Halo Wars 2 Review

The Halo franchise has always been the one of those series that defines the true reason that I am a gamer. I am emotionally invested in it, hanging out for the next release and a continuation of the story that we all know and love. I fondly remember many a Saturday night, stuffed in a hall with about 30 other people, playing a round robin Halo tournament till the early hours of the morning.

Sure there has been some criticism over the years, none more so than recently with Halo 5. While some found it dull and predictable. I personally enjoyed it, the little references to past Halo games kept those of us who are invested in the series looking for those nods to the past and getting that little tingle every time we saw one.
Unfortunately those who are new to Halo were left behind a little bit but with Halo Wars 2 that is all about to change.

Halo Wars 2 is a different beast from the original Halo series. It moves away from the first person shooter aspect and is Real-Time Strategy (RTS). RTS is one of the few genres yet to get a firm foothold on consoles. The relative ease of mouse and keyboard has kept it firmly planted to PC.
With Halo Wars 2, Microsoft is again making another push and expanding the genre to include consoles.

I have spent a lot of time playing RTS games over the years. I was always a big fan of Homeworld, Red Alert, Star Craft and let's not forget the Warcraft series. Halo Wars 2 takes a lot of elements from those series and throws in a whole lot of the Halo.

Halo Wars 2 story stands alone within the Halo universe. You're introduced to a new formidable foe in the Banished, a growing army of former Covenant warriors once considered expendable by their Covenant overlords. Led by Atriox, a foot soldier who rose a rebellion after witnessing the countless deaths of almost all his clan and declared war on those who oppressed his kind for so long.
From the very first opening scene you know you're in for a ride. Halo Wars 2's cinematics are nothing short of breathtaking. This is thanks to the CGI studio Blur, famous for not only their work in games, but also movies and other mediums. Halo Wars 2's cinematics ooze with raw emotion. The line between animated and "real life" actors is fast becoming very thin. The defining moment is the first time you meet Atriox, without spoiling anything, very few movies let alone games have had me on the edge of my seat in absolute awe of what was happening on screen.

This emotion does't confine itself to the cinematics only. Zooming in on your troops you will see them reacting to each other. It give you a connection with each unit, further enhancing your tactical decisions for the battle ahead where previously, let's be honest, they were little more than cannon fodder. What makes this even more memorable is as the battle goes on the troops begin to act differently so be sure to keep an eye out.

Halo Wars 2's story itself is compelling. I don't want to spoil it so will keep it brief but one big theme is that of family. Captain Cutter of the united Nations Space Command (UNSC) and his crew have awoken some 28 years after the events of Halo Wars. You quickly are made aware that captain and crew must quickly become reaquainted with what is happening in the universe, giving you the perfect starting point to join the cause.

Joining the Captain you have Isabel, who like Cortana, is a UNSC artificial intelligence, but unlike Cortana, Isabel is a very different type of A.I. She is deeply effected by the goings on around her and is absolutely terrified of the Banished and especially their leader.

Gameplay is very much like you'd come to expect from an RTS. Top down view, able to be spun around and zoomed. Base building, Unit creation, resource gathering. All made to work with very simple ease. Holding in LB brings up your wheel and from there you pick what you would like to create. What is essentially a feature to bring Halo Wars 2 to console will feel like a hindrance to some. Base building is very much confined to a fixed formation, pace of the action is considerably slower than expected and ground units are created in squads making them easy to select.
Halo Wars 2 feels like an experience every Halo fan needs to have. If you've never played a Halo previously it has you covered with its stand alone story line. The "ease of use" controls make this a very accessible RTS even if you've never played one before.

While the RTS genre on console still does have some ways to go. Halo Wars 2 is a step in the right direction and very much deserving of it's place in the Halo franchise.

Available: 21st February 2017
Developer: Creative Assembly in partnership with 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Pat (Snoogan512/Snoogs)

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