Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2 proves once again that an RTS can work on a controller, but that aside there's little to get excited about here.

Key events

FeatureThe untold origin story of Creative Assembly

"I decided this kettle had to die."

A school gym in England, mid-'90s, and two local rugby players await orders. One is small and wide and called Adrian, and one is tall and weighs about 20 stone. He's Big Dave. Adrian has been getting flattened by Big Dave all day but he keeps getting back up. It's the rugby training in him: you bloody well get back up if you're knocked down. But this instinct is starting to annoy the people he's in the school gym for, the people making the sports game. They're trying to motion-capture for a rugby game and would rather Adrian lay still. They should be careful what they wish for.

Digital FoundryHalo Wars 2: how Xbox One X compares to base hardware and PC

Digital Foundry's first look at X scalability on a Play Anywhere title.

If there's one aspect of Xbox One X coverage we've yet to explore in depth so far, it's how enhanced first-party titles compare with existing PC and Xbox One versions of the same game. For example, all marketing of the beautiful Forza Motorsport 7 has been on X hardware, while other titles such as Sea of Thieves have only been demoed thus far running on the Xbox One S. The good news is that at Gamescom, we were given access to an early build of Halo Wars 2 running on Xbox One X, and armed with 4K direct feed capture, we're able to offer an early look at scalability on an established Xbox Play Anywhere title.

Halo Wars 2 review

Halo Wars 2 review

Rings hollow.

Halo Wars 2 has been designed, first and foremost, with a controller in mind. An improvement over even its predecessor here, it proves once again that real-time strategy isn't exclusive to PC players.

Halo Wars 2

Publisher: Microsoft

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Halo Wars 2 launches without competitive multiplayer ranking

Halo Wars 2 has launched without a competitive multiplayer ranking system.

The developers at 343 Industries and Creative Assembly said they made the decision to hold competitive multiplayer ranking from launch in order to continue to work on game balance.

Halo Wars 2 does have skill-based matchmaking working under the hood, but it does not display a player rank based upon it. This comes as some surprise for a Halo game, as most display some kind of competitive multiplayer ranking.

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FeatureWhy Halo's biggest problem may be Halo itself

And what Halo 5 might have learned from Halo 3: ODST.

The original Halo Wars ends by putting itself in stasis, with the human warship Spirit of Fire coasting through void - its crew forced into cryosleep, its ultimate relation to the rest of the saga left open for debate. The in-game explanation for this uncertain denouement is the loss of the vessel's Faster Than Light drive. The creative rationale was perhaps Bungie's intense ambivalence about handing the keys to its universe over to Ensemble, developer of the Age of Empires games. Packed with all the floaty jeeps and energy swords a Halo fan could wish for, the plot of Halo Wars nonetheless sits at a careful remove from the numbered Halos, offering a separate cast and events that, for all their dizzying import, never quite overlap with the antics of Master Chief and co. Fast-forward to 2017, and even as the robust-looking Halo Wars 2 approaches release, there's the sense that the Spirit of Fire's fate has become that of Halo as a whole - a mass of trailing story threads and lost souls, waiting for somebody to give it a heading.

Second Halo Wars 2 beta planned for early 2017

There will be a second Halo Wars 2 beta, Microsoft has said.

In a post on Xbox Wire, 343 Industries' Dan Ayoub said the second beta will run early 2017 for both Windows 10 PC and Xbox One. The first beta was Xbox One only.

The Xbox Wire post goes into detail on the changes the developers at 343 and Creative Assembly are making to the real-time strategy game in response to feedback from the first beta.

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FeatureHalo Wars 2 feels caught in No Man's Land

The Xbox One beta reveals a game that's struggling to find the balance between change and consolidation.

One of the things I love most about strategy gaming is its breadth, and few comparisons speak to that like the pairing of The Creative Assembly, architect of Total War, and Ensemble, the now-shuttered creator of the original Halo Wars. Total War's real-time battles hinge on the glacial spectacle of formations colliding, subject to a creeping alchemy of terrain conditions and morale. Halo Wars takes a completely different tack, adapted from Ensemble's Age of Empire series: it's fast-paced, abstract, finely poised between base management and combat, and more or less devoid of messy variables such as unit psychology. What could possibly happen when one developer takes over where the other left off? The answer, going by the Xbox One beta, is: nothing all that mind-blowing so far.

FeatureXbox boss Phil Spencer: the big interview

"Scorpio is designed as a 4K console…"

Microsoft's E3 media briefing was strong, I thought, although its impact was dulled by a pretty spectacular set of leaks that not only revealed the existence of the Xbox One S and Scorpio ahead of time, but the running order of the show.

Halo Wars 2 release date set for February

Halo Wars 2 release date set for February

UPDATE: 64.99 Ultimate Edition detailed.

UPDATE: Halo Wars 2's Ultimate Edition has been revealed.

Priced at 64.99, it includes the core game, the Season Pass, and Halo Wars: Definitive Edition.

The Season Pass will include over six months worth of new content with a campaign expansion and plenty of new units and Leaders.

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Looks like there's a Halo Wars 2 open beta next week

Halo Wars 2 will be available to try next week, a leaked Xbox Store listing suggests.

The Halo Wars 2 open beta is listed for release on Monday, 13th June, and will last a week, until 20th June.

Monday is when Microsoft will hold its annual E3 press conference. The beta will presumably be announced for immediate download right then and there.

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The Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusives due out in 2016

The Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusives due out in 2016

Gears of War 4! Crackdown 3! Sea of Thieves! More!

Hot on the heels of announcing the delay of Scalebound to 2017, Microsoft has committed to a 2016 release for a raft of Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive games.

In a post on Xbox Wire, Xbox marketing chief Mike Nichols announced a number of meaningless statistics about player engagement and time spent doing this and that on Xbox and Windows 10 devices. But the good stuff is in a list of already-announced games due out on Xbox this year, which comes complete with release dates and windows.

Here it is:

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FeaturePhil Spencer on Xbox's big year

The importance of exclusives, PC, VR and more.

What a difference one man and 18 months can make. Before Phil Spencer took over at Xbox, the brand was in troubled waters. Questionable policy decisions had shook Xbox and mired the early days of its new console in acrimony, and even though Microsoft wisely chose to listen to concerned consumers it's been working hard to regain the momentum lost ever since. As it heads into a vital fourth quarter of 2015, the momentum has definitely returned: the broadening of the Xbox brand to PC was helped by the relatively smooth roll-out of Windows 10, the Xbox division just turned a neat profit and, while it still falls short in sales to Sony's PlayStation 4, its line-up for the remainder of the year looks significantly stronger than its opposition's.

Halo Wars 2 confirmed for Xbox One and PC

Halo Wars 2 confirmed for Xbox One and PC

By Total War maker Creative Assembly.

Halo Wars 2 is due out on Xbox One and PC in autumn 2016, Microsoft has announced.

It's developed by Total War maker Creative Assembly.

Halo Wars 2 is the sequel to the Xbox 360 real-time strategy spin-off set within the Halo universe.

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