'Halo Wars 2' Review: Short Campaign Makes Multiplayer A Must

'Halo Wars 2' has virtually no single-player focus, say our reviewer. 343 Industries

This is not a complete Halo Wars 2 review, unfortunately. I managed to finish the campaign, but despite several attempts, couldn’t connect with anyone for online play. And for a game with a woefully short campaign the online portion better be awfully significant. This Halo Wars 2 review is the equivalent of doing a test drive in a car with a half-gallon of gas. Just enough to start it up and see how it feels, but nowhere near the mileage needed to make an honest assessment. For more on the single-player campaign though, read on.

Halo Wars 2 Review: Campaign Complaints

Based on the length of the Halo Wars 2 campaign, a scant eight hours, it seems as though 343 Industries wanted to do more to appeal to the 9k strong daily Halo Wars multiplayer users than the legion of casual Halo fans across the Xbox and PC landscape. It’s a shame, really, because the story and the cutscenes are exquisite. If you’re a longtime Halo fan there’s a lot to like about seeing the UNSC do their thing on screen once again. I never played the original Halo Wars , but I have a lot of love for the franchise and really enjoyed these new characters. Atriox is as good a villain as we’ve seen in a long time, and there are a lot of nods to some deep Halo lore.

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Atriox is a Covenant rebel/total badass. Photo: 343 industries

But you’ll be able to get the best of the campaign when all the cutscenes start migrating onto youtube in the coming days and weeks. A good story, cut short, is still a bummer. Of the eight hour campaign it took me two or three to start to feel comfortable. As soon as I found my groove, it was basically over. And even though this is an RTS and not an FPS, I can’t help but feel that a more robust campaign could’ve done much more to bring in casual Halo fans than what’s offered here. Spread across 12 missions, and only utilizing the UNSC faction even though The Banished are playable in matchmaking and skirmish mode, you can finish the campaign in a weekend if just playing casually.

Halo Wars 2 Review: A Good Port Of An OK Game

Halo Wars 2 also fails to solve the age-old problem with RTS console games: troop organization. Grouping soldiers and spreading them across the map never felt smooth, and playing on PC (it’s a Play Anywhere title) really emphasized this. I purposely did the campaign on Xbox One to acclimate myself to a controller and at no point during PC play did I feel like switching off mouse and keyboard. It’s not unplayable by any means, but if you’re not familiar with RTS games to begin with then Halo Wars 2 will likely be a struggle on Xbox One.

The game itself isn’t much of a struggle if you are familiar with RTS games. There isn’t much depth in Halo Wars 2 . You build garages, airpads and barracks to make all the units you need, two types of resource buildings, some turrets and that’s pretty much it. There aren’t any hard decisions to make or finite resources to worry about. An endless stream of raw materials lets you pump out armies that are predictable balances of troops and counter troops.

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There are really no fortifications to speak of in 'Halo Wars 2.' Photo: 343 Industries

However, a wide array of player-controlled leader powers, ranging from things like airstrikes and instant turrets to passive buffs and aoe healing, do help compensate for a vanilla squad system. The skills vary from leader to leader too, adding value to multiplayer and single-player skirmishes against AI. Again, a larger campaign that worked players through the factions and their respective leaders would have been a better way to introduce a standout feature instead of only using one leader throughout.

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s enough in Halo Wars 2 to justify it to anyone not interested in a multiplayer experience. A full-price retail release that will deliver a lot less RTS goodness than many other less expensive titles currently available. Essentially, you’re paying for the Halo brand, and that’s proven to be enough to move things like Mega Bloks and comic books, so if you’re a casual RTS fan and longtime Halo buff this game will hit your sweetspot. The story and cutscenes won’t disappoint and the gameplay is simple with a nice learning curve and some truly sinister difficulty settings. But if you’re more of a genre fan wondering if this console version can keep up with what’s already on PC, it can’t.

Editor’s Note: This review will be updated, including a score, once we are able to further test the multiplayer portion of Halo Wars 2.

Are you willing to take a chance on Halo Wars 2 ? Does the RTS multiplayer scene care? Let us know in the comments!

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