One of the greatest video game franchises, Halo, has been shy of Windows PC since Halo 2 was released in 2004. Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows 8 changes all of that – but is it worth the price?
Halo is usually only found on Microsoft consoles. Such is its importance to the modern gaming scene that we counted it one of the reasons to buy the Xbox One.
Halo: Spartan Assault, however, offers a rare – and welcome – opportunity to enjoy the Halo world on a Windows 8 PC or tablet.
Set between the events of Halo 3 in 2553 and those of Halo 4 in 2557, Halo: Spartan Assault takes place on the planet Draetheus V where rogue Covenant forces have ignored the ceasefire established in the earlier game. It’s up to you to control Commander Sarah Palmer or Spartan Davis to gain the upper hand and destroy the enemy, with a compelling storyline to back it up (which we won’t spoil for you here). An excellent intro details the exact scenario.
Halo: Spartan Assault is published by Microsoft Studios and is available for $6.99 (£4.99 in the UK) from the Windows Store. There is also a free Lite version, which features an impressive selection of missions from the main game.
The Lite version is highly recommended, as it offers everything you could hope for in the main game, short of the satisfaction of completion. Let’s be honest – Spartan Assault is not the cheapest Windows 8 Modern app, and the Lite option is a good lead-in to the full game.
Missions and Achievements
As with all Xbox Live games, Halo: Spartan Assault features various achievements for you to unlock. Meanwhile, XP bonuses can be used to upgrade your gear.
Successful completion of a level should enable you to upgrade your armour or weaponry. There are also multipliers you can add prior to entering a level that will penalise your gameplay, but yield greater XP upon completion. If all of this seems too tough, though, you can just buy your XP using micro-transactions.
Xbox Live users who want to benefit from the 25 achievements in the game can grab up to 250 points for their Gamerscore. Some achievements are met only with the completion of a mission; others with the completion of an objective.
Completing a Mission
As well as playing missions on foot, Halo: Spartan Assault also includes vehicles, and customization options for weapons and armour give you the chance to create the ultimate Spartan warrior.
Controls can prove to be tricky, however, especially if you don’t return to the game for a while. Fortunately there is an excellent tutorial system to (re)train you in the art of shooting, swapping guns, recharging your shield and using grenades. Melee combat is also an option.
Note that if you get hit by a vehicle at any time, however, it’s game over.
The pace of the missions is non-stop. Whether you’re escorting Wolverine combat vehicles or hunting down a Covenant installation, there is always something to shoot at. If your armour is low and you don’t have time to wait for it to recharge, there are health points around the maps, and felled enemies almost always drop ammo and weapons for you to pick up.
How quickly you complete a mission and with what losses will determine your score for the sortie.
Graphics and Sound
The secret of the stunning look of Halo: Spartan Assault is in its refusal to adhere to the conventions of the series’ other entries. This top-down, third-person viewpoint is common on Windows 8 action and strategy games, but the polish with which it is achieved here really brings a new dimension to things.
Character design is detailed, despite the compact dimensions of the soldiers, and the vehicles are well-realised. The landscapes are pleasing to look at, while the lasers and explosions bring the necessary sense of peril to proceeding.
Halo: Spartan Assault’s soundtrack and audio effects, meanwhile, are best enjoyed with a good quality speaker system or your best earphones. If you’ve paid the money to play the game, it seems churlish not to take the time to admire the audio textures that accompany and punctuate gameplay.
Although more expensive than many Windows 8 Modern games, Halo: Spartan Assault is certainly worth the purchase if you’re a fan of top down strategy shooters. Even if you don’t want to part with the cash, the Lite option is a viable alternative that will give you a superb view of what you’re actually missing.
With great graphics, superb sound and the all-important Xbox Live integration, Halo: Spartan Assault is arguably the best game for Windows 8 Modern, in terms of production values and playability. Compatibility issues with 8 inch tablets are a disappointment (tested on my 10 inch Acer Iconia W7 everything was fine), however, and micro-transactions feel unnecessary, but as they’re optional this isn’t a huge problem.
If you’re using a standard Windows 8 PC or laptop or a larger touch screen tablet/ultrabook, Halo: Spartan Assault should be at the top of your list of gaming options, which is why it is in our list of The Best Windows 8 Modern Apps.