This review is based on the Windows Phone 8 version running on a Verizon branded Nokia Lumia 928.
Halo: Spartan Assault is a twin-stick shooter for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Ironically enough, at launch the game does not support input that utilizes analog sticks. Though, the Windows 8 version does support keyboard and mouse play. Spartan Assault is a game that is boasted as having a 2 hour campaign and carries along with it a price tag of $6.99. For the first month of release on Windows Phone 8 it is exclusive to Verizon in the United States. Everyone else in the world is able to get it as of the launch date. This leaves many users out of luck as AT&T is typically the carrier of choice for Windows Phone.
Spartan Assault is a solid game with quirks that come with using a touch screen as the primary method of interface. You’ll often find yourself removing your thumbs from thew screen to reposition them in the lower corners of the screen. The slightest amount of oil will registers false positives on the screen resulting in things such as armor abilities being activated at inopportune times or grenades being randomly tossed. Be sure to give your screen, thumbs, and index fingers a proper rub down before attempting to play. You day will go easier for it.
You find yourself strapped in the armor of a Spartan Davis and the notorious Spartan Sara Palmer of Halo 4. Known to be crass, annoying, and just a pain, you are her in name only. Very rarely does the loose story try to remind you that you are playing as her. And any indication that you are in the role of her is simply in the mission select screen. You start out combating a Covenant invasion of Draetheus V in the early days of the Spartan IV program. The plot eventually progresses with a sudden twist that accelerates the plot in a breakneck pace to prevent a catastrophe from occurring.
At the beginning of each mission you are given the opportunity to customize your Spartan. You may select you primary and secondary weapons, armor ability, skulls, and a “booster”. Each of these categories barring the skulls allows you one option that is unlocked for a single mission using experience earned from playing the game. Each of the other two options per category are unlocked by paying real money for credits to use. This is a sleazy way to support a game that a premium price has already been paid for.
The missions themselves are your standard affair, though surprisingly well done for a mobile game. You will find yourself in the roles ranging from surviving waves of enemies to escorting V.I.P.s to designated locations. The levels feel fresh each time you play, often with variables that change each time you play. In an early mission, the opening one to be exact, drop pods with grunts will land and spew their cannon fodder upon the battle field. Each time you play the level said pods drop in different locations.
The graphics are certainly a step up from typical mobile games. Enemies, levels, characters, and vehicles are all rendered in 3D. Even approaching a cliff yields a view of the land below. Often bustling with infantry and explosions. The exact thing ever Halo game needs. Part of the quality of models and animations come from work previously done by the late Ensemble Studios in a hidden gem of theirs, Halo Wars. From the exaggerated movements that help convey actions in small characters to the wibble wobble of a Banshee soaring overhead. It is very nice to see the assets being put to used after the years of not appearing. Some have even been doctored up to look even better. Something that boggles the mind when you think of a full fledged and mobile game.
In the end you are left with an above average game that is sure to entertain well past the projected 2 hours to complete the campaign thanks to levels that are fun to replay. That combined with player leader board that allow you to compare yourself with friends and family help scratch a competitive itch not often sated by a mobile game.