So the Xbox One already has a Halo game. While it might not be the one everyone is waiting for, it is certainly one I was interested in playing, considering it was previously only available on Windows Phones, PCs and Tablets. This twin-stick shooter feels like a Halo game with familiar weapons, vehicles and enemies. The developers have also adapted the once touch-only controls, to a more familiar control scheme. While it might not be the adaptation of Master Chief I have been waiting for, it does a nice job of scratching that Halo itch.
The story of Spartan Assault takes place between the third and fourth game. Players assume the roles of Spartan Sarah Palmer and Edward Davis, who hardcore fans will recognize from other facets of the fiction. The story revolves around a Covenant invasion, as opposed to the Promethean one found in Halo 4. The story is told through cutscenes and feels right at home in the Halo universe.
Being a mobile game, Spartan Assault feels a bit minimal when it comes to the campaign. Single player offers up six operations, each one broken down into mini-missions that don’t last very long. That is understandable when considering it was meant to be played in small bursts, but it doesn’t translate well. I felt like missions were over before they began, and I spent more time in menus and loading screens than blasting Covenant.
The developers did add a brand new co-op mode for this version though, which helps. It is online and only features two players, but it is a nice diversion. It is essentially a horde-type mode featuring the Flood, and the level selection is more than a little limited. Still, it was a nice addition to the mix, and helps justify the heftier price tag.
One of the big adjustments to Spartan Assault fans of the genre will have to make is the lack of unlimited ammo. Holding the right stick in a direction and blasting off a barrage of bullets becomes common practice. With Spartan Assault though, that will lead to a quick death. Ammo is sparse, and the game focuses on players picking up weapons on the battlefield. It is a minor change, but one that keeps the intense firefight mentality of a Halo game intact. After getting used to it, I actually enjoyed the challenge.
What I did not enjoy though was that most of the interesting stuff was locked behind upgrades. Completing missions earns XP, which can be spent on new weapons and power-ups. While I could beat the entire game without spending a dime, the game constantly reminds me how much better it would be with said upgrades. Sure I could spend some XP on them, but it dwindled fast. I am not usually quickly offended with microtransactions, but Spartan Assault definitely carried its mobile mentality with it.
Luckily, Microsoft was at least willing to work with players who had already purchased the game previously. While not as giving as Sony with their cross-buy program, MS did offer a 66% discount for those that already bought the game. It isn’t on par, but it is a start.
Visually the game looks alright, but I could also tell it was a port. The levels are well-designed, but none of them seem to take advantage of the new hardware. The music and sound effects are familiar and well executed though, making this feel like a Halo game. I am also a fan of the slick menu system, and overall solid presentation.
Halo: Spartan Assault isn’t a terrible game, but more of a disappointing one. It is great that console players can finally play this once mobile-only title, and it is great the team added in the new co-op mode. For $15 it is hard not to recommend it, if only because the drought for new games on these machines is in full force. Just remember before going in where this game originated, and set expectations accordingly.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.