The Xbox One will never been as powerful as a PC, but they now share a few things in common. Not only is the previously Window’s 8 exclusive Halo: Spartan Assault now available for download on Xbox One, but the title supports a nuisance that is the bane of every PC gamer’s existence since the dawn of PC gaming – HaloSpartanAssault.exe has stopped working.
Okay, maybe it’s not as dramatic as a pop-up message hindering your progress, but it’s just as infuriating. To date, Halo: Spartan Assault is the first console game that has crashed on me in mid-game and sent me back to the home menu. This happened two times in one sitting on different levels. Granted, it’s nowhere near as frequent as it could be, but fact it happened twice is in a single sitting is still unforgivable.
Halo: Spartan Assault (Xbox One [Reviewed], Xbox 360, Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 PC)
Developer: 343 Industries / Vanguard Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: July 24, 2013
I would be able to at least attempt to forgive the crashing if Halo: Spartan Assault was actually good, but that’s sadly not the case. On the Xbox One, Spartan Assault feels like a tablet game in a higher resolution with next to no console refinement – which is exactly what it is. The controls are nowhere near as fluid as they should be for a twin-stick shooter. I admire the attempt at making the game feel tactical, but the slowly paced gameplay prevents Spartan Assault from being any fun.
Aiming your gun slows down your movement speed, assumably so you can better aim – but if you are up against multiple enemies or vehicles, you feel like more like a sitting target than a super solider. However, you never feel overwhelmed by the opposing force like in most other twin-stick shooters. Sure, at some points there are more than a handful on the screen, but most of the time there will only be a couple at a time. Thanks to the slow movement speed while aiming, those few enemies can end up being a pain since they aren’t hindered by the poor mechanics. Instead of attacking you in great numbers, their piss-poor AI will do all the grunt work for them. Enemies will run around aimlessly for easy kills, sit still, or bombard the shit out of you – all depending on how they feel at the time. The bipolar nature of the AI isn’t exclusive to enemies, but bleeds over into the friendly AI as well. During the beloved escort missions, the friendlies will throw themselves under the convoy, only to get up and do it again.
You get no extra lives, so a single death means you have to restart the mission. Luckily, missions are short affairs that shouldn’t last you more than a couple minutes. I don’t mind replaying missions on my own accord, because the background scenery is one of Spartan Assault’s only redeeming factors, but dying because you brushed up against the side of a stationary enemy vehicle makes retrying the entire mission a pain in the ass.
I know there’s a lot of bad to say about the game, but the worst part of Spartan Assault is the purposely broken economy. After completing each level, you are rewarded a measly amount of EXP to use to buy weapons for the next level. Although, in theory, you can unlock everything in the game using earned credits, the excruciatingly painful progression will prevent you from caring enough to go into any battle with more than the default loadout. This broken economy system is likely caused by the inclusion of microtransactions. If you don’t want to pull your hair out trying to get enough EXP to unlock a rocket launcher for the level, you can always pull your hair out and lose even more money in the process. Even if you buy the items with real money, they aren’t yours. Everything is a one-time, single level purchase, meaning that once you die or complete the level, that item is gone until you spend EXP or real money again. Yeah, this is one of those games.
While I can’t seem to get excited over the Halo series like I used to, I’ll still play every game in the series and try to enjoy them. I love the lore and everything done to date has been serviceable, but Spartan Assault manages to shit on Halo’s wonderful track record. It’s riddled with little problems upon little problems, and you don’t have to be a math major to know that headaches added on top of boring gameplay doesn’t equal an enjoyable experience. If Spartan Assault does anything right, it’s prove that the Halo namesake can’t save a game from mediocrity.