In an odd twist of fate, Microsoft decided to release a twin-stick shooter modeled after the Halo universe exclusively for Windows 8 devices. Not only will this be the first Halo game without a console counterpart, but it's also one of the only Windows 8 exclusive games in existence, and the first Halo PC iteration since Halo 2.
This sounds like a recipe for disaster, but you know what? If you can somehow actually manage to play the thing, it's not all that bad.
Halo: Spartan Assault (Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 PC [reviewed]) Developer: 343 Industries / Vanguard Games Publisher: Microsoft Studios Released: July 18, 2013 MSRP: $6.99
Before I get started, I should mention for the purposes of this review I tested the PC version of the game as I didn't have access to the mobile touch version on phones and tablets.
With that out of the way, Spartan Assault takes place in-between Halo 3 and 4, with the fate of Master Chief currently a mystery. You play the role of Commander Sarah Palmer (voiced by the always stellar Jennifer Hale) alongside of Spartan Davis, as you engage on smaller missions battling the Covenant.
To be blunt, this is a gaiden (side story), as the general plot isn't really that poignant in terms of the impact it has on the Halo universe. If you're a Halo junkie you may enjoy the injection of extra lore here and there, but for the most part, casual fans won't find any "must see TV" on offer. As someone who has played every major Halo game but doesn't engage in the extended universe material, I didn't find it essential in any way.
Spartan Assault, like many twin-stick shooters, features a very simple mission structure. Amidst a collection of cutscenes, you'll be dumped into a series of levels with varying objectives, like escorts, kill quests, and so on. To mix things up, you can jump into turrets and vehicles on occasion, just like the core series, but levels are generally linear in nature with a clear-cut goal in mind. Everything is designed in such a way where you won't die repeatedly, and objectives are pretty clear.
Vanguard Games, the developer of the underrated Gatling Gears, seem to have handled most of the twin-stick mechanics, and they work great. It's still the same classic Halo two-gun, grenade, and melee system, but it works naturally here in Spartan Assault.
You'll move your character around with WASD movement, and you'll use the mouse to aim and fire, with the option to use armor abilities like stealth and sprinting. Other than the occasional clunky vehicle excursion, the controls mostly work, but I found myself longing for controller support, with the ability to lounge and play the game on my TV.
Wait, no controller support? You mean, this "twin-stick" shooter doesn't make use of a controller with two actual sticks? Yep, Microsoft decided to ship the game without support for an Xbox 360 controller, which I would have appreciated in lieu of a mouse and keyboard setup given the lack of looting and other advanced mechanics. A patch is supposedly coming at some point to add said control option, but for now, you're stuck with a mouse and keyboard.
After you're done with the five act, 25 mission campaign, that's about it as far as content goes. There's sadly no real multiplayer to speak of yet, but the game does have Achievements, weekly challenges, and there's leaderboard support. In true Halo campaign fashion "Skulls" (handicaps) can be turned on to alter the experience, and in turn, earn more XP.
Microtransactions are kind of just there. You can earn most of the game's armory offerings through straight XP and progression, but some can only be bought with real money. While it's a bit off-putting, thankfully the game can be easily completed without spending any real money, and as a result, real money transactions are mostly just a minor distraction.
Spartan Assault is a fairly weird release in general. Not only does it feel like it could have been a completely new IP, but I'm not sure who the audience is, given the strong console allegiance of the Halo franchise. But despite its lack of any remarkable or "must have" features, it still manages to be a fairly decent top-down shooter.
It's by no means Windows 8's killer app, but provided you have access to a Windows 8 device, you could do much worse than Spartan Assault.
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.
ChrisHannard Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube]https://youtu.be/qgYAXsDq4Uw[/youtube]StriderHoang I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.The Dyslexic Laywer Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...Mike Martin My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too. OverlordZetta Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.Lawman Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.Dr Mel This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....Shinta Wii U, top selling black friday item on target.com. Take that you anti-Wii U people.
http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/11/27/wii-u-helps-drive-targets-biggest-online-shopping-day-ever?utm_source=IGN%20hub%20page&utm_medium=IGN%20(front%20page)&utm_contenCoilWhine I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!Avoclefo Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?Niero Desu Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.OrochiLeona Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?Nathan D After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now. Pixie The Fairy When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.Confuseddalek I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.Solar Pony Django Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.RadicalYoseph If you haven't played Tales from the Borderlands yet, GO BUY IT! By far the funniest game I have ever played, and the characters and narrative are incredibly well written. Very few memes unlike BL2 by the way.James Internet Ego Played all of Life is Strange today in one sitting. Bloody hell. You should all play it. Only game this year to make me cry. Bravo developers. Possibly the most valuable thing I've ever bought for £10.Gamemaniac3434 Last night, got farther than ever in Wasteland 2. This is my third playthrough-once thru beta, once through the orig version, now on Directors cut. Worth the restart, and it speaks highly of the game that I like it enough to do this. DAMONTA HERE I COME!KeithTheGeek GUYS HELP I KEEP BUYING MORE AMIIBO.
Today it was Little Mac, since he went back up on Gamestop's website. I probably would have gotten Captain Falcon as well if I wasn't already running a little short on cash.