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Hands-on with Halo: Spartan Assault on Windows 8, Phone 8

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 15 comments

Finally, a PC Halo title. But is this the one you've been waiting for?

Despite Bungie no longer being in the picture, Halo remains Microsoft's strongest gaming franchise thanks to excellent work by 343 Industries. This is great if you're an Xbox gamer, but the series hasn't graced the PC since Halo 2. Soon Halo will be back on the PC, but it won't be the game that you're expecting.

We went hands-on with Halo: Spartan Assault at E3, which was being demonstrated on both Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and Windows Phone 8 handsets. Given the form factors of choice and the version for mobile, you can probably already guess that it's not going to be the usual Halo experience. Rather, Halo: Spartan Assault is a twin stick shooter, where the left control stick controls movement and the right stick directs weapon fire. Of course, given that there are no thumb sticks on either the tablet or phone, it'll be virtual controls on the touch screen.

We first played the Surface Pro version, and found the visuals true to the Halo universe. The game appeared to be running at the Surface Pro's native full HD 1920x1080 resolution, so while the images were sharp, the weren't setting any new standards through the Intel integrated graphics HD 4000.

Gamers can play as either Sarah Palmer or the new Spartan Davis. Gameplay wise, it's a simple twin stick shooter. Those who have played other Halo games will appreciate experiencing the universe from a less-often-seen perspective (other than in Halo Wars), but there's a lot less depth in the gameplay variety and even the enemy AI.

Controls could be a matter of opinion. Ours is that twin stick shooters feel best when played with real twin sticks, so playing through the touch screen was less than ideal. Luckily, given that this is running on Windows 8, gamers can plug in an Xbox 360 controller and then everything is right again. Those playing the Windows Phone 8 version, however, won't have such a luxury.

The Windows Phone 8 version was very similar, feeling much like a miniaturized experience from the Surface Pro. The biggest loss was the graphical clarity, which is a given when going from a 1080p screen to 720p. That said, the pixel density is greater on the phone, but there was still a perceived drop in detail, which leads us to suspect that the game could be internally rendered at an even lower resolution and then upscaled to the screen. Unfortunately, this is something that we were unable to confirm on the show floor.

Halo: Spartan Assault won't be a major addition to the franchise, but it will probably be the biggest budget top-down twin stick shooter to date. What's truly puzzling is why this isn't going to be available on Xbox Live Arcade, which is the ideal platform for something like this. Perhaps it's going to be only on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 for the same reason that every Halo game since Halo 2 was kept only on Xbox – a reason continues to elude us.

Halo Spartan Assault

 

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  • 0 Hide
    bison88 , June 13, 2013 7:24 PM
    Microsoft been trolling the Halo and PC community for awhile now. I don't think this surprises anyone, but at least its more than what we'd expect.
  • 0 Hide
    bison88 , June 13, 2013 7:24 PM
    Microsoft been trolling the Halo and PC community for awhile now. I don't think this surprises anyone, but at least its more than what we'd expect.
  • 0 Hide
    nevilence , June 13, 2013 7:39 PM
    would be a bit of token fun, but for all of us out there who dont have a windows phone or tab, its much like the xbox one and an internet connection, if you dont have one...stiff shit
  • 0 Hide
    anxiousinfusion , June 13, 2013 11:34 PM
    Stop splintering the gaming community with exclusives.
  • 0 Hide
    Vlad Razvan , June 14, 2013 1:53 AM
    "given that this is running on Windows 8, gamers can plug in an Xbox 360 controller and then everything is right again" - that's your opinion. I find console controllers clumsy and uncomfortable. The text should read: "given that this is running on Windows 8, gamers can plug in a keyboard and mouse and then everything is right again".
  • 0 Hide
    Larry Bob , June 14, 2013 3:14 AM
    Now that we have Windows 8 which is supposed to UNIFY PLATFORMS why don't we have Halo on PC (or Xbox for Windows, whatever it's called now)

    Amused to see 8 not doing its job very well.
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , June 14, 2013 3:27 AM
    Microsoft should've put everything it can into the Halo PC franchise just to see what specs the Halo One REALLY needed.
  • 0 Hide
    hannibal , June 14, 2013 3:45 AM
    Quote:
    Now that we have Windows 8 which is supposed to UNIFY PLATFORMS why don't we have Halo on PC (or Xbox for Windows, whatever it's called now)

    Amused to see 8 not doing its job very well.


    You really want to have pure Metro win8 version of halo in PC? It may actually happen if you really hope it. Games that does work in Modern UI but not in normal desktop. Wellcome to the bright future of gaming!

    ;-)
  • 0 Hide
    gopher1369 , June 14, 2013 5:58 AM
    "The text should read: "given that this is running on Windows 8, gamers can plug in a keyboard and mouse and then everything is right again".


    I don't understand, Vlad, how would you control a twin thumbstick shooter with a keyboard and mouse?
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 14, 2013 6:31 AM
    So accusing MS of trolling the Halo franchise, but Sony is perfectly OK in trolling 15 iterations of Final Fantasy? Methinks some people round here are fanbois
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 14, 2013 6:46 AM
    This game may not be on Xbox marketplace, but that does not mean it won't be available for Xbox One
  • 0 Hide
    WithoutWeakness , June 14, 2013 7:56 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Now that we have Windows 8 which is supposed to UNIFY PLATFORMS why don't we have Halo on PC (or Xbox for Windows, whatever it's called now)

    Amused to see 8 not doing its job very well.


    You really want to have pure Metro win8 version of halo in PC? It may actually happen if you really hope it. Games that does work in Modern UI but not in normal desktop. Wellcome to the bright future of gaming!

    ;-)


    I don't know why it would be bad for games to "work in Modern UI but not in normal desktop". If I have Windows 8 and I'm playing a game then I have it running full screen. I don't see why it would be an issue if it was launched from the Desktop or the Start Screen. Either way works. Games won't inherently look or perform worse just because they were launched from the Start Screen.
  • 0 Hide
    WithoutWeakness , June 14, 2013 8:09 AM
    Quote:
    So accusing MS of trolling the Halo franchise, but Sony is perfectly OK in trolling 15 iterations of Final Fantasy? Methinks some people round here are fanbois


    He's saying Microsoft are trolling PC gamers by only releasing Halo titles on the Xbox when they've also been dominating the PC gaming platform the whole time and are seemingly ignoring their PC audience. Halo: CE and Halo 2 were released for Games for Windows but after that everything was Xbox exclusives. Nobody cares that the games weren't released for PS2/3 or Nintendo consoles but when Microsoft ignores their faithful PC gaming audience to release their largest, most popular, and most lucrative franchise exclusively on their console all the PC gamers start to feel ignored. Many of us purchased Xboxes and Live subscriptions solely for the purpose of playing Halo with friends. Now that the Xbox One essentially runs PC hardware and an x86 OS you would expect it would be easy to port their most popular games to PC and double-dip on market share while keeping their games off of competetors' consoles. In reality, we'll continue to see first-party Microsoft published titles as Xbox exclusives and PC gamers will be given silly knock off titles like the one this article is about.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 14, 2013 8:48 AM
    Well, until the Xbox One is released, you won't know if the whole Halo back catalogue will be re-released as a port and if they do because of the similar architecture I would not be surprised if there were a cross-platform release to PC as well with Windows 8 gamers vs Xbox One gamers - all the hate is very pre-emptive and stinks of fanboism at this point
  • 0 Hide
    ojas , June 14, 2013 10:35 AM
    I thought for a second this was some sort of halo wars reboot.