Developer: 343 Industries, Vanguard Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: April 16th, 2015
Available On: Mobile, PC
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PC. There may be differences between versions.
Halo: Spartan Assault was a surprisingly fun twin-stick shooter set in the Halo universe. Seeking to follow up on that success, Halo: Spartan Strike looks to improve on the formula by adding in the new Promethean enemies and weapons to the game. Does this add enough to the game, or is it not different enough from Spartan Assault to be worth getting?
Halo: Spartan Strike follows an unnamed Spartan as he relives an important chain of events through a simulation. During the Covenant invasion of New Mombasa (Halo fans should remember this as the rather famous intro to Halo 2) they secure a device called the Conduit that serves some mysterious purpose. After the device goes missing, it reemerges years later on another Halo ring and both the Covenant and the Prometheans have interest in it. While all these races have interest in the Conduit, what isn’t interesting is the actual plot. It’s basically an excuse to get from one level to the next and doesn’t really add to or expand the Halo universe in any real way. Since all of it also takes place in a simulation its also difficult to tell which parts of it are and are not real and will actually matter for future Halo games. Yet the plot is so empty that I can guess the answer is probably going to be “nothing”.
Similar to Spartan Assault, Spartan Strike features five operations of six missions each. Each of the missions are anywhere between five to ten minutes long, which places Spartan Strike at probably double the length of its predecessor. For some awful reason the game decides to pad its content out by making it so I could only access the fifth operation if I got gold starts on all six missions in the previous four operations. This is a pointless hurdle that only seems to exist to pad the game’s length out and force me to replay missions that I don’t get gold on the first go. Thankfully, upgrade points come by easy enough that I was able to keep buying score boosts on every level and avoid having to replay more than a couple levels.
The game’s big new feature is the Prometheans, who show up about half way through the second operation. Their new weapons, armor abilities, and enemies actually do add a lot to the game. Knights would teleport around the field and came with different weapons that changed up their fighting style, Crawlers came in large numbers to harass me, while Watchers played a support role and would either try to revive dead Knights or put shields around living ones. I had to constantly change my strategies up, and learn new ones that I didn’t need in Spartan Assault. Thankfully, new weapons allowed me to do just that. I particularly liked the Binary Rifle, which was basically just a faster but weaker sniper rifle that pierced through multiple enemies. Yet from shotguns with bouncing bullets to grenades that deal damage over time, there’s plenty of new weapons to like.
In Spartan Assault I had a complaint that the armor abilities felt almost useless. In Spartan Strike I couldn’t live without them. Each of the game’s various abilities did something useful. One cloaked my Spartan, another drained life from nearby enemies, a third laid out a few mines, while a fourth let me teleport away from a probable death. There’s still a couple useless ones, the turret doesn’t seem to ever do anything useful and the sprint is only there because it was in Halo 4, but armor abilities have been much improved. Another complaint that I found Spartan Strike fixed was related to vehicles. Spartan Strike has all the Halo stand-bys: Warthogs, Ghosts, Scorpions, and Wraiths are fully useable and do a great job mixing up the combat. A completely new vehicle called the Kestrel is also available in the game, though it’s basically just a stronger but slower Warthog. Still, it’s a neat bonus to have.
Yet Spartan Strike really lacks any sort of replay value. Spartan Assault’s co-op survival mode has been removed for some reason that I can’t really think of. In its place are Assault Ops, which are bonus objectives that can be completed in every mission. Each mission has three Assault Ops of varying difficulty to complete, and consist of things like killing enemies with specific weapons, destroying vehicles, or other stuff. Each week there’s also three weekly Assault Ops that are completed slowly across any level. Yet with no real motivation to complete them besides more XP to spend at the start of levels, they’re barely much of a replacement for the co-op mode. Once I finished Spartan Strike’s campaign I saw no real reason to ever return to the game again.
Spartan Strike’s empty story, weird padding, and lack of replay value hurt it a bit. Yet the improvements to gameplay over Spartan Assault really make it stand out. The simple addition of the Prometheans actually adds more than enough to the game. I wish there was a little more to it, but when its launching at less than half the price of Spartan Assault then I can’t find much to fault with Spartan Strike.