Halo: Spartan AssaultOverview -
Microsoft leans on a familiar friend with 'Halo: Spartan Assault,' originally a mobile and Windows 8 release. As a top-down, twin-stick shooter, it's not the 'Halo' anyone is waiting for, but it is an excuse to revisit the sights and sounds of a franchise known, no matter the view, for its vibrant presentation.
The Xbox 360 version 'Halo: Spartan Assault' reflects all the clean, pragmatic visual inclinations from earlier versions. The differences between this and the Xbox One version, while virtually ineffective to the gameplay experience, are obvious to the trained eye, and stem from what appears to a drop from 1080p to 720p. With this particular game's modest amount of either high-poly models, dense textures, or expensive particle effects, the native resolution drop makes for a minor visual change.
As you can see, the 360 version covers up the slightly more choppy models and landscape with pronounced contrast. The lamp's circle of light around our hero is a bit brighter, the dark around it a bit darker. The Xbox One colorations are more natural, suggesting either a global lighting or post-processing change, or just a slight variance in the two versions. Either way, as it should be, the more powerful Xbox One displays an image easier on the eyes.
Additionally, the view is ever so slightly squished on the 360, the Xbox One version more widescreen, and that may be caused by the tighter safe area design restrictions on the 360. I chose this arguably unexciting scene because it emphasizes a bunch of things at once, all consistent through the entire experience. Technically, the Xbox One version is superior, but from a gameplay standpoint they're the same. The same models, character counts on-screen and atmospheric elements, such as that covenant ship flying by or the red flare on the box, are all present.
The one thing that's not shown, and perhaps the most important, is that the 360 version is running at the same buttery-smooth frame rate as the One version. Whatever sacrifices the team had to make in the translation, frame rate was not one of them.
As for the actual stylistic design of the game in any version, well, that's another discussion. Though not much has changed in the translation from mobile to next-gen console, this game was pleasant to look at to begin with. Tiny spartans and space marines scatter across the battlefield like toy soldiers, swapping bullets with the covenants plasma fire. It's a blessing that any game should adopt a well-known and wonderfully conceived mythology as 'Halo's,' and the development team did a good job of translating those visuals. But, like the rest of the game, it's clinical and direct. Unlike, say, 'Halo 4,' where a new planet and species really opened up the 'Halo' universe in interesting ways, the levels of 'Spartan Assault' do very little that hasn't been done before, or better, in previous games. Well, there's more ice this time.
The change in perspective is amusing, no doubt, but aided very little by a lost desire to find new ground.
Here we go again. It sounds like 'Halo.' Submachine guns rattle convincingly, grunts do their little yelps and suicide screams, and, as my personal favorite, the covenant wraith fires off its barrage with a powerful futuristic sound I can't even describe. Closing my eyes put me back into 'Halo 2,' which I imagine is exactly what the team was going for.
The same goes for the score, with dramatic choruses and echoes of Marty O'Donnell's score reminding us exactly what universe we're in. Maybe it has something to do with the linkage of nostalgia and sound, I found the audio in 'Spartan Assault' a much more convincing method of immersion than the purples and greens of the visuals.
Master Chief is on vacation, and with no intergalactic war to fight we'll have to settle for a simulation. Not a facsimile, nor a cheap knockoff, it isn't even something in the middle. It's something off to the side. Understanding that virtually any genre privy to guns and bad guys, that 'Halo' technically works as a twin-stick shooter isn't surprising. It's just there isn't much surprising beyond that either. It works, and those with a propensity for some laid-back, arcade-style gunplay will certainly be happy, if not happily overwhelmed, with the result. The best thing you can do is find a friend and go after the flood.
And while the Xbox One version is technically superior, there's little to no substantial reason to prefer it over the 360 version, or to hold off until you make the console jump. Either version is just fine, not explosively fun, not terrifyingly dull, just fine.
Click here to view comments on this review
Crank Gets a Best Buy Exclusive 4K UHD SteelBook May 23By:
The High-Def Digest Forums Are No More - They Have Ceased To BeBy:
'The Greatest Showman' Announced for Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayBy:
High-Def Digest's Game of the Year 2016By: