Reviews - Updated on April 14, 2022

Relevant for the platform: XONE

The past year has managed to prove that Americans from Microsoft care about their line of video games for Xbox One and PC. The wonderful Gears of War 4, the masterpiece Forza Horizon 3 and the sometimes strange, but quite playable Dead Rising 4 appeared on sale. However, the best, of course, remained ahead. The next twelve months should be a turning point not only for the owner of the Xbox brand herself, but for the entire industry as a whole. Video games in this tangle of events are far from the last position.

One look back

Not the last, but not the first either. Halo Wars 2 is an obvious attempt to pull the blanket over itself, proving that there are good exclusives on Xbox One as well. This move is not new, but right now (in light of the cancellation of the same Scalebound, for example) it is more important than ever for several reasons. First, Halo Wars 2 is the first truly massive real-time strategy game in a long time. And secondly, this is a game based on a well-known universe, the first part of which managed to sell well and, on the whole, justified the title of RTS, created for the console.

The authors of the original Halo Wars emphasized that they wanted to do more than just make a strategy that works with a gamepad. The goal of the authors of the cult Age of Empires lay in a different area – they wanted to develop a console strategy. One that you can go through (preferably several times) without spitting from terrible controls. That is why all the simplifications of the original looked organic. Later, Ensemble Studios was closed, and a promising spin-off in the Halo universe was one step away from death.

Years later, however, it turned out that not only was Microsoft not going to put an end to Halo Wars, but also plans to release its direct sequel. True, there was a small problem with the platforms. Quite in the spirit of the times, the Americans announced that Halo Wars 2 will appear not only on Xbox One, but also on PC. And there, as you know, the quality requirements are somewhat different. A simple RTS about the war of the Covenant with people may not be understood if it does not correspond to the usual level. In general, a vicious circle. And in addition, completely new authors – Creative Assembly.

Actually

CA, which created the iconic Total War series, took the path of least resistance and did not break the mechanism built before it. Halo Wars 2 has a completely console approach to design. Firstly, microcontrol – it simply does not exist here. Squad management is not carried out using the usual framework. Button A allows you to highlight one of the units. By double-clicking, you can select all “units” of the same type. With the help of RB we select the entire army, and the left trigger (LT) opens the menu of special abilities. The direction buttons are responsible for switching the camera from the army to the bases and vice versa. Simple enough, even in the heat of battle sometimes you forget what you are responsible for.

In profile, this comrade is not so reminiscent of a gorilla as in full face. However, there are still similarities.

Another thing is the very development of the controlled territory. And fans of classic RTS can hardly forgive simplifications in this part. There are only two resources: energy and supplies, and even ordinary soldiers can collect them. In addition, base creation is severely limited: you can only use specially designated cells for this, and expand only by capturing land controlled by the enemy. Fortunately, the developers do not prohibit organizing something like mini-outposts that create new soldiers and armored vehicles in real time.

Finally, forget about the PC-friendly tree of new barracks or resource processing stations. The choice of buildings for construction is carried out using the radial menu. All this is convenient on the console, but for the PC such crutches look redundant. Still, a bunch of “keyboard and mouse” suggests a slightly different game design. But there is hardly anything you can do about it – the game is officially cross-platform. With all the consequences, such as the mandatory installation of Windows 10 and the absence of the Steam library.

Bright side

However, if we discard all the technical features of the release, we get an extremely interesting picture. The fact is that Halo Wars 2 is perhaps the first truly high-budget strategy game in many years. In a world where the box office is received mainly by action movies with open world and elements of social engineering, the new Microsoft project looks, frankly, amazing. An excellent picture, insanely beautifully staged videos (those who saw the “remaster” of Halo 2 will immediately understand what level of quality we are talking about), a lot of modes for every taste and color – in general, this was a success.

Creative Assembly approached the creation of a single-player campaign with its inherent ingenuity. Throwing all the reverence for the RTS genre frozen in development, the developers literally stuffed the story mode with various innovations. The point is diversity. Halo Wars 2 is a game about a story, which is why it often comes across missions that are completely uncharacteristic of classic strategy games. For example, at the very first level, you will have to run away by car from the raging renegades of the Covenant. Or clear the territory with the help of a Spartan with a machine gun. Or, just like in some network action game, capture and hold control points. They won’t let you get bored.

Promo materials for Halo Wars 2 try to convey the epic nature of what is happening. Admittedly, they are good at it – here, for example, the commander of the ship “Spirit of Fire” is depicted.

I suppose you remember very well that a normal mission in some part of Command & Conquer could well drag on for an hour – one and a half real time. Building a base, collecting resources, reconnaissance, destroying the opponent’s fortifications, protecting your own… Everything is not like that here. Levels go by fast, even with all the side missions from the “destroy the enemy outpost” series. Is it good? I tested Halo Wars 2 on Xbox One and I can say with confidence: for the console, this approach is justified. With the PC, the situation is just the opposite – simply due to the fact that its audience is used to a slightly different state of affairs. In short, don’t expect a classic RTS from Halo Wars 2.

Online battlefields

Of course, Halo could not do without multiplayer. There are two global network modes here: regular battles and the so-called “Blitz”.

It’s worth starting from the last one. The reason is simple: it’s a combination of a regular RTS and a collectible card game. Here it is necessary to capture and hold control points, only maps act instead of the base. Each of them symbolizes one of the types of troops – for example, ordinary infantrymen or aircraft. However, there is a nuance here: energy is spent on the development of everything and everything in Blitz, which can be replenished, but not so easy. There are, in fact, two options: either to destroy the opponent’s troops, or to disassemble into components of the energy core. The result is one of the most promising multiplayer modes in Halo Wars 2.

With regular multiplayer it’s even easier. There are several entertainments to choose from: “Bastions” (it is necessary to hold and build mini-bases), “Slaughterhouse” (in fact, the usual destruction of the enemy’s base) and “Superiority” – an RTS analogue of the familiar rules with the capture and retention of control points.

It’s easy to guess what exactly in the multiplayer section of Halo Wars 2 is fully revealed. Here you can clearly see that throughout the entire campaign, Creative Assembly literally prepared players for battles with living people. Multiplayer does not forgive mistakes and forces you to use the entire arsenal of techniques learned in single player mode. For example, it is important to adhere to the rule: aviation perfectly destroys equipment, equipment destroys infantrymen, and they, in turn, are very fond of lowering flying vessels from heaven to earth. Just like all genius.

The control of the soldiers is quite simple. Another thing is that in the heat of battle, “hot keys” are sometimes forgotten.

***

Did it work or not? If we consider Halo Wars 2 from the point of view of a console game, then the answer is unequivocal: yes. Before us is the perfect continuation of the beloved by many strategy from the golden fund of Xbox 360. Verified to the last detail, with excellent multiplayer and an incendiary single-player campaign. With PC, the situation is completely different. You can change the control scheme, but you can’t remake the game so that it is interesting to those who have gone through the same Command & Conquer: Generals five times. Halo Wars 2 is too “console”, and that says it all. However, against the backdrop of the situation with the Xbox One, the appearance of such a project in her library cannot but rejoice. More often so, Microsoft.

Pros: excellent mechanics for its RTS format; lack of microcontrol; working control scheme with a gamepad; interesting story.
Cons: lack of support for older versions of Windows; not too deep by the standards of the PC gameplay.

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