I’ve been a fan of the Halo series ever since the original game came out. That was back when I was in college and many a class was skipped for a good Halo session. As life progressed and I had less and less time to play video games, I weaned myself away from what I consider to be the best, most fun video game ever made. Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 was the last version of Halo I played until Halo: Spartan Strike came out for iOS. So there’s a bit of background for you.
When I saw a Halo game featured in the App Store I was immediately intrigued. I had to try it out. Oh, this game costs $5.99? Isn’t that a bit steep for an iOS game? Didn’t matter: this was Halo. I hit download.
What I found was a game that surprised me in a couple of ways. It was Halo, but it wasn’t. In an unexpected way, I came to respect it as a fun, adequately-deep and fantastically-designed game—though it was far different from the Halo experience I had fond memories of and was missing some of my favorite elements.
Halo: Spartan Strike was not the iOS version of Halo I was hoping for. To be honest, I had hoped for a FPS version of the game rather than a top-down shooter. There have been plenty of games that have tried to be Halo for mobile—the N.O.V.A comes to mind—but they didn’t deliver the Halo experience. And after a few minutes of playing Halo: Spartan Strike, I was a bit worried that this game would miss the mark as well.
For starters, there’s no Master Chief and no Cortana. You’re still a spartan and there’s still a Cortana-wanna-be female-voiced character guiding you through the game—but these feel like cheap replacements. Why not just stick with the originals?
And then there’s the gameplay: first-person has been scrapped for a birds eye view of the battlefield. Again, I was disappointed with this, but only at first. As I let this new version of Halo have a chance to win me over, I warmed up to it fairly quickly.
So if you’re thinking about buying this game don’t go in with any misconceptions. This isn’t the Halo gameplay you are used to. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun in it’s own way.
This game is probably the most fun iOS game I’ve played in the last six months and up there with the all-time best. It’s different than anything else in the app store; you get to roam around and blast bad guys with lots of firepower.
I’ve mentioned a few things that are missing from this iteration of Halo but there are also many familiar elements. The covenant is here as are vehicles like the tank, pelican and the ghost. Importantly (for fun’s sake) you can still hijack enemy turrets by throwing them out and hopping in yourself.
Weapons necessarily work a bit differently in Spartan Strike than on Guardians, for instance. The Warthog can be driven and fired all at once whereas it takes two players to drive and fire on the console version. Apparently, they’ve found a way to rig it up (we are told by our guide) so that we can drive and shoot all by ourselves. This game does keep the sniper rifle—which is cool—but it just aims and fires automatically, so it’s not like it takes any skill to use.
There are some fun new types of weapons in this game—very destructive. I won’t ruin them for you by describing them here; I’ll let you discover them on your own. I will say that you shouldn’t expect to be launching rockets or lasers at your enemies as often as you’d like because the best guns are stashed away as upgrades. As you play you can earn points to unlock them at the beginning of each level. Oh ya—you’re enemies can wield the energy sword, but once you have disposed of them you won’t be able to pick it up…
You’ll also encounter some new aliens to battle; machine-like creatures who aren’t really my favorite. They have far less personality than the bumbling covenant—oh well.
The controls took me awhile to master—they were a bit confusing just a first. Like the standard layout for an iOS FPS, your left thumb will move your spartan around and your right will fire. Tapping your right thumb will punch/swipe at nearby enemies, holding down your right thumb will fire “normally” and double-tapping will bring up grenade aiming (just let go to lob it). After some practice, it’s second nature and makes a lot of sense for this style of gameplay.
So the gameplay is fun. The environments are expansive and there’s a lot to explore. Thanks to the waypoints set by your guide, you’ll never get lost or stuck. The on-screen text or prompts always let you know what you should be doing.
Missions seem to be timed to take between 10–15 minutes to complete—if you don’t die first, that is, and have to start over. There is no saving mid-level; if you die you have to restart the entire level. There are times when this gets old—especially around mid-way through the game as the levels begin to get challenging for the first time. Some levels are downright hard, but that’s part of the fun of it.
The one cheesy aspect of this game is the storyline and accompanying cut scenes. Personally, if the game had no plot and just plopped my spartan down at the beginning of each level, I’d enjoy it just as much. The cut scenes are poorly done anyways—they look like a cheap anime director was hired and aren’t even animated. I suppose this cuts down on the size of the app, but it also cuts down on the quality. This aspect alone almost makes it feel less like a Halo game in and of itself because I associated Halo with higher standards of quality and storytelling in the past.
The game designers deserve a high-five though. The levels look really nice on my iPhone 6 Plus: very detailed and interesting. I think they put more thought into how a tree or grenade looks than most mobile game designers put into their main characters.
One reason why I say this game doesn’t really feel like Halo—and feels more like “Halo”—is that it’s missing some of my favorite elements: multiplayer and co-op.
To me, multiplayer IS Halo. There is no Halo without multiplayer (or there shouldn’t be). It’s what kept me hooked on the game for so long. Whereas once you finish the levels of Spartan Strike you may not want to play them again (I don’t think I will—been there, done that by then), multiplayer offers a different game and set of opponents every time you play. There are so many games with decent multiplayer on iOS already—I can’t believe this was left out of Spartan Strike.
Along the same lines, some sort of co-op mode would certainly have added a new element to the games replayability.
Halo Spartan Strike is a fun game. If you like action games or if you are looking for a fun shooter, this is a great game for you to buy. On the other hand, if you love the original FPS Halo action, you’ll need to adjust your expectations: you might like this game in and of itself, but probably not because it’s “Halo.”