Halo: Spartan Assault
Developers: 343 Industries, Vanguard Games
Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), Windows 8 PC, Windows 8 Phone
Release Date: December 24th, 2013
Price: $14.99 – Available Here
Being the exclusive flagship series for Microsoft, it is no surprise that Halo has seen some sort of yearly release for the last few years. After the release of Halo 4 last year, it looked like that streak was finally going to be broken, but here comes a much smaller game very akin to the Halo Wars title of years past. Originally coming to Windows 8 Phones and Windows 8 PCs, Halo: Spartan Assault offered a unique change of gameplay for a Halo game and after just a few months it now comes to consoles for the Xbox One with additional features. So, let’s look and see how this game stacks up as both a Halo and Xbox One title.
Not being a numbered sequel, Halo: Spartan Assault doesn’t follow main star Master Chief, instead filling in a few gaps in the timeline to give some more backstory to some of the new Spartan IVs. The story itself is told in a meta story-within-a-story style as being a combat simulation for new Spartan IVs to practice and learn to maneuver on the battlefield, utilizing data from the fights that two of the higher in command Spartans fought in, specifically Commander Sarah Palmer and Spartan Davis who were introduced in Halo 4.
The battles that these two fought in were spread out during the fight as they separate and go off to complete different objectives to give more levels for players to experience. Halo buffs may find this interesting, seeing more of the Human and Covenant struggle after the war had officially ended, but otherwise this simply works as another means of creating more battles to fight in for those less into the story. Though each chapter does have a great looking introduction to kick off each of the events, which certainly adds just a bit more to make the story of the game somewhat more interesting to those not playing just for that.
This console version also sees the inclusion of co-op levels that center around fighting off the Flood, which has managed to find its way into almost every Halo title outside of ODST. The story for these however has nothing to do with anything Palmer or Davis faces in the main campaign instead going back the the meta narrative device to state that this is an extension of the combat simulation to test the Spartan’s mettle against the Flood, should the parasite return. This is not surprising as its the same excuse Halo 4 uses to add Flood into multiplayer, but anyone who had been hoping to an actual reassurance of the infection might be disappointed. Though the introduction to the co-op does just as good a job as the main campaign’s videos, this time giving more information on the devastation from the glassing of African in Halo 3.
As a top-down shooter the controls of Halo: Spartan Assault work a little bit different than the previous Halo titles. Players must use their twin sticks to move and shoot, but it works and feels right in its execution. Controller would almost seem the ideal control scheme for the game as a tablet or phone could only simulate the feel, though a keyboard and mouse might work just as well with a bit more precision in aiming. To make up for the slight imprecision of aiming with the Right Stick however the game does give a bit of an auto aim going for targets near where the player is pointing the stick.
Many of the other buttons remain the same to where they are for Halo 4, with switching weapons being the Y button, interacting and picking up items with the X Button, and switching grenades being the B button, so anyone moving over straight from that will have no problem with the learning curve. The top of the controller still functions exactly the same with firing and grenades being on the trigger and Armor Abilities and melee on the bumpers. Outside of the top-down layout the game plays amazingly like any of the FPS Halo games, which works out much to Spartan Assault‘s favor.
The levels themselves are fairly short however and probably why it worked out well as a mobile game, as most can be completed in under 5 minutes. With a total of 30 levels, even with the DLC from the PC and Phone version already included, to play through this means players will be able to blow through the campaign relatively quickly if they so choose. The game does try to offset this with a scoring system to have players strive for gold stars and additional missions for players to try to accomplish in each level, but these are secondary and anyone looking for straight out gameplay will only have those 30 levels and the co-op to look forward to.
Those co-op itself is meant to be the special addition to the console version to make it unique, but there are only 5 different co-op levels available. While they are on average longer than the single player campaign levels that still feels somewhat lacking. Additionally, co-op is strictly online only, so those who enjoy split-screening wont get a chance to do that here. Though this is almost a good thing as these co-op levels are generally harder than the single player levels with the onslaught of Flood constantly bombarding the player, so splitting the screen and trying to still see them coming and survive would probably not work out well. While the number of levels aren’t there, the difficulty being raised definitely does make up for the lack of more of them.
The Halo style still shines through in Spartan Assault, even more so with the HD graphics of the Xbox One. Those familiar with the series and its enemies, weapons, and vehicles will easily recognize them here. Even vehicles that were introduced in Halo Wars and haven’t been seen in the FPS games get another chance in the spotlight as they are protected and escorted through a few different levels to try and combat the Covenant.
The best visuals are still in the videos that precede each chapter however, as they look fantastic and detailed. Those that played through Halo Wars and got to see the movies and videos from that game should have an idea of how good Halo can look and this reaches for that quality. There are however only 6 chapters and the co-op introduction, so they are unfortunately very limited.
Like the graphics the sounds of the Halo series, and the soundtrack as well, match up to players expectation for those familiar with them. All the enemies, weapons, and vehicles still sound like their FPS counterparts, so that it fits well within the universe. The voice acting is extremely limited however, the main narrator is Ronald, the AI for the UNSC Infinity, so the vast majority of dialogue is his and outside of the lines said or shouted by marines or the Covenant chatter there isn’t much in the way of speaking. Though with the focus of this game being the short combat oriented levels this lack of voice acting does come far into play.
The twin-stick shooter style definitely works here, giving a new perspective and a slightly different feel to the way players experience the combat, plus quick singular objective levels that spice things up and don’t feel repetitve. Though this is a fairly short game with a total of 35 of these short levels, with a lot of focus being given to replaying for high scores or alternative objectives, so this is definitely not for everybody. Spartan Assault does does look, sound, and feel Halo, so it is able to live up to the name, which means fans of the Halo series that are waiting to see what else is coming for Master Chief in the next game may find themselves with a nice little game here to help pad out that wait.
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