In short, Halo Wars is designed in such an old-school RTS fashion, streamlined for people who are not familiar with RTS games. There’s base building, but it’s on a preset floorplan, and you can only create bases on existing base sites. The financial system is just based on mysterious space moolah generated from a specific building type, flowing from unlimited coffers into your production queue. All units have a clear, concise upgrade path with no confusing tech trees. And lastly, units have just a single special ability, which some might find it boring. These kinds of decisions are a pretty good way to help alleviate people to the genre, but it also makes the game feel a bit scaled down.

ss2 Xbox 360 Game Review: Halo Wars
Alright, loser have to clear up the mess, capiche?

 

There’s also a astonishing amount of tactical depth for a game with such straightforward gameplay; the key to winning levels or online battles is to maintain a crucial balance between upgrading units while using them to hold territory on the map. Halo Wars also moves at a much quicker pace than a ton of other RTS games so console players with itchy trigger fingers won’t get bored.

 

ss3 Xbox 360 Game Review: Halo Wars
All your base are belong to me! Muahaha.

 

Perhaps the most fascinating feature of the entire game is how the control works. Ensemble manages to boil down the typical RTS interface into core actions, with each core action corresponding to a single button on the controller. You have a decent array of selection options: tap A to choose one guy, double-tap A to choose multiples of a specific unit type, hold down A for paintbrush-style selection, right bumper for all units on-screen, and left bumper for all units. Always use X to specify a target or a location, and always use Y to activate a special ability. The D-pad jumps you to specific parts of the map. Because the controls are so streamlined and focused, that while it will never rival style of RTS play on the keyboard, getting things done via the gamepad isn’t exactly rocket science.