We get hands-on with a preview version of Madfinger’s third person actioner before it hits the AppStore later this September…
Most of us know Madfinger from their Samurai series of games for iPhone and iPad, which perfectly married the touchscreen with hack n slash action. But now they are setting their sights on bringing a console-like third person shooter to the AppStore (and Android marketplace) with Shadowgun. The game puts you in the shoes of John Slade, a professional gun for hire from a group of mercenaries called the Shadowguns. It’s the year 2350 and your mission is to hunt down Dr. Edgar Simon, a geneticist and former employee of the trans-galactic corporation Toltech Enterprises (now the employer of John). You must infiltrate Dr. Simon’s mountain fortress and fight his personal army of mutants, cyborgs, and genetically-enhanced humanoids.
We got hands-on with an early demo of the game back at E3, and to say we were blown away was an understatement. Back then we were only allowed to wander one section of the first level, without the ability to enter into any meaningful firefights. During that play time we marvelled at the detail on offer from the Unity graphics engine, something we thought was only possible with Unreal. Today though, we were given the opportunity to play through the first three levels of the game, and if anything we’ve come away even more impressed, and salivating at the thought of playing it to the end.
The story is by no means an original tale, mixing elements of Doom and Half Life. It’s clear that Madfinger are hoping that this air of familiarity will pull in fans of such games, and while they may not be pushing things in the story stakes, they are certainly making up for from a visual perspective. The game – simply put – looks incredible. We tested it on an iPad 2, and it not only runs super smooth, but at a quick glance you could be fooled into thinking you were streaming video of an Xbox 360 game to your iPad’s screen. There’s one game it definitely aspires to be, and that is the ‘Gears of War’ for iOS devices. John Slade wouldn’t look out of place in EPIC’s Gears unit, complete with his small head, broad shoulders and muscly gun-toting arms. The detail on offer in the environments is equally impressive, with lighting, particle and cloth effects all happening at once adding realism to the scenes… not to mention the high level of geometric and texture details on show.
The gameplay itself is equally Gears-esque. While it is possible to run and gun, you won’t get far. Instead much of the games’ environments are littered with areas of cover, from where you can safely duck down and partake in a firefight or ten. You control John with the usual virtual thumbstick on the left of the screen, while dragging on the right side will move your aim. A quick tap or hold of the action button will fire your primary weapon. Taking cover is as easy as walking up to, and into, an object such as a wall. John will automatically cling to said wall, and from there you can manoeuvre him into the best position to take down the enemy as you pop out from, and back into, cover. Not all areas are safe though. Many barricades are not indestructible, and so if you stick around too long the enemy will eventually have a clear shot. It’s best then to move from cover to cover, advancing as you go.
The majority of enemies we faced were, what looked to be, zombified humanoids under the control of Dr. Simon. They are not completely mindless however, and are adept at coming at you in groups, taking cover and flanking you to take you down. Much like Gears of War, a few well placed head shots as they cower behind cover will take them down. Other enemies we encountered included little kamikaze bots that hurry towards you like crabs; gun turrets that lock on and pummel you with bullets; and flying sentinel-like bots. At the beginning of level two, which takes place near a mining facility, we were confronted by a large lobster like robot which welcomed us with rocket propelled grenades. It was perhaps a little too easy to work out its weakness and take it down, but it certainly teased us in this preview of the possible boss encounters to come.
An element that did impress us was the voice work. Many iOS games fail in this regard, with Gameloft being the major culprit in getting it wrong. Dead Space was on of these that did get it right, and it seems Shadowgun may follow in its footsteps, with some well written banter between John and his helpful AI. It’s not Shakespeare of course, but it is entertaining and most importantly is not cringe-inducing like so many other iOS games.
Shadowgun is shaping up to be one of the best console-like shooters on the iOS platform, and will certainly give NOVA and Dead Space a run for their money. Graphically it will no doubt over shadow them, but until we play through it we must reserve judgement on whether the total package can deliver. Thankfully it won’t be a long wait.