Title: Halo: Spartan Strike
Developer: 343 Industries, Vanguard Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released For: Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Mobile OS
DRM Versions Available
Released On: Dec 12, 2014
So have they improved from their past mistakes? Has the Halo isometric series of games become better?
No, not only did it not improve, but they somehow actually made the game worse. Laziness is far too apparent and because of that fact that so little has actually become better that every single thing I mentioned before as a downside is still there, and my copy-paste attitude will explain why.
For sake of gaming I purchased the steam version. The gameplay starts off as the player training to be a spartan by running a simulation of the Spartan IV program in it’s earliest days. They do this by playing through different scenarios to better train the cadets. Consisting of 25 levels broken up by 5 hubs. However, now it’s playing [currently] during and after the events of Halo 4. The gameplay consists of you playing this simulation in each hub and level by doing different goals given to the player at the beginning of each level. The gameplay follows the ideas of twin stick shooters in a top-down isometric perspective. Admittingly it was interesting Halo in an isometric perspective and it’s interesting.
Starting this downhill spiral we look at how each level works. For each level you are allocated two different guns, and 1 special. For each level you complete that you get a medal in for doing certain tasks or achievements you are awarded XP [now credits] that you can then spend to select a different gun or special using that XP [now credits]. You can get these medals to earn experience by going through each level and getting X number of kills in a row, completing levels in a certain time frame, doing certain side goals, and so on. From there, you go through each level, do X number of objectives normally through a fairly linear level, then move on to the next level. It all feels cookie cutter and bland. The game wears a beautiful stitched-together overcoat of all the Halo games, but feels more generic than a generic brand of Cheerios in a knock-off Costco store. The gameplay was okay, but nothing spectacular. It suffers from mediocre port syndrome, and the game as a whole suffers because of it. It’s clear the game’s intention was focused on mobile rather than PC and Xbox 360.
Remember when I said you have three main levels: Linear levels, do each objective in whatever order you feel like levels, and wait for X amount of time to go by or X number of things to be done levels? Not anymore. Now you have a singular type of level. The ‘Wait for this amount of time to go by and be told word for word what to do level’. Somehow they have successfully made the levels even linear than before, and forced time limits segments that practically make up ⅔ of your game-playing experience. The game holds your hand throughout the entire game by being told step for step what to do, where to go, and what button to press. For the first level or even the first hub this could be acceptable, but it’s throughout the entire game. It’s frustrating. I felt while playing like I was the baby spartan who wasn’t trusted enough to go outside without a full tail of security cameras present making sure I didn’t have too much fun.
The above would not be a problem, but my one compliment about Halo: Spartan Assault was that the gameplay was actually a challenging at some points and getting gold stars [which is how you get xp to buy starter guns or powerups] was a challenge at certain segments of the game. Halo: Spartan Strike however, somehow made the game so incredibly easy that I had to turn on skulls [which gives you bonus credits in exchange for adding challenge] in order to feel challenged. It makes sense that I needed them if it actually worked to increase the challenge. Even turning off my hud, and making me melee to restore my shield I felt the game was unbearably easy. I mentioned in the previous game’s review that it was easy due to less-than-stellar A.I. This game is unbearably easy because it holds your hand and makes it easier.
Again the levels are generic and cookiecutter. Not horrible, but just lackluster. Some of the level’s aesthetically look really appealing and I loved seeing smaller battles going on around me as well as some of the lighting effects, but playing through the levels felt hollow. I enjoyed the color palette they chose, but it feels in-tune for larger scaled maps we simply don’t get to see. The gameplay is okay, but short and lacks any real depth to make players want to really come back. Unlike the last game which took a whole 4 hours, this one only took 3 hours to complete. which for me is fairly unacceptable regardless of price. It could be excusable only if it was story driven and housed a better story. In the previous review I mentioned how the story was non-existent. This time it is clear this is an actual story, and it’s boring as hell. It’s all one big fetch quest that is so convoluted it hurts. Here’s an example:
“The conduit could open portals to other galaxies…thus saving itself from destruction.”
Sorry but that’s like when you’re young and that one kid says he has an everything-proof shield. I need context you buggers, I need to know why. I’m not simply going to take your stupid reasoning because you said it so it must be so. If I don’t believe what you’re story is trying to tell me, you haven’t written a good-enough story. The player needs to believe the laws and rules you create in your universe, but the story needs to be the one explaining why it can/is/could be happening. If it can’t then the gameplay or characters need to be so memorable we forget the story or other faults a game or product has, but neither are particularly appealing enough to take away from its convoluted plot most likely put together with a five year old and a mad libs.
The controls are again, just okay if a bit on the annoying side. While the controls when controlling the spartan aren’t bad, some of the button placement is just awkward and leaves much to be desired. Having ‘CTRL’ for example switch your grenades was a pain, and rather than using the scroll wheel for switching weapons like any sensible game you’re forced to use shift. It’s not particularly bad, but it is frustrating and you can’t remap certain keys like the firing buttons. When switching to the Xbox 360 Gamepad controls, the controls worked better. Still not amazing, but better. For those wondering, yes the vehicle controls are now much better. Most likely because half the levels you get a vehicle in are straight lines.
So with the previous game I mentioned how the music was the same goodness it always has been, but it still didn’t fit. Well don’t you worry! Now not only does the music fit into the game or even certain scenes entirely, but some of the levels don’t even have music. The ones that do only have it for certain segments, and sometimes the music just disappears into oblivion. For example on the second to last level of the first hub world, I was given a Warthog to try and catch a ‘Spirit’ (a vehicle for the Covenant). I realized at the end the music that had started playing not only wasn’t there, but the music had just vanished. Not even the music wanted to stay in this overly generic shooter.
Another disappointment is the options department. While the game runs well and I didn’t notice any screen tearing or dropped frames, it’s locked at 60fps and the graphical settings are lackluster. Not only are the graphical settings lackluster, but all of the settings are lackluster. Without basic things like an FOV slider, advanced audio settings,with only partially rebindable keys, or even a way to play in anything but fullscreen mode is all around a lackluster and disappointing setting options. You would think the sequel would have improved, but of course not. Why? Because Microsoft.
Did they at least create a better ending?
No. My final statement from our previous review of the previous game in the series is still valid in every sense.
“I should also mention that the game just ends. It doesn’t really ‘conclude’ so much as stop abruptly. Once getting a gold star in each level, you get to unlock the final hub world. They give the player an ending, fake the player out, then precede to give the player a worse ending than the fake one. Again it’s just lackluster and it’s clear from the beginning that the game didn’t have much development attention.”