For what may be the first time ever in the history of Windows Phone gaming, Microsoft have an exclusive. Halo – Spartan Assault has arrived on Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT before any other platform. In the same way that previous Halo games only ever appeared on Xbox. Whether it will ever make to another remains to be seen.
Having played many Halo games in the past I new that when this game came out I just had to play it. Luckily I have a few Windows Phone 8 devices lying around and also my freshly dusted off Microsoft Surface RT. So I charged them all up and set about paying for and downloading the game twice. The different versions of the same game need to be bought separately but they do synchronise via your Xbox gamer profile.
Halo – Spartan Assault brings the excitement of Halo combat to touch-based devices for the very first time. Where you battle your way through various missions set between the time of Halo 3 and 4, offering new insights into the first missions of the Spartan Ops program, the history of the Human-Covenant wars, and the rise of Commander Sarah Palmer.
Fans of the Halo series will be pleased to see many elements of previous games and people new to the Halo series will be impressed by the fast paced action game.
You play the levels in what seems to be a battle simulator and you get scored after each level, which creates the usual 3 star mentality where you just have to go back and do the level better than before.
The game plays slightly differently on the two different devices, it is a two onscreen joystick setup, with the left hand one controlling your movement, be it either on foot, in a gun turret, in a wrath, in a scorpion and the other right hand joystick controls your gun. It doesn’t auto target so there is some skill involved in shooting the enemies. Although your gun does track enemies at times.
The differences between devices become apparent with the other controls, on the tablet version you get further buttons around the edge of the screen, to control things like grenades, doing activities, activating armour and changing between weapons. On the phone version most of these are hidden away to free up screen space, leaving double taps and tapping the Spartan to trigger certain things. I think the tablet version is the easiest version to pickup and play. If only my Surface weighed a little less. Another option is to play with mouse and keyboard in a traditional PC gaming style. Again I prefer the touchscreen on the tablet.
There are 25 levels that are grouped into five different storylines. As you play through each level you gather experience points which can be used to upgrade your armour and weapons before the next level, rather annoyingly there are also in app purchases on both platforms, meaning that at times you will struggle without initial weapons or power ups, as the game nears the end you really start to struggle without a healthy selection of amour and boosters. Having paid nearly £10 for the two versions I really didn’t like the freemium style adopted within the game. The Xbox achievements are littered around within each level and I always still smile when one pops up in game. The two versions of the game have separate achievements, in total you can achieve 20 per game.
The levels vary slightly with most being “kill everyone” style, but there are some defence levels, some levels where you have a time limit to stay alive, kill the commanders type thing, destroy x,y and z in so much time, drive a tank around for a bit, chat with your mates. You know all the usual Halo stuff.
The game itself is pretty fast paced, my gut instinct when I get into a big fire fight is to keep the trigger pulled and then wonder where my ammo has gone, then realise that I have another gun and use that one for a bit, then I die. Every time you kill someone they helpfully leave there gun behind, which when you stand over it you can hit the pickup button leaving behind your previous weapon. This collecting of weapons soon becomes an OCD level of attention to detail in me, I spend most of my time running around trying to find more ammo for the super gun I just found, not wanting to admit defeat and leave it behind, again this normally results in me getting killed. The gun swapping ammo collecting element really can make or break a level, if you pick up a puny little gun instead of a huge rifle you’re a gonna.
The Cloud sync thing
When I found out that Spartan Assault would sync between devices, I punched the air. Finally more games in the Windows world were getting cross platform syncing, this cost me another £5.49 as I wanted to try it out between my devices, it uses your Xbox Gamertag and doesn’t mention SkyDrive at all so I would assume it is done through some Xbox server somewhere, if your device isn’t logged into Xbox Live you will need to do it on the initial run.
For a mobile game the graphics are really good, again on my Surface I had a better experience, the graphics seem better quality. Every detail is easier to pick out on a bigger screen, grenades and small guns are easily visible and text easily readable. On the phone version things are at times a little too small.
The phone version also crashes quite a bit, reviews on the store mention phones getting really hot whilst play Spartan Assault. My Samsung Ativ S didn’t, I guess I just hadn’t played for long enough. I still crashed though loosing my progress in that level.
The game won’t run on a lower spec 512MB device either, meaning only the few high end devices can play it.
Overall the game was great fun, but for the money spent on basically two mobile games I’d expect a whole lot more to the game. I had pretty much completed it on my Surface after 3 or 4 hours of wrist pain inducing excitement. The prospect of further material from the developers at a later date makes me hope it isn’t at a further cost.
What I do like though is that I’ll be able to play a few levels of Halo on my lunch break instead of the usual Angry Birds / Cut the Rope arrangement. To top it off the scores from lunch will sync to my Surface ready for my return home.
If your interested and you’ve only got a Windows 8 tablet then I’d just stick with that, the phone version is harder to play and is only worth it if you play a lot on the bus or something.
Windows 8 Store Link – Spartan Assault
Windows Phone Store Link – Spartan Assault