Review - Halo: Spartan Assault
After spending over a decade in the head of a Spartan, it was safe to say that if I was going to keep playing Halo games, something had to change. Halo Wars didn't cut it, but a new perspective, a new style was necessary to continue. It seems that's arrived in the twin-stick shooting form of Halo: Spartan Assault. While the game hasn't reinvigorated my love of the Halo franchise, it's certainly a fun and different take on taking on the Covenant.
Spartan Assault tells its story through the eyes of the present peering into the past. Players will essentially re-enact the great deeds of Spartans Palmer and Davis as they fought through the battle of Draetheus V. It turns out not all of the Covenant was cool with peace after the events of Halo 3, and players will learn all about it aboard the ship introduced in Halo 4, the UNSC Infinity. Spartan Assault consists of 25 missions broken up over 5 operations. Each mission can be done in a few minutes, making Spartan Assault a very digestible game for someone on a tablet PC or a Windows phone. The basic gameplay is also pretty easy to pick up, but is not without some quirks. This game is a twin-stick shooter that doesn't necessarily confine players to a pair of sticks. There are general areas where thumbs will be placed, rather than having two defined “sticks” on-screen that players are stuck to.
Grenades and vehicles are where things can get a little wonky, as the direction the Spartan/tank cannon is facing is simply the direction a grenade or tank shot will go. You could tap on a Covenant turret on-screen, but you won't autocorrect and throw towards that turret if you weren't facing that way to begin with. Vehicle control can be tricky at times, too, as I got far too good at driving a Scorpion tank backwards. Once you get moving in the right direction, Halo: Spartan Assault features running, gunning, grenading, meleeing, and occasionally hiding for shield recharging.
These are the things Halo fans are used to, only now it comes from a top-down point of view. The usual Covenant enemies of Grunts, Jackals, and Elites are still waiting on the receiving end of your assault rifles, SMGs, any Covenant weapons you may pick up, or the special weapons you put down real money for. As a game I've already paid for, the last thing I want to do is plunk down more cash for heavier weapons like the Spartan Laser or the Rocket Launcher. $7 was a price I was comfortable with. What I'm not comfortable is putting down money for weapons I'll have to pay to use again in each mission via the credits I've purchased. Thankfully, it never felt like the faithful assault rifle and pistol combo wasn't up to the task, and that having to pay for a gun was imminent.
Graphics-wise, Halo: Spartan Assault looks pretty solid and did a good job getting the most out of my Nokia Lumia 928. The environments continue on Halo's use of the whole rainbow, going from canyon-esque areas to taking the fight up inside Covenant ships. The camera never gets close enough to the characters to demand great detail, but even at a distance, you'll recognize everyone you've known on your home platforms. To that end, the sound also helps as each race maintains their trademark warcrys and crys for help. The music didn't necessarily stand out, and it didn't help that there was some sort of audio glitch, making it pop in and out.
So while Halo: Spartan Assault has its problems, it does also have it's strong points. Vanguard Games has done a decent job of changing how people play a Halo game while keeping it familiar enough for Halo fans to pick Spartan Assault up and get right into it. It would be expecting too much to expect this game to take the mobile gaming world by storm, primarily because of the platforms it's available on. But at $7, Halo: Spartan Assault is a good little game for people who want something to play on their Surface Tablet or Windows 8 phone.