This week at E3 2008, there was a few mysteries surrounding Halo. First, Microsoft made no mention of any Halo game--not even Halo Wars--at its press briefing on Monday morning. Second, after teasing its community on Bungie.net, the Halo series developer backed out of its big unveil, blaming Microsoft for the delay. And lastly, Microsoft finally revealed the next day that Bungie is in fact working on a new Halo project.
Why there was no mention of Halo Wars at the MS press briefing is beyond me, and in fact, we at GamePro think someone dropped the ball. Whatever the case, we were thrilled to see that the game was playable behind closed doors in Microsoft's private meeting room.
After a quick demo from Ensemble Games designer Dave Pottinger, cited the controls being "as simple as possible," we were set loose in two-player cooperative matches for a solid 20 minutes.
Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game, though it's being designed for anyone to play. A huge Halo fan myself, I really enjoyed the time I spent with the game despite not being much of an RTS gamer. 10 minutes was enough to get familiar with the game's simple controls, designed for the Xbox 360 first and foremost. The directional pad selects troops, bases and special abilities / attacks, and the face buttons essentially select and attack.
Most RTS players will be very comfortable bulding bases and spawning troops and vehicles, including the Wraith and Scoprion, from the get go.
The Spartans were playable, and it's not just a Master Chief affair. In fact, we don't even know if the infamous super soldier is in the game. Halo Wars takes place about 20 years before the first Halo game, so there are plenty of active Spartans to unleash into battle, not just the Chief. In this game, Spartans are fierce, mostly because they have the special ability to hijack vehicles from Covenant troops.
Once I spawned a few Spartans, I engaged the battle and noticed a few enemy Wraiths wreaking havoc on my army. I selected a Spartan and then set him to attack one of the Wraiths. I watched in delight as he beat the heck out of the vehicle until he could commandeer it himself to use against the enemy.
Spartans surely have more talents in the field, but that's all were shown in this particular demo. We're hoping the game launches this Holiday season, though the fact that MS didn't talk about the game at its E3 press briefing could be a sign that it's getting pushed back to 2009. We'll just have to wait and see.