Halo Wars Review


Halo Wars is an RTS (Real-time Strategy) game, set before the events of Halo Combat Evolved. It was developed by Ensemble Studios and Published by Microsoft Game Studios in 2009. It was remastered for an Xbox One release in 2016.


Halo Wars takes place about 30 years before the events of Halo Combat Evolved. When the Spartans are fighting the Covenant throughout the space system, and this time the Covenant decided to attack a human colony known as Harvest. This starts your journey as Sergeant Forge, as you follow the Covenant in an attempt to stop their attacks. But what are they doing in this part of the system? 

The story itself is actually a lot better than I expected it to be, and the game looks fantastic. Which is surprising for a game that was originally released in 2009! Yes it had a remaster, but sometimes those don’t do much to help. So as Sergeant Forge, it’s your task to help stop the covenant. But you also see the side of the Arbiter throughout the game. If you’ve never played Halo, this is a big deal, because the Arbiter was the OG rival to Master Chief basically. You also get to see the first time the Flood is discovered in the system. Unfortunately it doesn’t go much into the details of everything, or what they are, or how they travelled across the system. 

The story in the game kind of progresses in a cliché fashion though. Every time something happened, I knew what was going to happen next. Even the “big sacrifice” was seen from a mile away. Though it was weird when at one point everyone was going “Woah. We’re INSIDE the planet!”, and you see everything inside the planet, instead of on. Though it was fun playing with someone throughout the ENTIRE campaign. So my partner the whole time was my brother. Which worked exceptionally well because he’s a whole lot better at RTS games than I am. But I also will say, that’s all we played. After the campaign was complete, we bounced.

The gameplay worked surprisingly well with the basis of the game. What is known as a FPS game, worked fantastic as an RTS. Ensemble picked the perfect genre to go with. Though because of the genre, the gameplay itself did become just a tad repetitive and tedious. Every level would basically turn out the same way for us. We’d deploy our base, then for the first 10 to 15 minutes, we’d build it up, unlock all the upgrades we wanted for our units, and our base. Next we’d mass produce our army, then off we went. What was kind of worse was that the game allowed us to do this. Even on levels where it’s going “you have 20 minutes or you fail!”, we were still able to use this tactic. We were never worried either because enemies almost never came to our base to fight. So we were never in the position of “we should build some units to defend our base while we upgrade.” Yes it was nice, so we were always laid back, but it would’ve been nice to have that extra sense of strategy or urgency.

The controls also half work, but half don’t. If you’ve ever played an RTS on a console, or even XCOM, you know that it is just so damn difficult to control these games. Some controls just don’t work, or some buttons are mapped terribly. The bumpers on the controller were mapped pretty well. The left bumper let me select every unit in my army, while the right bumper let me select my units that were on the screen at the time. One thing that RTS games thrive on though, is by being able to select a certain group of your army, by basically dragging a box around who you want. This didn’t have that. If I held A, I got a circle on the ground. I couldn’t expand it or anything. Plus sometimes I didn’t want all my units, or anyone who’s on the screen. Sometimes I wanted just 3 units, to go kill something on a ridge, that’s shooting projectiles at me. But it was so damn difficult to pick just those three. So I’d have to scroll off screen until I hit the right bumper and was able to get just them. Which would then take me away from the action. So I wouldn’t notice my army dying.

Another nice thing about RTS games is being able to click on the map to snap to a certain section easier. So if you’re halfway across the map, and you need to quickly build more units, you click the map, build your troops, then click the map where your current army is, and you’re back in the action. This sort of had something like this tied to the d-pad, except I honestly had no idea what button was which. Sometimes I’d get back to my units. If I hit the button again, sometimes I’d get back to my base where I wanted. It was a mess. There is also no way to click the map, because navigation isn’t exactly cursor based. So I’d just end up scrolling through the map until I got my screen to where I wanted it to be. But luckily, as I played through it all co-op, I would just say “hey watch my units, I got to go back to the base for a second. So then the scrolling wouldn’t be as bad. But if I was in single player, I would’ve easily gotten more frustrated.


Rating: 6 out of 10.


  • Entire Co-op Campaign
  • Works As An RTS
  • Learn About The Covenant Actions Early In The War


  • Controls Are A Bit Sloppy
  • No Sense Of Urgency
  • Slightly Repetitive


I liked Halo Wars more than I expected to. Especially with being able to play the entire campaign in co-op. It was awesome seeing what the Covenant did in the early stages of the war, and the Spartan team that stopped a lot of their plans. But the gameplay was repetitive, and the controls were kind of terrible, but at the same time, tight for controls on console. As much sense as that makes. The controls really detracted from the experience though at the end of the day. Had I played it on PC, it would have had a higher score if I’m being 100% honest. Don’t skip this if you want to see the entire Halo storyline. But be warned if you play on Xbox.

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Game & Developer Information

Developer Website: Ensemble Studios – Wiki
Publisher Website: Xbox Game Studios
Publisher Socials: Twitter

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition Trailer

Published by oniwalker

Co-owner of NodeGamers(dot)com. Reviewer and Guide Writer. I'll play just about anything as I cry about my backlog!

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