This week, the Halo franchise brings the fight to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, as well as to iPad, iPhone, and Steam – and it doesn’t miss a step in the process.
Published by Microsoft Studios, and developed by 343 Industries in conjunction with Vanguard Games, Halo: Spartan Strike is a new perspective on the illustrious series – specifically a top-down perspective, with players moving through full 3D environments from a bird’s eye view. Set during the events of Halo 2, Halo:Spartan Strike casts you as a Spartan in a real-world, classified simulation that starts on New Mombasa in 2552.
Make no mistake: This is neither a Halo turn-based strategy game nor a Halo role-playing game, but rather a full-fledged action game and very much a Halo title, albeit from a different angle. The action is fast and frenetic, with players constantly making use of cover and managing enemies from multiple directions. Twin sticks help hugely, allowing for simultaneous running-and-gunning on all platforms: The game uses touch controls on smartphones and tablets, while Windows 8 and Steam PC players can choose between a keyboard and mouse combo, a USB-connected Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller, or touch-based virtual joysticks. And from Assault Rifles and Pistols to Needlers and Sniper Rifles, all of your favorite Halo weapons are here, and handle accordingly.
Spartan Strike’s 30 missions see you making your way through jungles and urban areas, where you’re tasked with preventing Earth from being overtaken by hordes of both Covenant and Promethean enemies. You’ll drive a Warthog (with which to both shoot and run over enemies), and you gain access to weapons like the Suppressor, Scatter Shot, Binary Rifle, and Incineration Cannon. You’ll also make use of Proximity Mines and Bubble Shields, as well as a Teleport ability and the capacity to call in air strikes. The story takes you from New Mombasa on Earth to the enigmatic Gamma Halo – located at the edge of charted space.
Perhaps most appealingly, Spartan Strike brings with it all of the quintessential Halo sensibilities, from the distinctive strafing feel to the precise, rock-solid gunplay. The experience feels at once new and reassuringly familiar, with a level of polish that’s come to be expected from the franchise. Indeed, the thrill of taking out an Elite with a Sniper Rifle from across the screen feels like a fresh take on a familiar encounter. Varied topography truly brings the game’s lush environments to life, with vast, interconnected pieces of the world layered atop one another. Sometimes you’re looking down onto highways running below your immediate battleground; other times, you’re taking the fight across transparent platforms with nothing below but the cold, starry expanse of space.
For Halo regulars, earning Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 achievements in Halo: Spartan Strike unlocks an exclusive emblem, nameplate, and avatar in Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox One. And the brand-new score was composed by award-winning composer Tom Salta, whose work you’ve heard on Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo: Spartan Assault, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
Likewise, weekly challenges test players to top their friends in the leaderboards. Players can share progress between Windows devices (Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8), as well as between PCs and tablets running Steam via Steam Cloud. Levels have multiple paths to success, and there’s a lot of variety to missions, based on your choice of weapons and abilities. With tight, intense battles that never play out exactly the same way twice, you’ll likely be coming back more than once.
Halo: Spartan Strike is available now for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iPhone, iPad, and Steam.