The latest Halo game is a top-down shooter for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8
Not since Halo Wars have we seen a game set in the Halo universe that wasn’t a first-person shooter. Perhaps it is unreasonable to compare Halo: Spartan Assault to Ensemble Entertainment’s ground breaking real-time strategy title (a game that would also be the developer’s swansong), but 343 Industries’ and Vanguard Entertainment’s latest top-down shooter, a Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 exclusive, sure is a lot of fun.
Halo: Spartan Assault is a budget title priced at Rs.350 on the Windows store, which when compared to games on Apple’s App Store (or any game in general with longevity in terms of gameplay) is a little pricey given the brief nature of the game’s campaign, the events of which take place between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4. The game follows Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer and Spartan Davis as they battle the Covenant on Draetheus V across five major battles, each with five sub-missions ranging from the ‘eliminate all enemies’ kind to ‘survive until reinforcements arrive’, vehicular combat and escort missions. Each of the battles or campaigns takes between 20 and 30 minutes to complete if played at a leisurely pace, while the game clocks in at a moderate 2-odd hours to beat in its entirety. Even for a budget title, that’s not very much.
There is replay value, however. The game does incentivise playing through missions a second time to better your score or find your way into the game’s online leaderboards, gain all achievements and earn XP which can be used to unlock better weapons and equipment. Unfortunately, the best equipment is reserved for players who are willing to succumb to the game’s in-app purchase system — purchase ‘credits’ for real-world money and you can unlock, say, a rocket launcher for use in a single mission. It’s not cheap — Rs.150 will net you 500 credits, with an average item or weapon costing between 50 and 80 credits. You do the math. You can also amp up the difficulty level by choosing handicaps (or ‘skulls’) to double or triple your XP earned from each mission.
Fortunately, you don’t need in-app purchases for a good experience, because as I said earlier, Spartan Assault is a lot of fun. It’s been designed with the touchscreen interfaces of Windows 8 phones and tablets in mind, but it works just as well with a mouse and keyboard (although it’s a shame that there’s no gamepad support as yet, but we can expect it in a subsequent update).
The controls are very simple on the keyboard and mouse, with a low learning curve of about zero minutes if you’ve played a game before. This is a very simple top-down shooter, and the developers have set out to not burden the player with complex control schemes, opting for a more immediate action-heavy approach. It won’t be long before you’re fending off seemingly endless waves of Covenant Brutes and Elites armed with nothing more than your trusty Magnum. In addition to equipping familiar weapons dropped by enemies, you will be able to commandeer emplacements and vehicles.
The game manages to preserve the Halo visual aesthetic, while being driven by the trademark Halo soundtrack fans know and love. All the characters, weapons, enemies and vehicles look and sound the part — it’s good to see that the developers have not compromised on production values, since a Halo game that doesn’t look the part isn’t a Halo game at all. While the game doesn’t justify upgrading to Microsoft’s new operating system, if you’ve already got a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 device, and are a Halo fan, pick it up and have a couple of hours of mindless fun.