Review: Halo Spartan Strike on Xbox for Windows

For those who don't know (all 3 of you), Halo is Microsoft's flagship video game franchise. The sci-fi shooter has sold millions of copies spanning a history of almost 15 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Halo 5 will release this October, spearheading Microsoft's efforts to shift Xbox One units in the perpetual console war.

Halo Spartan Strike is a smaller, humbler title, currently available only for Windows touch devices, PC and iOS. It launched out of the blue back in March, with far less pomp than its predecessor Halo Spartan Assault.

Halo Spartan Assault came out for Xbox One in addition to Windows Phone and Windows 8.1. Spartan Assault also sported synchronous progression via the cloud, Xbox Live integration, high quality graphics and twin stick shooter gameplay. Sadly, the game drew ire for weapons unlock micro-transactions that arrived in addition to a cost of entry. Halo Spartan Strike rectifies this, removing micro-transactions entirely, meaning I can review the game without feeling a pang of annoyance every time I see a cool weapon used as an in-app purchase incentive.

Pay model aside, how does Spartan Strike stack up? Let's take a look.

Setting and Presentation

Similarly to Halo Spartan Assault, Spartan Strike is a combat simulation which retells stories from Halo's lore. Spartan Strike follows the UNSC's efforts to recover the Conduit - a Forerunner artifact. The story is told by Roland, UNSC Infinity's AI (like Cortana), and provides animated cut-scenes between operations for additional context. The story comes across like an afterthought, but I generally expect it of a mobile title - you don't want hours of exposition while you're commuting on the bus. The plot 343i does provide is worthwhile enough to keep you engaged.

Halo Spartan Strike is certainly up there with the best when it comes to mobile gaming presentation. The game sports an angled top-down look, but it's fully 3D with beautifully crafted layers. There are 5 operations each split into 6 separate missions, taking place across various locales. You'll battle Covenant and Prometheans across war-torn locations on Earth and exotic alien landscapes on Gamma Halo, all lovingly detailed and brimming with authenticity. 343i failed to impart a great deal of variety when it comes to the game's locations, but what is on offer is rock solid.

Similarly to Spartan Assault, Spartan Strike does well to encapsulate the classic Halo feel despite its gameplay paradigm. Covenant enemies react similarly to how their iconic console counterparts do, and the music, sound treatment and special effects all play into this.

I'd argue that Spartan Assault managed to compact Halo into mobile phones pretty well, and nothing has changed in Spartan Strike. I feel as though Spartan Assault may actually have the upper hand when it comes to location diversity, but how does it fare when it comes to gameplay?

Gameplay and Combat

Optimizing gameplay for touch devices is hard. In my opinion, touch screens simply don't lend themselves well to imitating analogue joysticks - but 343i have done their utmost to ensure the game works well on our mobile devices.

Spartan Strike features virtually identical controls to its predecessor. Placing your thumb on the left side of the screen and tugging in a direction controls movement, whilst the same is true for aiming and shooting on the right side of the screen. You can double tap to throw a grenade or melee, and tap on the centre of the screen to use your Spartan ability.

Similarities aside, Spartan Strike has added a mid-range aiming reticule that helps you figure out where your thumb is aiming at. This simple addition helps a lot, in addition to a ramping up of aim assist. Control-wise, Spartan Strike is a notable improvement over the original, but as you might expect, it's still best experienced on a PC - either using mouse and keyboard controls or a connected Xbox controller.

Halo Spartan Strike follows the same gameplay direction of Halo Spartan Assault, but without the ridiculous micro-transactions which incentivised in-app purchases if you wanted to use anything other than the most standard weapons. It was possible to accrue credits over long periods of time in the previous game, but unless you were playing enough to rub the glass off your screen it wasn't really worthwhile. Spartan Strike does away with this, allowing you instead to gather reasonable amounts of credits through regular play, thankfully side-stepping micro-transactions altogether. The inclusion of this system is still slightly puzzling, making me wonder if a free to play variant may be on the horizon at some point. Microsoft don't seem to have gotten a good angle on mobile monetization yet, frankly, so they may still be testing the waters.

The combat is mostly familiar, providing similar tactical gameplay to its console counterpart. You'll be managing your shield strength, ducking for cover when it your shield depletes, and procuring new weapons in the field when you run out of ammo. The most notable addition to Spartan Strike is its Promethean enemies, which make their way across from Halo 4. The Prometheans add an extra dimension to the game, which would've otherwise been littered with only Covenant enemies.

Prometheans bring some of their weaponry over from Halo 4 as well. The Incineration Cannon scatters a huge area with fiery projectiles that kills most enemies outright, and the binary rifle allows for precision kills over long ranges. In addition to an expanded arsenal of personal weapons, there are new vehicles from the Halo universe, such as the UNSC Kestrel.

343i break up the twin stick kill fest by throwing in all sorts of objectives, none of which I can say are too taxing. If you're wanting to add more challenge to Halo Spartan Strike, you can do so by equipping a skull modifier at the start of a mission. You can only equip two at a time, and they provide limitations like removing the HUD or your shields, but can also modify gameplay, such as making enemies more difficult to deal with. Using skulls increases the amount of points and thus credits you'll receive at the end of a mission, which you can use to purchase boosters, power-ups and more exotic weapons for the next mission.

Over-all Halo Spartan Strike is another admirable effort to marry the Halo universe with touch-based casual gameplay. 343i haven't done a great deal to change-up the gameplay from Spartan Assault, which is a shame, but the minor improvements will be welcome for returning fans.

Final Words

My biggest problem with Halo Spartan Strike is that it's simply so pedestrian. I wrote off Halo Spartan Assault for slapping me with a fairly premium cost of entry in addition to locking out the more fun weapons behind one-use-only micro-transactions or hours of grinding.

It's hard to fault Spartan Strike for anything other than a chronic lack of ambition. Halo is a franchise that deserves something a little more for its outing on our mobile devices in my opinion, but perhaps it simply doesn't make great business sense right now.

One thing is certain though, if you enjoyed Halo Spartan Assault, you will enjoy Halo Spartan Strike. They are virtually indistinguishable from each other save for minor improvements which could easily be patched in to Spartan Strike's elder sibling. The gorgeous graphics, reasonable price tag, 3-4 hour campaign, Xbox Live integration and cloud saves make this another solid mobile offering from 343i. I just hope they'll try something more ambitious next time round.

Halo Spartan Strike is available now on the Windows 8.1 app stores (featuring cross-buy), Steam for PCs and iOS.

QR: Halo Spartan Strike

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

29 Comments
  • Shame there is no trial to experiment first.
  • You don't need one. It's perfect
  • Shame I can't buy it.
  • Let me send you a few bucks
  • That's a nice gesture ^^
  • Yeap. A "lite" version will be great, but this game is identical to the first one. If you love/dislike Spartan Assault, you will love/ dislike this one.
  • I thought Spartan Assault was great--one of the best mobile games I had ever played. While many people didn't like the touch controls, I actually found them to be quite nice, with one exception: throwing grenades (should've been tap the spot you want to throw the grenade in rather than double tap anywhere and he'll chuck the grenade in whatever direction he's facing). Has that changed in Spartan Strike? Still, for a universal purchase, this game is a great deal.
  • You can double tap and hold and a little aiming reticule will come up showing where the spartan will chuck the grenade. You can move it around before letting go and that is where he will throw it. The grenade throwing mechanic was a big gripe for me in the first one and was very glad to see it improved upon.
  • Glad to hear that. I'll definitely be picking this up as soon as I finish Hitman Go.
  • I was hoping to read about hardware requirements compared to the previous game. Particularly will it run ok on the old Surface RT?  They really should add a trial option.
  • I had an Acer Iconia W510 with Intel Atom 3rd generation (Clover Trail), 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space and it recently died, it could play Halo Spartan assault quite well so it should play on your Surface RT just fine since both chips (Intel Clover trail and Tegra 3) had about the same graphics performance.
  • Sorry mate, I only have a Lumia / Surface Pro 3.
  • It runs perfectly well on the Surface RT. Any RT app should run on this device. Hope this helps!
  • Just whish MS would offer more than just 2 random top down shooters with the Halo brand. Why not bring more Xbox franchises to WP? Or Companion games / apps.
  • If you want more Xbox franchises on WP, then let Microsoft know that. Here is a list of relevant Twitter accounts. use #SaveXboxWP and others will retweet you.
  • I play on my Surface 2 with 'SteelSeries Free' controller, it is a great game.  And the SteelSeries controller is awesome for just sticking in your pocket and pulling out and playing other games too.
  • I love this game and am almost finished. I had to stop playing it. Didn't want to beat it too fast. Have to make it last.
  • They should bring the original Halo to Windows Phone. It must surely be able to run on our phones given how old the original Xbox now is?
  • Nope, still too graphically advanced. Even the best phone would choke on it. It would also take up so much room on your phone. Lastly, no one has made good first-person shooter controls on touch. Yes, there's some out there but they're terrible.
  • Phones could handle the original Halo, just look at the San Andreas release, it's proof that they are powerful enough.
  • Got mine free with enough Bing searches.
  • Wish we had Bing Rewards here in India...
  • I learned my lesson from the first game.  I'm not buying this until it releases on Xbox One.  The claimed the first one wouldn't be coming to xbox one either and then after I bought it they release it on xbox one months later. 
  • It might be a cross-buy title, like it is between Phone and 8.
  • Same for me. Want it on my Xbox One.
  • I'm planning to purchase this game for my new Dell Inspiron 15 5548, this time I'm not worried about this game having more than 1.5GB of storage since my laptop comes with 1TB of space. If it's really awesome maybe I'll also like to play it on my smartphone but I'll have to remove some of my apps on my Windows Phone device since it only has 8GB of storage and I have about 1.3GB storage left, and the last time I used a Kingston 32GB microSD card it got bricked so no more microSD cards for my WP device.
  • Hmm is it just me or are the controls considerably better on this one? I struggled considerably more on Spartan assault to control my character. Also I think the original did not run at 1080 p and this one seems to. I could be wrong though.
  • Halo 5 will be released in October, not November. Not really sure why, but that's how it is this year
  • Fixed, dunno why I had it in my head it was November, probs cus its the end of October. ;)