Halo: Spartan Assault Xbox One
Halo: Spartan Assault is a game that started out life as a tablet experiment which has now being ported to Xbox One. That is not a good sign to start with – as it’s proven games cannot jump between two such divergent platforms without a few hiccups. The next bad sign – one that should be marked with a big light up arrow – is that in the port over to consoles microtransactions are still on show. It’s not just the buy once and be done kind of deal – they are consumable microtransactions – the one’s you can buy multiple times. Of course, none of this nonsense would really matter if the core game played well. As I mentioned in another recent review, I’ve stepped around, and outright ignored, bad microtransactions before, simply because the core game was compelling enough without them. Sadly that’s not the case for Spartan Assault.
Spartan Assault is a trier though, as is the Halo franchise as a whole. A few years back, no one thought Halo should make the move to RTS (which was weirdly a return to it’s roots), yet Halo Wars still managed to impress critically. So anyone betting against the franchise fitting itself into yet another genre would hardly be wise. But Spartan Assault does not try hard enough. Simply put, the minute-to-minute gameplay feels lacking, and that’s what hurts the appeal of Spartan Assault most of all. Even with both next-gen platforms currently lacking in games following launch, this one’s just not compelling enough to be worth peoples time.
You use a Needler. You blow up a Wraith. You cause carnage with a Spartan Laser. Everything both looks and sounds familiar. However, Halo games have always lived and died by their compelling gameplay. Spartan Assault dies – and will be remembered as an unfulfilling distraction. Without the Halo name attached, this would be just another average top-down-shooter in the muddle of genre releases, and arguably this site (and others) would likely not even bother writing about it. No matter what it does, it never shakes the feeling that its using the Halo brand as clever set-decoration to blind you from the fact you’re playing an average game.
The previously mentioned microtransactions are truly a pain, as they make the game’s leaderboards meaningless. You can pay to win, and even in the much maligned F2P genre such nonsense is never encouraged. You pay to get XP points – but these are badly named as the XP points only lets you buy temporary buffs, not level up your character. These buffs are basically high-grade weapons (like the Spartan Laser), that will let you take apart enemies with much greater ease. You don’t need to pay to access XP if you don’t want to – as you can get XP points through simply playing. It can take ages to build up though. For example, you can spend 1 hour replaying one mission to afford enough XP to unlock a high-class weapon for just one future mission – then that weapon will last for just that one mission, and vanish. If you want to use that weapon again on any mission, you either pay to accrue the XP, or spend another solid hour building up to unlocking it again. Spartan Assault’s missions are not compelling enough to stand up to multiple playthroughs, so this quickly turns into a chore. Even if the missions were good enough, the inclusion of this needlessly complicated penny pinching in yet another game is sickening. It is annoying to both talk and write about, and it is becoming all to common with the move to a new generation of consoles.
The influence of coming from a portable tablet device is also evident as the game goes on. There are a nice selection of missions available, but all are 10-15 minutes long. They are perfect bite-sized portable gaming chunks, but, on console, they feel distinctly limited in scope. Same couch co-op is non-existent, which is disappointing, as I ‘ve had some great fun with the likes of the great Renegade Ops, Assault Heroes, and Heavy Weapon at home with friends. This could have continued that trend, but chooses to only allow online co-op instead. However, even its inclusion is unsatisfying, as it’s limited to its own mode. with only 5 missions available. These missions bring the always lovable Flood to Spartan Assault. They play akin to a Hoard mode, where you stand your ground and defend, rather than advancing through an area like much of the rest of the game.
Also, and this is just a small niggle, but do you see that blue border around our screenshots? That’s not added by us because we think blue looks nice. The blue glow is very apparent as you play the game. It was in the tablet version too, as I believe it gave the game a sense of depth as you looked down at the smaller screen in your hand. Having it blown up to the size of your TV is an unneeded flourish, and borderline distracting at times. It’s not the end of the world though, so I will stop my complaining. But it is just yet another facet of the game. amongst countless others, that doesn’t work.
I cannot help but be disappointed with Spartan Assault. It is certainly a Halo game. It has the right feel you expect from one. The look and sound of the weapons, and some of the little touches nail what you’d expect from a game bearing the name. There is just too much wrong in other areas that chips away at all that good will. Even though there are a few moments where the game is quite satisfactory, you’re always wishing for more than it ever truly delivers.