E3 2013: Hands-on with Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows 8

While Microsoft is working on a new Halo game for its Xbox One game console for a launch in 2014, the next game in the sci-fi series will in fact be released for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in July. It's called Halo: Spartan Assault and we were able to sit down and play two missions from the game on a Microsoft Surface tablet during E3 2013.

The game, co-developed by 343 Industries and Vanguard Games, is a top-down shooter which is controlled mainly by a player's two thumbs on a touchscreen (the game will also work with a keyboard-mouse control interface). The right thumb fires weapons while the left thumb controls movement; the UI also lets players fire grenade, switch weapons and more.

The two missions we played were typical Halo situations. You control a Spartan warrior who is out to kill some nasty Covenant forces on alien planets. Fans of the previous Halo first person shooter games will see and play a lot that is familiar here, from only being able to hold two weapons in your inventory to having your armor regenerate and more.

For the most part, we found playing Halo: Spartan Assault to be very easy. Even with the touchscreen UI, it was a snap to just pick up the Surface and start firing at Covenant aliens, while also constantly moving. There are also opportunities to enter vehicles and pilot them in the game, such as on one mission where we entered a  Covenant tank to take out some anti-air turrets.

Visually, the game looks pretty slick and retains the art style of all the previous Halo titles. If we have one complaint, its that the AI of the enemies in the game need some work as they were too easy to shoot and take out. The Halo FPS series is well known for smart AI aliens and it was a shame that didn't translate to this new game.

Overall, playing this early build of Halo: Spartan Assault was a lot of fun and if the development teams make the AI more challenging they could have a highly popular game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 owners. The game is due to launch sometime in July.

Image via Microsoft

Neowin's E3 2013 coverage is sponsored by Alienware

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23 Comments

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Will this work with xbox gamepad on a PC? If not, don't say it's for Windows 8, say it's for Surfaces and tablets.

MorganX said,
Will this work with xbox gamepad on a PC? If not, don't say it's for Windows 8, say it's for Surfaces and tablets.

They said keyboard/mouse is a supported control method, so yes, it's for a desktop too. Still, an interesting question as to whether the xbox controller would work, as one could play it that way on the Surface too if supported.

That's good. I'll wait for that support before I purchase. A twin stick shooter with Keyboard/mouse does not sound appealing at all.

MorganX said,
Will this work with xbox gamepad on a PC? If not, don't say it's for Windows 8, say it's for Surfaces and tablets.
I get where you're coming from... but let me ask you to clarify.
Photoshop isn't for Windows 8 because I can't use a controller with it? Do you hear yourself? A controller is nowhere near as native on a PC environment as a keyboard/mouse is, which the game DOES support. Yes, it is for all desktop computers that run Win8.

Photoshop isn't a twin stick shooter, it's not even a game. But to create another analogy, I would not buy Grid 2 for PC if it had no gamepad support. I would not have purchased Reckless Racing for Windows 8 if it did not have gamepad support for the PC. If you're going to bring a twin stick shooter to the PC, it should support gamepad as that's the primary control for twin stick shooters. There are multiple millions of gamepads on PCs, they just aren't used for FPS' which is traditionally a K/M controlled genre.

Emulating twin stick with touch is iffy at best as well. that's why it will probably be quite easy, it has to be due to the lack of precise control on a tablet. That's why endless runners at the games such as angry birds dominate tablets at the moment.

At least the tablets will emulate twin sticks as best it can. I do think the support should be added before it's released. I won't buy a twin stick shooter that runs on a desktop without gamepad support. Sounds reasonable to me.

Even MAME emulators support gamepads on PCs. All third-person (including Gears of War, and driving games). Only FPS' and RTS are primarily K/M on most other platform, shooters, etc., it's somewhat archaic IMO.

Edited by MorganX, Jun 13 2013, 11:03am :

I will be picking this up and i remember during an interview during its announcement that they had mentioned that save files will transfer between the phone and PC version of the game the sad part is it looks like i will have to purchase two copies of the game in order to have that functionality.

When you say Halo for Windows 8 give me a 20GB+ DirectX11 FPS, not this slow, dumb down javascript powered POS.

WinRT said,
When you say Halo for Windows 8 give me a 20GB+ DirectX11 FPS, not this slow, dumb down javascript powered POS.

You realize this is (90% chance) powered by DirectX and programmed in C++, right?

All Windows apps (yes, including those "dumbed down POS" Windows Store/Metro apps) can be programmed in C++ and take advantage of Direct2D or Direct3D rendering.

What Matt said.

Also shouldn't MS really start pushing their WEI Score more now? I mean the purpose of WEI was to make It easy to see what software, specifically games, can run on a system and consumers can just look for a number to see how well it can run on their machine. Sounds like a great tool to use for the Windows Store.

they need to modify it now so it only sees CPU/GPU/RAM now, and give standard numbers updated on yearly basis, as newer hardware comes out e.g. a 5 now might be 4 the next year and any software that required a 5 now says 4 (last part shouldn't be hard to change server side).

That way, MS can allow high end machines get better games, and locking out under performing hardware thus preventing users from having a bad experience. An override could be allowed, but warn users that performance will suffer.

Matthew_Thepc said,

You realize this is (90% chance) powered by DirectX and programmed in C++, right?
...

K... anyway I just want a true traditional Halo FPS just like the XBoX and Halo 1/2 for PCs... not this bogus, UI unfriendly, ridiculously controlled, MAnAGEd-C++, heavy wrapped DirectX APIs, slow, script powered, low res and low poly POS!

WinRT said,

K... anyway I just want a true traditional Halo FPS just like the XBoX and Halo 1/2 for PCs... not this bogus, UI unfriendly, ridiculously controlled, MAnAGEd-C++, heavy wrapped DirectX APIs, slow, script powered, low res and low poly POS!


"true traditional Halo FPS just like the XBoX and Halo 1/2 for PCs...not this bogus, UI unfriendly, ridiculously controlled" I think I get your idea, but honestly you should freaking try the game before you bash it.

"MAnAGEd-C++, heavy wrapped DirectX APIs, slow, script powered, low res and low poly POS!" I honestly don't develop for DirectX, and so can't comment completely, but as far as I know they're not "heavily wrapped DirectX APIs," they are DirectX APIs. Please correct me if I'm wrong, I honestly have no idea if I'm right, but it's not like you provided a lot of source material for your claims

in the end, can we please try the game before calling it a low res/low poly POS?

Matthew_Thepc said,
in the end, can we please try the game before calling it a low res/low poly POS?

K... maybe this game will run fast in C++, since WinRT is a native API. But seriously, I need a modern Halo PC game with 50Gigs+ of HI-Res textures with DX11 tessellation polys and meshes, amazing particles and light effects, narrating a long epic heartbreaking and mind blowing story..... not this MS joke, ridiculously boring, stupid, achievemet-wh0r3 friendly, expensive, made by script kiddies, short and unethical POS!

WinRT said,

K... maybe this game will run fast in C++, since WinRT is a native API. But seriously, I need a modern Halo PC game with 50Gigs+ of HI-Res textures with DX11 tessellation polys and meshes, amazing particles and light effects, narrating a long epic heartbreaking and mind blowing story..... not this MS joke, ridiculously boring, stupid, achievemet-wh0r3 friendly, expensive, made by script kiddies, short and unethical POS!

Obvious troll is obvious.