- May 4, 2013
The Halo series is surprisingly well-suited for life as a twin-stick shooter. After all, part of the fun of the Spartan existence is knowing that you'll be tackling overwhelming odds - and that you'll be encouraged to ad lib and rely on the occasional moment of dumb luck as you manage the hordes surrounding you. It's hardly a shock, then, that Halo: Spartan Assault turns out to be an entertaining, if fairly throwaway, top-down blaster. Grunts flock and scatter, Elites hang back before charging and, while those famous jumping skills are MIA, most of your other supersoldier abilities have made the transition from first-person shooters intact.
Spartan Assault plays out as a series of historical missions culled from a UNSC training simulator and, conceit aside, it's business as usual. Switching between two different Spartans, it's your job to see off an invasion from a splinter sect of the Covenant who are moving in on a buried Forerunner artefact. The lore's on point, but Microsoft's made the controls a little more of a mess than they should be. On Surface and Windows 8 phones, you've got standard floating virtual thumbsticks and buttons aided by a gentle lock-on. It's a little fiddly at first on the former - and it might be a bit of a squish on the latter - yet this is probably the best way of approaching an imperfect situation.
On Windows 8 PC, however, players are left to move with WASD and aim with the mouse, while gamepad support is promised in the near future. The current set-up turns out to be acceptable for everything except steering bigger, slower vehicles like the Scorpion tank, which always seems to want to travel in a diagonal line that requires holding down two keys at once. Other PC titles have sometimes opted for this sort of thing too, of course, but, with Microsoft handling the publishing, Spartan Assault really shouldn't have launched like this - and it won't truly feel like a proper twin-stick until the pad has been patched in.