Windows Phone Central takes Halo: Spartan Assault for a spin and interviews the developers

Earlier today, Microsoft officially announced Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Just knowing that a real Halo game is coming to Windows platforms with Xbox Achievements is pretty much the best gaming news we could have hoped for this year. But of course, Halo fans will want to know more about Spartan Assault. Our fact-filled announcement article was just the top of the iceberg.

We actually attended a top-secret reveal event just a few weeks ago, where we interviewed several members of 343 Industries, Microsoft’s Halo-focused development company. Head past the break for the full video interview, Spartan Assault In-App Purchase (IAP) details, Windows 8 Xbox controller news, and everything else we couldn’t fit in the reveal article!

Hands-on experience

During the reveal event, Sam Sabri, myself, and other members of the gaming press first watched a PowerPoint presentation highlighting Spartan Assault’s basic features. The video portion of the presentation was actually delivered from a Surface Pro connected to a 70 inch television.

Once that wrapped, Microsoft passed around Surface Pro tablets so that we could all try the game for ourselves. Sam will provide more detailed impressions later today, but for now I’ll relay a quick observation:

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Spartan Assault doesn’t include any gimmicky touch-screen minigame type features. You don’t have to reach into the middle of the screen in order to pick up weapons or anything like that. The large interact button at the right side of the screen takes care of all that, and it helps keep this entry feeling like a real Halo game .

After the Surface was forcibly removed from our grasp, we remembered we had an interview to conduct. In the video above, we spoke with Graeme Jennings (Senior Producer) and Kevin Grace (Franchise manager) of 343 Industries. Kevin is also in charge of Spartan Assault’s story, hence a few interesting tidbits he dropped during our discussion.

Sorry, Prometheans

One of those factoids concerned the game’s enemies, the Covenant. We naturally wondered whether Spartan Assault would include the Flood, a parasitic race of aliens first seen in the original Halo or Prometheans, Halo 4’s dangerous new group of enemies. Regrettably, protagonists Sarah Palmer and Spartan Davis will only be fighting the Covenant in this game.

The reasoning makes sense though. 343 has already worked out the series chronology spanning the four years between Halo 3 and 4. By that time, the Flood was already wiped out and humanity had yet to encounter the Prometheans. Canonically, only the Covenant was stirring up trouble at this point in the timeline, hence they play the villains in Spartan Assault.

Weapons and grenades

Pretty much every human and Covenant weapon from Halo 4 will make its way into Spartan Assault. That includes highly destructive ordinance like the Spartan Laser and Rocket Launcher, plus some new weapons we haven’t seen yet. “But what about the sniper rifle?” you ask. After all, sniping traditionally involves zooming in from a first-person perspective. Spartan Assault is a third-person overhead view game, making traditional sniping tough to pull off.

As it turns out, the sniper rifle does show up in this game. It just doesn’t zoom, oddly enough. Yet you can run around no-scoping with it. Aiming is a bit harder than with an automatic weapon (as no-scoping has always been in mainline Halo games), though most shots result in one-hit kills. The sniper rifle might not be as effective in this installment as it should be, but it still packs a punch.

Grenades also take a slight hit in the usability department compared to the console games. Toggling between different grenade types like frag and plasma grenades is a snap because you’ll find the grenade switch and throw buttons on both the bottom-left and bottom-right sides of the screen.

Throwing is the problem. When you press the throw button, the grenade flies in the direction your character is currently looking. Me, I would have made it so that you press grenade, aim with the right stick, and then release the stick. But I’m sure we’ll become accustomed to Spartan Assault’s throwing mechanics with further practice.

At least melee attacks are intuitive. Just double tap anywhere on the screen to bash your opponent at close range.

Credits and unlocks

Our first article discussed how in-game Challenges extend the life of Spartan Assault’s 25-level campaign. On top of that, the game also has a fairly robust grinding and unlocking system. Every level players complete – as well as those optional challenges – will award credits, Spartan Assault’s in-game currency.

Those credits can be spent on different equipment to customize your loadout with prior to starting a level. Loudouts include both primary and secondary weapons, armor abilities, and boosters. A few armor abilities we know of: a health regeneration field, overshield, and sprinting. As for boosters, they make the game easier to play by increasing the damage that players deal and other beneficial effects.

IAPs can be used to buy credits with real money. You can always choose to earn credits just by playing, so ponying up actual cash is never strictly necessary. It just saves some time. We’ve heard conflicting reports about whether boosters will be purchasable with credits or only via IAP though. Either way, I get the feeling that certain levels will be really hard to get high ratings on without boosters. Along the same lines of assumption, several Achievements will surely be tied to those tough-to-get ratings.

Windows 8 and RT Details

Windows Phone Central broke the news that Spartan Assault will work in Windows RT in our previous article. RT wasn’t part of the message that Microsoft pushed during the reveal event, nor does it come up within the press materials released today. But for the first tablet-oriented Halo game to skip over RT would be quite a slight for Microsoft’s struggling tablet-specific OS. Thankfully, Graeme and Kevin did tell us directly that Spartan Assault runs on Windows RT. They described its RT performance as understandably lower than Windows 8 performance (RT hardware is much weaker), but still more than adequate. Surface RT owners can safely look forward to an exciting and faithful Halo experience.

Control methods are an interesting subject for Windows 8 and RT. Of course the game supports touch controls, as we’ve described already. But users of Microsoft’s tablet and PC operating systems also generally have access to mouse, keyboard, and even physical controllers.

Spartan Assault will support mouse and keyboard controls right out of the gate. The keyboard handles movement and several secondary functions, while the mouse controls movement, firing, and grenades. That actually makes throwing grenades much easier than with touch controls since players can look and aim before choosing to fire by clicking a mouse button.

Old school controls

What about Xbox 360 controller support? After all, Spartan Assault’s controls all involve virtual sticks and buttons – no tapping enemies directly or anything like that. The game would map perfectly to a control pad. And it WILL do so, but oddly not at launch. Instead, Xbox 360 controller support will come in a future update. If I had to guess, I’d say the decision to include it came after the launch feature set had been locked in. Silly not to plan for it from the start, but at least it’s coming.

Windows Phone 8 also happens to support a very Xbox-like controller, the MOGA Pro Controller. It would be highly synergistic for the phone version of Spartan Assault to offer MOGA compatibility. However, Microsoft has not confirmed any such support yet. It would probably show up in a patch, just like the Windows 8 game’s controller support.

Halo: Spartan Assault launches sometime in July and will cost $6.99 on each platform. We'll try to bring more impressions from E3 next week!

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Can I just stress how stoked I am for this game? Super stoked. 
  • Oh me too believe me my lumia 920 will be out under my desk at work all the time when this releases hope i keep my job :)
  • This will also serve as a catalyst to the WP growth. Awesome to see!
  • IDK, have you seen comments outside WPC? Gametrailers, youtube, all have more dislikes than likes.
  • That's called jealousy! ;)
  • +920
  • Lol
  • TheVerge has no dislikes and that's actally strange....
  • I thought it was just me noticing that but yeah The VERGE be hatin' on Microsoft HARD...what's the deal??
  • Exactly. All I see are people ripping WP and complaining that after 6 months they should port to iOS where all the Halo fans "actually are".
  • I guess that's the point. Halo is on WP and that has the potential to make some people move to the platform
  • just give us the store link already!
  • Sounds great! I will be glad to be fighting Covies again!!
  • So double achievements or no with the Play/Pause/Resume on multiple devices feature?
  • Yes, it's two separate purchases so you can earn double the Achievements. Same as Skulls of the Shogun.
  • But they did say you can pick up and play on either Windows Phone or Windows 8 and resume where you last left on the other platform right? Right?
  • Right, but you have to buy the apps for both WP8 and W8. Which, I suppose isn't too bad. Although, I would love to purchase it just once.
  • I would like it if they bundled it over the platforms.
    I know on iOS you can use the same app on both phone and tablet though you can buy a tablet optimized version in some instances (not very many).
    I'm OK with buying it for 2 form factors would be the same thing between a console and a PC. But if I buy it once on the phone at full fair, maybe I can get it for the tablet for 25-40% off (ov vise versa). I'd be happy with that solution.
  • You're pretty good Paul, being able to keep this secret for weeks.
  • Ha ha, hardest secret I've ever had to keep. :-)
  • So it is possible co connect Xbox 360 controller to PC and play with it? Does it work with wireless one too? x)
  • They plan on supporting the 360 controller in an update after launch. Although probably not the wireless one, since there's only a wired version for PC.  Edit: I'm not as versed as Jay, there is a wireless PC version. Link below. 
  • I wish there was a wireless one for PC. I will have to ask Microsoft to create drivers for Xbox One's controller :)
  • There is a Wireless one for PC :) You just need one of these I use one myself in fact!   The only thing I should warn you is that the wireless adapter definitely doesn't work with Windows RT, in fact it causes a big old BSOD on my Surface...
  • Wow! That is nice. About RT - I am more about Atom tablets than ARM ones. Can't wait for Bay Trail.
  • You can use a wireless 360 controller on your surface. Look up videos on YouTube that's what I did and it works great :)
  • I can actually use my wireless adapter just fine with RT (did it a lot for the Metro SNES emulator), but mine was purchased years ago, and is white.  I don't think the one you linked to is an official Microsoft adapter.   Amazon sells others that are slightly more expensive that say Microsoft on them, rather than x360 (mine also says Microsoft on it).
    I bet the official ones would work, unless MS changed something between when I bought mine and now.
  • Please tell me this game will stay exclusive to windows and not be ported over to android/iOS in 6 months.
  • I'm sure they have miniaturized the electronics for that adapter since it came out, why MS didn't build it into the Surface Pro & RT I don't get. Could of just had a sync button on the side of the tablet, would have been killer. BTW, I use that receiver on my Surface RT and works great.
  • You can use the wireless 360 controller with PC . Just need to buy a wireless adapter. I bought one off amazon. It's not official but it works. The top most review gives accurate directions on how to set it up. Edit: whoops looks like jaytb beat me to it
  • 6.99 isn't bad. Totes gonna buy it!
  • Cool.
  • Can't wait .. Microsoft freakin awesome !!!
    A huge Halo fan here ..
    Will buy twice on PC and Phone .. :D
  • Same here
  • I can't wait!!!
  • I'm a self-admitted Halo fanboy despite generally sucking at multiplayer. That said, seeing a freemium slant here has me kind of guarded about the game ...
  • At least micro transactions are not required to complete the game!
  • this is gonna be totally tits
  • That's what she said! ;P
  • That doesn't work...
  • Going to say it now: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! ...wish I could've done the picture meme on my Lumia 920...
  • So glad I didn't use all of my $25 app card yet that I received from MS for the purchase of the Lumia 928.
  • This makes me wish I was Into halo this is kinda a big deal im still hoping Bathesda will make an Elder Scrolls Game for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8
  • haha dont think that will happen ever. But id LOVE to play a touch screen version of skyrim on a surface pro. would be unbelievable. and i think it wouldnt be too difficult to implement the controls for a large screen. 
  • I was gonna get it for my 920 but with the idea I can use kb and mouse as control, ill get it for my surface pro
  • You know that it has Play/Pause/Resume, don't you? Start a campaign on your Surface and continue where you left off on your 920!!!
  • how could you hate on this game idc if its a first person shooter hell id be happy if it was a rts 
    now we just need more exculsives! they can make a great mobile platform if they keep this up!
  • +920 a great forza game now :)
  • I'll certainly be picking this up for my surface pro! 
  • aww why didnt u ask if the game will potentially support some form of co-op in the future with an update? would totally be coordinating sh*t breaks with friends at our respective jobs and get in some co-op on the bowl!
  • Haahaa. Cool shit.
  • They kept saying they had no plans for that. Who knows, it might change between now and whenever. 
  • No form of multiplayer. That needs to be fixed. Ill buy it. Dont get me wrong. But... 343 is awesome at taking things away from halo games and not compensating with something else. Hence the screwed up leveling system I blew through in a couple of months of halo 4. Things like the falcon. Getting rid of evade. Replacing the grenade launcher with an awful sticky detonator. Yeah I have no life...I dont care really.
  • Sticky launcher kicks ass, just play tactical and lay in wait.
  • You're playing the wrong game, he said Halo not CoD..
  • Somebody pinch me, I'm dreaming
  • *pinch*
  • I can only imagine how great multiplayer would have been in a game like this. I spent hours playing Killzone Liberation online on the psp 3000 a couple years back, I see a bit of similarities between them.
  • You gotta read the comments on Kotaku, they're hilarious...what a bunch of haters. Google can suck it now.
  • yeah, wtf. The whiney little *7****'s came out in droves. To bash an OS because they do not own it is awesome. Jealousy I suppose, well, that and they are typical nonsensical trollernets
  • BUT.... how are the graphics of this game on Surface Pro?
    I have a Surface Pro, and what I have found, unfortunately, is that, as most Windows 8 games are cross-platform between Windows RT and Windows 8, they are also designed to be used on RT.  This means that the graphics are essentially "dumbed down" so that they can play on both platforms.
    On my Surface Pro, I find that the graphical elements of almost all (if not all) Win8 games do not run totally native at 1080p.  I mean, the game is using that rez, but the graphical and texture assets clearly were designed for a RT-type device.
    The effect is almost identical to running WP7 games on a WP8 device that has a 1280x768 screen - the fonts, buttons, and other stuff is a little blurry, as they were designed for a lower rez and being upscaled.
    Note that this above issue also applies to the iOS platform - i.e. games designed for iPhone 3G and 3GS that don't explicitly support the retina display got upscaled and blurry on iPhone 4 and higher.  The same currently applies to older iPad games that are played on the latest retina iPads, unless the apps specifically have "iPad retina" assets.
    So, hopefully MS will design this game to make the Surface Pro shine - i.e. fully use high-rez assest when playing on a Surface Pro.  Given the VERY cross-platform nature of this game (Win8, WinRT, WinPho) I am NOT expecting this.....
  • Original article said it was on a surface connected to a 70" tv with no loss of fidelity.
  • That's not the same thing as saying that it uses assets designed fully for 1080p....
  • What? Those Instagram-phone owners are butt hurt because we WinPhoners actually have something they can't get their fruity-bot hands on?  I'm 100% SHOCKED that they're out there hating on this game's trailer. /s
    I think if this is going to attract interest in the platform as long as Microsoft doesn't pull a Microsoft and port it over in a few months. THIS is leveraging the XBox brand beyond just marketing speak.  THIS is really taking a piece of XBox and shoving it into the phone/tablet space in a way that supports the mobile operating systems in their fight for market share.  I love it!
  • Finally. They can truly kill with the three screens of they do this right with exclusives.
  • Great  that they support the Xbox Controller later on. Kinda confirms that it will come to the Xbox One too. Cross platform play from phone, to tablet, to TV. OMG it suddenly hit me that we are in a next generation world right now:D:D
  • Thank you Microsoft. :)
  • Oo man this looks awesome instant buy for me
  • I cannot believe that I am going to be that nerd wedging his glasses up against his nose, but as someone who is currently reading through the entire Halo book series (on the whole, they are excellent books), Promethean's are not a race, but rather a class of Forerunners. **BOOK SPOILER ALERT BELOW** As such, the new race that was introduced in Halo 4--both with the Librarian and the Didact (the Promethean)--were the Forerunners that the Covenant have been seeking throughout the first three games. Technically, the Convenant were waging holy war in hopes of setting off the Halo rings in order to transcend, and effectively go to heaven, led by the prophets who claimed that Forerunners had transcended past the outer reaches of the galaxy by setting off the Halo rings thousands of years prior to them. Those prophets are the same species that waged war against the Forerunners--and lost alongside ancient humans--thousands of years ago. I have not yet read a book that explained their or our survival after the majority of the Forerunners were wiped out, but admittedly I am reading them slightly out of order (I have read all three of the Forerunner books, with the last one on the edge of explaining it at its close).
  • That's slightly spoilerish, so I didn't want to go into detail about it. But point taken.
  • Wow! cant wait.
  • This is huge... about time
  • Needs a JUMP BUTTON!
    Seriously, though, am really excited for this. And would love it if they added a jump button to the controller mapping (easter egg, please). Halo just isn't halo without jumping.
  • You're the first person to mention jumping! Indeed it's a bit odd not to have the ability, but it makes sense given the need to make the game appropriate for touch-screen controls.
  • Any official word that it will run on the 512mb phones?
  • We confirmed that in the previous article.