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Review

Halo Wars 2 Review

  • First Released Feb 17, 2017
    released
  • Reviewed Feb 16, 2017
  • XONE

Dust and echoes.

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Halo Wars 2 lies somewhere in between an RTS game for Halo fans and a Halo game for RTS fans. It adapts Halo's FPS roots well, taking the series’ classic missions and reformatting them in ways that make sense for a strategy game without sacrificing accessibility. But ultimately, this is a very light RTS experience geared toward Halo veterans, not a robust strategy game, and it runs out of steam quickly.

Halo Wars 2 takes place nearly three decades after the first Halo Wars and chronologically after Halo 5. The crew of the Spirit of Fire emerges from cryosleep and is now taking on a rogue Brute faction called the Banished, rather than the Covenant. At the head is Atriox, a Brute known for his extensive cruelty, and you and your army are tasked with finding him and shutting him down. It’s an interesting story as a Halo fan in that it explores other aspects of the universe, but it doesn’t offer compelling revelations or necessary information for the main Halo storyline. There are, however, some gorgeous cutscenes that make following along worthwhile, and even when characters are saying some slightly cheesy action-movie lines, seeing the emotion in their faces is enough to get pulled back in.

Unfortunately, Halo Wars 2 never develops its characters in a meaningful way, which leaves cutscenes feeling more like eye candy than essential additions to the universe. But most pieces of the story feed into battle effectively. Pre-fight dialogue helps to prepare you for what you’re about to face--including why troops are in certain positions and why you have to defend specific points--and that’s useful when you’re still getting used to the structure of battle. The story integration is smart and not overdone, allowing you to find your footing without the feeling of being coddled by a tutorial.

The campaign consists of discrete missions based around capturing points, defending bases or troops, or surviving waves of enemies. You have control of the entire army, including manufacturing new troops and managing the two resources you need to fight: supply and power. There’s a bit of a balancing act involved when deciding when and how much to produce, and you often have to make those choices quickly. You can flip through different points of interest, like a group of units or your bases, with the D-pad, and battles that involve multiple fronts or more enemies require you to coordinate between those different points as fast as you can.

But Halo Wars 2’s campaign is at its best when it borrows from its FPS source material, and that’s most evident in its mission design. A Warthog sequence in the first mission feels like a bird’s eye version of the Warthog runs in Combat Evolved and 3, and the structure is comfortably familiar even if the big-picture strategy angle isn’t. Slower missions with snipers are bookended by chaotic horde battles in what feels like a typical Halo campaign played from a different perspective, rather than an RTS in its own right.

But Halo Wars 2 can often feel too stripped-down to be truly strategic. On the one hand, it’s accessible, but the campaign is only challenging in the final few missions and is a little anticlimactic. Unlike in Halo Wars 1, you can form custom groups of any combination of units, but you may not need that feature--despite it being a welcome addition--until one of the very last fights. Up until that point in the game, you can get by so long as you keep an eye on your opponent’s unit types and build an appropriate army to counter it, rock-paper-scissors style. Marines make good fodder, Cyclops units counter vehicles, Hellbringers have the upper hand on infantry, and so on. On the normal difficulty, the AI doesn’t seem terribly smart, and they only had an advantage over me when I wasn’t correctly armed (as opposed to flanking me or adapting much to the makeup of my army).

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With this knowledge under your belt, which is really the main strategy element at the core of every battle, you can basically end a fight by sending all your troops to one location for an attack. It’s often easier and more effective to just double-tap the right bumper to select all of your units rather than try to separate them by unit type and form a truly organized offense. There are rare battles where you need to build the exact right units in the right amounts--and send each group to separate fronts all at once--to achieve victory, but for the most part, Halo Wars 2’s tactical hurdles are too low to be truly satisfying.

In multiplayer, the only important decision to make is which of several leader powers to pick--otherwise, the UNSC and Banished factions offer pretty similar tactical opportunities. But the modes cleverly take tried-and-true Halo FPS modes and adapt them for an entire army. Domination games--which involve capturing and holding a location, like the Territories mode in 2, 3, and Reach--are an arms race requiring a lot of resource management, for example. And if you’re used to drop-in FPS matches, Halo Wars 2’s RTS adaptations usually have a pretty quick pace, so you can still jump in and play a game or two even if you’re short on time.

Matches are generally hectic enough to be exciting, but that streamlined, FPS-inspired nature of battle is only entertaining for so long. Because options are pretty limited, particularly with control inputs on the gamepad and the several leader powers you can select before the match, there’s only so many possibilities to react to and counter. Once you’ve ironed out a general plan of attack and gotten resource management mastered, there’s not much left. Other than that, Blitz mode is interesting, putting an RTS spin on Halo’s deck-building card game--so instead of being turn-based like most CCGs, you’re using cards on the go and managing things like resource drops. Of course, without a solid RTS foundation for the game at large, that doesn’t mean much for Blitz, and like the rest of Halo Wars 2, it’s not deep enough to have legs.

Halo Wars 2 carries forth enough of the series' beloved elements to make any fan of Halo feel right at home at first, but not in the long run. It’s palatable for those used to the FPS games, taking inspiration from favorite missions and putting a strategic spin on them; but just when things become more challenging and actually interesting, it runs out of steam.

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The Good
Accessible for RTS newcomers
Gorgeous cutscenes
Clever Halo throwbacks in mission design
The Bad
Limited strategy required
Anticlimactic campaign
Runs out of steam
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie finished Halo Wars 2’s campaign in six hours using a code provided by Microsoft. She has been a Halo fan since Combat Evolved.
712 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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tabang93

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  1. Cách trị rụng tóc hiệu quả
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Ticket2Win

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Edited By Ticket2Win

I struggle with reading reviews like this. The Halo series and universe has brought us some of the most renowned games to ever cross XBox, 360 and One. Each installment brings another perspective and compelling trend.

After playing through this game, it's yet another example of how the reviewer (and most gamers) expect wayyyyy too much out of the game versus being the creator of your own fun. The campaign missions have a tremendous amount of Bonus and Optional Objectives which make the campaign super in-depth. Not to mention, to have cut-scenes and character development to this degree in a real-time-strategy that is largely based on multi-player is impressive.

Having a console RTS that has button controls as smooth as Halo Wars 2 and a really diverse map set is all you can ask for.

As a theoretical sequel to both the Halo franchise and Halo Wars intro, it should be geared toward Halo fans! 6 is just way too low... It send the wrong message without enough substance in the write-up.

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Mirimon78

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@ticket2win: not low enough, but 6 is decent for a halo/xbox game

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onehitta323

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@ticket2win: Failo Wars 2.

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realguitarhero5

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@onehitta323: Oh my god so original and funny

you should do stand up

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TTDog

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Too Much Water.

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snaketus

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Edited By snaketus

I'd add one minus. The UI is horrible on PC when using keyboard and mouse. Try to sell weapon wheels to PC gamers, good luck!

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deactivated-5b63f02158cce

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Does anyone at CBS interactive know how to do a fucking review?

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j15reed

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Edited By j15reed

Another bias review of MS game, I'm seeing 8's everywhere else.

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dani_i89

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@j15reed: The negatives in this review are just plain not true.

"Limited strategy required" - this game is ALL about strategy. More so than other strategy games I have played.

"Runs out of steam" - this game has StarCraft levels of variety in the campaign. No 2 missions are the same.

"Anticlimactic ending" - I kinda agree with this, but it's not bad at all.

This game is a ton of fun and greatly improves on everything the original did, yet none of the positives which actually matter are included.

This is why I don't come to this site. Stupid hipster reviewers who are mismatched to review good games. Oh, and it's MS branded...better dock the score by at least 2 points.

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D-Man

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@dani_i89: "this is why I don't come to this site" and yet you took the time to comment. that makes sense

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solid_snake1461

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@j15reed: ign gave it a 7.

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Heil68

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Wow, and PS4 has been on a ROLL with high scoring exclusives.

  • Gravity Rush 2: 9/10
  • Tales of Berseria*: 7/10
  • Yakuza 0: 8/10
  • Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD: 7/10*
  • Nioh: 9/10
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn: 9/10

COMING UP:

  • NieR Automata
  • Persona 5*
  • DanganRopa 3*
  • Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom*
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • MLB The Show 17
  • Days Gone
  • God of War
  • Spider-Man
  • Detroit: Become Human
  • Uncharted: Lost Legacy
  • Ys 8*
  • Hellblade*
  • Shenmue 3
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sephirothsWing

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@Heil68: you can't really include "coming up" when your list is comprised of games that have "been on a ROLL with high scoring exlusives" none of those upcomings are guaranteed over a 8 lool

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D-Man

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@Heil68: nobody cares fanboy

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Heil68

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@d-man: You did enough to comment.,

SONY, current gen 8 console leader, wins again.

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sephirothsWing

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@Heil68: 8 consoles vs. 3 do the math, retatd...

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Heil68

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@sephirothswing:

So SONY, current gen 8 console leader with the most current gen 8 AAAAE 10/10 Essential must play exclusive wins again?

#SDC

Thank you SONY> We are ALL humbled.

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sephirothsWing

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Edited By sephirothsWing

@Heil68: lol zero logic, maths proves Sony SHOULD HAVE MORE TITLES which they do lool

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D-Man

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@Heil68: That must be why all my family and friends own Xbox

your numbers are inflated, exaggerated, and paid for

pretty much Sony in a nutshell. maybe they should stick to cd players

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Heil68

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@d-man:

well with 40+ million PS4 sold, SONY is current gen 8 console leader.

Everyone I know owns PS4, stats show it is the most popular current gen 8 console to date.

Current gen 8 most recent AAAAE Essential must play exclusive-PS4

Current 2017 most recent AAAE exclusive.-PS4

Best current gen 8 console multi plats-PS4

More games total-PS4

The winner is clear, SONY and the technological marvel that is PS4.

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sephirothsWing

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@Heil68: gay....

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D-Man

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@Heil68: No, the "winner" is whoever enjoys the console they own, regardless of boring statistics. This is why I've only ever bought Nintendo: because of whores like you who turn everything into a competition. I don't care how many people fell for Sony's advertising. Sony isn't "the winner", they are just the most manipulative advertisers. Congratulations, you are their perfect consumer.

Besides, PC beats them all out anyway.

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Heil68

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@d-man:

being the unbiased manticore,I own all consoles and a gaming PC.

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sephirothsWing

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@Heil68: yet you've only talked about Sony, kys...

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spo562

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They need to stick to FPS only. Dump the other lame alien race and replace them with The Banished. The Banished are much more interesting than the Forerunners.

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LPDisturbedHU

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@spo562: I actually enjoy the Halo Wars and Spartan games. Diversity is nice for the franchise, IMO.

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regix416_basic

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Gack... it's butt ugly! Compared to Halo Wars, this thing looks terrible!

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Daves-Double

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Edited By Daves-Double

What a terrible review.

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regix416_basic

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@daves-double: IS this game REALLY this bad?

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deactivated-5b63f02158cce

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@regix416_basic: No

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Pyrosa

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Unlike the reviewer, I've been playing and enjoying RTSes since the beginning of the genre, on all platforms. I've been playing this since Fri, as well as the (bad) June'16 beta and the excellent Blitz beta.

This earns 8 of 10 points.

It's a lot of fun: relatively light/simplified RTS, but VERY polished, like the last one but better. Very welcoming for people who have never played an RTS, and a fun popcorn romp for us pros.

SP-story-side, they unfortunately dumbed down Anders but amped up the AI characters. There are a LOT of secondary, bonus, and hidden objectives this time, so anyone racing through the campaign is doing themselves a real disservice. I would recommend that seasoned players look toward the Legendary difficulty playthrough, as Normal is clearly meant for newer players.

Standard MP modes are still fun, but I'm minimizing time here until Ranked is online.

...and Blitz is flat-out FUN. There's no real need/pressure to pay money for card packs. Feels like Halo5's card system this far -- useful cards in every deck, and every one has a purpose. RTS veterans who (like me) compete in SC2 ranked systems will find themselves challenged regularly here, since the element of randdomness requires feints and retreats when a surprise drops in front of you. The power objectives add an important dual layer of objectives.

Haven't tried Firefight yet, but if it's got the same feel as main Blitz + H5 WZFF, then THIS is the MP mode for SP players who don't like to talk or play competitive MP.

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D-Man

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@Pyrosa: tl:dr

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ButDuuude

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Not a bad score if you look at it upside down.

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Terminator95

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A 6 ! lol !

Xbox fanboys The Tissue store called, their sold out of tissue boxes lol !

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deactivated-5b63f02158cce

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@Terminator95: Holy shit, your history is nothing but disliking a damn game console. It's not your fault, It's your DNA, Sorry you have no hope.

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LPDisturbedHU

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@Terminator95: Notice how you keep posting new comments on the same post.

You're a pretty dedicated troll, I'll give you that.

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j15reed

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Edited By j15reed

@LPDisturbedHU: He's probably an ex Xbox guy who hopped on the Sony bandwagon.

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LPDisturbedHU

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@j15reed: I honestly doubt he games. He spends too much time in the comments section.

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Daveof89

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@Terminator95: You know what's pathetic? Someone who tries to make fun of people and uses terrible grammar.

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Lizard_King89

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@Daveof89: oh snap lol.

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Hammer45

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Edited By Hammer45

The first halo wars deserved an 8.5 and this one and 8 not a 6.5 and a 6 lol

Halo Wars 2 More Info

Follow
  • First Released Feb 17, 2017
    released
    • PC
    • Xbox One
    Halo Wars 2 is a strategy game packed with fast-paced action, massive battles, and an all-new Halo story, coming to Xbox One and Windows 10.
    7
    Average Rating51 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Halo Wars 2
    Developed by:
    Creative Assembly
    Published by:
    Microsoft Game Studios, THQ Nordic
    Genre(s):
    Real-Time, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Mild Blood, Mild Language, Violence