Ahhh… ‘sniping’… a sheer joy in computer games. Ever since first picking up that sniper rifle in Goldeneye on the N64, taking off someone’s head with a perfectly aimed shot has never been so joyful. Since then the sniping has become an integral part of games, be it for better or for worse. Many a time I’ll scoff at people who sit atop a roof in COD4 on xboxlive, claiming they are playing foul and not get down and dirty with an AK, only then to joyfully giggle as I do exactly the same thing in that very same game.
The iPhone already has it’s fair share of sniping games with iSniper, Super Sniper and of course our personal favourite iHunt (I jest of course, it’s awful!) Thus proving that even when out and about we can’t get enough head shot action! So it’s no surprise that Paramount Digital who brought us the surprisingly good Iron Man, and more recently Days of Thunder, are continuing their movie licensed games with Shooter.
Shooter is based on the movie of the same name starring Mark Wahlberg. It sees you playing a sniper specialist in the armed forces, who on returning from a tour of duty is set up for the attempted assassination of the President of the US. The rest of the game is spent trying to clear your name, and of course dabble in a spot of sniping! The story is presented in Metal Gear-esque codec sequences, featuring full voice acting which, both tell the story and detail your objectives for that mission.
The game contains 6 missions, across various locations such as Ethiopia, the city of Philadelphia, country retreats and snowy mountain tops. Each of these missions comprise of five or so objectives that you must complete before moving on. These range from clearing an area of targets, such as enemy troops or government agents; taking out jeeps, boats helicopters and other vehicles; stealth missions; hostage situations; and eventually you’ll confront elite agents and the son of a bitch who set you up in a final showdown.
As well as these you’ll get hands on in some mini game style objectives, requiring you to diffuse mines; build a makeshift silencer, build bombs and craft makeshift camouflage. These mini missions add a welcome change of pace from all the gun play. I particularly liked the trauma centre-like mini mine diffusing level. This requires you to first search out the mine using a metal detector, then, by using touch based tools such as a spade, dust brush and spanner, you must uncover and diffuse the bomb without disturbing it. Should you be too overzealous with your multi touch prodding… then BOOM!…. it’s bye bye to Mr Hand and his five lovely daughters!
The game includes two main modes, story mode and Arcade mode. Story mode includes all the missions in a linear order and presented through elements of the Shooter story line. Arcade mode lets you play all the missions, sans story, in any order. These don’t require unlocking them first in the story mode. So if you want a quick sniping session while waiting for a bus you don’t have to wade through the story to get into the action.
Once past the mission brief you must choose your weapon (usually a sniper rifle) and kit it out with scopes and ammo, and then add required camouflage or armour to your character. The next screen displays a panoramic view of the environment from your eyes. Here you must search out for the enemies using binoculars, this game element is a way of selecting submissions from the main objective and acts as a menu of sorts. To find an enemy outpost you must line up a vertical and horizontal dots on your binocular HUD, this is done by titling the device in all directions until the target is centred. This dynamic feels a little redundant and adds little to the gameplay, you can’t choose which target to go for, instead being forced to search only for the red flashing target, with the other submissions only selectable/searchable once one is complete. When selected you can activate your sniper rifle, and your view zooms into the enemy area, only to be paused by a long loading screen! Once the area loads it’s time to get your snipe on.
To snipe you must aim you sight using tilt control. This can be fully calibrated from the options menu, so you are not stuck holding the device right out in-front of you. You have a limited view through circular sights, so you must survey the area looking for targets. Once found you can hold your breath for a steady aim, through the use of a button on the left of the screen. Hold this down and a timer will count down, limiting your increased accuracy for only a short time. Dragging the same button across in any direction will fine tune your aim, allowing for head shots to be pulled off with ease. As well as this, is the important shoot button which you tap to fire. A reload button and HUD information, such as health, ammo and wind speed and direction is also displayed. I found the controls to be pretty solid for the most part. The aiming can feel a little loose, but I think that is part of the challenge. I can see it being a problem on shaky train and car journeys, so maybe a touch/drag or virtual analogue stick should be offered as an alternative, though this would probably make the game too easy. A pretty detailed and fully voiced training missions is included before playing the game, so getting to grips with the controls is not difficult. As well as the sniper rifle, other weapons such as pistols, automatics and even grenades are available
Graphically the game is not a stunner, but it’s not ugly either. Featuring 2D sprite graphics for all the elements, the levels look detailed but can look a little flat. Animation is jerky and this can take you out of the experience a little, and so would have benefited from more fluid polygon mo-cap animation. The menu graphics and HUD’s look great which as mentioned before feature a codec style interface, which is both functional and well designed.
Sound is better, with full voice acting a nice touch and filmic style music during menus and dialogue. Once in the game it’s a little quiet… perhaps to give the level a feeling of drama, only environmental sounds such as insects or traffic can be heard. Gun sounds are well created as they should in a shooting game.
Overall, Shooter is a well presented game with surprising depth… it’s leaps and bounds above the sniping competition, but that isn’t exactly hard with the current bunch being somewhat lacklustre affairs. There’s plenty to do, and while early missions may feel a bit samey, later objectives and the added mini-games mix up the gameplay and supply you with welcome variation.
Considering the non-performance heavy 2D graphics, I’m surprised the game has such long load screens. They can get pretty annoying after while, especially when you want to restart a mission only to have to wait for the level to load once more.
Presentation and graphics
Well presented and detailed even though it’s all 2D. But some framerate issues, jerky animation and annoying load screens hurt the experience.
Great voice work, moody music and solid sound effects, show that this is more than another basic sniper game, and that a good degree of effort and polish has been put in to it.
I varied amount of missions and objectives, wrapped up in a decent story line, offer more than just sniping. The controls work well, and through a great tutorial, are easy to pick up.
The 6 missions, containing varied scenarios, which themselves contain further objectives will keep you entertained. Add to that training missions, an arcade mode and a medal collection section. The game offers depth that the sniping competition cannot match.
Shooter is another good effort from Paramount. If you love sniper games then this is for you, but if you prefer more intense FPS style action then you might not like the slower pace of the life of a sniper… a game like Brothers in arms may be more to your liking.
This review is from an advanced build of the game, and so as of writing this the AppStore price is not known. However, if it’s priced below $4 then it’s worthy of purchase. UPDATE Shooter is available now for the bargain price of $0.99! Get it here