Set between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4, you take on the role of a soldier in the SPARTAN-IV program as you participate in a training exercise that doubles as a history lesson, all the while using a small war simulation on your personal computer tablet to get in some practice with your combat tactics.
Halo: Spartan Assault puts the player into a simulation to teach them about the Battle of Draetheus V, a post-war battle that takes place between the end Halo 3 and the beginning of Halo 4 on the planet Draetheus V and its moon (a rogue Covenant fleet ignored the ceasefire of 2552 and the UNSC). Although you are technically playing as a soldier taking part in the UNSC’s SPARTAN-IV program, the history-lesson-turned-video-game has you taking on the role of Commander Sarah Palmer and Edward Davis of the SPARTAN-IV program as you progress through the history lesson that you are participating in, learning what parts they played in the Battle of Draetheus V.
Visually, the game has a rather mixed yet overall appealing appearance. While the models and textures look they came from a slightly dumbed down version of Halo: Combat Evolved, the environments and particle system used in the game are more akin to that of Halo 3. While the models and textures used for vehicles and characters aren’t the greatest, the environments you go through and the particle system used throughout the game come across as visually pleasing and more than fitting for a game that takes place in the Halo universe. The game also takes on a sort of bird’s eye view with a top-down third-person perspective, which helps with masking a majority of the imperfections you’d see with the models and textures. This allows you to see everything as if it were in higher quality than what you’d see in the few instances where the camera is actually close enough to reveal the actual quality of the models and textures. It’s also balanced enough for a low-end system to play it without experiencing heavy visual lag, if any at all. While some might find that a bit redundant to mention, it’s actually something worth noting since most games nowadays would likely force a person into purchasing a new system just to play the game in question.
“This game actually does look rather nice. It’s also not very demanding.”
When it comes to the actual gameplay, the game plays extremely different from how one would expect a game in the Halo series to be played. While the more ‘traditional’ Halo game has the player taking control of Master Chief from a first-person perspective, Halo: Spartan Assault has the player take control of Palmer and Davis in a top-down, third-person perspective, allowing the player to see everything going on in the battlefield around them and plan out their attacks accordingly. The game also makes rather extensive changes to the weapon mechanics, such as removing the need to reload weapons that would normally require reloading after emptying the weapon and completely removing the cool-down system for Covenant energy weapons in favor of making them use the ammo system commonly associated with the UNSC weapons. The game also has every weapon set up to make use of ammo that can be picked up as you go along with each mission, essentially removing the need to keep an eye out for ammo or a replacement energy weapon if you happen to run out. The game also makes it so that your character will only fire in the general direction that you have the mouse pointing to, removing the need to individually pick your shots when your weapon can just mow down several enemies at once with sheer firepower alone. This isn’t true for all of the weapons of course, so the game doesn’t exactly lose much in terms of providing a challenge when using weapons like the pistol or shotgun. The game also makes use of ‘skulls’ from the previous games, but as a way to provide a higher challenge for the mission instead of acting as a sort of honorary cheating system. And although you are only allowed to use two skulls at a time, the skulls can provide a multitude of different challenges to add to the mission, as well as ways to increase your score for the mission once you’ve completed the tasks at hand. The game lacks an actual multiplayer system in the PC version due to the co-op mode being console exclusive at this point; however, it does make use of an ever-changing leaderboard system that provides daily challenges for the players to complete for specific missions, allowing players to compete for the highest score in a given time period for specific challenges or for an overall highest score in the single-player campaign. The missions in this game are rather short for the most part, which is both good and bad; the missions are just as fun as playing through the full campaign of other Halo titles, but they tend to end a bit earlier than expected. The game also has controller support, so you can choose to either play with a mouse and keyboard or with your controller at any time.
The game makes extensive use of sounds that are either remixed or taken directly from Halo 3, and uses them accordingly for the specific weapon, environment, or enemy in the current event in question. While this may not seem entirely appealing to some people because of the re-used assets, Halo: Spartan Assault seems to have a higher level of quality with the sound assets that are being used in this game. I can honestly say that the sound of the assault rifle in Halo 3 doesn’t sound quite as crisp or quite as strong as it does in Halo: Spartan Assault.
As with any new game, there are bound to be at least a few noticeable issues while playing. Fortunately, there aren’t that many to take note of in Halo: Spartan Assault, but they are still noticeably present. For instance, the lack of a reloading feature for the weapons in this game makes it rather easy to just blow through all of your ammo if you don’t pay attention to how much you have left, and some weapons don’t have very much ammo to begin with. The game also has the player ‘purchase’ certain power weapons (such as the rocket launcher or sniper rifle) with their experience points before starting the mission if they don’t like the default load-out, which is a bit annoying since the power weapons are actually rather costly and only stick around until you actually finish the mission you purchased them on, ultimately disappearing afterwards and forcing you to spend experience points on the weapons again at a later time; you may be thinking it’s not all bad, but you literally have to re-purchase those weapons for ANY mission, including the one you just bought the weapon(s) for. The game also lacks its co-op mode, which is sadly only exclusive to the Xbox360 and Xbox One versions of the game; while the game is fun on its own with the single-player campaign, the co-op mode would have allowed players to team up and actually work together in order to complete certain mission objectives quicker and with a bit more strategy.
Overall, Halo: Spartan Assault for PC takes on a rather different approach from what people have expected from the Halo series, but ultimately comes across as a title that can still stand with the rest of the series and actually be enjoyable. The game honestly looks good, and it plays rather well despite the flaws. It’s also not too demanding, so low-end system users will also be able to enjoy this game in their own time. However, this game should still be taken with a slight grain of salt, as the game can become a bit dull due to the lack of a proper multiplayer system of any kind.