Halo 3 ended with the humans and the Covenant forces signing a ceasefire, but in Halo 4 the two sides are again at odds. Spartan Assault tells the story of how that peace came to an end. You play as Spartan Sarah Palmer, who features in Halo 4 and was key to that game’s episodic component, Spartan Ops.
Structured similarly to that series, Spartan Assault maintains the high standards you’ve come to expect from the franchise. And it comes close to delivering a console-quality experience.
The entire five-episode game is divided into short segments that take just a few minutes to play; ideal for the typical mobile gamer who plays in short bursts. Depending on how well you complete the segment you’ll earn bronze, silver, or gold stars. And you can replay the episodes with various difficulties turned on for experience point bonuses.
Those experience points and credits, which are earned and can be purchased with real money from within the game, are currency for equipment upgrades.
Where Spartan Assault stumbles is with its controls. The game is designed so that you hold your touch screen device with your thumbs in the bottom corners, manipulating the virtual thumbsticks.
That works fine if you’re playing on a Windows Phone, but when playing it on a heavier tablet, like the Surface I tested it on, that’s just not possible. Instead, I played it with the Surface on a table, using my index fingers instead of my thumbs.
On August 29, an update will be released that adds five missions, permits the purchase of power weapons using XP (previously only real money could be used), and allows players to use an Xbox 360 controller to play the game.
If you’re playing on a Windows 8 computer, opt for the mouse and keyboard controls instead, which provide the precision that a shooter requires.
(Platforms: Microsoft; Windows Phone 8, Windows 8. ESRB rating: Teen)