Note: This is a paid promotional article in conjunction with Xbox.

1. Isabel the A.I.

A.I. in previous games in the Halo series have been pretty cool, calm, and collected — and blue, to go along with this. Isabel, the A.I. for Halo Wars 2, isn't a combat A.I. so this whole fighting hoards of aliens thing doesn't seem like it'll come naturally to her. When you first meet her in the game she's kind of panicked and afraid (through the story vidoc from Xbox we know she's watched her entire crew die around her), but in the launch trailer she's looking determined and ready to ante up. She obviously goes through a hell of a character journey in the single player campaign. 

2. Blitz multiplayer mode

We're pretty sure nobody saw this coming, but smashing together real time strategy and competitive card-based strategy kind of makes sense. It keeps things tactical, but eliminates the need for base building and resource collecting, and instead you just pray you've built a good enough deck. While the team have said that this was initially a way to make RTS more accessible to new players you can imagine it being popular for seasoned strategy fans too, letting people match up in much faster rounds where the tides of a fight can change even more quickly than normal. 

3. These hilarious live action ads

Look, it's not a bad thing when games companies don't take themselves too seriously. Plus these videos are very relatable. We've all sat next to an Atriox on the plane at one time or another. Maybe not someone who actually does lick the armrest, but close enough.

4. Seeing the Ark

The Ark is a pretty big deal in the Halo universe (it is literally the place where all the Halos were made) so it's cool seeing it turn up in Halo Wars 2. It means there's the potential to see loads of different kinds of terrains in the game, plus there could be easter eggs or plot points that tie in to the original series, which Halo fans will appreciate. There's a lot of power stored up in the Ark, too. Imagine the size of the explosions. 

5. Atriox

The new big bad for Halo Wars 2 is Atriox, a Brute that the Covenant tried to force into slavery and death like his fellows. Atriox survived and lead a rebellion against the Covenant. Isabel says they were fighting Atriox at the same time they came after us and while they almost got us — and that was a hell of a fight —  'they never came close' with Atriox. That sets Cutter and his crew up for a bit of a rough paper round in Halo Wars 2. Atriox is also pretty interesting as a character as well as an adversary. A Brute who can crush a Spartan helmet with his bare hands, but is also intelligent enough to strategise against the Covenant and win… that's not something you see every day. 

Halo Wars 2 launches worldwide on 21st February. You can pre-order the game now, and immerse yourself in more Halo universe content over at the Halo Compendium.

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