Developer: Vanguard Games, 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: PC (Steam version Reviewed), Windows Mobile, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: 4th April 2014 (Steam Release)
Note: Review is based on the Steam release of the game, which differs in available features. This review may contain minor spoilers for the games plot.
Those pesky covenants have broken the truce and attacked Draetheus V and you need to do what Spartans do best and ruin their day. There is a twist however, instead of killing them with huge guns from the first-person perspective you will be killing them from an isometric view. This is Halo as a twin stick shooter.
Originally a mobile game that was eventually ported to both Xbox One and Xbox 360, somehow this game got a PC port and a Steam release. Each version of the game has a different feature set with the console versions of the game exclusively featuring the multiplayer co-op mode, the Steam version has Steam achievements and trading cards and the Windows store version has Xbox achievements and leader boards. The available features are a bit of a mess to differentiate. As far as gameplay is concerned however the only thing missing from the PC versions seem to be multiplayer co-op.
A quality PC port takes into consideration the inclusion of features such as a graphics options menu, the ability to access said menu at any time and a PC friendly UI. This game doesn’t do that, instead electing to include only three settings in its video settings menu: resolution, anti-aliasing and a refresh rate limiter. The game settings cannot be accessed at all during gameplay which forces the player to return to the main menu to make changes as needed.
Originally this game was made for touch screen which usually means that translating the control methods for gamepads and keyboard and mouse can be barebones at best. For some reason, someone at the development team for the port of this game to PC decided to put a large pause button at the bottom of the screen to be clicked by the player to pause the game, even though the game already features the option to be paused via the Esc key. Why does this button even exist? The game also cuts off the top left and bottom right corners of the display for no reason whatsoever which is unnecessarily annoying.
The game starts off with an animated comic book style cut scene explaining why you are shooting the bad guys you defeated in the main series and then takes you to the mission start screen. From here you can select two score and difficulty mutators, purchase single use weapon upgrades and purchase single use abilities. These items can be purchased using XP, which you gain from completing levels and attaining high scores. Most of the upgrades that can be purchased aren’t worth purchasing considering the difficulty of the game, although with some mutator combinations you may wish to consider some of them.
Unlike the console game series, you will find that AI controlled friendly units are completely useless and may even hinder you. They tend to run directly at the enemy and be killed, or throw grenades at the player character for some reason. AI controlled friendly vehicles however tend to be much better although this is probably due to them having predetermined paths to follow or positions to defend.
Vehicles that can be controlled by the player vary in quality from the smooth sailing of the Covenant Wraith to the rackety UNSC Scorpion. The Wraith features its signature plasma artillery gun and a laser machine gun turret and is a blast to drive around ruining the Covenant’s day with. The Scorpion on the other hand is terrible to control and tends to get stuck inside walls. There are also smaller vehicles and mountable defences such as the ghost and machine gun turrets. When given an objective to defend a position you will find that turrets are the most effective and powerful means of doing so with their ridiculous rate of fire, unlimited ammo and large overheat time you will struggle to find an enemy that can withstand its wrath.
Combat on foot plays just like you would expect a Halo theme twin stick shooter to play, you can move in both the X and Y axis, aim at any angle and shoot anything so long as you can see it. Most of the weapons you find will perform as you would expect. The assault rifle fires lots of bullets really fast and accurately while the shotgun kills everything in front of it within a small radius. Instead of the option to hide behind objects for cover you are equipped with armour abilities similar to those found in Halo 3’s multiplayer. Melee combat is very clumsy however as there is a wind-up time between when you press the key to use melee and when you hit, which usually give the enemy the opportunity they need to escape.
Unlike some other twin sticks you will find that enemy corpses and live enemies are easy to distinguish between with corpses usually turning to a darker colour palette once they have stopped moving.
The time to complete a level in this game is around the five minutes mark you would expect from a mobile phone game with some exceptions for large levels that require a lot of walking or have an abundance of enemies. Due to the game’s originally intended mobile market you will find that the game’s only replayability is found in beating previous high scores and replaying the same levels over and over, which is not something I find particularly interesting. Unlike other mobile phone games however this game has some great visuals which take the Halo aesthetic and make it work for the mobile hardware it was intended to run on but also on PC (regardless of the lack of graphics options the game offers).
I am a huge fan of the Halo series and its lore but I found the story delivery in this game to be uninteresting. Most of it is delivered via a scrollable text box before each level with the occasional cut scene at the end of arbitrary acts.
Halo: Spartan Assault is a fun way to waste a couple of minutes here and there but there isn’t anything memorable to be found playing it. I cannot recommend this game, at least on PC to anyone that isn’t a die-hard Halo fan. If you wish to play this game I would recommend picking it up on console or mobile if you ever find it on sale.
Rating: Felony Assault