Halo: Spartan Assault

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Halo: Spartan Assault
HSA-Cover.jpg
Developer(s):

343 Industries, Vanguard Games

Publisher(s):

Microsoft Studios

Platform(s):

Windows 8 (PC and tablet)
Windows Phone 8
Xbox 360[1]
Xbox One[1]
Steam[2]

Release date(s):

July 18, 2013[3][4] (Windows 8)
December 23, 2013[5] (Xbox One)
January 31, 2014[6][7][8] (Xbox 360)
April 4, 2014 (Steam)[2]

Mode(s):

Campaign
Cooperative[1]

Rating(s):

ESRB: Teen (T) for Blood and Violence PEGI: 16+

 
"Halo like you have never played before."
—Halo Waypoint[4]

Halo: Spartan Assault is an isometric shooter video game developed by Vanguard Games in collaboration with 343 Industries; it is the eighth game in the Halo series. Originally designed and released for Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, enhanced ports of the game are upcoming for Xbox 360 and Xbox One.[1] Set between the events of Halo 3 and Halo 4, the game features 25 missions that tell the story of the SPARTAN-IV Program's earliest operations.[9][10][3] The game went by the codename "Bootcamp" prior to its official announcement.[11] Spartan Assault was released on July 18, 2013 for Windows 8. The complete version of the game (including all DLC) was released on December 23, 2013 for Xbox One and released on January 31, 2014 for Xbox 360.[5][6][7][8][12] The game was released on April 4, 2014 for Steam.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

Characters and setting[edit]

Set sometime in 2554, Halo: Spartan Assault's main narrative explores the SPARTAN-IVs' first Spartan Ops during the Battle of Draetheus V.[13][14] This battle is part of the second war between the UNSC and the remnants of the Covenant, which is still being waged during the events of Halo 4.[9][15][16] The story unfolds through the UNSC TACSIM, a historical computer simulation which the SPARTAN-IVs use for combat analysis and training, much like Halo 4's War Games mode,[10][17] though the framing story takes place at some point after Halo 4's campaign.[note 1] This framing structure explains some of the game's arcade-like elements, such as weapons' ability to fire continuously;[13][14] indeed, Roland jests that the TACSIM doubles as "a fun game you can play in your spare time".[18]

The campaign has two protagonists, Spartans Sarah Palmer and Edward Davis, whose first meeting is depicted in the Halo: Initiation limited comic series.[15] Rather than the in-engine cutscenes used in most Halo games, Spartan Assault instead makes use of motion comic-style animations between missions, much like the Terminals in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4.[3] Various quotes are displayed in the game's mission loading screens, some acting as gameplay tips while others provide backstory for the events of the game.

Halo franchise writers Brian Reed and Jeremy Patenaude were responsible for the writing of Spartan Assault.[19]

Plot[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Spartan Assault begins with the UNSC Infinity's AI Roland giving several Spartan-IV's a lesson on historical battles. Using UNSC Tactical Simulators, Roland reveals that the Spartan users can assume the roles of Spartans Edward Davis and Sarah Palmer during the Battle of Draetheus V, to enhance strategic skills. Roland explains that the engagement started when a splinter sect of Covenant ignored the Ceasefire of 2552 and attacked UNSC forces on the former Forerunner world of Draetheus V.[20]

The Covenant fleet arriving at Draetheus V.

The Covenant forces are led by Sangheili Zealot Merg Vol. Vol leads a fleet of ships to the planet and the Covenant deploys troops on both Draetheus V and its moon X50. Palmer and Davis lead the UNSC in defending the planet from the Covenant. After thwarting the initial assault, Davis moved to secure the UNSC's Research Facility Alpha and the Forerunner artifact located therein, which appeared to be the Covenant's main target.[21] However, the Covenant resumed their assault and the UNSC feared the research facility would soon be crushed. Palmer, with a Marine detachment, infiltrated artillery positions the Covenant had set up and destroyed them.[22] Spartan Davis later noticed the Covenant's heavy reliance on dropship insertion. Davis realized they would be vulnerable to focused anti-aircraft fire, so, using M9 Wolverines, he began establishing air defenses west of the facility at a location designated Glacial Perch.[23]

While Spartan Davis was successful in slowing the enemy advance, the Covenant forces were too overwhelming. Sarah Palmer began fighting her way upstream through the invasion in an attempt to reach one of the northern outposts. Her plan was to destroy Covenant air support and give the AV-14 Hornets a chance to land near the outposts. The ultimate goal was to get off X50 and warn Draetheus V of the Covenant invasion. Within an hour of their arrival at X50, the Covenant owned the moon. Despite the ferocity of the assault on X50, the UNSC forces on Draetheus V had no idea anything was going on because the planet's unique magnetic resonance frequently made off-world communication nearly impossible.[24]

Merg Vol activates X50.

While Davis defends the moon, Palmer and a small amount of UNSC forces remains on Draetheus V, outgunned and out-manned. The Covenant attack Draetheus V's main military outpost, Faraday Base, and breach the first defense lines before the base's sentry turrets were fully operational.[25] After securing Faraday, Palmer began trying to establish the location of the Covenant officers leading the invasion. After taking significant losses, Marines of the 21st Scout platoon had managed to uncover a set of promising coordinates. After tracking the officers down, she quickly eliminated them.[26]

As Spartan Palmer led the charge on Draetheus V, Spartan Davis continued to face considerable enemy threat on the moon. Furthermore, it was revealed that X50 was not a natural moon after all, but a Forerunner megastructure capable of constructing and destroying planets. Upon finding his way into the control center, Merg Vol tuned X50's main weapon on Draetheus V and began to dismantle the planet. The Covenant forces activated the primary weapon of the X50 construct. Directed toward the planet, the beam began to disintegrate Draetheus V, destabilizing it.[27] Enormous slabs of rock were slowly floating away from the planet's surface and both UNSC and Covenant troops were scrambling to get to safety as the UNSC continued to evacuate the planet.[28] The Covenant continued to attack the planet and the UNSC quickly realized that Draetheus V was ill-prepared for a full evacuation. There was not enough transportation to allow everyone to leave Draetheus V. However, the UNSC raided a Covenant airfield and stole numerous Covenant aircraft. With Palmer's help, 23 Covenant aircraft carrying civilians made it off the planet.[29]

In a stroke of luck, the UNSC Eminent Domain was able to outmaneuver Covenant forces in orbit over the moon and offer some support by deploying ODSTs to the southern Mirror Flats. The 3rd Helljumper Platoon was the first to land on Draetheus V's moon. Their drop zone was less than a mile from Alpha facility but the landing scattered them across the razor sharp rock face of the Glacial Perch. They were quickly surrounded by Covenant infantry and taking heavy losses, but Davis came to their assistance.[30] Davis connected with UNSC combat technicians who believed they could render the Forerunner structure inert; they just needed the chance to get inside the structure.[31] Davis and the remaining Marines assisted the combat technicians securing the Forerunner structure while the Covenant reinforcements did everything in their power to stop the technicians. With supporting sniper fire from higher grounds, Davis and his men were able to buy the technicians just enough time to do their work. However, even with their job complete, it was too late for Draetheus V. The planet was already breaking apart.[32]

Davis' last stand.

While defending the moon, Spartan Davis was killed by an overwhelming amount of Sangheili forces. With transportation secured, one last hurdle remained in getting the colonists safely off of Draetheus V. The leader of the Covenant forces, Merg Vol, was still present on moon X50, providing the remaining Covenant forces with a rallying point and cry. If the colonists were to leave Draetheus V's orbit alive, Merg Vol would need to be terminated. Palmer suspected the Covenant's officer on Draetheus V, Parg Vol had a personal transport hidden away. After completing the evacuation operation, locating Parg Vol's ship became Palmer's highest priority. After fighting through heavy Covenant forces she was able to locate Vol's Phantom and used it to get to X50.[33] Having successfully piloted the Phantom through the Covenant fleet orbiting Draetheus V's moon, Palmer was able to land south of Merg Vol's camp, out of range of his turrets.[34]

Palmer approaching Vol.

Merg Vol was convinced he had been chosen by his gods to wield the power contained within the Forerunner structure. Having spent considerable resources to unlock its secrets, Vol managed to activate the structure's emergency defenses. With the deadly defenses at his command, Vol had become extremely dangerous. Unable to contact Spartan Davis since landing on Draetheus V's moon, Palmer prepared to battle Vol on her own. Vol's exact location had not been difficult to find: the direct area at the foot of the Forerunner structure was littered with a trail of dead UNSC soldiers. After facing Merg Vol's final forces and Forerunner beam turrets, she engaged Merg Vol himself. Despite a difficult fight, Palmer was able to overtake Vol and executed him with her M6H magnum.

With Merg Vol killed and the Covenant forces were defeated and the surviving colonists of Draetheus V were able to safely evacuate the system. After killing Vol, Palmer sabotaged the Forerunner device on X50.[35]

Shortly after the battle, the UNSC discovered a looping transmission of low-frequency static from X50. Palmer and UNSC forces returned to the moon to investigate. However, the UNSC quickly realized that Covenant forces remained on the moon. After fighting through numerous Covenant soldiers, Palmer discovered that the message had originated from Spartan Davis, moments before his death, and that Davis' final impressions had been absorbed into a Forerunner device. She shut the device down in order to allow her friend to pass away peacefully.[36]

Spoilers end here.

Campaign[edit]

The campaign mode is divided into six chapters called "Operations", with five missions each. The co-op mode comprises five missions.[37]

Operation A: Umbra
Operation B: Tempered Shield
Operation C: Monolith
Operation D: Captured Chance
Operation E: Frostbite
Operation F: Hydra
Flood Missions

Gameplay[edit]

Control input[edit]

Touch input for Halo: Spartan Assault

As a "twin-stick" top-down shooter title, Halo: Spartan Assault is developed primarily for touchscreen platforms. The default controls for the game use some of the common control mechanics of touchscreen games: the movement control is located on the left screen whereas the aiming and firing control is located on the right. Halo's staple abilities, (such as grenade with a single button and using vehicles seamlessly), are readily accessible to the player and are placed next to the aiming and firing controls for ease of use.[38]

On Windows 8 PCs and tablets, the game can also be played with a mouse and keyboard. Keyboard controls use a standard shooter format: the "WASD" key group controls movement and the mouse is for aiming and firing. On August 29, an update was applied to the game which enables the use of an Xbox 360 controller as well.[38] The console versions of the game feature an altered control scheme in which the player must press the Right Trigger in order to fire weapons; in contrast, the other versions do not distinguish between the "look" and "fire" controls.[37]

Player loadout[edit]

Player loadout

Players are able to customize their Spartan character's primary and secondary weapon loadout, armor ability, and booster (akin to Halo 4's a tactical packages and support upgrades) at the start of each mission.

Cooperative play[edit]

The Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions of the game include a two-player online cooperative mode. In this mode two Spartans battle against hordes of Flood forms across five missions.[1] The also mode features never-before-seen weapons and equipment, including a machine pistol (which is dual-wielded like the M7), a teleportation armor ability, and a what appears to be a "cryo bomb" which emits a cloud that the Flood cannot penetrate.[37][39]

Appearances[edit]

Characters

UNSC

The following characters are only mentioned in pre-mission quotes:

  • Private Aaron Landvik (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Abbi Strand (First mentioned)
  • Sergeant Albert Sessa (First mentioned)
  • Private Alexandra Tran (First mentioned)[41]
  • Private Amber Penzak (First mentioned)
  • Private Andy Dimotta (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Benjamin Wallace (First mentioned)
  • Spartan Bethany Kossup (First mentioned)
  • Captain Brad Falkenrath (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Brendan Hale (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Caitlin De Sauveterre (First mentioned)[42]
  • Lieutenant Chandana Pasternack (First mentioned)[43]
  • Private Charlie Sultan (ODST) (First mentioned)
  • Private Christopher Olsen (First mentioned)
  • Corporal Craig Prinz (First mentioned)
  • Private Dave Moriarty (First mentioned)
  • Private Edward Levesque (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Elizabeth Kwan (First mentioned)[44]
  • Major Geraldine McNally (First mentioned)
  • Private Gerry Payne (First mentioned)
  • Private Guy Amjad (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Han Quigley (First mentioned)
  • Private Harold Amundsen (First mentioned)[45]
  • Sergeant Harry Benton (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Henry Darzi (First mentioned)
  • Private Jamie O'Neal (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Jim Nikolai (First mentioned)
  • Private John Rosenfeld (First mentioned)
  • Private Kelly Tremblay (First mentioned)
  • Sergeant Lindsay Asturias (First mentioned)[46]
  • Lieutenant Mark El-Hashem (First mentioned)
  • Sergeant Mary Russo (First mentioned)
  • Private Matt Salamanca (First mentioned)
  • Private Molly Markozi (First mentioned)
  • Private Monica Ernst (First mentioned)
  • Captain Nada Rand (First mentioned)
  • Private Nick Rhee (First mentioned)
  • Private First Class Nozomi Li (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Patton Liao (First mentioned)
  • Private Paul Voclain (First mentioned)
  • Private Peter Zhou (First mentioned)
  • Sergeant Ramone Dakota (First mentioned)
  • Commander Richard Moe (First mentioned)
  • Private Rob Petersen (First mentioned)
  • Private Roger Alfarsi (First mentioned)[47]
  • Private Samantha Hass (First mentioned)[48]
  • Lieutenant Sasha Wu (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Scott Pham (First mentioned)
  • Doctor Sheila Nerrivik (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Stefan Morris (First mentioned)
  • Lieutenant Tara Nguyen (First mentioned)[49]
  • Private Tom Siskino (First mentioned)
  • Sergeant Tom Winter (First mentioned)
  • Private Victor Quintana (First mentioned)[50]
Covenant

Species and entities

Locations

Events

Development[edit]

Design[edit]

Vanguard Games began development of Halo: Spartan Assault around April 2012 for the Windows 8 platform, before the announcement of Windows Surface.[53] During initial development, Vanguard experimented with several prototypes by bringing the traditional Halo first-person shooter experience to mobile devices, only to find the gameplay wholly unsuitable for the platform.[53] The game's AI system is managed by HAVOK, the same AI system management technology used in Halo 4.[54] The Microsoft Surface Pro version of the game runs at 60 frames-per-second; the Xbox One versions runs at the same frame rate with a native 1080p resolution.[37] The Windows Phone 8 and PC versions are locked at 30 FPS.[53] The game's top-down view and stylization result in an aesthetic very similar to that of Halo Wars.

Sandbox[edit]

The sandbox features weapons, vehicles, and armor styles from throughout the series' past. Most of the UNSC's arsenal from Halo 4 is represented in Spartan Assault; indeed, all but one usable UNSC weapon comes from Halo 4. The Covenant's arsenal is instead an eclectic mix of weapons from previous games, notably featuring the focus rifle and plasma repeater from Halo: Reach. Several vehicles and stationary weapons which originated in Halo Wars are virtually unchanged from their incarnations in that game, aside from improved textures. The Covenant Wraith and Banshee also appear to use their models from Halo Wars, evidenced by the former's plasma turret and the latter's canard layout.

Aside from Merg Vol, the Covenant species are based on their appearances in earlier media rather than their Halo 4 incarnations. Specifically, the Grunts, Elites, and Jackals have the physiology of their Halo: Reach counterparts and wear corresponding armor. The Brutes and Drones are instead represented with their designs from Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST.

Integration features with Halo 4[edit]

The game is closely integrated with the player's experience in Halo 4 where players can unlock experience points, new achievements, and an emblem for their Halo 4 account.[9] After purchasing the Champions Bundle Pack or the Bullseye Map Pack, the game will unlock:

  • The Striped (STP) skin for the DMR.
  • The Vision (VISN) skin for the Air Assault armor.
  • The Rush (RUSH) skin for the CIO armor.
  • A new stance called Determined.

Title update[edit]

On August 29, 2013, Operation F: Hydra was released in the form of a title update. Hydra includes five new missions as well as five new achievements, worth a total of 50 gamerpoints.[55]

Soundtrack[edit]

Main article: Halo: Spartan Assault Original Soundtrack

The Halo: Spartan Assault Original Soundtrack was released on July 18, 2013.[56] The soundtrack features 27 tracks and was composed by Tom Salta.[57]

Reception[edit]

Internet Sites
Reviewer Score
Destructoid 7/10
Eurogamer 7/10
IGN 6.7/10
VideoGamer.com 7/10
Magazines
GameInformer 8.25/10
Maximum PC 8/10
Metro 7/10
Pocket Gamer 9/10
PC Gamer US 58/100
Compilation Websites
Metacritic 71/100 (PC)
54/100 (XONE)
Game Rankings 68.7% (PC)
55.39% (XONE)

Halo: Spartan Assault generally received mixed reviews upon release; the game has a weighted aggregate rating of 71/100 on Metacritic, based on sixteen reviews.[58] Pocket Gamer's Harry Slater and Destructoid's Chris Carter wrote that while Spartan Assault was not going to be a Windows 8 "killer app", it was a worthwhile purchase for gamers on the Windows 8 platform. Carter stated "Despite its lack of any remarkable or "must have" features, it still manages to be a fairly decent top-down shooter."[59]

Multiple reviewers praised the game for its authentic Halo look and feel. Kyle Hillard from Game Informer called Spartan Assault "a true Halo game, even if the series’ signature scope and size are scaled down", with the game featuring familiar Halo moments, enemies, and sounds. Although the game's checkpoint system was criticised, with some critics claiming it to be nearly non-existent. Hillard stated that it was "Spartan Assault's big shortcoming".[60] Spartan Assault was criticised for being repetitive, dull and unmemorable. IGN's Dan Stapleton gave the game's Xbox One version a 5.8 out of 10 rating, stating "The top-down perspective turns the distinctive Halo arsenal into a bunch of pretty boring guns."[61]

The microtransaction features of Spartan Assault were generally negatively received. While reviewers such as Destructoid's Carter felt that the microtransactions could be ignored and did not impact enjoyment of the game,[59] Hillard wrote that "it’s hard not to feel as though an important part of the game is being withheld after buying into the agreed-upon price of admission."[60] IGN's Stapleton stated "the worst thing about Spartan Assault is its obnoxious microtransactions."[61]

Jake Valentine from GameZone gave the Xbox One version a less generous 5/10, stating "Halo: Spartan Assault is a soulless, boring, chore of a game. The small glimpses of fun arcade like gameplay are drowned away by frustration and money grabbing."[62]

Trivia[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Note[edit]

  1. ^ Roland was activated on December 5, 2557, roughly five months after the First Battle of Requiem, to replace Infinity's previous AI, Aine. The game's framing story thus takes place after the events of Halo 4's campaign, though when it occurs in relation to Spartan Ops is unclear. However, Halo: Escalation indicates that Infinity returned directly to Earth after Requiem's destruction, suggesting that the framing narrative takes place in the gap between Roland's creation and the Second Battle of Requiem.

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault Is Coming to Xbox One and Xbox 360
  2. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault Is Coming to Steam!
  3. ^ a b c d GameInformer: 343 Industries Reveals Halo: Spartan Assault
  4. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault
  5. ^ a b Xbox The Official Magazine - Halo: Spartan Assault is out now for Xbox One
  6. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault Release Date Revealed
  7. ^ a b Xbox.com - Halo: Spartan Assault
  8. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault for Xbox 360 Releases Tomorrow!
  9. ^ a b c d Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault
  10. ^ a b Halo: Spartan Assault Announce Trailer
  11. ^ Halo Waypoint: The Halo Bulletin 6.5.2012
  12. ^ Xbox The Official Magazine - Halo: Spartan Assault Xbox 360 now available on Xbox Live
  13. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault - Defend
  14. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo: Spartan Assault -Clear
  15. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Halo Initiation Writer Interview
  16. ^ Coming this summer: Windows Phone Blog A new Halo for Windows Phone 8
  17. ^ The PA Report: The next Halo game is coming to hardware you don’t have, and software you don’t want
  18. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, opening cutscene
  19. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault credits
  20. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Operation A: Umbra
  21. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Assault on CF-32
  22. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, The Mirror Mantle Counter-Assault
  23. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Reinforcement of the Perch
  24. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Live to Fight
  25. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Siege of Faraday
  26. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Hunt for the Sangheili Command
  27. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault - Operation C: Monolith
  28. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Escape from the Southern Fields
  29. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Defense of the Enemies' Airbase
  30. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Descend from the Perch
  31. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Assault on the Supply Lines
  32. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Superstructure Stand-off
  33. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Hunt for the Phantom
  34. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Infiltration of the Cult Leader's Base
  35. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault, Battle for the Moon
  36. ^ Halo: Spartan Assault - Operation F: Hydra
  37. ^ a b c d e Venturebeat: Mike Ellis interview
  38. ^ a b YouTube: Halo: Spartan Assault - Debut Gameplay Reveal
  39. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint: SPARTAN ASSAULT XBOX ONE - CO-OP
  40. ^ Vine.co - Xbox: Meet Roland, your A.I. guide in Halo: Spartan Assault
  41. ^ a b c YouTube - Halo Spartan Assault gameplay w/ 343i employee Jay Frechette (E3 2013)
  42. ^ YouTube - PC 1080p | Halo: Spartan Assault Gameplay
  43. ^ YouTube - Halo: Spartan Assault Launch Party Demo
  44. ^ YouTube - Halo: Spartan Assault on Surface Pro @E3 2013
  45. ^ YouTube - Halo: Spartan Assault On Surface RT gameplay
  46. ^ Youtube Halo Spartan Assault Walkthrough - Level A-1 (Part 1)
  47. ^ a b YouTube - Halo Spartan Assault Impressions (inc Gameplay)
  48. ^ YouTube - Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows Phone 8 @E3 2013
  49. ^ a b c YouTube - E3 2013: Halo Spartan Assault
  50. ^ YouTube - vgBR na E3 2013 - Gameplay de Halo Spartan Assault
  51. ^ YouTube, Halo: Spartan Assault Reveal Trailer
  52. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint: Halo: Spartan Assault Achievements
  53. ^ a b c Windows Phone Central: Halo Spartan Assault coming mid-July, will include future game updates
  54. ^ Havok: Havok’s AI Technology Powering Halo: Spartan Assault on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8
  55. ^ Halo Waypoint, New Halo: Spartan Assault Achievements Released
  56. ^ Soundtrack.net - Halo: Spartan Assault
  57. ^ TomSalta.com: Tom Salta provides the original score to Halo: Spartan Assault
  58. ^ Metacritic - Halo: Spartan Assault for PC Reviews
  59. ^ a b Destructoid - Review: Spartan Assault
  60. ^ a b Game Informer - Review
  61. ^ a b IGN - Halo: Spartan Assault Xbox One Review
  62. ^ GameZone - Halo: Spartan Assault Review: Nickel and Dime

External links[edit]