Between the Xbox One, Steven Spielberg's latest TV project and the approach of E3, fans have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of a new Halo game. 343 Industries has heard their pleas, but its answer is somewhat unexpected -- the next game in the legendary franchise isn't for Microsoft's next-generation game console, but for the company's mobile and tablet platforms. Built specifically for Windows Phone and touch-enabled Windows 8 devices, Halo: Spartan Assault hopes to offer the essence of Halo in a portable format. Engadget stopped in at the game's launch event to take a look.
"In a nutshell, it's a top-down twin stick arcade-style action shooter," explained Dan Ayoub, executive producer at 343 Industries. "Really, a brand new way to play Halo." Ayoub told us that the game was designed to push the limits of phone and tablet graphics, stressing the Halo franchise's history as a trailblazer on Microsoft platforms. "We wanted this to be no exception," he said, inviting journalists at the event to try the game for themselves. We picked up a nearby Surface Pro slate and tucked in.
True to Ayoub's word, Halo: Spartan Assault looked pretty sharp on the tablet's 10.6-inch display, but it took an HDTV to make the title's graphics really shine. It's not that it looked so much better on a 40-inch display, it's just that it didn't look worse -- presenting a clear, detailed world with no noticeable aliasing. It's not going to compete with your Xbox in visual fidelity, but it upscales well.
The game's control scheme is a top-down standard: a virtual left-hand joystick controls your Spartan's movement and a starboard counterpart dictates aim. Fans of games like Gun Bros. should feel right at home. The demo's control sticks felt a little too sensitive at first, but we eventually adjusted and took to the battlefield, tearing through Covenant forces with various rifles, shotguns and even a tank. 343 devs told us that they wanted to make sure the game felt like Halo, and including vehicles was a must.
Most of Halo's trappings seem to have made the leap to mobile well enough, but one fan favorite didn't make the cut: multiplayer. "What we've got right now has been designed for a single player experience," 343's Kevin Grace told us. "There are multiplayer components in the challenges and leader boards -- so you can challenge your friends and get that level of interaction -- but for this story and this particular game, it's just single player." In fact, story seems to be a major part of the project, following the rise of Sarah Palmer and filling in the narrative gaps between Halo 3 and Halo 4. The game will also have a companion comic book series called Halo: Initiation, which further details Palmer's saga.
Naturally, the adventure is bound for Microsoft Platforms, and will be arriving exclusively on Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices next month. 343 developers wouldn't rule out the possibility of a future Android or iOS port, but they wouldn't entertain the idea either, telling us that the game was being optimized for Windows platforms. Even so, Windows 8 desktop users will have to wait a bit before getting a fully optimized experience: the game won't support the wired Xbox 360 controller, leaving PC gamers with only a keyboard and mouse to control their dual-stick shooter. We're told that controller support will be added sometime after launch.
It's almost surprising that Halo didn't make the transition to mobile sooner, but Grace suggests that its a matter of quality. "Everything that 343 does starts with fan expectations in mind," he told us. "We know where the bar is set for Halo." Is Halo: Spartan Assault good enough to satiate discerning fans? Maybe. It's at least as fun as any other top-down shooter, and the Halo brand goes a long way -- but the game's Windows 8 and Windows Phone exclusivity is bound to burn fans on the iOS / Android end of the spectrum. Still, if you bought into Microsoft's would-be mobile gaming platform, you'll be able to pick it up in July for $6.99. Read on for the game's official press release.
"Halo: Spartan Assault" Brings the Award-Winning "Halo" Franchise to Windows 8 Devices this July
With best-in-class action, audio and graphics, "Halo: Spartan Assault" showcases the epic scale and action of the "Halo" universe only on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8
With millions of franchise fans worldwide, Microsoft and 343 Industries today revealed an all-new way for gamers to experience "Halo;" this time, you can do it on Windows 8 devices.
Available this July for $6.99 ERP1 only on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, "Halo: Spartan Assault" is the first top-down action shooter that brings a "Halo" video game to touch-based devices. Developed by 343 Industries in conjunction with Vanguard Games, "Halo: Spartan Assault" provides an accessible, pick-up-and-play experience for fans and newcomers alike.
Set between the events of "Halo 3" and "Halo 4," "Halo: Spartan Assault" explores the first missions of the Spartan Ops program and dives deeper into the backstory of Human-Covenant wars. Play through the eyes of either Commander Sarah Palmer or Spartan Davis stationed aboard the UNSC Infinity as they fight in never-before-seen battles against Covenant forces.
With 25 unique missions featuring unrivaled action and intensity, the single-player experience allows you to compete against friends in Leaderboards or hone your skills with Weekly Challenges. Replay the missions to collect more than 40 in-game Achievements and Medals.
For fans who already have a prospering Spartan career aboard the UNSC Infinity, "Halo: Spartan Assault" lets you earn experience points (XP), all-new Achievements, and emblems for your "Halo 4" Spartan, with additional integration features available after launch.
In addition, 343 Industries has teamed up with Dark Horse Comics to create "Halo: Initiation," 2 a 3-part comic series which reveals the story of how Commander Sarah Palmer became a Spartan-IV and leads directly into the exciting missions of "Halo: Spartan Assault."
To watch the trailer and learn more about "Halo: Spartan Assault," please visit Halo Waypoint: http://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/games/halospartanassault