Halo: Spartan Assault was developed by Vanguard Games and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released December 22, 2013, on the Xbox One for $14.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.
Halo. It’s a name that carries a lot of weight in the gaming world. The series has spawned countless hits and established itself as a legendary franchise that will no doubt be around for another decade. Now, Vanguard Games has stepped up to the plate to deliver a fresh take on the Halo series. Ditching the standard FPS formula, we are instead treated to a top down view of the universe as a twin-stick shooter. With this new style comes new Spartan protagonists, Sarah Palmer and her partner Davis, who you control across various battles against covenant forces throughout the galaxy.
The Halo universe is full of stories to tell and it’s great to see developers able to step away from Master Chief, but still deliver a fast-paced, action-oriented Halo title. With that in mind, Halo: Spartan Assault is fun, and refreshing to play. It features a lengthy campaign, running players through dozens of missions spanning the time between Halo 3 and 4, and with the upgrade from smartphone to console it packs a new multiplayer mode where 2 players fight together against hordes of Flood in a desperate attempt to survive. Unfortunately, alongside everything Halo: Spartan Assault does well, it struggles to overcome its own glaring weaknesses.
Here’s what we liked:
Long, enjoyable story – Halo games have always had interesting stories. Whether it be the personal challenges of a single man, or the struggles of a civilization, there has always been a strong narrative to push players along. Halo: Spartan Assault, although weaker than its bigger brothers, still does a great job of getting players invested in Sarah Palmer, the up-and-coming Spartan whom you control for most of the game. The main campaign unfolds over 20 levels, complete with well-drawn cutscenes to fill in the narrative gaps between levels.
Great point system and re-playability – During a mission, every action rewards you with points along with an overall rank for completing the mission. The ultimate goal of course is to get a gold, and thanks to this scoring system, the game carries an incentive to come back to missions you may have already cleared in an effort to reach that max rank. This hunt for gold medals adds a great challenge to the game, as you must employ the skulls, a staple of the series, to boost your score even higher at great risk to yourself. The skull modifiers have the potential to extend your enjoyment and time spent with the game, turning an otherwise easy mission into the most difficult.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Poor multiplayer – The Halo series, for all the story is worth, is arguably more popular for its multiplayer. Sadly, Spartan Assault‘s component is cheap and tacked on. With virtually no background as to why you are battling the Flood, alongside the fact it spans only 5 missions which can be completed in a half hour, there’s little reason to ever go back. The lack of co-op support during the campaign feels like a missed opportunity that could have made things a lot more fun, especially given the fact many campaign missions feature A.I. support.
High price point with microtransactions on top – Coming in at $15 USD, Halo: Spartan Assault isn’t a cheap marketplace title. Once in the game, its cost borders on insulting as players are hit with microtransactions if they wish to equip more powerful weaponry. Fortunately this is not a necessity to progress through the game, but it still comes across as a slap to the face to see a high initial price followed by additional transactions.
Questionable performance – Throughout our experience with the game, it crashed multiple times. The end result is usually getting kicked back to the dashboard, however one crash managed to take the whole console with it, requiring a hard restart. The multiplayer system is similarly clunky, making the act of getting a game going more challenging than it should be. For a mode that only lasts 30 minutes, players can get stuck spending 5-10 just setting up a single multiplayer match.
In the end, Halo: Spartan Assault falls short of the Spartan level of excellence we’ve come to expect from the series. The packaged multiplayer is at most a minor distraction that adds little value to the overall experience, though Halo fans eagerly awaiting the next installment in the main series will likely find enjoyment in the campaign. For everyone else, the game is a tough sell, and with no demo, it makes that $15 price point even harder to overcome.
Score: Skip It