Shadowgun from Madfinger Games is very clearly inspired by one of the biggest console franchises around, Gears of War. But despite its similarities to the massive console series, this $4.99 iOS game has been cleverly designed to work on a touchscreen. Shadowgun is a third-person shooter with a gruff hero who must utilize tactical cover to take on hordes of scientific abominations. But just how good are the graphics, and will you want to play until the end? Read on.
It's important that you go into Shadowgun with very low expectations regarding the narrative. Michael Bay's work comes off as art-house snobbery when compared to the story and dialog of this title. All you need to know is that there's a mad scientist and you've been sent in to capture him from deep within his evil base.
The main character, John Slade, is the typical hero in futuristic body armor, but he manages to pull off the bald look like a champ. The game attempts to offer a bit more background with some Star Wars-style scrolling flavor text at the outset, but you're better off skipping right to the action. That's where Shadowgun shines, after all.
Shadowgun boasts excellent controls. The game uses a virtual analog stick for player movement on the left thumb, while swiping your right thumb will swing the camera around. Holding down the fire button not only unleashes devastation on your enemies, but also allows you to adjust your aim, letting you make small adjustments for your target's movements. Next to the fire button is reload, and tapping the top left of your screen allows you to change your weapon.
The controls never felt overwhelming or cumbersome. They're easy, precise, and--most importantly--a lot of fun to use.
Powered by the Unity engine, the graphics in Shadowgun are top notch, especially when played on the iPhone 4S. While the end result doesn't quite match the visual splendor of Infinity Blade, it comes darn close. Levels, ranging from underground military bases to mining camps, are nicely detailed, and the enemies you face are gruesome enough to make you want to shoot them in earnest.
Owners of the new iPhone 4S will notice a pretty big increase in frame rate compared to playing on the iPhone 4, which is crucial for an action game like this. Any device older than an iPhone 4 or an iPad 2 will have a tough time running the title, though.
The similarities with Gears of War are obvious from the very first level of Shadowgun. Standing in the middle of an open courtyard, attempting to run and gun your way to victory, is a guaranteed death sentence. Instead, you have to use cover, which is liberally placed around the levels you're traversing. Crouching behind something is as simple as running up next to it, but not all cover is created equal. Some protection can be whittled away by enemy gunfire, forcing you to move to another safe spot.
In your travels through the game's 10 levels, you'll come across a variety of different enemies, from automated turrets to man-made monsters. There's even a large robotic lobster. Thankfully, your arsenal is equally varied, complete with shotguns; machine guns; and grenade launchers; each being more or less effective against a specific enemy.
Unfortunately, the variety of enemies and weapons doesn't extend to the gameplay, which is pretty repetitive throughout Shadowgun's 4-hour campaign. You'll often find yourself sitting behind the same chunk of cover, battling the same group of bad guys, and flipping the same switch you did in the previous level. Playing the game in small, 15 minute spurts will ease the redundancy a bit, but marathon players will get a distinct feeling of deja vu.
There are also difficulty issues with checkpoints being spread too far apart, forcing you to replay certain sections over. Casual gamers might want to opt for Easy mode.
Shadowgun may not be the most innovative game available for iOS platforms, but it's certainly one of the prettiest. Shadowgun is an obvious choice for Gears of War fans.