Halo is back and parking its tanks on the lawns of other real-time strategy (RTS) games.
Gamers who buy Halo Wars 2, the sequel to the best-selling RTS console title ever made, will be able to enjoy the largest battlefields the franchise has ever seen, as well as some of the most realistic sounds.
In order to make players believe they are in a warzone, Creative Assembly, the company behind the latest instalment, flew thousands of miles to record the sound of flamethrowers, explosions, gunfire and tanks crushing cars.
“We wanted fresh sounds but accessing tanks in the UK is difficult,” said James Magee, senior sound designer at Creative Assembly. “We looked at various locations and the US had some good facilities. So, two of our guys from Sussex flew to the Drive a Tank experience in Minnesota, and we had the whole place to ourselves for a couple of days.
“We worked with the 343 studio to capture the sounds of high-calibre weapons and explosions – M40 rifles, a Barratt M82 rifle, 50-calibre weapons that you can’t get hold of in the UK. So, when the flame marines use their flamethrowers in Halo Wars 2, those sounds were made by real flamethrowers that we recorded in the US.
“They also had a range of military vehicles, such as Russian tanks and Second World War Sherman tanks. We took them out and recorded them in different situations, driving over cars and in circles. The owners were open to experimentation, so they used a crane to lift one of the tanks about a metre off the ground and let us record the sound of the tracks running. That meant we didn’t get any background noise, just clean recordings of the tracks.”
Halo Wars 2 follows on from the original point-and-click game, released in 2009, and brings back Captain Cutter and the crew of the Spitfire. Players must build bases and command armies of Spartans and other Halo forces, such as Warthogs, Hornets and Vultures, in a brutal war against a new enemy. As Halo Wars 2 is a Play Anywhere title, gamers can purchase it for Xbox One or Windows 10 and play across both using a controller or mouse and keyboard, with their saved games and progress following them.
“It’s an RTS for everyone, whether you’re new to the genre or you’re a die-hard Halo fan,” said Alistair Hope, creative director at Creative Assembly. “We have the fantastic campaign, but we also have these really great co-operative and competitive modes online, too.
“Then we have Blitz, which is a whole new approach to RTS. Blitz combines strategy and card collecting, so units are represented by cards. You don’t have the pressure of building your army during the heat of battle, you can build an army of 12 cards in your deck offline and take that into battle. If you’re new to the RTS genre, then it’s a really accessible and simple way of getting into it.
“You collect cards just by playing Halo Wars 2. If you complete a mission you get a pack of cards, if you complete daily challenges, you’re rewarded with cards. Or you can go to the store and purchase packs there.
“We love strategy games and we love Halo, and we want as many people as possible to enjoy the game.”
To launch Halo Wars 2, Xbox and 343 put gamers through a real-life battle situation in which they had to give orders in a military command centre to keep their troops alive, while being overseen by an Army commander. As the chaos of the battle grew and they faced defeat, the fledgling recruits had to take up weapons themselves and charge out of their bunker.
Meanwhile, Xbox has announced a Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition Bundle, which features an one-terabyte Xbox One S console, an Xbox ireless controller, a Halo Wars 2: Ultimate Edition digital code for Xbox and Windows 10, a Halo Wars 2 Season Pass digital code a Halo Wars Definitive Edition digital code for Xbox and Windows 10 and a 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial.
Halo Wars 2 launches on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC on February 21. To pre-order the Xbox One S Halo Wars 2 Ultimate Edition Bundle and receive early access to Halo Wars 2, visit the Microsoft Store.