The game itself takes players through 15 missions, and while most are similar, there's a few change-ups mixed in to keep things fresh. Some missions will be Alamo style defense missions, while others have players avoiding the beam of a Scarab while attempting to take it down. You'll find yourself on the hull of the Spirit of Fire, and inside a planet. Between missions you'll be greeted with some absolutely gorgeous CGI cut scenes. I guarantee you'll be asking yourself when a Halo CGI movie is coming out. The best part of all of this? Every single mission is playable in co-op fashion.
When the mission starts each player is given a few troops to start with, designated by a certain color. These are each respective player's troops to control. If there's a base in a mission any player can build on it, and players build from a shared pool of resources. Both players have access to any structure in a base. So if Player 1 builds a barracks, Player 2 can train their troops out of the barracks. Any unit you train, you control. It works extremely well and you'll find players constantly communicating throughout the battle.
"I've got a barracks up, quick - build a power plant on your base so we can upgrade to rockets."
There's a great back, forth, give and take that goes on. Soon you'll find yourselves falling into defined roles. Someone might manage defending the base, and building up more defensive oriented units while the other player will build more aggressive units to help complete objectives. You may split up the map and execute a well designed pincer movement. There's plenty of options and freedom, and with two people involved, the outcome is rarely the same.
Speaking of objectives, Halo Wars offers quite a bit of replability thanks to the addition of Skulls, Black Boxes and Points. Players are scored on mission outcome and performance, they'll obtain rankings on online leaderboards. These scores can be multiplied by using skulls found on maps, similar to that in Halo 3. In fact, you'll find the interface and post mission briefing eerily similar to the previous Halo game.
Halo Wars offers a co-op experience that's completely fresh and unique, and one that works as a console RTS. If the game has a problem it's that you'll find yourself finishing it up fairly quickly in co-op on Normal difficulty. Thankfully there's plenty of replayability here as well as two harder difficulty levels. Halo Wars truly is a worthy addition to the series of games, even if it's not a first person shooter. Hopefully we'll see more developers adopt the co-op formula the game successfully produced.
The Co-Op Experience: The Co-Op Experience Play through the single player campaign with a friend in co-op mode or take on the AI in skirmish. Each player has control of their own group of troops. Players share the bases, and are responsible for building their own troops from a shared pool of resources. Each player can build structures and research technology in the bases. All achievements and progress are shared including skulls, black boxes, and scoring.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.