Halo and the universe surrounding it occupied a great deal of time during my teenage years, perhaps far too much time. It’s a game I can’t help but get excited about, even if I am let down I always seem to be enticed by the prospect of a new game and Halo: Spartan Assault happens to have rekindled part of my love for the series.
Previously Halo: Spartan Assault had been available for tablets and PC, although with the added polish required of a console port. SA is a joint venture between Vanguard Entertainment, a XBLA twin-stick shooter veteran, and 343 Industries, the current masters at the helm of the great ship Halo.
Spartan Assault is an odd one in terms of story, as its main focus is a retelling of another Spartan’s efforts simulated in a virtual reconstruction, and feels rather distanced from any really gripping narrative as the story itself is told through a passive means. Although that’s not to say it isn’t interesting. In terms of chronology it lies somewhere between Halo 3 and Halo 4 focussing on the early efforts of Spartan Ops with Spartan Davis and Palmer. The original story is contained in chapters A-E and ends rather satisfyingly with a boss battle of sorts but is short lived as the DLC Operation Hydra is bundled with the game giving the perception that E wasn’t the originally intended end. The campaign has some great moments and it slots firmly into the feel of the Halo Universe with its own epic moments and characters but there just isn’t enough, even with the DLC.
Visually the game is everything you can expect from a Halo game from the menacing looking Flood in co-op to the final boss of chapter E everything feels like it belongs, even if they are familiar models. It’s obvious that the developers understand what makes a Halo game and everything has its impact with a nostalgic tinge for the games of yesteryear. They even have dual wield SMGs, a combination that has been missing since Halo 2 and its iconic cover art.
Even the score complements the game perfectly, with Tom Salta making a reappearance after his tinkering in the Halo: Anniversary soundtrack. The music, although not quite as catchy as the original series, is brilliant in its own right and the small and punctual levels can be brought to life with Salta’s music.
The game play although rather simple does have strategic elements, like figuring out the buttons due to a complete lack of tutorial. Fortunately there are some reoccurring tactics, such as using energy weapons against shields and pistols for Grunts but this is something I had to learn from playing other games that doesn’t necessarily lend itself intuitively to the game due to the change in mechanics. A lot of the key elements from earlier games make an appearance and it’s great, there just isn’t enough.
As for the game’s longevity you will struggle to get the bang for your buck you would hope, the online co-op is drastically short spanning a maximum of 25 minutes, which is devastatingly poor and the campaign itself will barely break the 2 hour boundary without the needless grinding of levels for achievements. The achievements are the major driving force in game but if it isn’t your thing you might struggle to really spend a great deal of time playing the game as some missions are completely forgettable. There are also mini objectives to complete in every mission too, these might require you to kill so many elites with the Needler and usually take multiple attempts of a short 3 minute mission. It’s just not the kind of game you can sit and play for a whole day.
It is also impossible to turn a blind eye to the micro transactions that litter the game, these one off payments allow you to skip the rather tedious grind needed to use a rocket launcher or Spartan laser in that mission you are struggling with. You can even buy a score multiplier for the missions you can’t gold. The downside is that these purchases are one off events and require further credits to be spent with every subsequent use. It just doesn’t feel like good value, especially when you actually get some for free with specific Halo 4 achievements.
Overall Halo: Spartan Assault is a fun game, if you bought it for the far smaller price on portable devices but when up scaled I struggled to find my money’s worth for the asking price of £12. That isn’t to say it is a bad game, in fact it is a good game, almost great. It’s exactly this that hurts the most; it’s a good game that just needs to be fleshed out. More content for co-op is definitely needed and the missions that were once single player could definitely be expanded upon to include more players, even increasing co-op to 4 players and allowing offline play would dramatically change the experience.