Review: Halo: Spartan Assault Is A Twin-Stick Borefest
This Halo themed twin-stick shooter does everything in its power to be as uninspiring as possible
- Worth The Time?Nope, get something else
- Things LovedThe shooting mechanics are at least competent, vehicle sections are probably the most fun, a surprising amount of variety in the Halo lore, decent soundtrack.
- Things HatedMicrotransactions, it gets very boring very fast, no variation in the campaign, absolutely ridiculous premise, feels very rushed, environmental hazards kill you instantly, broken loadout mechanic thanks to the microtransactions, ammo runs out way too fast for a twin-stick shooter, gameplay feels like a grind rather than an engaging experience, microtransactions.
- RecommendationA snooze fest and something you should get if you either have a lot of money or have absolutely nothing else to play
- Name: Halo: Spartan Assault
- Genre: Twin-stick Shooter
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Yes, co-op
- Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows Phone
- Developer: 343 Industries, Vanguard Entertainment
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Price: $14.99
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Out of all the things I imagined being Halo themed, I never would have guessed that they would settle with a twin-stick shooter. I mean, I can see how it would work, but Halo is such a large brand with lore up to ying yang that any number of different genres could have been considered. But sadly Halo: Spartan Assault feels more like a cash grab than a fun experience. While a twin-stick shooter that is Halo themed sounds like it could be mountains of fun, 343 and Vanguard have managed to make it incredibly boring in some way with such a severe lack of creativity and variety.
I have to start off with the overall premise that actually had me laughing for a while before I started playing the game. You are a faceless trainee or something and they give you a tablet to run “simulations” of Spartans that fought in the war. Why you ask? “Something to pass the time and entertain yourself with”. That’s just absolutely ridiculous. Okay, so I’m playing a trainee playing a tablet game “just for funzies”? Well, that’s what the game gave me and I just ran with it.
It seems they went full out with the authenticity of a tablet game because this game features, you guessed it, microtransactions. You can buy “credits” to purchase “premium weapons and upgrades” to make your life just a little bit easier on the battlefield. When I first saw this I was almost immediately put off from it because I’ve played enough freemium games to know where this is going. But I decided to give the game the opportunity to impress me without the need for “premium upgrades”.
Spartan Assault is very much a twin-stick shooter. The controls are basic enough to be instantly recognizable. Move with left stick, aim with right stick, shoot at the enemies. You also have a grenade and a special armour power that you can use. The game is very simple to learn, but unfortunately it does not provide enough substance to make it sustainably enjoyable. You go through mission after mission doing exactly the same thing over and over and after a while you just get bored with it. Twin-stick shooters generally provide some form of power-ups and ways to break the monotony of the genre’s inherent nature, but Spartan Assault does not provide that enough.
The average mission has you dropped on the battlefield, given a simple objective and then just killing things around the playing field and get graded based off of your performance. It has some score attack aspects, but they’re not incredibly deep as to make you want to do them. The game is quite simply, boring. It just feels like a tireless grind over the same old enemies using the same old weapons over and over. There’s no substance or fun here, it’s just… mediocre.
There’s a variety of weapons that come out of the Halo universe and they function very much the same as their superior counterparts. For Halo fans, this can be a plus point. The game as a whole feels more like fan service than anything else with a surprising amount of lore and attention being paid to the Halo universe. The war between the Covenant and the UNSC has been raging, the Spartans have been sent in to clean up the mess and there’s some Forerunner technology thrown in there too. It’s a plus point in the game’s favour because some snippets of lore were rather interesting to me, as someone who enjoys the Halo universe.
The combat, however, is the main brunt of the game and as I’ve established earlier, it’s rather boring. Before you enter a mission you are given a loadout with preset weapons in the primary and secondary slots. The only real choice you can make regarding your initial loadout is to get “premium” guns and those can be bought with credits or experience points. You get experience points from completing mission, but even if you get gold, which is the highest ranking, you only get about 200 experience points. The premium weapons cost about a 1000 credits and they can only be used in a single mission. So do the math. 5 gold level missions to get one premium weapon for a single mission. Sounds pretty exploitative to me.
There are three premium weapons to choose from. The sniper rifle, the Spartan Laser and the rocket launcher. I’ve had the opportunity to test them out for free because I unlocked certain achievements in Halo 4 and they are rather powerful. The Spartan Laser in particular destroys everything in its path and makes the game a cakewalk. But more often than not you won’t have access to these weapons because they are too expensive, unless you’re willing to pay real money for credits and honestly, who does that? So you’re stuck with the basic loadout for the most part.
The weapons on offer are quite varied with nearly all the weapons from the Halo universe present. The shotgun, assault rifle, needler, plasma pistol and so on are all present, but they all function pretty much the same. When you’re in a mission, you run around and shoot the waves of enemies and occasionally complete a simple objective. The shooting mechanics work well enough, but the auto-aim is a bit broken at times. Also, something that puzzled me is how quickly you run out of ammo. In a twin-stick shooter, you generally have a lot of ammo at your disposal to compensate for the lack of accuracy, but in this game your gun will be depleted in a matter of minutes, forcing you to scramble for ammo or a new weapon. It just completely breaks the flow of the combat.
Overall, the combat is very repetitive and runs out of entertainment value very quickly. The only really fun thing is the vehicles that you can board and ride. It was fun to blow up a bunch of grunts with a Wraith shot or maneuvering around in a Ghost, but these sections are often times short lived and are just there as an attempt to break the monotony. The vehicles also have extremely low health and don’t last that long in a heated firefight.
The visuals are nothing to write home about with bland scenery and uninspired textures that do nothing but make the game seem duller. The environments are often repeated throughout the missions and do nothing more than connect a bunch of shooting galleries together. The soundtrack is rather good with the usual Halo-esque music being used and is up to par with the usual quality of the franchise.
Halo: Spartan Assault is sadly a disappointment. I could see that the game had some potential to be a fun twin-stick shooter experience, but it just became so boring and repetitive that I didn’t find any enjoyment in playing it. I recommend you give this one a miss and for $15, there are so many more better experiences that you can have. And most of them probably don’t include microtransactions.