Halo: Spartan Assault was first released on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in August 2013 to give gamers a reason to favour Microsoft’s new operating systems over that of their rivals, but it’s now available on the Xbox One and 360 as well. Spartan Assault is a dual-stick shooter that’s quite different to the other Halo games, but it’s a fun distraction nonetheless and one Halo fans should definitely play. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.

The story takes place on Draetheus V, and is set between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4. The Covenant and the UNSC have signed a cease-fire treaty, but it’s broken by a group of rogue Covenant aliens who open fire on Draetheus V. Through the attack, the Covenant leadership learns that Draetheus V’s moon is actually a Forerunner weapon, which kicks off a full-blown invasion of the planet in order to secure it. It’s up to the player, playing as either Commander Edward Davis or Commander Sarah Palmer, to fight alongside UNSC troops to stop Covenant forces from getting their hands on it.

Halo Spartan Assault
Spartans: As badass as they look.

Instead of a first-person view, Spartan Assault is played from a top-down perspective. Players control their Spartan’s movement with the left analogue stick and point their weapons with the right stick, and they engage enemies using Halo’s signature weapons, grenades and turrets/vehicles. Armour abilities are activated with the left bumper, and melee attacks with the right one. It doesn’t take long to get used to the button layout, either, as its traditional console controls are a big improvement over the touchscreen controls of the Windows Phone 8/Windows 8 version.

Players fight alongside UNSC troops as they make their way through the game’s 30 missions, with objectives as varied as surviving waves of enemies, destroying anti-air defences, defending bases and escort missions. Each mission doesn’t last very long, though, weighing in at less than five minutes each on average, but there are a lot of them plus it’s possible to play them co-operatively with another player, either locally or via the internet which gives Spartan Assault some much-needed longevity.

Killing enemies earns points and each mission is scored accordingly, with bronze, silver and gold stars awarded according to your performance. Without using Skulls – options that make the game more difficult but which increase your score multiplier in return – it’s impossible to earn the scores needed for Gold. These options include things like the removal of the game’s HUD, or making dropped weapons contain less ammunition or enemies a lot tougher, which really do up the challenge (and the fun). An upgrade system is also in place that uses experience points earned during missions to unlock weapons and abilities.

HSA Upgrades Skulls
This is where you upgrade your weapons and add Skulls.

The Xbox One/360 versions of the game have a few extras that the others don’t: co-op, extra missions (Operation Hydra) and an expanded arsenal that gives players more guns, armour abilities and upgrade options. Plus, they’ll meet a familiar foe for the first time. If you bought Spartan Assault before December 15, 2013, you’ll be able to pick it up for the Xbox 360/One for just R50.

As it’s only a R150 game on Xbox Live Arcade, Halo: Spartan Assault is easily worth the cash. The levels are challenging, the graphics beautiful and even though it’s not a traditional Halo game, the series’ look, feel and lore are everywhere to be seen, making Spartan Assault a must-play for fans of the franchise.

Halo: Spartan Assault by 343 Industries
Available on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Xbox 360, Xbox One, R150
The good: Slick, easy-to-get-into gameplay, has that Halo feel, co-op, nice Xbox-exclusive features
The bad: Missions are a bit short
Rating: 8/10

[Images Credit – Halowaypoint.com]