Hands-on preview: Halo Wars!

First hands-on gameplay

Mother of Invention

Though the alien Covenant faction is expansive and detailed, Ensemble quickly learned that the USNC side needed to be expanded for a strategy game. So Ensemble fleshed out the scrappy Marines with a collection of new vehicles, all of which bolster the UNSC's ability to stand toe-to-toe with the Covenant in battle. One of the favorite new additions is called the Cyclops, an Iron Man-esque mechanized power suit that excels at beating the stuffing out of enemy buildings. All told, we counted some

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True to their Halo 3 counterparts, Warthogs are fast and nimble. They can leap over gaps to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Working in the key details from the Halo shooters has required some crafty thinking from Ensemble. In most RTS games, vehicles simply sit stationary and shoot. But the vehicles in the Halo games feel far more three-dimensional: the Warthog, for example, is highly maneuverable and can run over enemies in addition to blasting them with its chaingun turret. To incorporate more of these concepts, Ensemble added primary and secondary attack buttons for each unit. Tapping the primary attack button will make your Marines fire their assault rifles, for instance. But if you need more stopping power, a tap of the secondary attack button will make them toss out a volley of grenades. You won't need to micromanage these secondary attacks, but it's a handy option to have if you're under siege by a superior fighting force.

Even the Sentinels, the Forerunner sentries that watch over the Halo structures, are being worked into Halo Wars. Some multiplayer maps will contain a "Sentinel shop" that players can capture. Commandeer the Sentinel shop and the Sentinels will reinforce your army, firing their beams at any enemy unlucky enough to draw too close. There's even a beefier Sentinel variant that attacks with electromagnetic pulses, which freezes nearby vehicles in their tracks for several crucial seconds. But you've got the keep an iron grip on the Sentinel shop, lest a crafty enemy take control of the Sentinels for himself.

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Don't get your hopes up — Halo Wars is Xbox 360 all the way. Ensemble confirmed there would be no PC version.

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