Hand this Spartan over to the Persians – Halo: Spartan Assault

Prior to E3 2013, there were several rumors swirling about a new Halo title being produced by 343 Industries, the studio that was formed by Microsoft to produce the critically acclaimed Halo 4. The game that was announced at E3 2013 was a new game in the Halo franchise. It wasn’t the type of title that the series had come to be known for and wouldn’t be available on the platform that the franchise had been known for, either. Halo: Spartan Assault was a top-down shooter that was being designed specifically for PC, Windows Phone 8, and the Microsoft Surface.

Nearly six months after the launch of Halo: Spartan Assault and it is now available on the Xbox One. But, is the game any good? I can go ahead and get that question out of the way quickly. Halo: Spartan Assault isn’t a very good video game. Its heritage as a phone and tablet game is evident from the first time that you see this game. The textures are underwhelming, the controls are head-shakingly designed, the story is totally forgettable at best and at worst nearly impossible to follow, and the game maintains almost nothing other than a color palette and soundtrack to remind you that this is actually a game in the Halo franchise.

Out of the 30 missions in Halo: Spartan Assault several of the maps are re-visited multiple times, without substantial changes or updates, leaving the entire experience with a “cheap phone game” feel. The problem with that is that Halo: Spartan Assault is $15 and not a $.99 phone game. The game is also loaded with microtransaction “opportunities” for you to beef up your character and add stat and equipment bonuses. Although, you shouldn’t be too concerned with that as most of this game is little more than a walk in the park.

Another area that the game fails to impress is the controls. If there is one genre of game that had been hammered out into a very well defined and clear formula during the last generation, it is the dual joystick shooter. For better or worse, this game chooses to ignore many of the paths blazed by games like Assault Heroes and go it alone from a design perspective and the results are underwhelming at best. Halo: Spartan Assault’s aiming sucks. It never feels right and it doesn’t give enough feedback to you about where you are pointed. That game needs a red laser coming off your character ala Metal Gear Solid to let you know where you are aiming before you shoot due to the constrained ammo. That’s right, someone made a dual joystick shooter that isn’t focused on shooting all crazy ALL THE TIME. In addition, aiming grenades never feels reliable and they are almost always in short supply. That annoyance gets in the way significantly in levels that are designed around taking out enemy turrets with grenades.

Halo: Spartan Assault may surprise many fans of the franchise with its low-quality feeling. If you knew nothing of this game’s lineage as a phone and tablet game, you might be shocked at how half-cooked it feels. There is not enough content. You see the same levels too many times. It just doesn’t look or play well. Don’t buy Halo: Spartan Assault. There might be something in there to enjoy; however, all but the most ardent Halo fans should steer clear of Spartan Assault.