Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obsession is a Dangerous Thing (Part III)

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(continued from Part II)

On March 3rd, 2009, Microsoft Game Studios will release the final Ensemble Studios game – HALO WARS. After making a huge name for themselves with the AGE OF EMPIRES and AGE OF MYTHOLOGY games, Ensemble Studios (ES) was purchased by Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) and tasked with the first farmed out game in the HALO universe. As Bungie LLC, creators and makers of all things HALO related, had previously been owned by MGS, MGS owns the HALO name outright. With Bungie’s blessing, Ensemble was brought on to make a real time strategy game (what they were excellent at) with the HALO brand. I say “were” excellent at because MGS has recently decided to close ES after the release of HALO WARS, claiming that ES doesn’t fit in with their plans for the future. This is not too surprising if one notices that Microsoft has recently announced it will soon lay off thousands of employees (no one is safe in this economy), and that some will certainly be coming out of the entertainment division.

As I stated earlier, I am a huge fan of the HALO series. I thoroughly enjoy a good first person shooter, I extremely liked the story and campaign modes in the 3 games by Bungie, and the multiplayer is obviously incredible. But what I love even more is how the games were lovingly and artistically engineered by Bungie. The art direction, the level design, a flat out awesome physics engine, the music … everything about the games screams “professional grade”.

What I’m NOT a big fan of is RTS games. I’ve tried a few of them; ones that I’ve heard are accessible to the general public. Still, I’ve never found one that I’ve been able to get my head around and enjoy the way I know I should – not even the bare bones joke of an RTS in SOUL CALIBUR 3. I understand that many, many other people flat out love these games – I see that the joy is there. I just can’t seem to find it.

But still … it says HALO on the box.

I will be pre-ordering the special edition of HALO WARS, and picking it up the day it comes out. Am I excited for it? Kind of, I suppose. It is going to be a really big deal, and it looks really good – Ensemble, before being disbanded by MGS, did what appears to be an amazing job. They got the HALO feel down perfect – from the squeal of the engines as the warthog fishtails, to the sounds of the plasma pistols firing wildly as grunts gasp their last breaths. From some of the footage I’ve seen on the how the game works, it even looks as though the control scheme will be very intuitive and possible for someone of my RTS skills (re: anyone at all) to use.

But do I really need it the day it comes out? And do I really need to spend extra money on something that is in a genre I inherently dislike, meaning there is a large possibility that I may be disappointed that I spent all the money on something I don’t enjoy playing? Damn right I do.

The special edition of the game is the only way to get the Mythic Map Pack of 3 new HALO 3 multiplayer maps, made by Bungie, early. And gods damn it, I’m obsessed.

[official Halo Wars Community site]
Halo Wars [IGN]

- Goodchild

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