However, it’s Halo Wars 2’s new blitz mode that quickly became my favourite multiplayer mode. You will start the match at a base, but there is no need to worry about resource mining or facility building. You don’t even need to defend or upgrade your base either. Instead, attacks, new units, and boosts are generated by cards. These are cards you get while playing the campaign mode and by completing daily challenges. As a result of the quick setup and play, Blitz is perfect for those who don’t want to spend thirty plus minutes per match.
The “Ultimate” experience
If you love Halo as much as I do, you will want to pickup Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition. You get a copy of the game and the Halo Wars 2 Season Pass. With the Season Pass you’ll get access to new DLC campaign expansions with exclusive missions, plus additional multiplayer content like new leaders and new units to add to your army. Microsoft Studios has big plans for Halo Wars 2, you don’t want to miss out on all the DLC.
Quite possibly the most exciting aspect of Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition is the inclusion of Halo Wars: Definitive Edition. This is an enhanced version of the original Halo Wars, featuring improved visuals and all of the DLC! Take a look at the video bellow and see just how awesome it looks.
Halo Wars 2 Final Thoughts
Halo Wars 2 is by far the best RTS available on home consoles. With an engaging and exhilarating campaign, you’ll never want to put this game down. There are multiplayer modes for all types of gamers and interests. Atriox and the Banished are new characters to the Halo universe that you will love to hate. With the Halo Wars 2 season pass you’ll be privy to even more campaign missions and multiplayer content.
Regardless if you are new to the Halo Wars franchise or a veteran, Halo Wars 2 does not disappoint.
+ Easy to pick up and play while offering deep strategy for experienced gamers
+ High paced action that never lets you down
+ Compelling storyline
+ Engaging cinematic experience
– Campaign mode is a little bit too short
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5