According to Major Nelson
the Halo Wars
demo is now available for you to download and play. The demo contains two levels from the final game along with a tutorial and a skirmish map. I had the chance to play through the demo last night and I think people are in for a treat.
I will admit that I went into the demo with low expectations. I'm not the biggest RTS fan in the world but I have been playing them for a while on the PC so I had certain expectations going into the game. The biggest being the controls as it's difficult to map all the commands for a RTS to a console controller. The folks at Ensemble have taken the tact of changing the nature of the game so in a way Halo Wars so that it works on a console. Don't expect large scale battles with multiple groups swarming in from each side but rather medium and small battles. That's not a knock on the game as the system seems to work well from what I gleaned from one play through of the demo.
As I mentioned earlier the demo contains two levels. The first has you rescuing marines that have been stranded around the planet while the second has you building a base and taking out some Covenant who are guarding a mysterious shrine. You start out with one base and have to build up a force large enough to take out the base. You start with one command structure which has five slots. In these slots you can build a supply pad (brings in resources), generators (power and tech level), barracks (troops), and a vehicle creation center. The fortress also has four spaces for turrets.
This is an example of how Ensemble has streamlined the game as there's no complex base structures to setup. I know it sounds simple but it actually worked for me. You can upgrade your base to a Fortress which adds two more building slots. Resources are brought in from off planet and the only other thing you'll have to worry about is power.
Managing units is also pretty simple. You can select one unit with the A button or hold the A button down to select units in a radius. If you double click one unit it will select all of the units on the screen of the same type. Clicking the left bumper selects all units you've built while the right bumper selects all of the units on screen. It's a nice simple system which does a good job of using the 360 controller to it's best.. Units have a standard attack as well as an upgradeable secondary attack (the marines can throw grenades, Warthogs can run enemy units over) and that's really all you need to know. I did miss the ability to group units but I'm not sure if that's not in the game or just not something they are showing off in the tutorial.
I'm interested to see what other people think of the demo, leave your thoughts or questions in the comments as we'd love to know what you're thinking.