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E3 2013: Halo: Spartan Assault

By
Posted on June 11, 2013 AT 10:00am

Publisher Microsoft Studios
Developer 343 Industries
Platform Windows 8 (Phone, Tablet, PC)
Release Date 07.2013
Not sure what any of this stuff means? Head on over to our E3 hub for all the deets.

The Rundown

Halo: Spartan Assault is a top-down, twin-stick arcade shooter that takes place between Halo 3 and 4. It’s a simulator meant to serve as a training program for new Spartans before they get deployed to real battles. Upon starting the game, players will choose to play as either Halo 4’s Sarah Palmer or a new Spartan named Davis—and subsequently thrust into the midst of critical battles between the UNSC and the Covenant as they attempt to achieve the highest scores possible.

The Verdict

It’s hard to imagine someone screwing up a twin-stick arcade shooter, yet it seems that 343’s Spartan Assault wants to try its hardest to do just that. I played the demo on the Windows Surface tablet—which, of course, doesn’t actually feature twin sticks, so I ended up playing awkwardly with the device’s touchscreen. And just like most other games with any touch input, precision-oriented gameplay just feels off when you tap your thumbs. One saving grace for Spartan Assault might be that you can also play it on your PC with a Xbox 360 controller—but then the obvious question becomes, why isn’t this also launching on XBLA? What a novel idea to play a twin-stick shooter with twin sticks!

Also, in an attempt to maintain some of the core Halo experience, every weapon has a set amount of ammunition. Most twin-stick shooters have that one gun with infinite ammo to track enemies, though—and not having that here led to me watching the ammo counter more than the actual gameplay at times. That’s not to say you can’t just pick up more weapons, but just like when I tried throwing grenades, climbing in vehicles, or switching guns, I found most of the controls to be extremely unintuitive.

At least everything onscreen was pretty and had the detail you’d expect from a Halo title, but I could just imagine how much of this would be lost if I’d played on Windows Phone 8. Then again, I don’t know anyone with Windows Phone 8 or Surface—not that you can blame them. Surface is so heavy, it feels like something a mobster would tie around the ankles of a debtor before throwing them in the ocean.

Ray Carsillo, Reviews Editor
Ray Carsillo has extensive roots in geek culture, as he’s written about videogames, comics, and movies for such outlets as Newsday.com, ESPNNewYork.com, Classic Game Room on YouTube, Collider.com, and Comicvine.com before finally settling into his role as EGM’s reviews editor. His main goal in life? To become king of all geek media, of course! Follow Ray’s exploits on Twitter: @RayCarsillo. Meet the rest of the crew.

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