Despite Halo Wars developer, Ensemble Studios, disbanding earlier this year, downloadable content for Halo Wars managed to fight its way onto the Xbox LIVE Marketplace with help from newly-established developer, Robot Entertainment. The downloadable content titled “Strategic Options” contains three new game modes for the title’s Skirmish mode, each of which extends the Halo Wars experience.
The first of the new game modes is ‘Keepaway,’ which is your typical Capture the Flag style game mode we are ever-so-familiar with, though with a Halo Wars twist. The flag is represented by a dynamic sentinel, which, when destroyed, is assigned to the unit that eliminated it. For a capture point to be scored, the flag carrier must be kept alive for the two-minute time limit. The winner is the first team to reach three capture points. Whilst this seems like an unusual game mode for a real-time strategy title, it is surprisingly really good and one that has been brilliantly implemented.
Next up is ‘Tug of War’, which requires players to build up their strength by creating base points and destroying enemies. Player’s advancement is indicated on a progress bar at the top left of the screen. As your team becomes stronger, the indicator on the bar moves closer to your end and the opposite when your opponent becomes stronger. When the bar reaches either end, the game finishes and the winner is the team/s with the stronger army. Whilst it’s a clever conception, this is the weakest of the three game modes as it isn’t initially clear what is required to score points, and in all fairness it’s not actually that fun to play.
You know what they say about saving the best till last, and this is where the ‘Reinforcement’ game mode comes in. The game mode uses a waves feature in which new troops are delivered and player’s resources deplete every two minutes or so. With the creation of new troops disabled for the game mode, players have to strategically eliminate the enemy, with the limited resources in place. This game mode is a great new concept, which is one of its kind and whilst being a challenge it is also enjoyable – something I haven’t witnessed in quite some time.
All three game modes can be played on all of the game’s current maps, on all four difficulties and with a range of players. This integration into the game was executed well and there’s no confusion surrounding it.
Whilst I like the new game modes on the whole, the major factor in whether you should purchase the Halo Wars “Strategic Options” downloadable content is the price. Unfortunately, this is probably the off-putting factor, as for 800 Microsoft Points (about £6.40), all players receive is three new game modes. This seems a little too pricey, especially with new downloadable content arriving on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace on a very common basis. If new campaign missions had been included, this would be a must-buy, though unfortunately this downloadable content is for frequent Halo Wars players only. Let’s hope Robot Entertainment’s next attempt is worth the price you pay.