sastartWe’ve been waiting a little over a month, but it’s finally arrived. Yes, Halo: Spartan Assault is here! The game appeared on the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 stores a little after midnight last night, so I managed to try out a handful of missions. I chose to get the game on my Surface RT to enjoy it on a larger screen.

For those that haven’t been paying attention, Spartan Assault is a Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8-exclusive top-down twin-stick shooter in the vein of Robotron – that is, you control your character’s movement with your left stick (well, thumb) and weapon direction and firing with your right. That’s not all there is to it though; this being a Halo game, you also have access to melee attacks and grenades (I’ve seen frags and sticky plasma ‘nades so far) which are activated by buttons around the edge of the screen. Spartan Assault also contains all the usual Halo weaponry, and you also carry two guns at once as in the full console FPS titles, with the ability to swap with defeated enemies or pick up new weaponry you find along the way. The game also features Halo 4-style loadouts and the series’ trademark skulls:

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The weapons I’ve used so far (including the iconic pistol and MA5 rifle) are all instantly recognisable from their console counterparts, right down to their sound effects, and it’s nice to see that the pistol is typically overpowered here too. If that’s not enough, you can of course climb into Covenant Shade turrets or use their UNSC equivalents where you find them to cut the enemy to ribbons in seconds.

Spartan Assault also features a large selection of Halo vehicles, with one early mission giving you a Covenant Wraith and tasking you with taking out a handful of their anti-air variants, and another requiring extraction by Hornet. Covenant dropships are a constant presence on the battlefield (with the old Spirit ‘tuning forks’ returning again), dropping off more enemies for you to take down, and I’d be surprised if I go too long without a Warthog making an appearance.

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The game is set between Halos 3 and 4 and intends to illuminate a bit of the backstory concerning Halo 4 supporting character Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer (ably voiced by the wonderful Jennifer Hale in that game) – she of “Crimson” fame. It takes the form of a combat simulator hosted by Roland, the AI of the UNSC Infinity, who is using it as a Spartan training exercise – by studying Palmer’s past victories, he hopes to increase their tactical awareness for the future. Spartan Assault offers 25 missions across five chapters (with the promise of more levels to come in the form of updates), and it certainly nails the look and feel of a Halo game; not only does it look and play very nicely, the music is of a typically high standard and includes plenty of familiar themes and motifs. This may be a mobile spin-off, but it’s definitely still a Halo game.

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Halo: Spartan Assault is available now for Windows 8 (£4.99) and Windows Phone 8 (£5.49). The Windows 8 version will play across any machines running the OS, whether Pro or RT – indeed, I bought it on my Surface RT, then downloaded it on my laptop at no extra charge. The WP8 version is for 1GB RAM devices only at this time, and is unfortunately a separate purchase, but your saves and progress will carry across all versions of the game. Controller support will be coming to the Windows 8 version in August, as will a version for 512MB RAM WP8 devices.

Screenshots taken directly from my Surface RT

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