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Despite being the jewel of the Microsoft crown alongside Gears of War, for some reason attempts to expand the world of Master Chief have frequently been greeted with mixed results as Halo: ODST was seen as a glorified DLC while the original Halo Wars while greeted with much excitement and critical praise as Halo players were given their own version of Command and Conquer only for it to soon slip under the radar of most fans, who clearly preferred their Halo from a FPS perspective.
Still, a couple of months back, interest in the original game suddenly began to pick up as it was added to the ever-expanding catalogue of backward compatible games while rumours also began to be heard of a possible sequel. A sequel which was finally confirmed as being true at Microsoft’s E3 conference with the Beta being also launched till June 20th, giving the established fans their long awaited sequel while at the same aiming to capture those fans whom might have missed out on the original.
Set 28 years after the events of the original Halo Wars and directly after Halo 5: Guardians as Captain James Cutter and his crew aboard the UNSC warship Spirit of Fire find themselves facing a new enemy faction known as The Banished lead by the warlord Atroix who used the demise of the Covenant to make his own rise to power.
While real-time Strategy games haven’t exactly had a history of successful conversion for the console market with the controllers hardly lending themselves to the precision that PC gamers get with a mouse. True the original PlayStation did have its own mouse, a peripheral which strangely never showed up again on the consoles which followed. That being said in a recent interview with PCGamesN Microsoft’s Phil Spencer hinted that it was something currently being developed, which considering one of the main focus points of the Microsoft conference at E3 was bringing together the player on both PC and Xbox with cross platform play, this would only make more sense that it would be in development. Still for console generals it really wasn’t until Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 that they finally managed to crack these issues and it’s this same control system that Halo Wars 2 also chooses to adopt to equally strong effect.
The game offers players the choice of playing as either the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) or the Banished with a single-player campaign comprised of thirteen missions. At the moment the details around the campaign are limited at present with the Beta only offering players the opportunity to play a locked 2v2 domination mode. The downside of this being that your partner is likely to dash off in the opening minutes leaving you to get stomped into the ground by your opponents, at least this has been my experience so far.
Fans of the Command and Conquer series will find much to enjoy here, especially when the gameplay styles are so similar only with the units and building obviously being changed to fit within the Halo universe while adding many new vehicles and infantry types alongside old favourites like the Scorpion Tank. The major difference though between the two games however is with the base building element, for while Command and Conquer allows plays to tactically place their structures, here players are locked into blocks which structures can be dropped into with no real choice as to the location which your base can be setup. That being said the building system is incredibly satisfying to watch as structures are airdropped into place and giving a much more realistic feel to the battlefield than building suddenly coming out of the ground, though this is arguably more down to visual flair than anything affecting gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, check out our 2 versus 2 match. It’s loss for us, but shows the graphics, base-building and new features.
Visually, the game is stunning to look at especially with the game being designed solely for the Xbox One rather than as a version which could also be downgraded for the 360, which now Microsoft has begun to wind down production on the 360, really gives an insight into how games will start looking as developers can focus on maximising the potential of the Xbox One. At the same time the controls are easy to pick up and no doubt after the first few fumbling moments you will be commanding your forces with ease though seeing how the only game mode available with the beta is online play its going to be a baptism of fire for some gamers as they have to learn on the fly while being hounded by more experienced players than having the safety of the solo campaign to practice their skills first.
Undoubtedly this is an impressive first taste of the game and certainly already has me eagerly awaiting the full release which frustratingly isn’t until February 21, 2017 but this is certainly a tantalising first look of what’s to come.