Halo Wars 2 introduced us to new characters, including the terrifying Atriox. It delivers piles of multiplayer game modes, and a satisfying, if slightly abrupt, single player campaign. Halo Wars 2 doesn't seem to have gotten the traction Microsoft might have hoped for, perhaps in part to its simplicity, designed around controller play rather than keyboard and mouse. Still, that doesn't mean Microsoft is done with the game just yet.
The upcoming expansion, "Awakening the Nightmare" will expand upon the original in various ways. It adds an all-new campaign, featuring the Banished faction, introduced in the base campaign. It also features the infamous Flood, who has once again become unleashed. The new campaign will be similar in length to the base experience, including new characters and all-new Blur cinematics, that look just as gorgeous as fans have come to expect.
I was told at Gamescom 2017 that Halo Wars 2 would have an impact on the series in general, and could have implications for Halo 6. Indeed, Halo Wars 2 takes place concurrently with the events of Halo 5, so some sort of cross over is to be expected. Will the Flood appear in Halo 6, though? It's hard to say, but one thing is for sure: they will appear in Halo Wars 2's new Firefight mode.
What is Firefight?
Firefight is essentially an expanded version of Blitz Firefight, which throws you into combat against infinite waves of encroaching enemies. In Blitz, however, you're limited to unit cards that come from Halo Wars 2's RNG card pack system, which feels restrictive. The new version of Firefight is completely separate from Blitz, and is a new way to play co-operatively with up to two extra friends in Halo Wars 2.
Firefight is essentially Horde mode, taking place on a large map, providing you full access to every leader's powers, units, and abilities. You don't need to worry about card packs or card levels, as it's a standard PvE non-Blitz mode. Leverage your leader's unique skills and unit powers to overcome infinite waves of enemies that want to destroy the core you're tasked to defend.
Firefight against The Flood
The Flood, of course, is a parasitic organism that has proven itself to be one of the biggest threats in the Halo universe. Although it seems the Flood was largely contained in previous games, units have begun spreading again due to the events of Halo Wars 2, and the actions of the game's main antagonist, Atriox and his Banished army. Thanks to the power of the new consoles, Microsoft has really ramped up the presentation of The Flood for Halo Wars 2, creating Zerg-like swarms comprised of hundreds of units, sweeping across the battlefield in a bitter frenzy.
As noted, Firefight tasks you to defend a single point against waves and waves of all sorts of enemy types. Luckily for my hands-on, I managed to get a taste of what to expect from The Flood.
In Firefight, similar to tower defense games, it warns you which directional paths the enemy will take on their assault towards your base. There are various types of walls and turrets you can build, and Microsoft has added various types of walls and traps to make it feel a little dynamic. It's almost like a top-down Gears of War Horde battle, albeit with hundreds of units, rather than dozens.
The first couple of waves weren't too hard, and Microsoft was keen to stress that the demonstration had been tuned towards the easy side for quick hands-on sessions at Gamescom, but even still, the difficulty ramped up fast. In no time at all, mountains of Flood swarmed my walls and turrets, infecting my buildings, and they even brought out a gigantic Flood monstrosity, which I'd certainly sooner expect to see in Gears of War rather than Halo.
Running at 4K 60 FPS with HDR support in tow, Halo Wars 2's Firefight is almost like a video game Cirque Du Soleil performance, with spectacular colors, air-shredding light shows, and chaotic choreography. Albeit with the grace stripped out, and piles of Flood corpses thrown in.
Firefight is all about expanding your defenses across the map, using your resources wisely, and working together with your co-op pals to survive as long as humanly possible. The fact Firefight features infinitely increasing waves should result in some truly incredible battles for you and your co-op pals, and it'll be interesting to see how well the Xbox One handles all the carnage alongside the Xbox One X and higher-end PCs.
An unmissable addition
Halo Wars 2 has enjoyed some truly admirable post-launch support, adding new campaign missions, tons of new leaders, and other updates and tweaks. "Awakening the Nightmare" will serve as a much bigger update, providing a campaign close in length to the base experience, and the awesome Firefight mode, which should prove itself to be a welcome addition to your co-op gameplay lineup.
I'm simply intrigued to find out whether or not The Flood is simply there to help sell this expansion... or whether it's back for good.
Halo Wars 2 is available on Xbox Play Anywhere for $39.99, with Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare launching in Fall 2017 at $19.99.
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