HALO: Spartan Assault was first released as a game for Windows 8 devices last year. At Christmas it finally made it’s way onto Xbox One and this year on the Xbox 360. I originally bought and played this on my Nokia Lumia WP8 and really enjoyed it and was very curious to see how it would survive the upgrade to full Xbox Console, and thanks to Xbox, I got the chance to do just that.
Developed by 343 Industries (HALO 4) and working with Vanguard Games, HALO:Spartan Assault is set between the event of HALO 3 and HALO 4. You will take the roles of either Commander Sarah Palmer or Spartan Davis stationed aboard the UNSC Infinity as they fight Covenant forces in missions not seen in any HALO game before. There are 30 missions to play in the single player campaign, split into six operations and each one has an Operational Movie that sets the scene and story for the missions you are about to play.
The game is essentially a twin stick shooter. You play using the left thumb stick to move and the right thumbstick to aim whichever weapon you have equipped and firing using the Right Trigger. Like a normal HALO game, left trigger is used to throw grenades and the Left bumper is used to activate your Armour ability such as Sprint, Active Camouflage, Hologram, Healing Bubble and Remote Sentry.The Right bumper is used for melee attacks. All the weapons both UNSC and Covenant from the HALO series are used in Spartan Assault.
Being able to use a controller makes playing Spartan Assault far easier then I found it on my WP8, and felt more natural to use which enhanced the playing experience even more on the console version. Having the controls assigned to how you would usually find them in a console game was key to the success of this game and it is one that works sublimely well.
The best way to describe what HALO: Spartan Assault is like as a game is to say its a blend between HALO Wars and the Spartan Ops from HALO 4. Missions range from surviving a Covenant attack, defending a base, retrieval of UNSC staff and escort missions. Although it is not a FPS, like HALO Wars is has that HALO feeling threaded all the way through it as you play. As a huge HALO fanboy, one of the most enjoyable aspects to HALO: Spartan Assault is getting to see more of the HALO universe through the story told by the missions. Commander Sarah Palmer features in HALO 4 and in Spartan Ops but actually getting to play her story, learning about her career as a Spartan before the events of HALO 4 gives great insight, as a HALO fan, to her her character and presence in the series.
Gameplay is very solid as a HALO Experience. You have the action from fire fights against increasingly more difficult Covenant forces form Grunts to Elites, with the later missions throwing vehicle use into the mix with Scorpion tanks, Wraiths and Ghosts all of which can be piloted and used and you can even steal vehicles from enemies with the same satisfaction as booting an Elite off his Ghost just like a regular HALO game. The better you play means a higher score and reward in XP for that mission. Scores are uploaded to a Global leaderboard and you can compare your score against anyone on your friends list with the game as your score determins which medal you get for that mission, bronze, silver or gold for hitting their target scores.
The XP you earn from missions can then be used to select new weapons from the equipment screen before each mission. From here you can also purchase perks like Damage Boost and Score Boost. These perks will only run for a single mission playthrough. You only have one life going into a mission so should you fall, you will have to replay the whole missions and any perks and new weapons purchased will be lost. Much like HALO 4, Spartan Assault also has challenges in the form of ‘Assault Ops’. There are 90 in total which are mission based and will reward XP for completing tasks such as number of an enemy type killed to completing the mission in a particular way or time limit. There is also a weekly challenge which changes each week. There is always something to test you as a player, whether its beating your original score or trying to play for bragging rights by getting a higher score then a friend. The missions are relatively short time wise, but with 30 missions in the single player alone, that is quite a lot of HALO combat to enjoy in a game.
New to the console version is the addition of a Co-Op campaign that can be played with a friend or you can search for another player over Xbox LIVE to work with. This campaign is set as a training program for Spartans. The AI Roland introduces it by explaining that it is to be used to prepare for a possible battle against an old enemy of Master Chief, The Flood. This makes a nice all round HALO experience for the game, and is great fun with another player and adds that much more value to this game compared with the original Windows 8 title which only had the Single Player campaign.
There is a micro transaction side to HALO: Spartan Assault as well. Whilst you can completely play and finish the game only using the XP you earn per mission to obtain perks, skills and new weapons, the game will also offer the player the option of using real money to purchase Gold credits, from 79p for 200 Gold credits to the maximum of £11.99 for 4000 Gold Credits. You use them when on the equipment screen were you can say buy the Damage boost perk for 800 XP or you can buy it for 40 Gold Credits. This is completely optional and as I said, you can completely play the game and only use the XP you earn, but it will mean replaying missions to earn the extra XP where as using Gold Credits is a short cut and fast track options should you want to use that way.
For me, the console version is the definitive version of HALO: Spartan Assault. It benefits from having the use of a controller and looks amazing on a TV. Gameplay is smooth and fluid enough for an XBLA twin shooter and with a good insight into the characters of Sarah Palmer and Spartan Davis before the events of HALO 4. If you, like me, already purchased this game on your W8 device then you will get a discount when buying it for your Xbox 360 or Xbox One, reducing the price to £3.99 so even if you have already played this, it is worth picking up again to experience it on your console.
The game will cost £11.99 if you are buying it fresh and if you are a HALO fan then it is good value for money for the HALO Experience you get with it and with the addition of co-op an even better experience when played with a friend or second player. I absolutely enjoyed this game the first time round on my WP8 but can honestly say the better experience has been with it on Xbox 360.
Would like to give a big thank you to Xbox for providing the Review Code for HALO: Spartan Assault
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