Taking place 20 years before the events of the first Halo game, Halo Wars focuses on the UNSC's initial skirmishes with the Covenant on the planet Harvest - cue epic battles, lashings of lasers and lots of deafening explosions.
Ensemble are well aware that many gamers find the real-time strategy genre overwhelming, so they have stripped the game back to basics. Gone are complex tech trees, time consuming resource gathering, complicated base building and micro managing your squad - everything has been replaced instead with a streamlined and easy to use interface perfectly suited to the gamepad.
The player starts by building a base of operations, and it's from this location where you are able to build and upgrade squads and create vehicles and defences. It's then off to do battle with the Covenant across more than a dozen missions covering a nice variety of objectives. There's definitely enough here to keep Halo fans smiling, and ploughing a Warthog into a squad of Grunts when things are getting a little too much never gets boring.
I've played many RTS titles, and although Halo Wars is fun while it lasts and contains a comprehensive multiplayer feature, it's by no means a perfect experience. My biggest grumble is the lack of tactics involved. In many instances, tactical play is thrown out the window, and some missions can be accomplished by creating a mix of unit types then simply sending them into the fray at the same time. Another gripe is unit movement, particularly vehicles, which can get lost en route to a location and I started to get increasingly frustrated at vehicles being unable to make their way around simple obstacles.
The visuals throughout are solid and certainly above average and Halo fans will delight in seeing their favourite vehicles and enemies in miniature form, while the cutscenes throughout look fantastic.
Halo Wars is a great place to start for those new to the RTS genre and Halo fans who just want to kick back and enjoy some straightforward fun will have a blast. However, experienced hands will find the experience a little shallow and should seek their next RTS fix elsewhere.