The next Halo game is coming to hardware you don’t have, and software you don’t want
Halo: Spartan Assault is a 3D, top-down twin-stick shooter-style look at the Halo universe. It allows the player to recreate famous Halo battles through a kind of a simulator, so you’re actually a player who is playing as a player who is playing a video game. The game consists of simulations of battles that already took place, meaning there is not actually anything at stake when you play the game, which kind of diminishes the importance of… well, everything. Victory is a foregone conclusion. Nothing will happen in the game's world if you lose.
The game is coming to the Windows Phone, Surface Tablets, and PCs running Windows 8, which means I won’t have the hardware needed to play it, and it’s likely that many other gamers are going to fall into the same boat. I understand Microsoft’s need to push its own products, but there is no reason the game couldn’t run on Windows 7 systems, and ignoring the iOS and Android tablets and phones instantly relegates the game to also-ran status.
I had the chance to get my hands on the game at a recent Microsoft event, and it just confirmed my feelings that virtual twin-stick controls are barely tolerable. It was hard to move and fire with any precision. Throwing grenades felt random and imprecise. The Surface tablet was too heavy to hold in my hands while playing, and there was no comfortable way to set it down while continuing to use the virtual controls. There was a version of the game on Windows Phone, but Microsoft reps didn’t seem keen on letting us try it. I can’t imagine trying to ram all those controls onto a phone’s screen.
The game will feature microtransactions, because of course it will, but I was told that you’ll be able to grind through the game to earn anything that can be bought. There will be no controller support at launch, although it will be patched in later.
The game certainly looks good, but the visuals and presentation are just about the only things it has going for it. There is absolutely not multiplayer in the game, it is a single-player only experience. That's disappointing for a series that has multiplayer in its DNA.
It's very possible that you own a Windows 8 PC and this looks good to you, or you're a big Windows Phone fan, but both products have met with a somewhat chilly reception from fans, and Microsoft's attempts to artificially limit the reach of this game to try to convince you to upgrade is a losing strategy.
There are probably talented men and women who worked on this game, but virtual controls were a terrible idea for a game that is known for high-quality combat. This game seems designed to push hardware more than make series fans happy; there is only so much you can do when the design is flawed conceptually.
If Microsoft wanted to convince us that it takes the PC seriously as a gaming platform, it would have brought Halo 4 to the PC, or even Halo Anniversary. This is a hobbled compromise of a game, and will make few gamers happy.
Halo: Spartan Assault is coming to Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Surface Tablets this July for an estimate price of $6.99. If you buy it on the PC you can play it with a mouse and keyboard, but it's not launching with controller support because shut up and enjoy the variety of terrible control schemes Microsoft is forcing you to tolerate.
This is one long facepalm.