Those who’ve played Gears of War and wished they could bring that level of excitement to their mobile devices are in luck, as developer Madfinger Games is bringing their expertise in crafting big-budget console gaming to iOS devices with their new behind-the-back shooter, Shadowgun. From its use of a strategic cover system, the blistering graphics, offbeat humor, and emphasis on pure action, practically the only thing missing here is the Cole Train himself. Actually that might be going a bit too far, but considering the game’s size and scope, there are far worse things than being called Gears of War-lite.
Set in the year 2350, Shadowgun follows John Slade, a professional bounty hunter who receives a mission to hunt down a mad scientist named Dr. Edgar Simon, who’s taken his entire staff hostage while performing freaky genetic experiments at Toltech Enterprises. While heading to the planet where Toltech is located, John and his female A.I. system, S.A.R.A., are shot down in their spaceship, yet manage to crash land safely near the facility. Now it’s up to you to bring back the doctor – dead or alive – and collect your bounty.
The controls are pretty good, though they will take a little getting used to on the touchscreen. The game uses virtual controls that places a stick on the left to move John around, while using another stick on the right to aim. There’s also a multi-function button you use to fire your weapon, and to interact with objects such as doors and consoles, etc. Covering in the game is pretty simple, as you just move up to a wall to hide behind it, while you move to an edge of it and use your aiming stick to target your enemies. It’s a streamlined system that works well given the lack of real buttons, but like I said, it might take a few rounds to get yourself fully acclimated.
There’s ten levels to soldier your way through, but you’ll have plenty of fun and mayhem shooting up mutated baddies along the way. Besides your stock machine gun, you’ll pick up such weapons like the shotgun, grenade launcher, and a few others to help aid you in your fight against the freaky enemies you’ll encounter. But ammo is severely limited, and you won’t have a handy chainsaw-gun (sadly) to help saw yourself out of frequent encounters with the scores of mutated soldiers and freaky monstrosities that want to take you down. To make things even more terrifying, you’ll square off against wild bosses such as a giant drill machine, to a mechanized lobster called the Cyberlobster. Seriously, there’s a boss called Cyberlobster.
Thankfully, there’s also puzzle elements throughout to break up the action, but they sound harder than they actually are, like having to hack your way into computer consoles by tapping the correct sequence of numbers that appear. You’ll have to keep both your mind and thumbs sharp while making your way through.
One of the main things that sets this title apart from the rest of the pack are the graphics, which are stunning. Surprisingly, the title doesn’t use Epic’s near-ubiquitous Unreal 3 tech, but instead takes advantage of the Unity Engine, which makes for a pretty impressive looking game with lots of detail that really give Unreal-running games a run for their money. It’s also nice to see such a graphically intense mobile game that’s not on rails, like id’s Doom: Resurrection or RAGE: Mutant Bash TV, and gives players a chance to roam and explore this detailed world at their leisure.
The sounds are just as impressive, as there’s plenty of gunfire, ricochets, explosions, and rock music to keep you pumped up while you play. The voice-acting is surprising well done, too, especially the funny quips John and S.A.R.A. (shades of Halo’s Master Chief and Cortana) throw around to each other. Since its a universal app, the game looks great on both the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch devices, as well as the iPad. As with most iOS games that support the feature, you’re better off playing on the iPad for the much welcomed extra space that makes the game a bit easier to control.
With all that being said, the game is not without its faults. Most will be bummed to learn there isn’t any multiplayer fun to be had here, though Madfinger has promised to rectify that with a future update. And while they don’t require it, it’s almost mandatory that you play the game with one of the latest iOS devices, like iPhone/iPod Touch 4 or iPad 2, as there’s been reports of serious glitches and crashing issues using anything less. It’s still not a perfect experience on newer devices, but at least you’ll have to backtrack and replay the same areas less often. Again, Madfinger promises to fix these problems soon, and here’s hoping they do.
Shadowgun is a fun and graphically-intense treat that really does present a real console-quality gaming experience on your iOS device, especially fans of Epic’s Gears of War franchise. The production values are some of the best ever presented in a mobile title, with blistering visuals and high-quality sound production that really helps show off what the Unity Engine can do. Unfortunately, it does lack multiplayer (for now), and random glitches can really spoil the fun, especially when playing on older devices, but developer Madfinger is promising to fix these issues soon. While it may not match Epic’s blockbuster feature-for-feature, considering that we’re comparing a $8 mobile game to a mega-budgeted blockbuster at all is a pretty big deal in itself. Beware the Cyberlobster!
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