I have a very bad track record with PC games ported to consoles. My first experience was Diablo for the Playstation. Latter, I discovered a rare copy of Eye of the Beholder for SNES. Both games left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Imagine my surprised when it was announced that the Halo RTS would be an Xbox 360 exclusive. Very few real time strategy (RTS) games have been ported on consoles, for good reasons. The controller typically found on a console is not well designed to handle a large number of units. However, if a company can do it, it would be Ensemble Studios, makers of Age of Empire.
I was very impressed with the game. As I mentioned, the main challenge with an RTS on a console is controls, as you need to be able to quickly select large numbers of units and move them around. Ensemble Studios did something right when they decided to make a new control scheme, instead of trying to adapt mouse controls to a console. Shoulder buttons allow you to select either all the units on screen or in your army. Otherwise, you can either select individual units, or use a circle to paint which units you want in your group. The approach is very intuitive and works well.
Halo games have never been known for their strong story line. Although it provides very good motivation for pushing Master Chief from one mission to another, Halo has never been about provoking deep emotions in the player. Halo Wars doesn’t diverge too much from that pattern, it’s a fairly straight forward: “save the world, stop the bad guys”. But the story itself integrates very well into the game, much better than what I have typically seen in RTS games. A couple of stages are event memorable, such as the fight on the hull of the capital ship, fighting of waves of enemy ships.
The graphics are pretty much what you would expect from this generation of console. The clean, crisp and very Halo-like :-) The music is also close to what is found in other Halo games, which is much better than most games. In general, the game is very polished.
If you are interested in playing an RTS games, you should most likely stick to the PC and buy a classic like Starcraft or Warcraft 3. You can’t go wrong with these games. However, Halo fans will some interest in strategy will enjoy Halo Wars. If you own an Xbox 360, you can try out the demo. If you don’t own an Xbox 360, you can't buy this game anyways.