Created using the Unity engine, SHADOWGUN is a single-player tactical third-person shooter with “sticky” destructible and indestructible cover environments. One look at the game and you can’t help but see a strong Gears of War influence. Players take on the role of John Slade, a professional bounty hunter in the year 2350. Your mission is to hunt down Dr. Edgar Simon, renowned geneticist and former employee of the trans-galactic corporation Toltech Enterprises. Fighting your way through Dr. Simon’s mountain fortress you’ll do battle with mutants, cyborgs, and genetically-enhanced humanoids of all manner of shape and size.
The action takes place across 10 robust levels during which players are treated to some really spectacular eye candy. It is quite impressive the level of detail that the MADFINGER team has been able to draw from the Unity engine. It is easily the best looking Unity-driven title I’ve seen yet on the platform to date. Outside of some occasional glitches which cause you to randomly see the water or see through part of John’s head, the graphics in this game are truly phenomenal. The voice acting is also superb and while the storyline is not terribly original, I found it to be interesting and humurous. Due to the intensity of the graphics, the initial load times (even on my iPad 2) felt slightly excessive, which could be annoying at times when a notification message would interrupt my game, sometimes causing the need to reload a section. The game quite literally pushed the device to it’s limits as I experienced a fair number of crashes while playing though the game, making it necessary to replay areas of the game (thank goodness for checkpoints). I didn’t see this issue on the iPhone 4, just the iPad 2, nor did I see it on the iPad 2 while running an earlier preview build.
Other than a couple of tiles (like EA’s Dead Space), I am admittedly , not a fan of first/third person shooters on mobile devices. Generally I find the mobile experience of this genre lacking compared to its console counterpart. However, the customization options for SHADOWGUN’s controls allowed me to quickly and easily setup a control scheme that made this game quite an enjoyable experience. Players can choose from a “Free Move Pad”, which basically will appear directly under their finger wherever they happen to touch the screen, or one that is static on the screen (but can be repositioned for optimal placement). There are also static fire and reload buttons which can be repositioned to suit your play style. It was very easy to navigate and shoot and the “Free Move Pad” made it such that I didn’t feel like my fingers were constantly blocking all the onscreen action.
Overall, (even at the hardest difficulty setting) I’d day that SHADOWGUN is still much too forgiving. These mutants are pretty stupid. All too often I was able to just park myself behind some piece of indestructible cover, line up my shot so that the reticle turned red and wait for the bad guys to raise their heads so I could kill them. The enemies move around some, but seem to just spray bullets, many of which will miss you. You can quite literally be on the opposite side of a jersey barrier from an enemy and he will stand up, fire off a barrage of bullets and completely miss you. Then you can stand up, aim downward and dispose of him easily. None of the weapons appeared to have any sort of recoil effect, which I think would have added a much needed increase in the difficulty level, forcing you to adjust your aim while firing.
That’s not to say you wont die at all, as there are points where the sheer number of bad guys attacking at once means you may not find cover in time. This is especially true if there are the little bug-like robot creatures. There are various checkpoints along the way that help you be able to jump back in mid-level should the baddies somehow get the best of you. There are a number of different weapons, but it takes a while to amass varied arsenal. I wish new weapons would be accessible sooner, perhaps by recovering weapons from fallen enemies, rather than just ammo. There are also a number of hidden things to find which encourages exploration, extending the gameplay.
SHADOWGUN is a visually impressive game, that offers a solid and enjoyable console-like third-person shooter experience on your iOS device. With this title, MADFINGER Games has proven that high quality third-person shooters need not be restricted to a console and controller with physical buttons. However, for a genre traditionally aimed more toward hardcore gamers, the enemy AI is unfortunately where SHADOWGUN falls flat, resulting in a game that is less challenging than it really should be. Despite the lacking AI, and the crashes, I am impressed with what MADFINGER Games has accomplished here and I did still find SHADOWGUN to be an engaging experience and a great example of what Apple’s latest gen mobile platforms are truly capable of. SHADOWGUN is a universal app, and is currently available on the App Store for $7.99.