Generally favorable reviews - based on 92 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 81 out of 92
  2. Negative: 0 out of 92
Buy On
  1. 100
    The differences between Halo Wars and a more traditional PC RTS are distinct. Yes, the controls aren’t as precise nor are there a great diversity of units, structures, or resources—but that's the point. By approaching the game as fundamentally different, the resulting design feels native to the console controller. In the end Halo Wars just plain works, and is a huge step in the development of real time strategy gaming on the consoles.
  2. AceGamez
    Halo Wars is an absolute triumph, every bit as well designed and beautifully implemented as the Halo trilogy; the only real downside is that it's so addictive that you'll find it hard to tear yourself away. Finished the fight? Time to start another one!
  3. 95
    Halo Wars is possibly the best real-time strategy game ever made for console. It captures all the essence of the genre and, for the first time, translates it to our gamepad with absolute success. It's not like the dominating sort of strategy game in PCs, but it has its own, well defined personality, and its specific features, which define Halo Wars as a solid and outstanding bet.
  4. Halo Wars is such a good RTS because it does so many things right. It nails the Halo look and feel through its cut scenes, environments, units and even that distinctively saturated Halo colour pallet.
  5. It's a shame to see that Ensemble had to close their doors after this, because it's really the best attempt I've seen at bringing over a solid RTS experience on consoles, and I hope it's a game that other RTS fans (and even non-fans) will give a try, because it's definitely worth picking up.
  6. Ensemble Studios finally achieved a result sought by many developers this gen: creating a true console RTS, easy and amusing to play, yet keeping it highly challenging. Besides this, we get a great Halo story, with charismatic characters and amazing CGI cut-scenes. This game did for the RTS genre what the original Halo did for the FPS, and we're sure it will have a great impact in future games of this kind.
  7. Though it's not a first-person shooter, Halo Wars packs all the Halo fixings you've come to expect: an engaging campaign, co-op play, engrossing multiplayer, efficient party-friendly matchmaking, hidden skulls, Legendary difficulty, and impeccable controls. We can confidently say that it's the foremost example of a real-time strategy game done right on a console. [Mar 2009, p.72]
  8. Halo Wars isn't perfect, but it's a huge step in the right direction for console RTS. For the first time in the sub-genre, I felt like I was playing a game instead of wrestling with a kludged-together control scheme. [Mar 2009, p.88]
  9. 90
    If there's a better swan song for a game studio than creating an important console title in the Halo universe, I'm at a loss to think of it.
  10. 90
    There's a real sense of cohesive design and polish at play here, something that we feel is missing from ports of PC titles. This is truly a console RTS, rather than a rethink on an existing title and that shines through in the intelligent interface, the interesting campaign and the multiplayer and co-op friendly gameplay.
  11. Halo Wars is undoubtedly fun; one just worries if it’s not enough for one group of gamers and too much for another. If you’re part of that middle ground like I believe I am, then you’ll love Halo Wars as much as I did.
  12. Perhaps the most impressive thing, though, is that it's managed to feel like a totally authentic Halo experience, rather than just a cynical spin-off. We've no doubt a strategy game will be a hard sell to a lot of people, but if this introduces even just a small proportion of die-hard Halo fans to a rewarding new genre of game, or indeed just a small proportion of strategy fans to the brilliance of Bungie's rich sci-fi universe, then it can be deemed a success that the now defunct Ensemble Studios can be proud of.
  13. A solid RTS on the Xbox 360, Halo Wars may not break the mold, but it does provide an impressive entry to the series and one that finally makes the genre feel at home on a console.
  14. Overall this is a tremendous addition to the Halo universe.
  15. 90
    If you're a die-hard Halo or RTS fan, Halo Wars is a must own. For everybody else, I highly recommend, at the very least, a rental.
  16. A must have for RTS fans, and a must have for those who enjoy the Halo universe.
  17. Ensemble have created something really special, they have managed to make a genre previously inaccessible to console audiences and turn it around into something that’s easy to play and heaps of fun.
  18. Halo Wars easily sweeps you up in the action even if you’re not a huge fan of real-time strategy titles.
  19. For those of us who are fans of the Halo series this is a great game to play and have to further explore the rich Halo universe. But for those people looking for a deep strategy experience should look elsewhere because this Real Time Strategy title is not your standard RTS but more of an action game with some RTS elements added in for flavor. A must buy for anyone who likes action games, Halo and playing with their friends.
  20. Folks that like arcade real-time strategy games, without lots of micromanagement and a well-developed multiplayer-mode will absolutely love this title. Halo Wars is a must-have for a sophisticated games collection.
  21. I did not expect such a solid experience from Halo Wars. Simple, yet deliciously exciting; just like a piece of strawberry cheese cake.
  22. It’s the best RTS on the Xbox 360. Though this isn’t stating much, any forthcoming RTS will undoubtedly have to compare to Halo Wars in the future. Ensemble Studios did their job in creating an accessible RTS that newcomers won’t have too much trouble playing thirty minute sessions.
  23. Ensemble Studios achieves which is, probably, the best strategy game in consoles. The fact that Halo Wars had a Xbox 360 only development makes the usual RTS standards shine with a pad for the first time. An interesting campaign with the always exciting cooperative guarantees a long life for this game, but the reception of the skirmishes is the real fact to determinate if Halo Wars will be ranked in the tops of the most played games in Xbox Live.
  24. Overall, what you have a very well done effort by Ensemble Studios. They have taken a franchise that must be handled carefully, if only because of the fans, and successfully blended it with a completely different type of game.
  25. Pelit (Finland)
    This strategy incarnation of Halo shows that without the burden of PC version it is possible to make a great RTS game for console. The only flaws are the length of the campaign and some minor idiocies in AI's behavior. [Mar 2009]
  26. The graphics are good, the cut-scenes stunning and the handling pretty good – for a console-RTS. That means that despite all the efforts Halo Wars has no chance, whatsoever, compared to the big RTS-Franchises the PC has to offer. But of course that doesn’t mean that Ensembles newest game isn’t still a “pretty good” title.
  27. The lack of ability to expand bases beyond preset boundaries and a poor path finding and unit movement system however does not taint the overall experience which is enriched with a powerful story, action packed gameplay, great visuals and a fitting soundtrack that will grip Halo fans worldwide.
  28. An interesting experiment that turned out to be a complete success. Microsoft and Ensemble proved that this type of game can be successful on consoles. However, I do not believe it is perfect, because I still would prefer to play it on a PC. Also, the campaign is too easy and lacking strategy, there are not enough maps for six players, and I think the developer should have made resource gathering more challenging.
  29. 85
    Halo Wars is the most accessible traditional RTS game we've ever tested - it works, and works well.
  30. Sure, we argue that the game may be a bit of a watered-down version of the PC-centric genre with some shortcomings, but with satisfying action, streamlined controls, and a non-Master Chief story that still holds your attention (done in cutscenes that are worthy of their own feature), Halo Wars makes for a strong introduction to both the RTS scene, and the UNSC-Covenant conflict.
  31. Ensemble Studio wanted to make a Real Time Strategy game for Halo fans. We can tell you that they succeeded. The controls are as simple as riding a bike. Once you get to know the basic controls you just keep on going. For hardcore RTS players this game might be to easy and option wise the game is very restricted. Nevertheless, we have had a great time playing this game and love to play it a little bit more online.
  32. Halo Wars is a RTS built from the ground up with the Xbox 360 console in mind, and it shows.The game is easy to pick up and play and scraps all of the things that make real time strategy games on consoles restrictive and awkward to play. If you want to take your first step into this type of game then there is not going to be an easier step than this.
  33. 85
    Halo Wars is the best real time strategy on consoles right now and it can be a lot of fun, but the relative lack of depth for such a usually deep genre can get old after a while.
  34. Real time strategist or not, if you are a Halo fan you owe it to yourself to play Halo Wars, it just may change the way you look at the series.
  35. 85
    Despite being an RTS game made for a console, Halo Wars succeeds where most others have failed. While the game is missing just a few elements that could have really launched it onto another level, Ensemble Studios really poured their hearts and souls into this game and it's evident.
  36. Halo Wars is the best real-time-strategy game that I’ve played on a console, period.
  37. 84
    Halo Wars deftly dodges between the hardcore micromanagement of real-time strategy and the instant gratification expected by Halo fans. Ensemble has nailed console RTS controls, but at the expense of some depth.
  38. It’s accessible, fun, and a mighty shuffle in the right direction, if a tad on the shallow side.
  39. Ensemble’s last game represents one of the best examples on how to make a console RTS, freeing itself from the Personal computer RTS’ heritage, and bringing a faster, more dynamic approach to the genre. Its lighter gameplay will surely please Halo fans, without just being a fan service, but leaving behind some strategy and depth.
  40. And maybe that's Ensemble's biggest success here: that the interface and controls, usually the worst part of a console RTS game and the one that gets talked about the most in game reviews for this genre, were the farthest thing from my mind here after a few minutes of learning them.
  41. Even without having the iconic Master Chief fronting the heroism, Halo Wars brings a great story along with matching gameplay that even players unfamiliar with the genre can learn and enjoy easily.
  42. A leap in the right direction for console RTS games.
  43. Halo Wars, as solid as it is from a gameplay perspective, is not an appropriate game for kids weaned on teabagging and fragfests.
  44. 82
    Halo Wars isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t perfect either, but it’ll satisfy Halo fanatics to the exact same degree as anyone hankering for a decent console game where you tell a large piece of rolling ordinance which direction it should be rolling in. And that, when you think about it, is quite an achievement in itself.
  45. Games Master UK
    Not genre-defining, but an accessible and exciting scrap proving strategy works on 360. [Apr 2009, p.58]
  46. At the end of the day, thanks to its authenticity, accessibility, action-oriented gameplay and multiplayer suite, Halo Wars holds great appeal for Halo fans and newcomers to the RTS genre.
  47. 81
    What Ensemble have achieved is nothing short of astonishing. It may not prove to be the finest example in presenting lasting appeal – single-player certainly doesn’t last all that long – but ultimately, Halo Wars stands out as an RTS experience that works incredibly well while ticking all of the right boxes for the fans.
  48. In conclusion, Halo Wars is a very impressive and sturdy RTS game on the XBox 360 and my only complaint being is handling your units during the last missions which does become sometimes tedious as you are trying to select the correct units and you end up selecting the incorrect ones.
  49. Not only has the studio delivered a title that lives up to its predecessor’s colossal standards, but it’s achieved a new milestone for the console RTS, paving the way for the future of the genre on a platform previously thought lost.
  50. A lack of a quick save option makes restarting entire missions a pain and tanks that stupidly wander into enemy fire require constant micromanagement, but Halo Wars' engaging narrative, likeable characters and addictive play make it a welcome addition to the series.
  51. 80
    The good news is that Halow Wars masterfully transports the series' best elements to an entirely different genre, and its unparalleled accessibility makes for an excellent introduction to real-time strategy. The bad news is that its self-imposed limitations take a meaty chunk out of its longevity.
  52. 80
    While Halo Wars won't be relieving strategy fans of their mice and keyboards, Ensemble Studios has crafted a genuinely fun experience. There are drawbacks, but those new to the genre likely won't even notice them, and Halo fans won't care. Most importantly, console fans finally have a genuinely good real-time strategy experience on their gaming platform of choice.
  53. Despite the lumbering campaign mode, Halo Wars is a brilliant addition to the series and, more importantly, to the RTS genre.
  54. As a developer that always seemed most interested in plain craftsmanship, it's a suitable capstone. As a return to one of the 360's most popular universe, it's about as good an RTS as a Halo fan could expect. And as a game, Halo Wars is a genuine pleasure.
  55. By virtue of the control system it's the best console RTS available. There are problems of course - the campaign is a bit of a slog, the multiplayer lacks variety and PC RTS players will no doubt dismiss the game, saying it would have been better on the PC (there's a degree of truth to that) - but those issues don't prevent Halo Wars from being as good as RTS games get on console.
  56. Halo Wars improves real-time strategy games allowing players to enjoy a robust gameplay with a solid graphic engine on Xbox 360. Command your soldiers and discover what happened 20 years before the first Halo game. Gameplay-wise, Halo Wars could not be considered as sophisticated as PC RTS games, but that's the sacrifice Ensemble Studios has made to adapt the game for the pad. This title offers some interesting multiplayer options, a 15 mission based campaign and a set of amazing cinematics. Halo Wars is interesting experience on Xbox 360 .
  57. 80
    It’s a decidedly different take on a massively popular franchise, but it’s one that ends up achieving what so many console RTSes have failed to by stripping away cumbersome control schemes and giving console players (and in this case Halo players) something that feels like it was made with them in mind.
  58. 80
    An elegant, lustrous RTS which channels the Bungie spirit to great effect, but takes only a few, baby steps beyond the principles laid down in the developer's Age titles.
  59. With Halo Wars we're treated to an easy to play strategy experience on a home console. The control scheme might not be on par with what you'll find in PC-counterparts, but it serves it's purpose without giving you too much grief. If you love the Halo games and are in the market for a great strategy experience you should definitely give this title a try.
  60. With solid gameplay and an authentic Halo experience, Halo Wars certainly is an appealing choice. It's only let down by the weak story and characters which seem pulled together to bind the various game elements.
  61. Halo Wars can be classified as the first successful console-RTS. The development team kept an eye on the limitations of the player, put in a fair amount of action and turned Halo Wars into a real console game. Gamers that have never played a RTS or stopped playing it because of its high complexity will find Halo Wars a very entertaining game. Die hard RTS fans will find it a little bit less entertaining.
  62. Halo Wars will feel like a game of ’My First RTS’ for all the well seasoned veterans of the genre, but a good solid starting point for those that have never played a strategy game.
  63. A solid and polished console strategy.
  64. Ensemble's new Xbox 360 strategy game is heavy on the Halo mythos but occasionally stumbles over its limited control scheme.
  65. If you're a fan of the series, you don't even need to think twice. However, for RTS fans this could be easier and less challenging. Putting in the balance your enthusiasm for this universe, the score can easily raise one point, and the controls' simplicity is also an added value, as well as cooperative and competitive online modes.
  66. X-ONE Magazine UK
    Not quite a revolution, but Halo Wars captures the essence of Halo and presents a fun and demanding RTS experience. [Issue#43, p.70]
  67. Halo Wars proves that an RTS can be done on a console, as long as it's built around the pad and not forced to fit it.
  68. LEVEL (Czech Republic)
    An entertaining addition to the Halo universe proves that there can be a good strategy game on consoles without the need for mouse control. We miss the campaign for the other side... and path-finding is something what should be improved a bit. [Mar 2009]
  69. Purists and veterans will probably dismiss Halo Wars due to its lack of depth, but Halo fans and the uninitiated should jump right in. It's probably the strongest RTS game that's ever been released for a console, and as an entry point into the genre, it's pretty much unbeatable.
  70. 360 Gamer Magazine UK
    Very much a conventional RTS, Halo Wars doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre – except for the massive appeal of the Halo universe, which it blends in impressively well. However, with a comfortable control system, the game is easy for allcomers to pick up and play, while the savage challenges laid down by the higher difficulties should keep the hardened RTS fan just as happy. Either way, it’s a hugely impressive indication that there’s a lot more to the Halo franchise than Master Chief.
  71. The most playable console RTS yet, but at the expense of some strategy.
  72. 79
    An enjoyable game if your ok with some small errors and a simplistic gameplay. At least every Halo fan should try it!
  73. Microsoft may not have crafted the finest RTS of the year, much less the generation, but they set out to make a fully functional RTS that is optimized for consoles, and in that, they’ve succeeded.
  74. Halo Wars brings the Halo atmosphere in the RTS world, thanks to great sounds, graphics, animations and charisma as well. The game completes the Halo FPS trilogy, unveiling unknown important storyline steps, but the lack of a deeper control layout and innovative ideas results in a superficial management of the troops , which will become frustrating in a lot of gameplay situations. The presence of only 15 campaign missions with only 2 factions Skirmish doesn’t help it to become a "Heroic" product. Probably its still the best "classic-style" RTS for a console, if you don’t consider "EndWar" (which has a different gameplay concept), but it could be a better game.
  75. Halo Wars is a fun, if unexceptional, real-time strategy title. It does many things right and a few things wrong, but nothing about Halo Wars really stands out except for the fact that it provides a surprisingly solid RTS on a console.
  76. 75
    Halo Wars is a solid, if somewhat uninspired and simplistic, all-around RTS package with few faults. Ultimately, it's not an RTS game designed for a console (such as, say, Tom Clancy's EndWar), but rather a PC-style RTS that's been adapted and streamlined for the console. I wouldn't venture to say that it's either a great RTS game or a great Halo game, but it's a really solid beginning towards what could be a really good console RTS.
  77. While hardcore fans will recognize and love the references to the early novels, everyone else may be underwhelmed with the lackluster story and characters on offer here. In terms of getting its strategy on, Halo Wars won’t wow the space boots off of Command and Conquer veterans, but it is a recommended purchase for anyone seeking to break out of their vicious first person shooter cycle.
  78. There is a deep chasm between Halo Wars and its PC brethren. Yet Ensemble's swan song is strong enough to entertain a hardened RTS vet for a weekend or introduce newcomers to the genre.
  79. While Halo Wars is a RTS that's been dumbed down exactly the right amount, it's still been dumbed down. While a good game, compared to some of the intricate tactics of its PC counterparts, it just feels rather thin, and with only two sides, battles always seem to follow familiar patterns.
  80. Halo Wars is greatly linked to the Halo Universe, and for this reason the plot, the character and the unit design are great. But despite this fidelity and a control scheme perfectly functional (the best ever designed for a console RTS), Halo Wars Experience is not that deep, strategically speaking. The enemy routines and the possible attack patterns are too simple, and the game looks like a “tactical hack’n’slash”. So, the game is suitable for those who seek immediacy and “vulgar strategy”, but it may be too simple and linear for the old RTS lovers.
  81. A great addition to the Halo series. Whilst it’s not perfect, the rendition to a real-time strategy was a gamble worth taking and will be enjoyed by RTS and Halo fans alike.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 479 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 77 out of 479
  1. Sep 24, 2010
    Halo Wars fulfills Halo: Combat Evolved's origins as an RTS. Ensemble did a great job of simplifying the gameplay so you don't have to worryHalo Wars fulfills Halo: Combat Evolved's origins as an RTS. Ensemble did a great job of simplifying the gameplay so you don't have to worry on Micromanaging and concentrate on making strategic maneuvers. The multiplayer can have 3v3, which is pretty good and mostly the number of players goes above 10,000, probably more than Tom Clancy's EndWar. As for Campaign, the cutscenes are great, the music is great (thanks to Stephen Rippy), and has little easter eggs for Halo fans. But, it is short and the reason why it is short is because Microsoft cut the budget (Ensemble had plans for a Covenant campaign, probably featuring the Brute Chieftain since he isn't in the main campaign, but the budget was cut and it was scrapped). According to the Guiness Book of World Records 2010 Gamer's Edition, Halo Wars has sold over 1.21 million units making it the Best Selling Console Based RTS. Not bad, huh? And for all those people out there who don't like it because Bungie was not involved, here is an article on what Bungie has to say about it: For what it's worth, Halo Wars is an excellent addition to the franchise, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. In any case, this a great game any Halo fan should have as well as to introduce people to the RTS genre. Full Review »
  2. AndrewB.
    Mar 3, 2009
    Halo Wars is an incredibly well done console RTS. It doesn't strive to be StarCraft or C&C, it is a HALO game that focuses on battle Halo Wars is an incredibly well done console RTS. It doesn't strive to be StarCraft or C&C, it is a HALO game that focuses on battle strategy rather than micro management. Not only does this approach work because it's a HALO game (a series that is centered around the action of the battle), but because it makes the game playable as an RTS on a console rather than a PC. Full Review »
  3. Oct 29, 2012
    Halo Wars brings with it huge feelings of joy and sadness; the joy that comes with a fantastic and hugely immersive title, and the sadnessHalo Wars brings with it huge feelings of joy and sadness; the joy that comes with a fantastic and hugely immersive title, and the sadness that follows the closure of an epic studio on a high. The action orientated RTS may be light on the RTS aspects in some areas but that by no means detracts away from the gameplay in the slightest. It just gives you a unique experience. Definitely a must purchase for Halo fans, action fans and those who are turned on by a good story. Full Review »