Posted: April 4, 2014
Halo Spartan Assault is average at best. The game looks very much like the mobile game in which it is ported from, and it feels like one too. The game lacks full rebindable keys, and the game feels all in all very clunky to play, especially when driving human vehicles such as the Scorpion MBT using the keyboard.
Missions can last anywhere between 2-6 minutes in length, and they offer very little in terms of replayability or variety, generally consisting of "Get to objective X", "Kill X amount of targets", or "Defend X for Y amount of time". Each mission begins with a loadout screen where you can select your loadout which consists of a primary weapon, secondary weapon, armour ability and power up (not active by default), however you may only change your loadout by spending your in-game currency (XP), but there is no need to do so as the game is very easy without such purchases, as there are many other weapons, vehicles and stationary cannons scattered around each level that keep you stocked up long enough to complete the mission with very few issues.
The story is very basic, and your average Halo fare: A human planet is under attack by covenant forces, lo and behold: the forerunners seems to have had a foothold on the planet before they died out, and then the UNSC and the Covenant duke it out to try and reclaim whatever technology they left behind, and to stop the Covenant from destroying humanity etc etc. It is not going to be the most memorable story, or even memorable at all, but what makes it worse is that missions are explained with a small block of text, and cutscenes are reserved for the completion of each “Operation” (every 5 missions), these cutscenes, whilst nice to look at with their graphic novel style presentation, only last a few seconds, and do little to break up the monotony of the combat.
Graphically the game is very impressive for a mobile port. DX effects are squeezed in to make explosions look fairly impressive, as well as cramming in a large amount of particle effects such as embers and snowflakes which all make the game look alive. The lighting and background effects (post Operation C) are also very nice to look at as it obtains every bit of colour that Halo is known for, a refreshing break from the flurry of grey/ brown games that we are so very accustomed to seeing now. One huge downside however is the lack of graphics options past AA, resolution and refresh rate. Where are the texture options? V-Sync? Or even a colourblind mode?
The sound design is very good though, the weapons sounds are taken directly from the Halo console games and thus are of a high quality (although they do sound a little muffled), and whilst the original music composed by Tom Salta (Halo: CEA) is very good, the music feels like it is implemented incorrectly, as the music that often accompanies combat is very calm and whimsical, not the epic music that I would expect from such a scenario (see Halo: CEA OST's "Strung"). The game feels very Halo-y in how it sounds, but it is a shame that this feeling does not carry over to the rest of the game.
(As of the launch day) As expected, I did encounter a few bugs and issues during my time playing this game. I experienced a couple of crashes (which are inexcusable), as well as one irritating bug that causes the game to go into windowed mode when tabbed out, which makes this extra annoying because the options menu cannot be accessed whilst you are in the middle of a mission, and because there are no checkpoints, you will either have to finish the mission in windowed mode, or quit and start again. (There is no "Fullscreen" option in the menu, requiring the player to change the resolution of the game and then reverting it to your preferred resolution, or quitting the game).
Halo: Spartan Assault is the first Halo game to reach the PC platform since Halo 2 back in 2007, but it is a shame that this is the Halo game that we got. If you are a avid Halo fan like myself, you probably already have it, but if you are on the fence about it, it might be worth the try just because of it's low price, or maybe just to convince 343i and Microsoft that the PC is a viable place to put Halo games both new and old, but otherwise, I find it hard to recommend.
UPDATE: Completed in 4-5 hours, that is including mission failures as well as being AFK.
NOTE: Unlike the mobile and console versions of the game, the PC version does not feature microtransactions at all, however it is painfully obvious as to where and how they were implemented. Also, the emblem, weapon and armour skin rewards for Halo 4 do not appear in the PC version of Halo: Spartan Assault.