Halo: Spartan Assault review for Xbox One

Platform: Xbox One
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: 343 Industries
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

The concept of a bite-sized Halo experience that was custom made for touch-screen platforms might not sound that appealing, but I’ve actually enjoyed my time spent with Halo: Spartan Assault on Xbox One. It’s not quite the caliber of the original Halo spin-off, Halo Wars, but it certainly puts the Halo stamp on the top-down arcade shooter style that Spartan Assault adopts. And if you enjoy high-score focused action with a bit of Halo spin on it, then Spartan Assault might be the thing for you.

Spartan Assault is broken up into two modes, a single-player campaign that consists of six operations divided into smaller stages, and a new co-op campaign which is essentially a survival mode featuring the Flood. Co-op is an online mode for two players, and is new for this edition of the game. Co-op is fun, but I found myself wanting more than the handful of stages that are offered up here. There’s a sizeable challenge in the scant few levels present, but I’d love to see more added to the game in future updates.

Halo Spartan Assault 2It falls to the campaign to make up the meat of Halo: Spartan Assault’s gameplay. Here you’ll take on the role of Spartan Palmer and Davis embroiled in a battle against the Covenant between the timeline of Halo 3 and Halo 4. The story bits are told through short cutscenes that close out each level within an Operation, with more bits told through short text introductions for each level. The lore aspect doesn’t seem to step on any toes in other parts of the Halo universe, and what’s there is written well and seems to fit the general tone of the series.

The actual gameplay feels reminiscent of many top-down shooters, but this isn’t a simple run and gun style game. Halo: Spartan Assault features a number of traditional Halo mechanics, like rechargeable abilities, regenerative standard shields and health, plasma grenades, and a whole host of familiar weapons. You’ll also run into your standard assortment of Covenant bad guys, and even get to jump on board the occasional vehicle for some destructive mayhem.

Halo Spartan Assault 3Halo: Spartan Assault is at its best when you’re surrounded on all sides by Grunts, Elites and Jackals, stuck between a rock and hard place with ammo dwindling down. This is where the Halo aspect really starts to shine. You’ll need to make ample use of distance and terrain in order to have room to recharge and resupply, and as you get into the late stages of the campaign you’ll need to make use of every found weapon available in order to clear most stages. 343 Industries has done a pretty solid job of marrying Halo to a pint-sized arcade style shooter, giving off just enough of a Halo vibe to make Spartan Assault stand out as something unique.

My biggest complaint stems from the controls, specifically the right analog stick that controls aiming. At close range being able to effectively hit a target wasn’t a problem; however trying to hit anything at range was usually a waste of ammo. There’s no onscreen indicator to assist your aim, and sometimes the direction you’re pointing the analog stick in doesn’t seem to line up with whatever you’re trying to hit. Generally this isn’t a huge issue, but it can be frustrating to waste precious ammo on a missed round of fire that you were sure was on point.

Also, out of all the digital releases seen on Xbox One so far, this is the least impressive from a graphical stand point. It’s clear this wasn’t made from the ground up for the platform, and it doesn’t seem to be aided in any significant way by the hardware. The image is crisp in HD, but there’s little going on here that’s meant to be a visual showcase.

Halo Spartan AssaultAnd of course I’m not a big fan of the use of micro transactions that lock away specific weapons like the Sniper Rifle, Spartan Laser and Rocket Launcher. You can purchase credits using real money to use these weapons within a single stage, or you can use experience earned instead. But at 1000 experience points a pop you’ll rarely have the means to do so. Clearing the entire campaign with no skulls activated (the use of which can increase XP gains) netted me right around 4000 experience points. That means by the end of the game I’ve only gained four uses of a heavy weapon, which seems pretty low.

I certainly think Spartan Assault is a fun departure for the Halo franchise, but for someone that’s looking for a new and exciting experience on a brand new console, Halo: Spartan Assault is a hard sale. It just doesn’t scream next-gen to me, despite being a really fun arcade shooter. Still, I did have a lot of fun with it, and I’d at least suggest checking out the demo if you’re interested.

Grade: B

With an Xbox LIVE Gold membership, take your Xbox 360 online to play Kinect and controller games with friends wherever they are. Instantly watch HD movies, TV shows and sports, and with Kinect, your voice is the remote control. Not sure what to play or watch? Quickly find new movies, songs or games with your voice. Even use your phone or tablet as a second screen to control and interact with what you’re watching. Plus, now you can explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox.* Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox.

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Games Entertainment Kinect 
Xbox LIVE Gaming Xbox LIVE Entertainment Kinect 
Xbox LIVE is where your friends are playing Call of Duty, Halo, and other online multiplayer games1. With your voice you can quickly find things to watch and play. Even use your phone and tablet to add an extra layer of control for an enhanced experience with your console games. Plus, explore the web easily with Internet Explorer for Xbox on your biggest screen. Xbox brings you great entertainment no matter where you are. Play games online with friends on your TV, tablet or phone. Even enjoy music, TV shows and movies on any of your devices2. And when you’re at home with Kinect, just say what you want to watch and Xbox finds it. Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. With Kinect for Xbox 360, you are the controller. Enjoy HD movies, TV, music and sports and control it all with the sound of your voice. Or choose from tons of great Kinect games and experience the fun of getting your whole body in the action1. Games and entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. 
SmartGlass Windows 8 Internet Explorer 
SmartGlass Windows 8 Internet Explorer on Xbox 
Xbox SmartGlass lets you use your phone or tablet as a second screen with your Xbox 360 for an enhanced game and entertainment experience2. Control and interact with your favorite TV shows, movies, music, sports and games. Even start watching on your tablet and flick it to your TV to keep watching on the big-screen. With Xbox SmartGlass, your devices intelligently work together to show rich interactive activities and new content related to what you’re watching or playing on TV at the moment. The Xbox SmartGlass app will be available on Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the innovative Xbox SmartGlass technology will be available on other major platforms in the My Xbox LIVE app. Xbox is the new way to get great entertainment on Windows 8. Enjoy the latest movies, TV shows, and music on your PC or tablet. You also get access to great games for every style — from the latest hits to your favorite classics. Plus, you can use your tablet as a second screen with your Xbox 360 for an enhanced experience with what you’re watching or playing2. Even start a show on your tablet and flick it to your TV. Entertainment is more amazing with Xbox. Explore the web on your TV with Internet Explorer for Xbox1. And with Kinect, use your voice to explore your favorite sites with ease on the biggest screen in the house. Even use your phone or tablet to type and control your experience. Discover the entertainment you love with Xbox. 
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Xbox Video Xbox Music   
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Xbox LIVE Gold membership, fees and/or requirements apply for some Xbox LIVE features. Not all Xbox LIVE content is Kinect enabled. Games, add-ons and media content sold separately. Internet Explorer on Xbox coming Holiday 2012. See xbox.com/live.
2 Coming Holiday 2012. Compatible devices required. Broadband internet, additional fees and/or requirements apply for some Xbox LIVE features. Not all features and content on Xbox LIVE is Kinect voice and gesture enabled. Second screen control requires compatible devices enabled with Xbox SmartGlass and is only available with select Xbox LIVE content. See xbox.com/live.
3 Coming Holiday 2012. Broadband internet and compatible devices required. To watch on Windows Phone, sync content from compatible PC. See xbox.com/live.
4Coming Holiday 2012. Compatible devices and internet required; carrier fees apply. On TV, Xbox Music Pass allows for streaming only and requires an Xbox 360 console and Xbox LIVE Gold subscription (both sold separately). Limited hours of free streaming after 6 months; unlimited with paid subscription. Available Xbox Music features and content may vary over time. See xbox.com/music.

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