Assaulting the Covenant in the new top down Halo Shooter

The following review is for the XBOX360 edition of Halo Spartan Assault.

Title: Halo Spartan AssaultHalo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover
Developer: Vanguard Games and 343 Industries
Distributor: Microsoft
Cost: $20 on XBOX Live

Length: Between 4 and 6 hours

Rating (out of 10): 6

Pros:
-Nice graphics
-Frequent action
-The return of some sweet firepower
-Kick ass vehicles

Cons:
-Frustrating glitches
-Vehicles often handle like a double-decker bus
-No checkpoints

Who reading this remembers that McDonalds advert about a decade back with the slogan ‘things that make you go Mmmmm’? In the case of Halo Spartan Assault and the many glitches that can be associated with it, the slogan should most definitely be ‘things that make you go Arrrrrrrggggghhhh!’

Now, normally I begin a review by discussing the finer points I enjoyed about a title before moving onto the more irritable aspects, but with this particular Halo game, I simply cannot. When it comes to this gaming franchise, to say I am an adoring fan would be putting it mildly. So when another Halo game with 343 and Microsoft written all over it was released, I had expected to play something that was going to enthrall me for days on end.

Upon downloading this game from XBOX Live I knew there was trouble. The download kept freezing and shutting down, forcing me to restart, and after consulting a number of forums, I found I was not the only one who experienced this annoyance. However, the hits just kept on coming.

Spartan Assault is separated into six chapters, each containing five levels. For the first four chapters I was continuously followed around by a shroud of darkness that came in the shape of an error which caused the game to freeze, lock-up, and then automatically shut down. Any progress I had made in the level was irrefutably lost, and what made matters worse was the irritable fact that the problem happened to almost always occur whilst undertaking the final mission in a level.

From chapter five onwards the errors became less frequent, but lost none of their annoyance when they did occasionally happen. Other issues included the use of the left trigger, used to initiate a power up. Now, I did acknowledge that a cool down period was required after every use, but even after that had expired, I could press the button until my hair grew long and bushy and still see no affect. There was one moment where I lost my entire shield as I kept hitting the key, hoping for something to occur.

On a less than paramount note, there were additional issues with the sound and music, which could occasionally grow softer, and even drop out entirely for a short time period.

Moving on, as previously mentioned, the game itself is not terribly long, going for between 4 and 6 hours, however, if you include the hours in which you are pulling out your hair and shouting profanities at the screen, it might go for a little longer.

The graphics look pretty darn attractive, especially when you consider that this game was originally made only for a mobile device. Everything stands out in gorgeously vivid colour, which aids in bringing the environments and enemies to life, and if you’re anything like me, you may in fact be pleasantly surprised.

Furthermore, the controls for this title are fairly easy to master; the left stick is used for movement and the right controls the aim, and whatever direction you point in is where your firepower will be focused. The same goes for vehicles, however I noticed that these controls are especially touchy, and more so when using Covenant class vehicles, the Ghost moving a full 180 degrees with the tiniest of nudges.

Although this can be annoying, the vehicles have lost none of their firepower, however their strength and armor is considerably less that you may remember from other titles. New vehicles, including the Wolverines and a double barreled Scorpion though are incredibly impressive, and must be seen to be believed.

You will first notice when beginning the game the lack of any difficulty setting. Although the first couple levels basically play themselves, the game becomes exponentially challenging as your proceed, and the lack of checkpoints becomes almost painful in the later levels. Although every level is not exactly long, the sheer number of enemies you encounter further into the game, and their vehicular and turret allies, do not make this any easier. On a lighter note, the challenge does make it all the more enjoyable, and causes the relatively short experience to last just that little bit longer.

The challenge can be further beefed up by initiating skulls, much like in other Halo games, although the number available are very limiting. Spartan Assault does come equipped with two new additions, including Hollow, which allows players to have only a shield (when it drops, so too do you) and Pacifist, where every bullet you fire also depletes your shield. Two skulls can be active at any given time.

Over the course of the game you encounter a mass of Grunts, Jackals and Elites (including Commanders and Zealots), along with the occasional Brute and Chieftain (whose hammer works a lot like a nuclear bomb – there’s no survivors when it comes crashing down). There are however no Hunters, and perhaps the player should only be too glad for that, although funnily enough, on the front cover of the game, there is, you guessed it, a Hunter. False advertising much?

The human weapons include every kind found in the original Halo, with newer varieties including the Battle Rifle, Rail gun and SAW taking a day off, although dual SMG’s are occasionally available. Covenant weapons offer very little in variety, and include only the Plasma Pistol and the Needler, along with two weapons from Reach; the Plasma Rotator and Focus Rifle, a number of the weapons sounding exactly as they do in the Halo franchise.

Strangely enough there is no reload key, and the weapons will continue to fire until all ammo has been exhausted. On top of this, Covenant weapons which ran on a battery during the other Halo games can be rejuvenated of their ammo supply simply by walking over a dropped weapon – nifty!

Along with the weapons, players are able to use a power-up, including known favorites; sprint, active camouflage, auto-sentry, etc, along with a couple of new ones, such as the stun blast (which does as its name suggests), seeker drone (which chases after an enemy and blows up), over-shield (fans of slayer will know of this gorgeous thing) and rejuvenation (a bubble shield device).Moreover, there are the boosters, which can temporarily increase the health or damage implemented, or even increase the number of points received.

Yes, you read that right – points. In every level the player acquires points for everything they do, which is greatly increased from receiving awards (fans of Firefight will know of these). At the end of each level these are tallied, and you can receive one of three awards (bronze, silver, gold), which increase the number of points that you have for the next level. These you can use to buy items that will last only for the following level, and you can swap these out for credits to upgrade the general proficiency, however you need to be online to enact this ability.

Over the course of Spartan Assault, you play as both Sarah Palmer (from Halo 4) and Spartan Davis, as you attempt to thwart a new Covenant threat from a rogue faction that have ignored the Human-Covenant cease fire enacted after the events of Halo 3. The game predominately takes place on Draetheus V, and its moon, X-50, and is told from the point of view of Roland, the Infinity AI, who is providing this information as a guide to future Spartan soldiers to learn from, so, rather than happening in real time, the game is basically a history lesson that you experience inside a simulator.

More often than not you work alongside a group of both Spartan and human marines, although during the most difficult stages of the game you are almost always alone. Missions are occasionally repetitive, and range from killing or destroying specific targets; defending an area from attack; protecting particular individuals; or assaulting an enemy stronghold, to name a few.

There are a couple of occasions which are specifically unique to Spartan Assault. As an example, I personally had always thought that seeing an Elite wielding two energy swords would be pretty awesome. After having to fight an epic boss that utilised this particular skill, I can assure you, it surely is not!

However, even these few unique moments to this top down shooter are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of the game, and half the time when your heart is racing as you fight the fourth Wraith you encountered in a level, it is not because you are afraid of dying; it is because you are afraid the game is going to automatically shut down. Although this is a nice attempt at a new Halo experience, fans of the series do not want nice; they want amazing, and frankly, so do I. Halo has proven itself time and time again to be a franchise that will continue to live on, but this game here does little to strengthen this notion.

Image link: http://static2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130812032133/halo/images/a/ac/Halo_Spartan_Assault_HD_Cover.jpg

Kiss your Majesty goodbye in the new Halo 4 DLC!

Map Pack: Majestic

Size: approximately 400 megabytes

Levels: 4

Release Date: 25th of February in the Northern hemisphere, 26th in the South

Landfall:

This medium sized map has unbelievably detailed graphics which efficaciously cause the city to come to life in mythic detail. To further accentuate the overall feel of the city under dire threat, Covenant forces have attacked in full, with capital ships visible in the background decimating buildings left and right. Huge fires cover the horizon, with mushroom clouds of smoke gliding across the air. Human civilian transports rush into the battlefield to pick up stranded refugees, before moving out as quickly as they arrived, with two Broadswords located just outside the map, ready to help reinforce the depleting numbers of hardened marines battling for the safety of the planet.

Photo-0004

Within the realm of the map, the word ‘evacuate’ moves across computerised screens in bold yellow letters, furthering the idea in the mind of the player that the city is under massive threat. But so too are you, the player, within the multiplayer map. There are many tight corners and corridors across the map which will inevitably cause one too many close calls and tight fight sequences to take place. Explosive ordinances are left lying about the map, which can advantageously assist players in dispatching weakened opposition. The lack of any good vantage point, with the exception of two separate corners prevents those who would normally prefer to camp out the inability to acquire those perfect head shots from the view of a sniper scope.

Landfall is one of those rare few maps that is great for any occasion, whether you are into hardcore deathmatch or team based games the likes of capture the flag.

Monolith:

For its name, Monolith is not quite as gargantuan as one might have initially believed upon seeing its title; in reality it is a moderately sized map that is suited to almost any specific game type.

Reminiscent of previous maps in the Halo 4 game the likes of Erosion and Impact, this particular map is located within an asteroid field, with two specific bases located at either end, even the rocky surface of the ground you fight upon changing colours to alert you to which base you happen to be stumbling into. The walls and general feel of the entire map is reflective of a forerunner facility long abandoned and left forgotten in the vast blackness of outer space, repurposed now for the means of terminating battling Spartans.

Unlike other maps, upon entry into the game, vast quantities of ordinances appear immediately to help accommodate the player lusting for a better weapon than the conventional AR5.

There are a number of jump pads located in front of either base, which can be used to effectively avoid enemies and quickly move from one location to the next without fear of being targeted for assault. Jump pads positioned at the rear of either base are perfect for sneaking up on opposition undetected, which can hinder those attempting to snipe targets making their way towards their base. Although the map offers fantastic vantage points to overlook the surrounding area at either base of operations, the rear jump pads offer your opponent the potential chance of assassinating you just as effortlessly.

Skyline:

For those familiar with the Citadel in Mass Effect, in particular, the second game of the trilogy, Skyline will no doubt make you feel right at home. The distorted sound of the voice over crackling over the communication transmitter beckons you into this futuristic civilisation in the dead of night. Looming over the city from one of the many far corners of the civilised planet, the player is given the spectacular vantage point to see a vast quantity of choppers and other like transport gliding through the air in the distance, whilst other vehicles quickly rush across the freeways below.

The sound of beeping terminals and the flashing of computers further immerses you into this living, breathing civilisation yet to be touched by the malicious hand of the Covenant war machine.

halo 3

This relatively small map which is suited best for accommodating players interested in participating in deathmatches, comes equipped with two floors, the upper providing the player with the unfair advantage of easily targeting the opposition running about on the lower deck. Although stairs can be used to defeat the purpose of the advantages of the players who occupy the top most floor of the structure, jump pads are just as easy as getting this done.

Additionally, for those on the lower floor, you will more often than not feel more like a rat in a maze than a Spartan super soldier, whilst those who overlook the lower floor can quickly jump from one side to the next due to the vast number of objects which stick up that can be used as unconventional bridges to help those on the upper floor track those on the bottom.

Vortex:

This is the only large map accommodating vehicles which comes in this particular DLC. Unfortunately, you the player may feel somewhat cheated, for the map will no doubt remind you of Solace in more ways than one. Unlike the former map mentioned, where at times it was difficult to spot enemies in the vast number of vantage points within the map, Vortex has a more structured feel to it, and is especially great at supporting those wishing to play a team based game the likes of capture the flag.

As previously mentioned, this map supports vehicles, however I did not specify how many; safe to say, if you love Halo vehicles, then this map is for you, because if you can’t find a vehicle in this, you are certainly not looking hard enough. Warthogs are positioned in front of either base and along the sides, with additional Ghosts and Mongooses to support these. In the centre of the map a Warthog with a rocket launcher attachment is up for grabs to either team, whilst the strongest vehicle on the battlefield is the Wraith, hidden away to the side.

The building in the centre positioned over the top of the central Warthog is reminiscent more of Covenant technology than the bases which are representative of historical Forerunner facilities. Here at the central compound, weapon turrets overlook the bases, with the red base in particular being in sight of one of the turrets, which can be used by the opposing team to wipe out the enemy forces as they waltz out from the base and onto the map proper. With this particular building and the sheer size of the map in general, this particular battlefield is a great place to hone those sniper skills of yours upon a long distance rifle being deployed into the map.

For those unfortunate enough not to have a vehicle (for instance, those running about the map with an enemy flag), the few jump pads can be used to increase the distance between Spartans running about the map on foot and those in hot pursuit in vehicles. Of course, the side passages, especially one covered with cacti on the right side (the left when moving out from the red base) are perfect for avoiding vehicular manslaughter and a vast majority of foot traffic in the process as well, with most of the firing taking place in the centre of the map which is essentially a kill zone for any not fast enough to outmanoeuvre stronger combatants.

On a final note, entering enemy bases is relatively easy, and judging by their abnormally small size, acquiring whatever is mandatory for successful completion of the game is just as simple – it’s getting out alive that is the hard part. Safe to say, this is one match worth playing for anyone wishing to participate in a Halo team building exercise.

At A Glance: Halo 4’s Multiplayer

 

The last post I published upon my blog was my impression on the single player campaign found within the new addition to the gaming franchise, Halo. Now, I wish to take a look at the multiplayer features. True, single player is an important part of the franchise, but multiplayer compatibility has become one of the single most popular and addictive aspects of gaming today.

For those of you who remember the multiplayer matches that were associated with Halo Reach, you will clearly remember that they were, in a word, disappointing. The maps were clear cut designs taken directly from the game. One however does not have to fear the same issue appearing in the new Halo game, with 343 Industries focusing especially on the multiplayer aspects in many of the interviews and previews they were showcasing before the game’s official release.

In Halo 4, the multiplayer can be found under the title of ‘Infinity’ the name of the UNSC Spartan super carrier. The multiplayer features of this new instalment are surrounded by a back-story; to keep their skills sharp, the Spartans on board the vessel continuously engage in ‘War Games’; where they upload themselves into holographic interfaces and fight one another in tactical game play, so they are expertly prepared for whatever is awaiting them on the battlefield.

Now, not only is this a new addition to the multiplayer system, but adjunctive changes have being applied as well. One, is the system of altering your general character. In Halo Reach, one had to earn credits to purchase new bits and pieces from the Spartan Armoury to beef your Spartan up with new pieces of equipment to make their physicality more, in a word, awesome. Playing the campaign and the multiplayer features of the game allowed the gamer to acquire points to spend, and additionally allowed them to ascend to higher militarised ranks which further unlocked new equipment, from helmets, to leggings, and even voice talent.

In Halo 4, the credit system no longer applies, but the rank capability certainly does. One will immediately find that almost everything is locked off, and by successfully completing multiplayer based battles, the gamer will be able to ascend to higher militarised ranks within the Spartan Program, and hence unlock new equipment and features that can then be applied to your character.

Another new feature are load outs. Players who couldn’t get enough of Firefight in Halo Reach might remember the automatic load outs that one could select from upon spawning. In Halo 4, one can gain access to load outs by completing sections of the multiplayer campaign, and can even design their own, which makes the game far more hands on and therefore, more fun, allowing you to begin any match any way that you want.

Now, on the subject of Firefight, that is another change which has being implemented; simply put, there isn’t one available with this particular new instalment. This may be considerably disappointing to some gamers, however, the replacement is the newly formed Spartan Ops, an XBOX Live only game where players sign in and complete operations together in teams, many of the missions having some reminiscence of the single player campaign. Although I myself have had very little experience with this particular game type, 343 Industries is promising much more variety in the coming weeks as other matches become available on Live, and the general speculation from many reviews is that such content will be unbelievably awesome.

Moving back to War Games, there are an additional three new game types; Dominion, Regicide and Extraction, along with the return of the Flood game type from Halo 3. Flood has being altered however, and now when someone officially becomes a member of the parasitic team, they completely change into a creature, rather than continuing to retain their Spartan appearance.

Other changes include small new designs with game types, including the ability to carry the flag with a pistol in Capture the Flag, and have unlimited ammunition for your side arm, allowing you to blow away bad guys from afar, whilst smacking them with the flag if they wish to pry it from your fingers. Oddball also comes equipped with the ability to throw the ball to team members, which means that when one is near death, they can attempt to throw it to fellow team members as to ensure it stays on their side for a period of longevity, rathe than having it fall immediately into the hands of the enemy. There is also of course the many new weapons, which add a new flavour to the fight. Trying to dodge rounds from the new Promethean weapons which can eviscerate you with a single hit (especially from the Incineration Cannon and Binary Rifle) is incredibly challenging, and the new ‘no grenades in the map’ policy (unless you specifically alter your map capabilities and change such a fixture), makes grenades more precious than ever before, the days when you could throw them around willy nilly being long gone.

Another change, like with the grenades, are the weapons themselves. As previously mentioned, grenades in Halo4 multiplayer can become incredibly scarce, and so too can the ammunition. Throughout each match you will frequently hear what can only be described as explosions – this is the sound of new weapons being dropped into the map, the HUD displaying the distance between you and these items. Players who enjoyed Firefight in Reach will see how this is reminiscent of the weapon drops in that game type.

On top of this, a player can be rewarded for their accomplishments, anything from ending a player’s killing spree, killing a large allotment of players or extracting vengeance upon someone who killed them being ways to gain access to one’s own personal weapon drop. Note however, this is only available in select game types. Each time this occurs, by using the D-Pad, a player is able to select from a rare few items to be immediately blasted down in front of them for pick up. This can efficaciously turn the tide of a single battle.

Back however to the lack of ammunition. In many circumstances, I found that weapons and grenades began to stop being deployed back into the map, and instead each player was forced to use all that they had at their disposal. For instance, in the level ‘Adrift’, my fellow gamers and I were eventually down to nothing but pistols, with absolutely nothing left to scrounge, and our only hope was to eventually bonk each other over the head, before respawning with enough ammunition to give players unfair advantages over those who were not newly endowed with fresh artillery.

Additionally, in regards to unfair advantages, in maps the likes of Exile, where players were given access to a vast majority of vehicles, those who had access to the Scorpion were especially capable of devastating the opposition. I myself managed to acquire a cool 350 points whilst driving around in the metallic beast before accidentally blowing myself up  because a certain enemy decided to fly her Banshee too close to my turret. True, the tank does indeed make winning far easier, and I’m not saying that to win is a bad thing, but it certainly lacks a challenge when your opponents, whether they have a Warthog with a Gauss Cannon, a Ghost or a Spartan Laser are unable to prove themselves a significant threat because at the press of  a button you can successfully decimate them all. My point is that to win without challenge fails to constitute an amazing win that one should be entirely proud of.

Moving on, as with previous games, the Energy Sword and Gravity Hammer make fighting up close and personal unfathomably fun, with bodies being tossed about the map with unparalleled power. Explosive weapons the likes of the Rocket Launcher and Spartan Laser will again make you flee like a Grunt if you are not as well accommodated in the map as your opponent, and the vehicles continue to add that special flavour that some games have not yet being able to replicate.

Continuing on with the weapons, on frequent occasions, weapons the likes of the Battle Rifle, the Rocket Launcher, Spartan Laser, Sniper Rifle, Sticky Detonator, Gravity Hammer and Energy Sword failed to make huge appearances within the campaign. With the influx of many new weapons into the game, thus could be understandable. What multiplayer does effectively well is allow the player the use of these amazing pieces of equipment more often, which is unbelievably fun to experience because such weapons desrve a far larger place than what 343 Industries provided within the single player storyline.

With other new changes to the game, along with maps that have being specially designed for this new installment in the Halo franchise, the multiplayer feature is looking to be an exciting new look on one of gaming’s most popular shooters. Can’t wait to experience what other secrets the Halo 4 multiplayer is dying to reveal. Additionally, any DLC that 343 Industries chooses to bring out in the future will be really well appreciated and enjoyed, because the designs for the maps in game are not only unique and well designed, but continuously add new and exciting challenges.

Thank you for reading!

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