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Review

Halo: Spartan Assault Review

  • Game release: July 18, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • XONE

Halo: Arcade Edition.

With Halo: Spartan Assault, Microsoft can say that the Xbox One managed to have a Halo game out during the launch window. The bad news is that it's not Halo 5 or even another HD anniversary edition. Yet it's still a Halo game, which means it has a wealth of Covenant grunts to murder with your trusty needler. Spartan Assault reimagines Halo as a twin-stick shooter, delivering on much of the genre's arcade allure. However, the transition from mobile to consoles has brought with it a bevy of microtransactions, for better or worse. Mostly worse.

The non-numerical Halo games have been fitting avenues to explore other facets of the UNSC beyond Master Chief's exploits. Many of us were already familiar with SPARTAN-IV commander Sarah Palmer in Spartan Ops, and Spartan Assault makes her a playable character, along with Edward Davis, who appeared in the Halo: Initiation comics. Set after the war of the original trilogy but before Halo 4, the game finds Palmer, Davis, and other members of the UNSC faced with a Covenant invasion rather than a Promethean one. The setting maintains the Halo universe's curious aversion to normal astronomical objects; if it isn't a ring-shaped world, it's a hollow one. In Spartan Assault's case, the planet of Draetheus V is standard enough, but its moon, X50, isn't a moon but rather a planet-destroying Forerunner structure. Sound familiar?

In making Spartan Assault a genuine Halo game, developers 343 Industries and Vanguard Entertainment did away with one of the common comforts of many twin-stick shooters: unlimited ammo. It makes for a mild challenge in ammo conservation, until you realize how often fallen foes drop weapons for you to capitalize on. I give Spartan Assault credit for punishing complacency. The ease of the initial levels, along with their bite-size play lengths, makes it tempting to charge into the fray without taking advantage of the environment and the items in the field. Dying at the hands of the occasional wraith or grenade barrage encourages you to strategize. It's most rewarding when you have the presence of mind to know your ammo count and the cooldown time of your current armor ability, vanquishing foes using your mind as much as your might.

As I progressed through the game's first few missions, I was motivated to try out every familiar Halo weapon and see how they worked in this game's elevated camera view. The USMC rifles are reliable as expected, as is the target-tracking ammo of the sadistic needler. I was especially fond of dual-wielding a pair of SMGs, guns known for their inaccuracy in first-person Halo games, but their bullet-spreading tendencies worked great against the agile buggers in Spartan Assault.

Expect to protect and defend glowing red columns.

The iconic Warthog and the free-flying Banshee are nowhere to be found, though more puzzling is the inability to wield an energy sword--not to mention, the ability to withstand three energy sword hits in quick succession. And don't even bother trying to hijack an occupied Covenant Ghost; you're better off taking it down with a plasma grenade instead of risking a fatal collision and restarting the level.

Halo vets will recognize the many objectives of Spartan Assault, which skew toward killing in general and focus less on activating switches. The more tense assignments are timed survival missions requiring you and your squad to last three to five minutes. Taken one at a time, these missions satisfy the need for short sessions, though in the scope of the overall game, tearing through Spartan Assault's 35 sorties makes for a playthrough that shouldn't take longer than five hours.

Acknowledging the double-dip of porting Spartan Assault on the Xbox One, Microsoft is offering a 66 percent discount to fans who have previously purchased the game for Windows 8 devices. An equally attractive incentive is the introduction of co-op play in five new missions featuring the much-loathed Flood. These levels, with their turnkey switches and their laser turrets that benefit from two operators, are designed with two players in mind. The Flood's penchant for overwhelming Spartans gives this mode a brief Smash TV-inspired rush that the campaign lacks. These new assignments can all be cleared in less than an hour--and they underscore by the lack of couch co-op and the campaign's total lack of co-op.

The entire game can be completed without spending real money or even the experience points you earn after each mission. However, even though success is possible, the game does place artificial constraints on you, encouraging you to spend some credits. I have always enjoyed the one-hit-kill prowess of a sniper rifle in any shooter, and it's disappointing that, aside from a couple of missions, the only way to access such a weapon in Spartan Assault is by spending cash or XP. Then again, I still managed to get my instant-kill fix through the classic Halo magnum.

Now there's co-op. Too bad you'll face the Flood.

Greatly disappointing is the lack of permanent ownership of Spartan Assault's purchased enhancements, since you don't get to keep these items after using them in a mission. The only reason to get into in-app purchases is to use various boosts and assists to get gold stars for scoring well. Spartan Assault should have succeeded in being a competitive arcade game by the classic definition, one where you strive to beat your friends' high scores, but victory rings hollow when you can buy your way to the top. Trial and error is needed to figure out which single-use armor abilities and boosts work best in getting the most points in a given mission, so Spartan Assault is best suited for Halo fans with high tolerances for repetition.

Whether you're hurriedly exiting a Scorpion tank on its last legs or backpedaling away from a gravity-hammer-wielding Brute, Spartan Assault is not short of familiar, albeit select, Halo moments. In-app purchases do not intrude on Spartan Assault's overall appeal, though the selection of optional items is only of interest if you seek to improve your scores. The limitation on cooperative play is the game's biggest disappointment, so here's hoping that Microsoft Studios has more multiplayer levels in mind for possible downloadable content.

The Good
Twin-stick shooting with Halo appeal
Bite-size missions to satisfy 10-minute arcade fixes
The Bad
35 missions fly by in a few hours
Poor in-app purchase implementation
Limited co-op play
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Miguel has appreciated Halo as a game series, having beaten all of the mainline installments, though he hasn't read any of the novels or comics. Clearing all 35 missions in Halo: Spartan Assault took him about five hours.

Discussion

32 comments
Zevvion
Zevvion

It was my understanding that this game was pretty shit. Besides shitty microtransactions that hinder progression, the core controls and shooting were supposed to feel inaccurate and unsatisfying. 


I kind of liked the idea of this game, but it seems they didn't deliver. Oh well. I bet Halo 5 will still be pretty great.

chemwizard
chemwizard

Microtransactions will be the legacy of Xbox One it seems.  I know that this game was released for W8, but still.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

I've played every other Halo game to death (yes, even Halo Wars), but I am not at all interested in this.

They should have released an "Anniversary" double pack of Halo: CE and Halo 2.  THAT would have been a legitimate Halo title for the release window.  This... is a mobile game.

ScaredySquirrel
ScaredySquirrel

So, they want to charge 15 dollars for a cell phone game ported to the X1 and it's filled with micro transactions.  Well, it's settled. This game is not for me!

swimbearuk
swimbearuk

Most of my full price games cost me less than this to play, because I rent them. I can't see me spending more money on this, and I definitely wouldn't buy anything which heavily features microtransactions. If they want to sell this type of game to me they need to scrap microtransactions and reduce the cost to about £5.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Gamers need to start BOYCOTTING games with this type of Microtransaction bullshit.  You keep buying it… they'll keep doing it.  Send a message to game companies you won't stand for it anymore.  Gamers are getting royally screwed now.

Freboy
Freboy

Microtransactions. Enough said.

unreal101
unreal101

Not terrible, but not worth $15 either.I will say it was surprisingly fun most of the time.

kuu2
kuu2

This game deserves a 3.  Lacks local coop for some reason and the online portions are minimal.  No new levels and in no way should be $15.  The only reason I got this game is due to it being only $5 since I have it on my Surface.


Heil68
Heil68

It's not bad. I bought it in hopes to play some coop, which this genre is great for.


blackace
blackace

I'll wait. Hopefully this with be Microsoft first FREE game for the Xbox One free game program. It's suppose to start this month. Haven't heard any announcement yet. Either this or Max: Curse of Brotherhood.

sakaixx
sakaixx

atleast the music is still epik !

jharring
jharring

So it's an arcade game where the lasting appeal would be competing for high scores, but you can't get the highest scores unless you spend additional real money on the game.


NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE

malakadil
malakadil

why xbox one . why not on xbox or xbox360 . waste of power 

diskotheque
diskotheque

The game itself actually looks pretty cool, especially considering I'm not a fan of the Halo series... but damn if micro-transactions aren't the biggest killjoy out there.

ps3gamer1234
ps3gamer1234

I do not like the blue bar around the screen.

FoxbatAlpha
FoxbatAlpha

Wow I'm seeing all SW regs in comments!

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@diskotheque I agree. I'm more than a little annoyed that EVERY SINGLE GAME I've played on my Xbox One has micro-transactions front and center.

Halo: Spartan Assault More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • Windows Mobile
    • + 2 more
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Halo: Spartan Assault is a top-down action shooter available only for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 that is set between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4. It explores the first missions of the Spartan Ops program and dives deeper into the backstory of human-Covenant wars.
    6.7
    Average User RatingOut of 44 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Halo: Spartan Assault
    Developed by:
    343 Industries, Vanguard, Vanguard Games
    Published by:
    Microsoft Game Studios
    Genres:
    Action, Shooter, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Violence