The Halo series is one of the most well known series that has ever come out of gaming. With 9 games over the last 12 years, and across two main studios, the series has such a wide and diverse set of fans who love to immerse themselves into the incredibly expansive Halo universe. The Halo universe has so many characters and settings, that it gives the current developer so much to work with. Building off of the story of Halo 4, Halo: Spartan Assault follows Spartans Sarah Palmer and Davis, who are stationed on the UNSC: Infinity. Built for Windows Phone and Windows 8, the game is a pretty good top down shooter not unlike Halo Wars’ camera style, for both players wanting to use touch or keyboard/mouse controls. Here’s our thoughts:
For those of you who follow the Halo series as closely as I do, the story of Halo: Spartan Assault (as limited as it is, mainly played out though cutscenes between missions) falls between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4. You follow two Spartan Officers, through the eyes of UNSC cadets as they relive each mission through a simulation program. They follow the soldiers after the The UNSC and Covenant sign an official cease-fire, but a group of Covenant is ignoring the mandate when they discover some Forerunner weaponry.
The Halo series has always had a firm grasp of good control and play style. The play style of Halo: Spartan Assault, is very similar to that of a free Steam game, called Alien Swarm. This top down shooter has a lot of fun play features, from the ability to play with many of the guns from the Halo universe, to access to tanks and turrets! As it is available for Windows 8, you have two choices for controls depending on the device you are using. You can use either a keyboard/mouse if you are on a desktop, or touchscreen if you have that available to you. They both definitely have their merits, but for those of you reading who have a touchscreen device, the touchscreen controls are phenomenal!
Currently, the game has five chapters, with five missions in each one. You start the mission by selecting your loadout and “skulls”, which enchance your exp gain. The way the game works, is that like Halo: Reach and Halo 4, you gain experience through kills, and daily/weekly challenges. Each mission has a “target score” to reach, which earns you different “star” levels, giving you gold if you complete the mission in the most efficient way possible, the higher the score (which can be amplifed by adding skulls), the more experience you gain. Your experience unlocks more weapons and abilities that you can use, and experience is used to purchase them at the start of the missions for a one-mission use. After that, you have the ability to purchase credits though micro-transactions (which is annoying, since you bought the game), and you’ll be able to buy more powerful weapons to use. One thing to note, it is completely possible to gold star every mission without paying for credits!
Halo: Spartan Assault has your typical Halo gameplay, with hijacking Wraiths (the Covenant tanks) and Ghosts, shooting Covenant weaponry after you pick it up, and chucking grenades at every group of “Covvies” you come across. The vehicle controls can be difficult to control, but fortunately the missions are small enough that you won’t need them much! You’ll wield the standard assortment of weaponry from the Assault Rifle and Pistol, to dual SMGs. You can also wield the Sniper Rifle, Spartan Laser, and Rocket Launcher, whether you choose to use EXP (which can only be used for certain weapons) or microstransactions. Fortunately, you really only need to buy them if you want to play with them, and it’s not game breaking. The $6.99 you pay for the game covers all of the content, and you don’t really need to pay extra to get the full game experience.
Graphics and Audio
Halo: Spartan Assault stays true to the Halo legacy with it’s graphics, which are just as impressive in a small scale mobile/touchscreen game as they are in the full retails games found on PC and Xbox. The interface built around the game is modeled after that of recent Halo games, and is sized and placed perfectly for touchscreen controls, not looking unlike the interface for Halo Waypoint. Whether you are on a mobile device, or a Windows 8 machine, the game looks downright phenomenal. From the enviroments to the enemies and animations, the game is a great top-down version of Halo gameplay. The music is a feels the influence of composer Martin O’Donnell, even without him being a part of it, capturing the essence of the music we have all come to know and love. The sounds and effects are as you would expect them to be, excellent voice acting, gunfire and the high-pitched screams of grunts as you shoot them.
Halo: Spartan Assault is everything you could have wanted in a top-down, Halo styled shooter. From the weaponry and gameplay to the story and graphics, the game does an excellent job of capturing much of what has made games from the Halo universe so enjoyable. In a way, the game plays like Halo 4’s “Spartan Ops”, giving you a few missions between each plot cutscene, and that format lends itself incredibly well to the type of gamplay experience that Halo: Spartan Assault is aiming for. Combining Achievements with your Xbox Live account and linking into Halo Waypoint, it rounds out your Halo gameplay and brings it all together cohesively. Even though an odd “paygate” is placed into the game to force you to pay to play weapons other than ones you can unlock through gameplay, the game isn’t broken by it and can be completely ignored if you wish. The replayability is also moderate, although the skulls are the only way to modify the difficulty. Overall, Spartan Assault is a game well worthy of the $6.99 pricepoint in the Microsoft Store, and must have for anyone who loves Halo.