It’s hard to imagine the grand scale of a Halo game being shrunk onto a cell phone or tablet, but that was the original platform for Halo: Spartan Assault. Recently this twin-stick shooter received a massive overhaul and made it’s way to the Xbox One, but do better graphics make it worthy of a next-gen purchase?
When Halo: Spartan Assault was originally announced for Windows devices I was completely turned off by the idea. It was described as a top-down, twin-stick shooter with controls that were optimized for touchscreen tablets and smartphones. To me, it sounded like a big cash-grab using the Halo name to score some easy money.
I don’t own any Windows devices, so this game quickly fell off my radar and out of my mind. That is, until a few months ago when it was announced for the Xbox One with additional campaign missions and two player co-op. I was torn. I love Halo and I love co-op, ergo I should love Halo: Spartan Assault. When it was released on Xbox One as a digital title for $14.99 I decided to give it a whirl and I must admit, it didn’t disappoint.
The story of Halo: Spartan Assault takes place between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4. For you hardcore Halo historians out there, that would be between the years of 2553 and 2557. You play the roles of Commander Sarah Palmer and Spartan Davis (Sorry, no Master Chief). Our two heroes are stationed on planet David Draiman, I mean Draetheus V, when a rogue group of Covenant come to crash the party. You decide to engage this Covenant group and you discover that the moon of planet Draetheus is actually, wait for it… a Forerunner weapon! It’s your job to stop this evil Covenant cult and save the universe! You know, typical Halo stuff. I wasn’t particularly enthralled with the story, but it offers some legitimate expansions to Halo lore.[youtube http://youtu.be/FV7ckOTXpMI]
The first thing I noticed while playing Spartan Assault is how authentic the Halo experience was. Even though the game is a top-down, twin-stick shooter, it still felt incredibly “Halo.” The gun mechanics were immediately familiar and the enemies seemed to respond exactly as they would in the classic Halo games. Elites would scream and charge towards when tagged with a plasma grenade and grunts would flee and cower in fear when their allies were falling around them. It’s these small details that make the biggest difference between a good game and a mediocre game. This wasn’t a cheap attempt to milk the Halo franchise. It was a legitimate addition to the series. I would also like to point out that this once mobile game was developed by 343 Industries, the team behind the critically acclaimed Halo 4.
The gameplay is very traditional. Anyone familiar with twin-stick shooters will feel right at home. The thing that surprised me, is how accurate certain weapons felt. I was picking off grunts on the other side of the screen with a quick flick of the joystick and a pull of the trigger. Many games I’ve played in the same genre can’t provide that type of accuracy. I always felt in control of my character. Player movement, while being “top-down,” still felt very authentic and (once more I will use “Halo” as adjective) very “Halo.” The vehicles were fun to drive and there was a great balance between foot and motor transport.
Another thing that surprised me was the amount of detail and variation with the stages in campaign. There were many moments when I completely forgot this game ever existed on a mobile device. Everything just felt so big. The stages are typically pretty short, but there are a decent number of them and like I said, each one feels unique and engaging. The Xbox One version also includes the “Operation Hydra” campaign expansion, which adds five additional stages. Unfortunately, even with these additional stages the game can easily be completed in under five hours. Modifier “Skulls” can be turned on and off to increase the difficulty and replayability of the game, but after a few uses of each skull I just found them to be a little tedious.[youtube http://youtu.be/5qtdXBZslVU]
The Xbox One version of the game also includes a brand new co-op mode in which players battle the infamous “flood.” This was the primary reason I decided to purchase Halo: Spartan Assault and as it stands, I don’t see it being something I’ll play often. There are only five multiplayer stages and each one can be completed in 5 to 10 minutes. While it’s pretty cool to see the Flood return to a Halo game, it gets tiresome grinding wave after wave of the same few types of enemies. The level design for co-op is nowhere near as inventive as the campaign. It’s basically just “horde” mode with a few maps to choose from. We can assume additional stages will be added via DLC, but based on my current experience, I wouldn’t buy them. This mode is fun momentarily, but you’ll realize quite quickly how hollow it truly is.
Graphics Hounds will be happy to hear that this title runs at 60fps in 1080p. Character models look great and there is a surprising amount of detail in the backgrounds. You won’t necessarily be blown away by the graphics, but everything runs incredibly smooth.
Overall, Halo: Spartan Assault is a very enjoyable game. The campaign provides several hours of entertaining missions and the co-op mode offers players a way to share their experience with a friend. The more serious fans will appreciate the well-crafted storyline that fits perfectly in the Halo universe. Don’t expect to playing for several months or even weeks, though. The short campaign and lacking co-op can only be replayed so many times and with nothing to collect, there isn’t much incentive to revisit many of the stages. The game might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a fun, quick, and non-traditional way to play Halo, this is an incredibly worthy option.
So wait, there is no campaign co-op, only a horde mode co-op?
Exactly… A huge disappointment.
Damn, that sucks. Still, for $15.00 it looks fun, but no campaign co-op? It might be a bit before I pick it up, then.
I was pretty bummed to find that out. Thankfully it’s got a lower price tag. I couldn’t justify spending anymore than $15 bucks on it.
At least it sounds like It is better than Halo Wars.