Halo Wars



Well-made strategy game breaks from Halo shooter tradition.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

You control an army of humans during an attack by hordes of aliens. This is a war game, but you are trying to save Earth.


Players attack enemies with a variety of units and weapons, such as gun-toting Infantry, soldiers with flamethrowers, tanks, turrets, and grenades. Big explosions sometimes result in enemies flying in the air, but the attacks are not graphic. Video cutscenes will show closeup battles with blood, and even the impaling of human soldiers.

Not applicable

Words like "hell" and "bastard" pop up, but nothing serious beyond that.


This is the fourth installment of the much hyped Halo series, but unlike the first three which were M-rated shooters, this is a real-time strategy game that is T-rated.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need
to know that this is the first Halo game rated "T" instead of "M." Unlike the other
Halo incarnations, Halo Wars in not a first person shooter but a real time
strategy game with less gore and violence. There is still some violence as you watch
tanks, ground troops, flamethrowers, missiles, and other military weapons do
damage, the action is far enough away that you can't see the details. For
example, you can see bodies flying through the landscape, just not the carnage.
A few video cutscenes show closeup fighting with human bodies impaled and some
blood which is why the game is rated "Teen." Players will also hear mild
cursing. The game can be played online where colorful language is the norm.
Common Sense Media does not recommend children under the age of 12 playing
online games.

What's it about?

Long known as a first-person shooter, the Halo franchise shifts gears in HALO WARS, a simple real-time strategy (RTS) game that should entice diehard fans. Set about 20 years before the original Halo game, the game follows the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) as they battle the alien race called the Covenant. Instead of commanding one character, players take charge of multiple UNSC squads. Units range from Infantry and flamethrowers to big vehicles such as the Scorpion Tank.

Players will build up a base, gather supplies, create units, and bolster military technology. They can navigate the map and select single units, or hit the shoulder button to select all units. To attack, players point their cursor to an enemy and hit an attack button. Most units have a standard strike and a stronger secondary attack. For example, Infantry units can lob grenades. Each level is broken down into specific objectives, such as destroy an enemy base or defend a particular area. Players can also engage in online skirmishes against human players, assuming either the UNSC or Covenant armies.

Is it any good?


Halo Wars is a fun RTS that is pretty easy to control. Between excellent tutorials and four levels of difficulty (which can be changed mid-campaign), this is a game that newbies can play. And you don't need to be familiar with the previous Halo games to enjoy it. The game streamlines military commands, making it simple to switch between units in different areas of the map as well as give orders. The one problem is the inability to create custom groups of units. Breaking up units into special groups requires a few too many steps. The action is quite intense, particularly as you progress to the later stages of the single-player campaign. At times, combat is frenetic as you're hopping between units dispersed throughout the environment. One moment, you may fight enemies on one portion of the map while your base is enduring an assault from a surprise attack.

Halo Wars look sharp, an impressive feat when you consider how small each unit looks. When big vehicles or weapons are destroyed, debris flies across the landscape. Battles also look very smooth, even when dozens of units litter the screen. While the real time strategy approach is different from previous Halo titles, Halo Wars is a worthwhile strategy adventure. Plus the cooperative and competitive online modes make it something you can explore with friends.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this game compares to the rest of the Halo franchise. Do you prefer commanding many forces or just one super-powered character? Since this game is T-rated and set 20 years before the other 3 M-rated games, do you think this is a good way for the publisher to expand the Halo's license to younger players?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360
Available online?Available online
Release date:March 3, 2009
Genre:Real Time Strategy (RTS)
ESRB rating:T for Mild blood, mild language, violence

This review of Halo Wars was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 2 and 11 year old Written byZephyrzInferno March 19, 2011
At first I was angry when my son got this as a gift, but after playing it with him, I was actually pretty happy with it. I think that the violence language and blood are toned down to where they should be for most games. Also, this game provides lots of opportunites for kids to learn (even if they aren't aware of it). The players need to develop tools and technology to build an army capable of defending earth. This requires patients and skill that is sorely lacking in the majority of today's games. With a little parental guidance kids can easily learn to understand this game's high points and few low points.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byPaladin357 March 3, 2012

It's for strategy gamers.

If you're into this kind of game, you'll enjoy it. The rating of T for Teen is most definately for language and a few minor parts of the cut-scenes. There is a brief mentioning of DADT on the random NPC lines, but it goes no further than say "I'm not asking and I'm not telling". The game focuses on building resources and training units, while applying strategy. The difficulty is a bit too gapped from level to level. The easy difficulty essentially has you steam rolling through without difficulty while the normal difficulty will have you trying desperately to keep pace with the enemy.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byNinjablader9 October 27, 2011


Not a really great game. it reminds me more of chess than fighting but some people like that. And for the purpose that its more stategy there is less violence.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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