As of the last few years, Microsoft has been extensively working on the ever-expanding Halo universe, from the latest installment in the main franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, to the books and episodic series. An often forgotten part of this initiative is the series’ introduction to the Real-time-strategy genre: Halo Wars… Now, years after its release as the publisher prepares for the rollout of Halo Wars 2, 343i has given us the chance to (re)experience the first installment as we work towards the upcoming sequel. Remastered for Xbox and Windows, we chose to play through the PC version to see how the game holds up years later.
Starting up the game, Halo Wars starts looking pretty much the same as it did at its launch in 2009. Donning the same exact menus, and going into gameplay you’re going to be met with a very similar aesthetic, though the visuals have been polished up quite a bit when compared to the original Xbox 360 release. The textures are a bit sharper and lighting seems much more refined. It’s not an amazing experience visually, but it’s still a very good-looking game all things considered for the genre. There only seemed to be two drawbacks in my opinion, with the former possibly being too much of a nitpick on my end.Firstly the user interface seems to look quite dated on a visual front. That being said, the fact that much like the rest of the game it’s carried over from the original release, it’s probably just the fact that on a graphical front styles have arguably changed throughout the entire franchise and user interface design in general. The second issue, which is much larger, is the fact that the PC version is currently lacking the ability to change the resolution to one of your choosing. The game chose my native resolution of 2560×1080 as it’s default (where it was wonderful to see the devs added great 21:9 support to this remaster), but choosing a higher or lower resolution wasn’t in the cards, unfortunately, simplifying it to a “high resolution” checkbox.
Gameplay-wise Halo Wars is obviously an RTS aimed at console players, though the transition to the PC landscape isn’t that problematic at all. The refined controls and user interface work as they should, though the game lacks a lot of the depth that traditional real-time strategy games offer to players. For players on Xbox One this may be less of an issue, considering the game was obviously designed as a console-based experience, but on PC players should know what they’re in for. That being said, with a more linear approach to the genre, Halo Wars still manages to create a compelling experience that seems to work well with what it has to offer. The gameplay translates to the new platform in a decent fashion (and holds up on Xbox One, as we’ve tested as well) and the campaign’s narrative gives players a chance to catch up on a part of the universe that a lot of players probably haven’t experienced before.
This remaster still has some ways to go regarding certain settings and visual aspects, but 343 has brought back Halo Wars in a respectful and good way, giving us a needed refresher as we head towards Halo Wars 2 this February. Keep in mind the current release is still in early access, but what we’ve got so far is a promising and fun product that should keep players occupied for quite a while!