Halo Wars golden

Development of Ensemble Studios' swan song RTS complete; hits Xbox 360 March 3, demo due February 5.

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The big news out of Microsoft's Consumer Electronics Show press conference wasn't exactly a showstopper, but it was good for those looking forward to Ensemble Studios' swan song, Halo Wars. The Xbox 360-exclusive sci-fi real-time strategy game is slated for a March 3 release in the US, and Microsoft announced that gamers can wade into a sampler of the game beginning February 5.

The fight has yet to finish.
The fight has yet to finish.

With the demo due in less than two weeks, Microsoft announced today that development has wrapped on Halo Wars, as the game has officially gone gold and been sent packing to manufacturers for mass production. In the US, the regular edition of Halo Wars, which is rated T for Teen, will sell for $59.99. A $79.99 special edition will also include the Mythic Map Pack for Halo 3, an extra in-game vehicle (the Honor Guard Wraith), six trading cards describing the game's leaders, a crew patch for the starship Spirit of Fire, and the Halo Wars: Genesis graphic novel.

Like the main first-person shooter series, Halo Wars pits the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) against the Covenant, a multiracial empire of religious fanatics hell-bent on wiping humanity from the cosmos. Besides numerous units from the original series, the game features an in-depth storyline and locales from the various Halo novels. It is the final title from acclaimed Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios, which Microsoft is shutting down.

Microsoft also revealed today exactly what gamers can expect from the aforementioned Halo Wars demo, which will be available through Xbox Live. The sampler offers a beginner and advanced tutorial, as well as the first two single-player campaign missions. Gamers will also be able to get a jump on honing their competitive techniques, taking on a computer-controlled opponent on the Chasms multiplayer map in skirmish mode.

For more information, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of Halo Wars.

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