Halo: Spartan Assault coming to Windows Phone and Windows 8

Halo: Spartan Assault coming to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 in July!

Windows Phone has boasted Xbox Live integration from its very beginnings in 2010. The features this integration brought, such as games with Xbox Achievements, Xbox Live friends list and text messaging support, and the promise of integration with actual console games all gave Microsoft’s mobile OS a big in with hardcore Xbox 360 gamers.

One thing has long been missing though: an exclusive title that would inspire people to buy a Windows Phone just to play it. Windows Phone 8 didn’t launch with such a game last year, and in fact neither did Microsoft’s revolutionary PC and tablet OS, Windows 8. The lack of killer apps was enough to make us question Microsoft’s will to bring the company’s major franchises to its own mobile platforms.

That all changes today, because Microsoft has just officially announced Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. That’s right: Halo, one of the most popular franchises in gaming is coming exclusively to Windows platforms next month. And both versions will be Xbox Live enabled, complete with shiny Achievements. At last, it looks like Microsoft is starting to take mobile Xbox gaming seriously.

From big screen to small

The first question Microsoft and 343 industries faced when adapting Halo for mobile devices had to be: how? Touch screen devices are intrinsically different from a game console with physical controller, to say nothing about varying levels of horsepower between Xbox 360, Windows Phone 8 devices, and Windows 8 devices.

Should the Halo creators maintain the mainline series’ first-person perspective and shooting gameplay that legions of Xbox gamers have come to know and love? It would mean stricter hardware requirements in order to maintain the expected graphical fidelity. More importantly, many mobile gamers find FPS controls too complex and unwieldy on touch screen devices.

The other option would be finding a new genre and perspective for this offshoot of the venerable series. Halo once branched out into the Real-time Strategy (RTS) genre with Xbox 360 sleeper hit Halo Wars, after all. By maintaining Halo Wars’ zoomed out third-person perspective, the developers could achieve more than acceptable visuals on a variety of mobile hardware.

Would mainstream FPS fans take to a more niche genre like RTS? Halo Wars received positive critical reviews and it didn’t tank at retail, but it hardly moved strong enough numbers to grow the Halo brand, either. So for Halo: Spartan Assault, Microsoft and 343 decided to combine Halo Wars’ look with traditional twin-stick shooter gameplay. The result is a game that looks a little different than fans are used to but still plays just like Halo.

Filling in the story

Halo: Spartan Assault Sarah Palmer cinematic

In adapting Halo to mobile platforms, 343 wanted to maintain the series’ AAA quality production values.  Halo games always feature epic science-fiction stories, even if their narratives do leave far too many gaps for books and tie-in products to fill in. Spartan Assault takes place in the time between Halo 3 and 4 when humanity still thought the mainline series protagonist Master Chief to be lost forever.

As such, the new story revolves around Commander Sarah Palmer, a character first introduced in Halo 4. Sarah was one of the first marines to enter the Spartan-IV program. In the Halo games, Spartans are genetically enhanced humans capable of wearing specially designed armor and leading humanity’s fight against hostile alien races. Joining her is Spartan Davis, a male character created specifically for this game. Microsoft won’t say anything more about Davis just yet. Maybe his first name actually is Spartan, making his participation in the program quite serendipitous.

Spartan Assault’s storyline comes to life through console-quality video cinematics as well as fully-voiced dialogue during gameplay. Players will experience Sarah Palmer’s very first mission as a Spartan soldier, back before she commanded her fellow Spartan-IV forces during Halo 4. We’ll also learn the origins of that game’s conflict with the new sect of Covenant following the end of the Human-Covenant War. You didn’t think the series’ lead antagonistic race would sit this one out, did you?


Halo: Spartan Assault Wolverine tanks

Since people play games on phones and tablets in much shorter sessions than on consoles, Spartan Assault’s level design must change by necessity. There are now 25 fast-paced levels, each of which can be completed in a single sitting. Every stage has its own unique optional challenges for players to complete. Weekly challenges (as seen in Halo Reach and Halo 4) will keep players coming back for more as well.

As I mentioned before, FPS games on touch screens carry a serious learning curve. Spartan Assault, on the other hand was designed with simplicity of controls in mind. Virtual thumbsticks control movement, aiming, and firing, just as you’d experience in twin-stick shooters like Zombies on the Phone. Secondary functions like throwing and swapping grenades, melee attacks, switching weapons, and even armor abilities are all mapped to buttons around the edges of the screen. The input simulates playing with a controller as closely as possible – without making things confusing for newcomers.

Whatever you’re used to doing in a Halo game, just about all of it shows up in Spartan Assault. Palmer and Davis can pick up and use a variety of weapons, human and Covenant alike. The alien forces take cover behind glowing energy shields that dissipate when they take enough fire. Both sides bring plenty of vehicles into the fray, including jeep-like Warthogs, Scorpion Tanks, fast-moving Ghosts, tank-like Wraiths, and even flying Banshees. Yes, players get to drive these vehicles.

Single-player assault

Halo: Spartan Assault bridge blockade

The one aspect of Spartan Assault likely to disappoint series fans is its complete lack of multiplayer. The omission seems to stem from Microsoft’s reluctance to include real-time multiplayer in its own Windows Phone and Windows 8 offerings. We’re told that the inability to suspend and resume games on these platforms without disrupting the multiplayer experience is the cause for that general policy. I guess nobody told them that multiplayer games like Asphalt 7 and Modern Combat 4 work just fine. Even Gameloft's upcoming Halo clone N.O.V.A. 3 will sport online multiplayer. Who expects to resume a multiplayer game after switching applications or locking the screen anyway?

On the other hand, Spartan Assault does include awesome cloud and connectivity features. Both the Windows Phone and Windows 8 games support Play/Pause/Resume, meaning players can start a game on one device and resume it on the other. No worrying about loss of save data if you switch devices with this game!

Series fans will be excited to know that Spartan Assault connects with Halo 4 in multiple ways. Experience earned in the mobile game transfers to the console game. Other mobile accomplishments will unlock emblems for customizing multiplayer characters in the big-screen game. Microsoft promises “additional integration features after launch.”

Coming soon to phone, PC and tablet

Halo: Spartan Assault comes to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 this July. Because nobody knows Microsoft’s mobile platforms like Windows Phone Central, we can tell you exactly which devices will run Spartan Assault as well. The Windows Phone 8 game only requires 512 MB of RAM, making it compatible with low-cost handsets like the Lumia 520! And although Microsoft is pushing the Windows 8 version in a big way, Spartan Assault win run on Windows RT as well. High five, Surface RT users!

Whenever a game launches on both Windows Phone and Windows 8, the issue of payment structure arises. Historically, Microsoft fans who wanted to play titles like Skulls of the Shogun on multiple platforms had to buy each version individually. The same applies here as well. Halo: Spartan Assault is a separate $6.99 purchase on Windows Phone and Windows 8. Sure, we all want universal apps to come to the Windows ecosystem in the worst way. But $14 hardly seems like too steep a cost to play Halo on your phone, tablet, and PC.

Don't miss the rest of our Halo: Spartan Assault reveal day coverage: WPCentral takes Spartan Assault for a spin and interviews the developers and Spartan Assault through the eyes of a die-hard Halo fan.


Reader comments

Halo: Spartan Assault coming to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 in July!



Family to console me after getting obliterated by elites on legendary difficulty. Uni so i cud gain the knowledge to understand the epicness i was playing :)

Hallelujah, Christmas does indeed come early this year! Glad to also get some Halo love for my surface rt. Hopefully Dr. Halsey's story will be part of this game so we'll get to find out why she's in detention during Halo 4.
I hope to hear more about this game during E3 next week!

And so it begins, if wp8 isn't at critical mass yet it will be soon after this is released. I can't friggin wait to have it on my phone to push the operating system on everyone finally!

I'm actually shocked, but mainly because I never thought in my right mind that there would be something about gaming you didn't know! 

Oh my GOD, is this some kind of joke. Please be true. This is just amazing!! A true victory for everyone. Thank you thank you! Love me some halo

Omfg. Please, please my day is now complete. Nokia pushing the platform with hardware n software. Now MS finally taking up the torch. WP ftw.

Just realised this, if it is, is a clever play by MS. First WP gains traction at the expense of iOS and with this announcement they can entice any potential ios or droid fans on the fence who are due for upgrades or looking for a new phone. Is MS that clever or am i over thinking this.

I was thinking the exact same thing, when I first saw the screenshots/videos. Damn, The Harvest was one of the best games for WP so far. I so wish they'd port it over to WP8.
Anyways, Halo coming to WP is great news. I would've liked it to be an FPS, tbh, but an arcade style shooter isn't bad either.

I am now preparing for the onslaught of manly gamers rushing to yellow 920s bragging about how manly heavyweight phones are.

I foresee a meme such as this:
"If you can't handle a 920, you're not a man"

Something along that line of thinking.

You need a power level over 9000 to wield the mighty Lumia 920!  Or if your name happens to be Thor, son of Odin you're good to go as well...

It's things like this that make me believe that Microsoft will succeed with Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Pumped to play this!

That makes sense as Bungie started out as a Mac developer. Halo also started life as an RTS so Halo Wars wasn't that far from what Halo could have been.

some things are sacred cows...Halo is one of them.  I also think Ballmer has laid down the law....you still haven't seen Office on iPad like all the putzes said would hit in March.

^ Office for iOS won't happen till they sort out the billing arangements this was a well publisized issue.
Office for Android will at this stage of the relationship - will never happen

While they will get more sales of this game (a lot more sales), they will remove another incentive for people to buy WP. There is a reason why this is announced as exclusive, to push sales of WP8.

Because then it wouldn't be an exclusive at all AND we need exclusive games in order to stand up. As much as everyone said the contrary that exclusivity is nonsense, I completely disagree.

1. Don't release on competing platforms
2. Need more Halo games on WP, don't stop at one!
3. Need more first party exclusives! Forza? Fable? (not that fable coin golf rubbish) Gears of War, Project Gotham etc
I.e. Just one first party exclusive title like this isn't going to bring in gamers, need to bring in a constant flow.

this reminds me of killzone liberation for the PSP which is nice because it was a fun game and worked well for the mobile platform.

that is so much of a coincidence as i was just about to download it for my psp for online gaming as this would be the only game left with players excluding hackers unlike resistance retribution.......would you know any other online game left for psp that's still active ?....any kinda game will do

Agree - Killzone Liberation was an excellent game for the PSP platform - really fit the device well.

I would've preferred FPS as well. It could in fact look amazing, developers for current mobile FPS games just take what worked on the original iPhone and add nicer textures and lighting. If they had gone FPS here, I'm sure they would start from the ground up making it an amazing looking and working experience.
Though, I enjoyed Killzone back when I had a PSPgo, (I still do, but it's stored in a closet somewhere,) so I'll be picking this game up anyway.

In my dream I'm seeing a FPS halo with real time multiplayer and Xbox controller compatibility on wp8!
And Forza as well !!

Hey hey hey, Modern Combat 4 looks fantastic and, from The videos I have seen, so does N.O.V.A 3.

I would absolutely love to see a Halo FPS running with Modern Combat like graphics.

I'm not too big on the third person look, I usually attach that to Gears, but I would give anything to play an actual Halo game on the go.

Modern combat was completely fantastic, will be doing it again no doubt. Bur not heard of nova 3 n can't find it in the store, u got a link at all pls?

I was being sarcastic lol; waiting for those who didnt read the article to fall for it. 
But, im wondering how big the game will be 

I understand what youre saying, but we who got "better" phones want the quality... no point of making a worse game so everyone can play, that's not how it works. If you're gonna buy a phone to play with, don't buy the cheap phones. 

Dude, you got it wrong. You certainly have better phones like Lumia 920, 925 or 928, but Microsoft and Nokia are doing something smart here. Lumia 520, 620, and 720 are very good phones for a lower price and will be able to play this game! People will pay for the Halo brand! This is a smart move.
With access to cheaper phone, the market for the game will be much larger!

Yes. Now Microsoft sees the light lol
Surprised this wasn't announced at e3. Maybe will be playable there at the Microsoft booth

1. Don't release on competing platforms
2. Need more Halo games on WP, don't stop at one!
3. Need more first party exclusives! Forza? Fable? (not that fable coin golf rubbish) Gears of War, Project Gotham etc
I.e. Just one first party exclusive title like this isn't going to bring in gamers, need to bring in a constant flow.

AWESOME!!! Exclusivity, even better!!!

Edit: Now that I've read the article, SUPER happy to see tie-ins and unlockables within Halo 4 from playing the mobile game. Too bad I'm already level 130, so I couldn't care less about XP :( but unlocking emblems will be nice :D

Game developers (Gameloft and EA Games I'm looking for you) take a note from Microsoft in how to make a great game runs in 512mb wp8 devices!!!!

I am surprised that we haven't heard about a new small tablet or media player device.  With all the talk of mobile gaming vs console a device with Windows RT or WP8 would be a great way to bolster either ecosystem.  Imagine how well a Xbox branded competitor to the iPod touch would sell.  A lot of the iTouch devices owned by kids I know are starting to get long in the tooth.  Now would be the perfect time to strike as the most recent iPod is ridiculously expensive.
This game would be the perfect one to launch a mobile game system with.

I don't think MS wants to pull potential buyers away from WP. I'm wiling to bet they discontinued the Zune line because they had WP planned out.
When there are more sales numbers, and less random negativity about all things MS mobile devices they will probably look to revisiting these types of products... hopefully.

What will be the price for it ?
can I play it on my lumia 520 or it'll be only available for 1 GB ram ?
Bring subway surfers and Temple run 2 also.Common guys you can do it :-(

Your questions are answered in the article, give it a read, we write some fairly informative articles here at WPCentral

Actually, you asked 3 questions and made 2 statements. Jay rightly points out all three questions were answered in the article. The last two just happen to be redundant and in the same sentence. Your closing statements were not questions. Just sayin.

You guys need to bold some interesting parts or use TLDR, I assume only ~5% of your readers actually read all articles in full.

That's awfully skeptical of you. But people who visit a website and don't actually read it are their own worst enemies, and we can't help them.

But people who visit a website and don't actually read it, yet decide to comment on the article anyway, are their own worst enemies, and we can't help them.

Proce: check
Lumia 520: check
1gb ram only: implicitly checked

Yes your questions were all answered.

Hell yeah!!! Now if only we can get gears of war on the next set of windows phone devices with moga support. The new quad core snapdragon chips should be able to provide a decent third person experience running on unreal engine.

Yeah the mass effect game proved cover based shooting can work on a phone so i dont see why they cant do this, can windows phone 8 run the unreal engine?

Actually Unity support is in beta at the moment, I can't say any more than that as I'm under an NDA.

This is cool, but gaming on a touch screen sucks. To me in my own eyes, gaming should be done with physical buttons(gamepad;mice&keyboard).

In a lot of ways I agree, but the kind of game 343 studios have created here does work on touch screens in my opinion. Not to mention, that you should be able to plug a wired Xbox controller into a Surface RT or other Windows 8 device if you really want that experience.

This is actually the first real good compelling reason for me to upgrade to WP8. Now if only someone would release a 4.7" or 5.0" screen in the US.......

In my oppinion we need Multiplayer for Windows Phones. Thats what brings gamers in, and thats what brings friends of gamers in.
We also need Savegames in the Cloud and things like Plants vs Zombies could easily sync from my xbox to the Windows Phone (and the PC), so I don't have to restart over and over again.
'Universal' Apps are my next priority, or at least something that'll give you the app on the second plattform for like half of the price or something.
So much space for improvement (and thats just talking about games). Keep it coming Microsoft.

I love Xbox, never really cared for Halo...but this looks awesome. I'll definitely buy this.

Holy crap i am actually amazed looks incredible sign me up and take my money may have to get an windows 8 tablet so i can play this on a bigger screen then my L920.
Microsft and 343 have made me happy and i believe this will drive hardware sales big time if they keep this exclusive.

Could the WiFi direct controller of One work on WP and w8s ? that would be freaking awesome.

The W8 version will support Xbox 360 controllers in a future patch. Best we can hope for on WP8 is MOGA support, which we can't confirm.

Looks really really good.  Lack of multiplayer is interesting, but not a huge turnoff for me.  Hope to see continued support from MS in the future and more games like this!

About effing time. I'll be picking this up on day one. They had just better keep this a Windows/Windows Phone exclusive. No more of this porting to iOS and Android crap.

Well, guess Microsoft just gave me the reason to finally switch from wp7 to wp8. Kinda wished the game was turn based, but this is a day one buy for me.

For the sake of Microsoft's this better stay exclusive and not end up being ported to iOS and Android with or without achievements!

This looks great. I was beginning to lose hope. Well done 343! Halo wars was great, so interested in this use of 3rd person shooter

People have been expecting this since the WP started.  I guess it's better that it comes on better hardware.  

It's also nice to know that Android and iOS users won't be able to get this, it's exclusive to Windows 8, RT and WP8.

No mother nduegbdjdjwing MULTIPLAYER? WHATS WRONG WITH YOU 343? ....sighs.... That's kind of important. Way to tease me with halo and then just completely ruin the concept by taking the most important aspect out of the game. Not completely thrilled.

I asked this because they only put "Windows 8" and "Windows Phone 8" as supported platforms on the official website. Is it now software developers generally consider Windows RT as a part of Windows 8 and don't bother to specifically state it?
I do know at least one app originally supported both x86/x64 and ARM but dropped ARM support after an update. And it isn't a hardware intensive app at all.

Like I said in the article, that's because MS is specifically pushing Windows 8. They seem to think it has the best chance of appealing to mainstream masses who would be interested in a Halo game. But we'll be running video proof later today. ~ ~