Before I get into the review of Halo: Spartan Assault I feel like I need to apologize to the 2old2play-ers out there. You see, I finished the game back at the end of July. However, I finished it the night before I went on vacation. I ran out of time to do the review and when Mrs.Soup, the Souplets and I returned it was a whirlwind trying to catch up. So I apologize for making you wait. That being said I just found out that the Windows Phone 8 version was not available on all carriers in the US until August 17th. So for some of you I guess I wasn’t that late after all!
I am Spartan!
The fact is, if you are a Halo fan then you will want to play this game. Will it make you want to leave the cozy confines of Windows 7 or switch mobile platforms to Windows Phone? If you haven’t done either of those yet then the answer is probably no. I will add that it depends on how hardcore of a fan you are of all things Halo and whether or not you were planning on doing either anyway. Either way, Halo: Spartan Assault is likely not the groundbreaking killer app to make you switch.
I am not saying that this game’s not good. On the contrary. It is actually quite good and I enjoyed playing it on both platforms. Happily my progress on one platform was synced with the progress on the other. Sadly though, I didn’t get double the achievements.
What I did get was the start of a fill in the pieces story set between the end of Halo 3 and the beginning of Halo 4. The game centers around the first missions of the new Spartan Ops program. You switch roles playing as either Spartan Davis or Spartan Palmer fending off the rogue Covenant force that breaks the truce between the Human and Covenant races. The game begins to fill in the missing pieces during the four years that Master Chief misses while he sleeps and while Cortana slowly goes insane. Halo: Spartan Assault doesn’t fill in the entire gap; it feels like the prelude to a broader sequel. For $7.99 there is a fair amount of game here.
Halo: Spartan Assault is designed with an isometric top down perspective. The game provides a decent field of view as you shoot, needle, sticky and snipe your way through the five main chapters. Each main chapter is split into five sub chapters for a total of 25 missions. I found that each mission lasted on average eight to nine minutes. Some a little more, some a little less. As with all the previous Halo games, Halo: Spartan Assault allows you to switch between a main and secondary weapon and allows you pick up other weapons (including Covenant) as well as ammo. That being said I was disappointed that it did not let me pick up the energy sword. Activating the active camouflage and then assassinating Covies would have been a blast. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Beyond the weapons you can also pilot vehicles such as the Ghost, the Wraith as well as the Scorpion Tank. Unfortunately there aren’t any Warthogs or Mantis’ to drive or pilot around. Driving like a bat out of hell in the last level in Halo:CE and Halo 2 with my co-op buddies hanging on for dear life are some of my fondest Halo memories. I hoped for the same here but it was not to be. That being said, in nearly every mission there are a couple of AI marines that attempt to assist you until they get killed or, more to the point, you get them killed. They do a decent enough job helping out and manage to stay mostly out of the way until you run into a larger number of enemies. At that point they become a good distraction as you sneak around and take up a better position. The marines will also jump on the Scorpion as you drive and obliterate everything in your path. This is a nice nod to the console games but I believe a real opportunity was missed not having a Warthog or having them man the turret, ride shotgun or drive while you manned the turret!
Windows makes a phone?
The Windows Phone 8 version of Halo: Spartan Assault is a twin stick shooter with a couple of swipes, taps and double taps to facilitate switching weapons, throwing grenades and using your power ups. The controls are great, the visuals pop and the music and cinematics are very well done. Warning: this game will drain your battery fast! You can actually feel it draining as you play. My phone got hot, really hot. It only ever does that when I am doing something intensive and Halo: Spartan Assault is intensive. I went from around a 50% charge to almost nothing in an hour. Maybe the designers figured it would be more of a pick up and play type game but I didn’t want to put it down. I had a blast!
My only criticism for Halo: Spartan Assault on Windows Phone 8 is throwing a grenade. Every time I needed to throw a grenade, my little mini spartan would turn and chuck it the other way. I learned to run away and then back towards my target before I threw it. Usually it ended in their death and completely depleted my shield. Another issue I have with Halo: Spartan Assault on my Windows phone is moving my little mini spartan around. It sometimes led my thumb astray and I touched the search or the windows icon at which point I was immediately booted from the game and onto the respective screen of the icon I managed to graze. Luckily, it just paused my game but it was still a pain in the ass.
Big Screen Big Sound
Windows 8 doesn’t have that issue but if your PC setup is running dual (or more) monitors like mine your mouse cursor can glide to the other screen if you are not watching what you are doing. The controls on PC are the standard WASD for movement and the mouse for aiming, shooting and throwing grenades. I found the Windows 8 version of Halo: Spartan Assault just as visually and auditorily pleasing as its mobile counterpart. It played smooth and looked great full screen on my 1680x1050 monitor. This is an $8 game and it looked and sounded better than other PC games in my collection.
Prior to each mission, you are presented with a loadout screen where you can add skulls to tweak the difficulty of the gameplay thus increasing your XP. You can use that XP to upgrade your weapons. The upgrade lasts for one mission and one mission only. I was a little disheartened but not surprised by the in-app purchases offered. I understand that's where the money is these days but I don’t have to like it. When I first saw the ability to buy better weapons by using purchased credits I was wary that Halo: Spartan Assault may require one of these to complete the game. Thankfully, that was not the case. I managed to play and finish the entire game with no upgrades. There were instances where upgrading may have come in handy but I stuck to my guns and didn’t shell out any extra money.
After each mission you are presented with a post mission debrief where your score, finishing time and in mission goals, such as getting a “Killtacular,” add up to your finish score. Similar to other mobile games your score then translates to a number of stars. Halo: Spartan Assault awards Bronze, Silver and Gold stars. Using only default weapons I managed to get almost all Silver and Gold stars on all levels my first playthrough. I did replay a few missions to try to achieve a better score at the end. I finished it quicker and used more grenades on groups of covies to get more medals and increase my Medal Score. The paid upgrades may have come in handy but I’m a cheap bastard sometimes and I wasn’t shelling out any more dough. I bought the game twice as it is!
In the end, for the $7.99 price tag, the decent amount of gameplay and the Halo
fix it provided for me this was a great buy. If you have Windows 8 and want something to use the metro interface for or if you are one of the few proud Windows Phone 8 owners then I say “Buy it now!”