- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2015

A United Nations Space Command (UNSC) super soldier trains to help save humanity in the mobile adventure Halo: Spartan Strike (Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries, reviewed on iPad 3, Rated 12+, $5.99).

As the successor to last year’s “Halo: Spartan Assault,” this twin-stick, top-down shooter offers a great looking and inspired experience for owners of Apple’s famed tablet.

The tale about a Spartan IV (wearing shiny yellow-and-orange armor) in the year 2552 picks up during the events of “Halo 2” and manages to suck a player into a galactic conflict through 30 varied missions with the help of his thumbs.

That means controlling your Spartan on the iPad’s touch screen. One thumb enacts a virtual joystick on the right side to make the hero run while the other thumb controls the right-side joystick to turn him and automatically fire on the enemy.

Now that right thumb can also tap the screen to change weapons, pick up items, interact with machinery, use an upgrade and throw a grenade.



During the frantic action, a player looks down upon the jungle and urban landscapes within a third-person point of view to handle the Spartan. That’s a very different take from the standard, first-person Halo game.

He controls a Spartan in tactical combat simulations that begins in the wartorn streets of the Earth city of New Mombasa and eventually ending up on the massive installation of Gamma Halo and New Phoenix.

The battlefields are alive with soldiers from the invading Covenant and Promethean forces battling UNSC troops, carriers swooping down to unload fighters, waterfalls gurgling, light bridges buzzing, and sound effects and chatter near constant.

Along the way, our Spartan will be running and gunning, disabling shield generators, blowing up enemy equipment, escorting conveys, protecting a rare artifact and clearing hot zones.

Halo fanatics will find an assortment of familiar weapons to deal damage such as an assault rifle, shotgun, duel machine guns (SMGs), needler, plasma pistol, beam rifle, incineration cannon and frag grenades as their Spartan terminates hostiles including kamikaze-style Grunts, armored Elites, Jackals and Promethean Knights. 

And, a player should have little fear of running out of firepower. A Spartan can pick up weapons from downed enemies, restock ammo at depots and get behind gun turrets, when available, to mow down the invaders.

Vehicles also joyfully play into the mix. A Spartan might drive around in a Warthog, running over Grunts or wield a Wraith or M808 Scorpion. Better yet, I had many an opportunity to sneak up on an Elite piloting a Banshee craft, knock him off the vehicle and steal it as he grumbled his disapproval.

After the end of each mission, earned credits for fulfilling parameters (such as killing a set number of enemies with a specific weapon or scoring a set number of points or stars) are used to enhance weapon load outs in the next mission — and next mission only, by the way.

Upgrades offer seeker drones, a cloaking device, airstrikes and enhanced shields or the ability to buy more potent weapons such as a rocket launcher to name a few.

A system also exists to increase difficulty and obtain more rewards each mission by downgrading the Spartan’s abilities such as shields and armor deplete when firing a weapon.

All is not perfect. I’ll admit sometimes the virtual joysticks are a bit sticky and do not respond as quickly as I would like, and throwing grenades at a target is especially an inaccurate sport.

However, I loved the bite-sized, 15-minute or so replayable firefights, perfect for the mobile gamer wanting to squeeze in some action while multitasking.

Actually, I sometimes enjoyed Spartan Strike more than a full-blown Halo console experience. It’s a very focused adventure with mostly responsive and intuitive controls. Considering the price and no in-app purchases, it’s certainly a value-rich challenge.

Note: Players can also enjoy the first game “Halo: Spartan Assault” on the iPad for $5.99 or purchase both at the same time for $9.99. Fans will savor the price for this much action as “Assault” offers another story spread out over 30 missions.

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