Shadowgun, a visually-stunning cover-based TPS from Madfinger Games, is now available from the app store. Taking its cues from Gears of War, Shadowgun aims to raise the bar for what we can expect from our mobile devices.
- Stunning graphics and fluid animations raise the bar for mobile gaming
- Rocking soundtrack and nice voicework
- Standard TPS controls are responsive and customizable
- Cover-based gameplay is exciting and enjoyable
- Boss battles and mini-games break up the action
- Multiplayer option expected in future update
- Fairly repetitive combat sequences
- Aiming reticule doesn’t exhibit consistent results
- Reports of frequent crashing
You take on the role of John Slade, a ripped intergalactic bounty hunter deployed to track down and return Dr. Edgar Simon, a mad scientist holed up in an industrial compound crawling with mutants bent on keeping you from completing your mission. Your only help is from a female robot named S.A.R.A., with whom you trade banter and info regarding the status of the mission. There are 10 levels to work through with the bulk of the gameplay being spent hiding behind any of the widely-dispersed barriers, waiting for the mutants to pop up from their own covered positions so that you can fire several rounds into their misshapen bodies. The aiming reticule must turn from white-to-red to actually do damage, and we noted that it seemed a bit finicky from time to time. There are a number of switches to activate, doors to open, and the like. Most of these are handled simply by approaching a device with a glowing image and tapping it, though a handful will require you to do a little work, such as repeating codes on a keypad. None of it is overly difficult, and it feels like these opportunities have been sort of tacked on in an attempt to break up the gameplay from it highly repetitive nature. Running and gunning will often leave you crumpled on the floor in a heap, so there’s little choice but to play it safe. Fortunately, checkpoints will allow you to start from a recently saved point rather than work through the whole level again. Several baddies will require you to keep moving from cover to cover, and the destructible nature of many of these temporary protections also necessitates the frequent movement. It’s not a terribly deep storyline, nor a particularly lengthy campaign, but it does offer a good deal of enjoyment for its overall presentation.
The most notable aspect of the game is its graphics, which are about as near-console quality as we’ve seen thus far, save for Infinity Blade. While a handful of upcoming games look to match Shadowgun in quality, getting there first is quite an accomplishment. The crispness and clarity are outstanding, the lighting effects are awesome, and the fluidity of movement coupled with the consistent look is impressive. It’s certainly the element that drew most people’s attention to the game in the first place, and it’s likely to be the element that it’s best remembered for in the long run. The soundtrack is equally compelling, with clear audio, nice voicework, and rocking tunes to keep you amped us as you’re filling beasts full of ammo, which is also liberally sprinkled about. The controls follow the usual shooter convention, movements controlled via the left side of the screen and your viewpoint controlled by swiping around the right side of the screen. There are fixed reload and shoot buttons, which were often in our way in their default location. Fortunately, you can customize the buttons by placing them wherever you like. Your weapon indicator is in the upper right corner, allowing you to swap guns quickly, though the delay caused by doing so was a bit longer than we’d like to see. Slade automatically takes cover when he gets close enough to a barrier, so you don’t need to worry about hitting a cover button or anything like that. Your health regenerates while you avoid gunfire, and the screen starts to go red as you get closer to death. This also has the effect of not giving you helpful feedback regarding how close you are to checking out, but such is life.
Replay value is decent, mostly to marvel at the game’s great graphics and style a second time. Once you’ve played through your initial attempt, though, there isn’t a lot to really pull you back in, unless you’d like to attempt the game on a different difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Hard). GameCenter does provide a dozen achievements to earn. While there is no multiplayer option, Madfinger seems to have lots of plans for updating and improving the game, and we wouldn’t rule out the possibility that multiplayer could be one of those future additions. Many gamers are reporting crashes, some more frequent than would be considered acceptable. We did not experience any issues on our iPod Touch 4th gen, which was restarted prior to play. A universal app for $7.99, Shadowgun is a wild 4-Dimple ride that should only get better in time.