KICKSTART MY ART
While the “standard” Halo Wars 2 arsenal of incredible vehicles, weapons, and characters is already epic enough, the game’s bandied-about Blitz Mode will feature a crazy cadre of additional variations, sometimes in form, sometimes in function. With the mode’s beta experience at our digital doorstep, I thought it might be fun to share just a few of my favorite pieces of art that adorn the various cards that make up one of Blitz’s key components. These gorgeous swaths of eye-candy are brought to you by the talented team at Creative Assembly alongside 343's Art Director for Halo Wars 2, Jeremy Cook. Of course, we can’t just leave you hanging without some all-important context in relation to the greater Halo universe, can we? Let’s check out some of the new (and old) favorites!
The earliest models of Banshees were fashioned after the ’sKelln, a leathery winged flying predator from the Sangheili homeworld, Sanghelios. However, the Banished have since twisted this ancient ancestry to incorporate design details more closely related to an aerial predator hailing from their own homeworld of Doisac. Many of the Banshees in Atriox’s fleets have been modified with brutal and experimental weaponry, usually designed to inflict maximum damage from both a physical, and psychological, perspective.
Favored chieftains in Atriox’s retinue have the unique opportunity to be promoted to the status of Warlord – vicious agents positioned to intercede on the Banished leader’s behalf to bring recalcitrant packs to heel and direct critical faction operations. Answerable only to Atriox and Decimus, Warlords are no doubt feared by lesser Brutes and hated by the Let ‘Volir’s troops, though none can deny the Warlords’ loyalty or violent proficiency in culling the Banished ranks of weaker links. Indeed, many a prideful chieftain has forgotten who their work should be enriching and have wound up on the receiving end of a Warlord’s personally-fashioned gravity hammer.
Unggoy may not always be strong, brave, intelligent, hygienic, or even particularly fearsome warriors, but those pledged to serve the Banished have a healthy enough fear of their Jiralhanae leaders to stay on-task and motivated. Even if their fellows are used as target practice by bored Brutes or disintegrated by Forerunner sentinels, these seasoned survivors can at least look forward to a full food nipple and an occasional brief nap in the methane atmosphere they call home.
Truly aggressive and violent Grunts are rare, but without Covenant oversight or the environmental hazards of Balaho to cull them from the population, the number of aberrant Unggoy has increased dramatically in thrall colonies. The Banished have adapted existing indoctrination protocols to turn the aggression and natural cleverness of these legions to their own violent purposes.
CONDOR GUNSHIP – G81 HEAVY GUNSHIP
The Vulture is still currently “officially” the heaviest standard combat air unit the UNSC has to offer – but rest assured, there’s nothing official about the Condor Gunship. This imposing flying fortress is actually a repurposed and highly weaponized civilian dropship. While the Condor Gunship does break a large number of UNSC weapons platform regulations, its effectiveness in battle is truly undeniable.
The G81 is a slow-moving but powerful craft armed with multiple pulse-laser turrets and a light magnetic accelerator cannon (MAC) – all of which are capable of independently targeting enemy units. The pulse lasers offer a high rate of fire, making the Condor effective against mass units, while the light MAC provides devastating burst damage for hard target elimination.
NIGHTINGALE – EV-44 SUPPORT VTOL
The EV-44 Nightingale is a dedicated support unit that uses its complement of multipurpose Restoration Drones to repair allied units. Its relatively simple construction (aside from the advanced drone system) has made it possible to adapt the Nightingale’s design blueprint to the Spirit of Fire’s older factory models.
The Nightingale has no offensive abilities, lacking even a basic weapon system. However, the craft is equipped with various countermeasures to survive harrowing battlefield situations, including the ability to deploy multi-spectrum smokescreens and disposable jammers capable of camouflaging all units within the target area.
Vigilant and venerable, Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) are elite soldiers eager to deploy into even the most dangerous battlefield to make quick work of most opposing infantry units. Operating primarily as a special forces raiding unit of the Marines, ODSTs are deployed from the Spirit of Fire to tip the scales in a close battle, raid enemy bases, capture strategically valuable points, and eliminate high-value targets. These heroes have spent nearly three decades cut off from their calling, and are more than eager to begin making up for lost time against the best that the Banished have to throw at them.
PELICAN GUNSHIP – G77S GUNSHIP
Building upon the versatile foundation of the venerable D77 airframe, the G77S Pelican is an impressive gunship design cooked up by Isabel and the Spirit of Fire’s engineers to help turn the tide of battle against Banished forces on the Ark. The G77S Pelican Gunship boasts a powerful range of armaments, including top-mounted ANVIL missile pods, four payload hardpoints, a forward M370 chaingun turret, and multiple 12.7mm Vulcan cannons.
The Spirit of Fire’s Sniper teams have traditionally operated in the background, serving as the true unsung heroes of many skirmishes and aerial strikes. Drawn from experienced Marine force reconnaissance and Army cavalry scouts, Snipers are experts at monitoring enemy movements and detecting cloaked units. Among the impressive array of weapons at their disposal are signature-suppressed anti-material rifles and the deadly Stanchion portable rail cannon.
Hailing from an affluent family of the Asphodel colony, Douglas-042 had a tough time adjusting to the SPARTAN-II program. However, after an initial bout of culture shock, his anger gave way to a quiet confidence. Even among other Spartans, Douglas is considered something of a giant, and he soon came to believe he’d found a purpose in life. This faith in his destiny marks Douglas as an optimist by Spartan standards, and his hopefulness often lifts the spirits of his more cynical comrades.
As core components of Mjolnir powered assault armor cannot be replicated by the Spirit of Fire, the Spartans of Red Team will look to take advantage of GEN2 parts recovered from UNSC outposts, ingenious reverse-engineered solutions developed by Serina, and deft modifications made by Isabel to stay in the fight. The potential amalgamation of these changes and Red Team’s original Mark IV armor could eventually allow for completely new design permutations customized to the needs of each Spartan.
HORNET – AV-14B ATTACK VTOL
Hornets are versatile fast-attack aerial gunships used for combat reconnaissance and surprise attacks on high-priority targets. They’re armed with medium autocannons that are effective against all targets, and are particularly adept at taking out light vehicles. Typically, Hornets are comparatively fragile, relying primarily on their speed and versatility to make them a valuable tool in the field. However, the crew of the Spirit of Fire have also begun using a variety of modified Hornet chassis – like the one seen here – with unique attributes in attempt to gain any competitive edge available against the Banished.