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Review: Halo Wars 177

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-for-something-completely-different dept.
The success of the Halo franchise is unquestionable. Bungie's trilogy of first-person shooters established a standard against which most similar games have been judged for the past eight years. Thus, when Ensemble Studios picked up the task of bringing the Halo universe to real-time strategy, they faced two separate mountains to climb: maintaining the high quality demanded by fans of the series and developing for a genre that traditionally translates poorly to console play. Fortunately, they had a head start on the latter, bringing in a wealth of experience from the Age of Empires series. Creating an intuitive and dependable control scheme was a top priority, and their success in doing so makes Halo Wars a worthy addition to the series. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
  • Title: Halo Wars
  • Developer: Ensemble Studios
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • System: Xbox 360
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 7/10

A solid camera system is the foundation of a good control scheme, and here Ensemble gets off to a running start. The left stick pans around the map at a variable speed determined by how far you push the stick. You can scroll slowly or quickly, and you can also change the maximum speed in the options menu. It's very responsive and easy to get from one place to another. You can hold the left trigger for even more speed, going all the way across the map in about a second. The right stick controls the zoom function, which is largely irrelevant — you'll probably want to keep it zoomed out as far as it will go most of the time — and pushing the stick to the sides rotates your view. You won't need to use this very often, but it's convenient and useful if you want to see things from a different angle.

The other way you can move around the map is with the directional pad. Hitting left will cycle through your base positions, and pressing down will cycle through your unit positions. Occasionally you'll get an alert — for example, a few of your units will be under attack somewhere on the map — and pressing right will take you immediately to the position of your latest alert. Getting around the map is definitely not a problem in this game. It's about as close as you can get to the ease of use that comes with a mouse and keyboard.

The next big hurdle was unit selection, and again, Ensemble did a fine job, giving you all the options and speed you're used to in these types of games. The A-Button selects units individually, but if you hold it down, you get a good-sized circular area which you can then sweep over multiple units to select them at the same time. This takes the place of the typical click-and-drag rectangles on the PC. It's slightly slower, but not by much, and you get the added benefit of being able to grab everyone in a circle around a unit you want to stay put. On top of that, double tapping the A-button on a unit will select all of that type of unit nearby. The right shoulder will select everything on screen, and the left shoulder will grab all units period. The only notable missing function is the inability to save certain groups and switch back to them, and even then, if your groups are spread out, it's not an issue.

If you have multiple unit types selected, the trigger buttons will cycle through the different types, making it very easy to send all your marines in one direction and all your vehicles in another. Once you've had a few missions to get used to the myriad selection options, you won't even need to actively think about what buttons to press. It's a good system because it doesn't get in the way of the actual gameplay. Finally, the means of controlling your units and buildings are simple and intuitive as well. The X-button is your standard "go here," "attack this," "grab this" button, and the Y-button activates any special attacks your selected units have. One nice feature is that you can hold down the X-button for a few seconds and a unit will finish walking to where they were already headed before they go to the new location. This lets you set up paths to take the long way around if the short way isn't safe. Buildings have a radial context menu through which you activate upgrades or pump out new units. You can queue up multiples at a time, and you can cancel an order before it finishes. Essentially, all is as it should be, and you're left to focus on what's important.

Halo Wars starts you off about 20 years before the events of the first Halo game. They send you to Harvest, the first planet to be taken by the Covenant, to establish peaceful and cooperative relations with their leaders and diplomats after five long years of combat. Just kidding — they want you to kill stuff. You get to see cinematics after every mission, which are largely responsible for driving the plot of the game. Visually, they're quite impressive, though the first few are a bit slow. As the game goes on, the cinematics become progressively cooler and more exciting. The writing and the dialogue is less than stellar, but it's serviceable, and it provides some good context to the Halo universe. There are also minor plot points shown during the mission, rendered by the game engine. Those are usually what determine your specific objectives.

There are not many missions in the campaign — just 15 — but they're very diverse. No two are alike, and Ensemble does a decent job of creating interesting objectives and differing levels of resistance. In one, you have to defend civilians as they head for their evacuation shuttles, and you need to take care of the shuttles themselves. The mission is timed, waiting on a countdown to launch. Another mission has you faced with a large energy shield that needs to be taken down. Certain positions on the map are good attack points for a type of long-range tank, so you have to take each position one at a time and hold them all long enough to knock down the barrier. Later you fight a Covenant super-weapon (a Scarab), dodging its main attack while taking out its power supply. And, of course, you get a mission to just build a massive army and annihilate everything else on the map.

They give you a good mixture of offense and defense, though in some cases the amount of resistance you're likely to encounter is unclear. Decisions made early in the game in terms of build order and unit production can effectively eliminate your chances of winning if you guess wrong. This is important because of the way Halo Wars deals with building bases. The bases themselves can only be placed in particular spots. Once a base is built, a number of empty construction bays spring up around it, and you're only allowed to build additional structures where there are construction bays. This means that you're only allowed a maximum of seven structures per base. On top of that, resources aren't something you go out and farm; you build supply pads, which slowly get deliveries from your ship in orbit. So, you're given a tough decision early on whether you want to develop your army or your economy. If you throw down five supply pads, you'll get resources like crazy, but you won't have enough space left to build all of the other things you need to win.

On the easier difficulty levels, this works out decently well; a ton of early resources means that you can pump out enough basic marines to handle most threats until you get fully established and perhaps take a second base. On the harder modes, you're attacked earlier and with stronger forces. Another decision they give you is what type of enemies you want to defend against. Several units are particularly strong against one type of enemy — infantry, vehicle, or aircraft — and not as useful against others. When in doubt, diversify, but if you're playing at an appropriate difficulty level, you can expect to fail a few because you just don't know what to prepare for. The timed missions, in particular, force you into early decisions that simply may not work. Since there's only the UNSC campaign, it's worth going through and doing the side missions, and also trying for some of the difficulty-related achievements.

The AI in Halo Wars is solid; pretty standard for this type of game. Your forces are reasonably smart about picking a target to focus, but not too smart; they won't switch off a full-health tank to drop one that's already almost dead. The pathing is pretty good; you won't have to spend much time micromanaging where you want them to go, but the option is there if you need it. One complaint is that when defending, your troops like to chase attackers too far, spreading out your forces and making it easy for a smart enemy to score some easy kills. There are four difficulty levels — easy, normal, heroic, and legendary. If you're just looking for a quick play-through of the game, go with normal. If you'd like to work for it, go with heroic. If you're pretty good at other real-time strategy games and/or enjoy being punched in the face, legendary will fit the bill.

The selection of units is interesting. You often get a leader and a group of three Spartan soldiers. In addition to being quite powerful, these units are essentially unkillable in the single-player campaign. When they take lethal damage, they drop to the ground and slowly regenerate health. Once they've healed enough, you can revive them by bringing another unit close by. It can lead to some surprising shifts in power. Most of the units are upgradeable to a high degree, becoming significantly more powerful late in the game. For example, the standard UNSC marines begin as a squad of four men with machine guns and grenades. Successive upgrades will: add one man, trade the grenades for long-range rocket launchers, add a medic that will heal the squad after a battle, and finally upgrade all of the marines to Shock Troopers. Each side even has "uber units;" Scarabs shoot giant lasers that fry UNSC forces in seconds, and Vultures are airborne behemoths that can eradicate Covenant buildings almost as quickly.

It would have been great to get a campaign of Covenant missions, but you can still use them in multiplayer. Their buildings are similar to the UNSC selection, but with minor variations. They get shield generators of questionable utility, and their infantry are the ones specialized to fight against particular units, rather than the vehicles. The two factions are similar enough that they'll be well balanced. You can play multiplayer maps against the AI or online with other humans, and you can also play cooperatively with your friends. You select the faction you want to play and then the leader you want, each of whom brings a different unit, ability, or potential upgrade to the table. You can expect to see players using strategies that work in other RTS games. Rushes work well, but they can be dealt with. Selecting your opening strategy tends to be more important than out-managing your opponent in battles. You don't have to have a ridiculous number of actions per minute to do well.

Ensemble succeeded quite well at establishing a control system that is powerful yet doesn't fight for intellectual real estate with the actual playing of the game. It's not a ground-breaking new entry into the real-time strategy genre, but, in a manner similar to the first Halo shooter, it demonstrates how well this genre can work on consoles. And it does well by the Halo franchise in the process. It's too bad Ensemble themselves got split up after completing this game — DLC involving some Covenant missions or making the Flood a third playable race would make this game even better. Fortunately, a team of Ensemble members now going by the name Robot Entertainment will be providing "support." If they're proactive about tuning and balancing the game, Halo Wars multiplayer could become quite popular indeed, in part because there isn't much competition. While it's not likely to be suitable for the hardcore, competitive RTS players, Halo Wars is definitely the fun and easy-to-operate console RTS many players have been waiting for.

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Review: Halo Wars

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  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Assmasher (456699) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:07PM (#27136879) Journal

    ...same exact formula as a million other RTS games, just branded with Halo; ergo, if you like Halo, this is probably an excellent game - otherwise it's like many others that came before it. If you've not played many RTS games, this one probably has polish, so pick it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Onaga (1369777)
      Umm.. how? I like Halo. I don't like RTS games. Will my love of a great FPS all of sudden make me love an RTS game just because ZOMG, I can create units that are based on the same units in the FPS? Dual wielding needlers and jumping into a fray is far removed from selecting a few units and telling them to explore north.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Assmasher (456699)

        Ummm... how - what?

        If you don't like cars or offroading and someone produced a perfect warthog replica, I would certainly think you wouldn't be interested.
        Of course you won't like an RTS based on Halo if you don't like RTS games... I would think that this is so obvious that I didn't need to make mention of it.

        The whole point of my post is that this RTS isn't doing anything new, it's simply rebranding the stardard RTS experience with 'Halo.'

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          I think it is doing something new, though. Not really on the RTS front; it's a bit simplified and small. But it's a genre that has never really succeeded on a console, and it sounds like they've really tweaked this a lot to be an introduction to RTS games in general. A playable RTS on a console would be a new thing.

          I just wish they would come out with some for the Wii; that console would be perfect for RTS games, but none have been made yet.
          • by Assmasher (456699)

            I bet that the Wii would have a much better interface which could map quite easily to a mouse.

          • by Errtu76 (776778)

            Or _any_ good game for Wii for that matter! The only ones i like are Rayman raving rabbits.

      • Re:In other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Meneguzzi (935620) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:45PM (#27137551) Homepage Journal
        Well, that's usually the way it works in the market of overhyped games, you create a game that is about the same as all other successful games in the genre, being careful at not attempting anything creative in gameplay, pour a ton of money on marketing to get people to say that this new game will be a breakthrough (even if it's an average game), and people generally buy it. It's a proven formula for the majority of commercially successful console games. In the case of FPS and RTS games for consoles, you also need to dumb it down a bit, since there's no way you can control these games with a game controller with the same precision and speed that a mouse would afford in a computer.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ljw1004 (764174)

          "No way to control these games with a controller with the same precision and speed that a mouse would afford" ?

          Sure there is!

          Mouse and keyboard are horribly limiting interfaces for RTSs. All that stuff about dragging a selection rectangle, assigning keyboard shortcuts to groups, selecting units onscreen, ... It's a mess.

          Imagine a voice-controller interfaces. "All tanks, attack target". "Grenadiers on screen, retreat." "Large factory, build tanks then missiles."

          These games can make do with a tiny vocabulary

          • by Wooky_linuxer (685371) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @04:25PM (#27140241)

            Attack where? Go where, following which path? What if you want tanks on the left to perform a certain task and the ones on the right to run away? You really think you can say that out loud quicker than you can point and type a few keystrokes?

            In fact your suggestion reminds me of some japanese live-action, where the good guys would cry out loud each and every action they were doing. The bad guys/monsters had to stay in the same place waiting for them to complete their speech. Ok, your idea is not completely wthout merit, but voice recognition is overrated. That's why it is not more widespread, since, as you noted it, we already have the tech.

            • by ljw1004 (764174)

              Attack were? My command was "Attack my target", i.e. attack the thing under currently under the crosshairs. Abbreviate to just "Attack" since if you don't specify a target then it defaults to your crosshairs.

              Go where? You'd could scroll your crosshairs to their destination and say "Go". Or say "Go south / north / to base / out of range"

              Follow which path? -- that's something that mouse/keyboard isn't much fun at. The ctrl+clicking to spell out a path is tedious.

              Distinguish between left/right? "Tanks on left,

              • I'll concede you came with some very good ideas here, specially about selecting heterogeneous groups of units ("all tanks on the east of the mountain with health below 30%" for instance). But, as Acapulco pointed, it will never be as fast as using a keyboard (and I really suck at RTS, but just watch the APM of some reasonably proficient players). And you still need a mouse for pointing anyway. BTW, RTS are mainly a PC gaming phenomena, so if voice recognition should be developed as a viable interface, it wo
          • by mobby_6kl (668092)

            All of the voice control examples you provide can be done in a few keystrokes/clicks in most modern games, so I don't see how they're an improvement over the current system unless you start with an already crippled controller. Still, what you're describing is already implemented in Tom Clancy's Endwar. It works, but at best it provides no advantage over m/k whatsoever. I mean besides freeing up a hand to masturbate with, of course.

          • Imagine a voice-controller interfaces. "All tanks, attack target". "Grenadiers on screen, retreat." "Large factory, build tanks then missiles."

            I don't want to imagine stuff, I want to play the game. Do you have anything working to show?

            At the same time, there is still stuff for which point & click is more convenient. For example, when you want your units to follow a specific path. And I bet that voice + mouse is still faster than voice + console controller.

            Furthermore, while we're imagining - imagine an RTS where you have the ability to write command scripts in some Turing-complete language and bind them to arbitrary vi-style commands. This wo

          • by Draek (916851)

            Tom Clancy's EndWar does just that, and many reviewers say that while it's a very cool way to play an RTS, it is also infinitely slower compared to good ol' mouse 'n keyboard.

            Besides, sooner or later you'll still end up assigning "hotkeys" (or codes or whatever) to groups of units, otherwise coordinating complex attacks would be hellish. You don't want to attack with *all* your units every time, y'know. And then there's coordinates, which are obviously much accurate and/or faster with a mouse than voice.

    • Slightly different formula really, in that Halo Wars is actually playable on a console (a first for me).

      That said it has some serious issues, no campaign mode for the covenant, no play at all for flood, multiplay costs extra, and the base building mechanism just isn't as fun as building a huge sprawling mess like a more traditional RTS. A couple missions have in game instructions that just don't make any sense as well, and you need to look online to figure out what it is you're supposed to accomplish.

      All i

    • by Xest (935314)

      It has another advantage, it's on the 360- the 360 doesn't have a massive amount of RTS games. LotR, C&C3, Supreme Commander, RA3 and that's about it.

      So whilst it's like every other RTS, it's also worth buying if you're just a generic RTS fan and a 360 player because there isn't an awful lot of other RTS games out there on the 360 to get your fill of RTS fun with.

      I got it for that reason, I love RTS games, and I spend more time on my 360 now than other systems and have played through all the other so re

    • Re:In other words... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RogueyWon (735973) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @09:07AM (#27148987) Journal

      Halo Wars is to RTSes as Halo was to fpses. The comparison holds up remarkably well.

      - Neither was the first attempt at doing the genre on a console. However, both were the first really ambitious efforts at implementing the genre on a console from the ground up, rather than just pinching PC mechanics wholesale (or indeed being a direct port of a PC game).

      - Both games were reasonably pleasant to look at, though certainly nowhere near the cutting edge technically.

      - Both games were the first examples of their genre to actually feel natural on a console controller.

      - In terms of sophistication and variety, both games were years behind equivalent offerings on the PC.

      - Both games had a storyline that thought it was far more interesting than it really was.

      Now, the thing with Halo is that it really got the ball rolling for big budget fpses on consoles. It showed how, by careful attention to sensitivity on the controller, as well as a few key design decisions (such as not requiring constant 180 degree turns in the way that many PC fpses do), you could render the genre playable - and even enjoyable - on a console.

      While Halo was in no way a great game considered on its own merits, it did sow the seeds that resulted in some of the modern console fpses that can give their PC competition a run for its money (such as Resistance: Fall of Man). It will be interesting to see if the same can now be done for the RTS, given that Halo Wars proves that a control system can be made to work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:15PM (#27137007)

    This game takes a new, totally novel, 'Humans', 'aliens with advanced tech' and 'aliens with organic tech' approach to sides that I totally have never seen before in any space-based rts. It's good to see microsoft finally coming out with concepts that aren't direct copies of anything else.

    oh wait

  • console RTS (Score:3, Informative)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:26PM (#27137219) Homepage Journal

    Redalert 3 was not a very enjoyable experience. And why should this one be any different?

    I'll just wait for SC2.

  • by Jailbrekr (73837) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:30PM (#27137295) Homepage

    It starts out with: "Bungie's trilogy of first-person shooters established a standard against which most similar games have been judged for the past eight years."

    Uhm, no. Halo is a console game which was based on the rich and varied offerings from the PC world. To say that Halo is a standard really shows how little the reviewer knows about first pergames.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by manekineko2 (1052430)

      Like it or not, Halo is the most popular FPS out there by numbers, despite being on a console, and as a result it is the most common standard people use to compare by.

      Note that I can say this without making any type of a judgment on gaming on PCs or consoles.

      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:25PM (#27138287) Journal

        It's not despite, it's because. The PC FPS market is widely fragmented across a wide number of games, and the console FPS market is...Halo.

        It's easy to be the biggest fish if you're the only fish.

        • Wow, so you mean Bungie were some huge visionaries that realized there was this huge untapped market on the console that nobody had ever thought to attempt to grab onto before? Everyone before them was completely oblivious to the opportunity that existed?

          No, the reason it is "despite" and not "because" is that implementing a FPS on a console control scheme is just outright difficult, and nobody had yet figured out the ideal way of handling it. Others had tried, but there were very few successes. Bungie stum

        • by MoriaOrc (822758)

          This might have been true when the first Halo came out. There certainly was no competition on the same level at that time, and the Console FPS market was mostly badly done ports of PC titles. The current console market, almost 8 years later, has plenty of competition.

          Just to put out some recent examples, the newer Call of Duty games are popular cross platform shooters. They're available on PC, XBox, and PS3. They're popular on both consoles at least, I'm not sure about PCs. On the PS3, Resistance and Ki

        • by Negatyfus (602326)
          Hmmm... how can you say that unless you mean only games that first were released exclusively on consoles? Which would be stupid in this time of simultaneous multi-platform releases. Even then, there are and have been countless console shooters, even before Halo.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, he's right. It's a standard. The question is what kind.

      If it's as good as Halo it's average. If it's better than Halo it's above average. If it's worse than Halo it's below average. See, that's a standard.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by saider (177166)

      A standard does not have to be a high standard. Just a base for comparison.

  • Where's my music? (Score:4, Informative)

    by AioKits (1235070) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:40PM (#27137429)
    I got this game a few days after it came out and while the game mechanics are pleasing and the controls easy enough to learn for an RTS using a gamepad, I must say one thing has me very disappointed. The soundtrack.

    Where the hell is my kickass soundtrack going on in the background? The game is visually pleasing, I especially like watching the warthogs drive around. I feel like the music was ignored, but this is just my opinion. That was one of the draws for playing Halo for me, the music that would swell up and seemed to tie in with the situations very well. I just don't have that in Halo Wars. Maybe I am knit-picking. Did anyone else feel let down by the musical score or lack there of?
  • OK review... Could have used more multi-player details.
  • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @01:44PM (#27137519) Homepage Journal
    but it remains a console RTS. Yawn.
    I want my RTS to be complex, and far more open with more micro-management, I havn't seen an RTS I've liked since Empire Earth 2, since then, everything has been dumbed down again and again.
    I've got, played, and liked Halo Wars. I like the Halo franchise, it's got a good storyline, and the games have been well made. This, true to form, is not a bad game. It's just not revolutionary.
    That said, I am tired of people slagging off Halo continuously. Sure, I prefer the Half-Life PC games to Halo, but the Halo games remain excellent - and the game type and map customisation have yet to be beaten for a simplicity vs power balence.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      but it remains a console RTS. Yawn.
      I want my RTS to be complex, and far more open with more micro-management, I havn't seen an RTS I've liked since Empire Earth 2, since then, everything has been dumbed down again and again.
      I've got, played, and liked Halo Wars. I like the Halo franchise, it's got a good storyline, and the games have been well made. This, true to form, is not a bad game. It's just not revolutionary.
      That said, I am tired of people slagging off Halo continuously. Sure, I prefer the Half-Life

    • by vikstar (615372)

      I want RTS to be less complex, with less micro-management, and more strategy. By less complex I mean, easy to learn hard to master. Trying too add depth by injecting complexity is a cop-out. However, I can't think of a single RTS that is simple with a great depth of strategy. Usually this description is given to the best turn-based games such as chess and arimaa. I would like to see this type of approach applied to RTSes.

      • by Draek (916851)

        Well, I'd recommend the Total War series which is "not very hard to learn, you gotta be Alexander The Great incarnate to master". On multiplayer and quick battles you get a specific budget to purchase your units with before battle, besides that there's zero base building or resource management. Yet, the battles themselves are the most realistic ones I've ever played on a RTS, and the only one where actual, real-life tactics work and are a necessity to winning.

        Only problem with it is that the single player c

    • by mjwx (966435)

      but it remains a console RTS. Yawn.

      The problem with console RTS's is that they have to be dumbed down too much. Consoles just don't have the input devices necessary to accept the amount of input you need to properly play an RTS. In order for a console RTS to be any good it has to play itself so we get games like C&C3 which realistically only require two buttons for input, 1. build tank and 2. send tank at enemy. C&C3 was a purely tank rushing game, if you took the time to do anything else you'd b

  • Boxer doesn't care (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Marquis2 (1027570)
    It is clear Microsoft is not aiming for the regular, competitive RTS demographic. No Serious RTS fan is going to pick this up for the reviewers praise of the low APM(Actions Per Minute). I'll stick with C&C3 and Starcraft for now, until Starcraft II is released. :)
  • I tried the demo on Xbox 360 when it came out. I realize that not all demos are indicative of the quality of the overall game. I have not played the full version.

    From my experience, the game is like playing Starcraft, while drunk, with your toes, after a frontal lobotomy. The controls are dumbed down, as is the general gameplay overall. The "pretty graphics and sound" didn't really add that much compelling to the gameplay. Any Command and Conquer game, Warcraft 1-3 or Starcraft had much deeper gameplay. For the $60 you could spend on this game, you could probably find ALL of these other games in bargain bins, or on eBay.

    I fail to see why in the world consoles have the inability to use keyboard and mouse at least as an option. The 360 has USB ports, the PS3 has Bluetooth and USB. Why can't I just take my keyboard and mouse combo and use it for these systems as an option?

    Some people have given me the excuse that MSFT/Sony/Nintendo want 'consistent gameplay' with the controllers that people will already have. If that's the case though, why do we have things like weird huge joysticks for mech games (360), Rockband kits, the Wii-Fit board, or the Duck Hunt stype zapper for the Wii??? These aren't your standard controllers, but are more than fine. I'm guessing that 'most' households with a game system have a USB keyboard and mouse laying around somewhere.

    For me, this would make the consoles perfectly equal gaming systems for me that I'd be totally happy with for RTS and FPS genres.
    • The reason why is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by manekineko2 (1052430) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:07PM (#27137973)

      I fail to see why in the world consoles have the inability to use keyboard and mouse at least as an option. The 360 has USB ports, the PS3 has Bluetooth and USB. Why can't I just take my keyboard and mouse combo and use it for these systems as an option?

      Some people have given me the excuse that MSFT/Sony/Nintendo want 'consistent gameplay' with the controllers that people will already have. If that's the case though, why do we have things like weird huge joysticks for mech games (360), Rockband kits, the Wii-Fit board, or the Duck Hunt stype zapper for the Wii??? These aren't your standard controllers, but are more than fine. I'm guessing that 'most' households with a game system have a USB keyboard and mouse laying around somewhere.

      It has nothing to do with limiting the number of controllers people have. I bet it's actually that most people don't want to have to play against people with an advantage over them. No one reasonable, generally including even die-hard console fans, disputes that the mouse and keyboard is more precise. A lot of people do dispute, however, whether it's more fun to have a mouse and keyboard on your couch in the living room.

      I know that as a console game player, I just wouldn't play any game online where a sizable percentage of the population is using a mouse and keyboard. They have an advantage over me, as surely as baseball players that use steroids have advantages over their clean brethren, and I don't want to adopt their tactics simply to remain competitive. I just wouldn't play, and the number of players like me is a lot larger than the number of players who want to use the mouse and keyboard, so it doesn't make sense to include the option.

      Furthermore, and I'm not sure how widely held this view is, but at least for FPS, I actually prefer the lower accuracy of the game controller. The mouse makes it too easy to be unrealistically good, bunny jumping down the hallway while sniping people in the head with a high calibre rifle in mid jump. The fact that it's harder to do that on a console is a good thing to me. There's a reason we don't train our soldiers to jump all around while trying to snipe in real life.

      • by ryanvm (247662)

        Argh - where are mod points when you need them? Well said.

      • I understand and agree with your concerns but I put the responsibility on the game developer to take care of those issues that can make someone "unreasonably good". Greatly diminishing the accuracy of a player running or jumping is good place to start. The reason why I don't prefer the lower accuracy of a game controller is that it often gives an edge on spraying an area with bullets rather than aiming.

        Clearly, it will vary by game. My game of choice has always been the Battlefield series and, in that serie

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by enderjsv (1128541)

          "The reason why I don't prefer the lower accuracy of a game controller is that it often gives an edge on spraying an area with bullets rather than aiming."

          I vehemently disagree. And I think the error lies in the wording. On a console, it's not that all players will have low accuracy. It's that being accurate will be harder. Let's face it. Everyone's an expert at aiming on the PC. Headshots are easy. But on a console, the range of skill is even greater than it is on a PC. I've can show you clips of p

      • by redJag (662818)
        I completely see your point. I wonder how well it would work out if they simply labeled people based on the control scheme they were using. Then when you create a game, you can set up a filter to only allow controller-using players in your game, perhaps. Maybe it just isn't worth the hassle. Due to some physical limitations, I really have no chance when playing an FPS with a controller but can do alright with a keyboard and mouse. Thus far that has meant no console FPS games for me, which is fine, but
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by crumbz (41803)

        The console manufacturers want to sell you high margin accessories.

      • The mouse makes it too easy to be unrealistically good, bunny jumping down the hallway while sniping people in the head with a high calibre rifle in mid jump.

        Bunny-hopping hasn't been a viable tactic in any FPS I've played since Quake II against a reasonably experienced opponent. The reason being that it's much harder to change your trajectory once you're in a jump, so it's easy to predict it and do a well-aimed shot, compared to doing that against player who's circle-strafing instead; especially with projectile weapons, which are usually harder to aim, but more damaging. For games with rocket launcher, it's also extremely easy to shoot a rocket just under the f

      • by mjwx (966435)

        They have an advantage over me, as surely as baseball players that use steroids have advantages over their clean brethren, and I don't want to adopt their tactics simply to remain competitive.

        This is a terrible analogy, its like saying that using a wooden bat should be illegal because it performs better then a concrete bat. It make no sense, the mouse and keyboard combination does not turn a bad player into a good player, we PC gamers have bad players as well. Yes we have a huge advantage over console pla

      • by Draek (916851)

        There's a reason we don't train our soldiers to jump all around while trying to snipe in real life.

        Probably the fact that most real-life encounters aren't in the 2-10m range, unlike videogames. I remember someone commenting a long time ago, that at the distances most people use sniper rifles on videogames, a regular soldier would use a normal rifle, and at the distances people use assault rifles online, a real soldier would use an SMG or a gun. That, and not mouse control, is likely what accounts for most of the difference in accuracy between computer games and real-life, along with lacking the fear of d

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hellswaters (824112) *
      Its to control the market. They control what controllers the system can use, and because of that they control who makes the controllers. Once you start allowing mouse and keyboards, your opening the door to more third parties making things for your console which means lower profits. Since they can only use the one (or very few) the makers and thus flow of money can be controlled.
    • by kuzb (724081)

      I fail to see why in the world consoles have the inability to use keyboard and mouse at least as an option. The 360 has USB ports, the PS3 has Bluetooth and USB. Why can't I just take my keyboard and mouse combo and use it for these systems as an option?

      The PS3 has keyboard and mouse support out of the box. However, in order to use it in games the games have to be written to use them. A few games do this already - notably you can get Unreal Tournament 3 for the PS3 with out of the box mouse and keyboar

    • by grumbel (592662)

      I'm guessing that 'most' households with a game system have a USB keyboard and mouse laying around somewhere.

      But most don't have a table around that they can put those on to play comfortably. There is also the issue that implementing a mouse/keyboard interface costs time and money, since now you have two interfaces to worry about. In the end its however simply the issue of "because Microsoft said so", thats what you get with a closed game platform, what you gain in standardization and ease of use, you lose in flexibility. Sony on the PS3 allows keyboard and mouse, but still, very few games make use of it (Unreal3

  • Looks exactly like Starcraft 2. I'm not supprised if it's the same engine that Microsoft somehow got their hands on.

  • Too obvious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:20PM (#27141991) Homepage Journal

    From the article: ..."It's about as close as you can get to the ease of use that comes with a mouse and keyboard."

    So why not just use a mouse and keyboard? I notice that this game is for the XBox. Why not make a PC version? Doesn't Microsoft have some stake in PCs as well as XBoxes?

  • I was looking forward to playing Halo Wars, especially since I started playing Red Alert 3 at Xmas. The game is fun to play and the control scheme in some ways is better than RA3 but in others its worse. The best part about RA3 is that you have access to everything from anywhere on the map. With HW you have to go back to your base, which is easy to do with the dial pad but then you lose your place.

    I'm sure there are little tricks that could make the game move faster but thats just my personal experienc

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