If you’ve played any recent console shooters, you’ll be familiar with the basic formula that Shadowgun: Deadzone is “aiming” for (rimshot). You get a soldier to fight on the virtual frontlines, and a bunch of upgrades to obtain and pack onto your little war machine. Racking up the currency by playing the game gets you access to bigger weapons and better accessories (things like the ability to sprint faster, or medical kits to help you/your teammates heal). Once you’ve readied your soldier with perks and shiny ordinance, you can jump onto the multiplayer-only battlefields.
The two available modes are stock fare: Deathmatch and Zone Control. Deathmatch is your (required by shooter law) 12 player unload-at-everyone-else, and Zone Control is a “capture and hold the area”, team-based (6 vs. 6) mode.
The gameplay through both modes is fun. Just plain fun. The familiar third-person shooting, grenade chucking, frantic reloading gameplay, makes for some intense moments on your iPod. But does Madfinger manage to transfer all the fun from its AAA inspirations?
The first problem is the game’s cover system, which at its foundation is broken. It’s overly selective about which objects/walls count as cover and which ones don’t, and the “stick” in “sticky cover” is far too overemphasized. You practically magnetize to your cover, and getting away in a hurry is an ordeal. Plus, the delay between running up to cover and actually crouching behind it is more than enough for your enemy to finish you off. In a fast-paced shooter like this, the cover system probably should have been refined completely, or removed completely.
The melee system is also problematic, since all gun-whipping is handled automatically. That was an issue on several occasions, when I would be right on an enemy, but the game refused to knock him down.
The controls (the bane of mobile shooters) have problems too, such as the fire button being too easy to hit accidentally (and sometimes being too hard to tap). The moments when you would fire off a clip accidentally, thus costing you a life were needlessly frustrating.
The game’s balance is also quite an issue, seeing as my old nemesis: Mr. In-App Purchase, makes an ugly appearance. The game is a multiplayer shooter, so IAPs in the form of currency are to be (unhappily) expected. But here Madfinger takes its cues from Battlefield 3 and throws an optional “Premium Account” purchase out there. The purchases are wrong in and of themselves, since they let those with quick cash get a leg-up on the dedicated-but-broke players. That’s not the cherry on top, though. That comes with the realizations that the currency (gold) can be bought with real cash valued up to $99.99 real money (NO. BAD MADFINGER. NO!), and the fact that the Premium account isn’t permanent. Instead, it requires subscription-based payment (which even EA Games isn’t doing). IAPs are already bad enough, but here they manage to become worse.
If there’s one indisputable positive amidst all this, it’s the fact that the game’s graphics are solid. The amount of detail put into character models, animations, and game maps is nothing short of platform-pushing. I could practically hear my new iPod’s dual-cores screaming to keep up with the textures, and that was with the graphics only set to “Medium” (I assume “High”, and “Ultra High” are reserved for the chosen iPhone 5 owners.) The framerate managed to stay fairly steady throughout, and keep in mind, this was with 11 other people (although server lag was a prevailing issue). Games aren’t made on their graphics, but Deadzone’s are too good to leave unmentioned.
And speaking of unmentioned, while not as much as a selling point as the “ooh, pretty” graphics, the sound stands fine in its own right. I could close my eyes and track the footsteps and gunshots of enemies with needed accuracy. Although this is fairly standard on big-budget shooters, for a mobile shooter, it’s a commendable feature.
It has a lot of problems; some worse than others. But despite all its failings, I had a lot of fun with Shadowgun: Deadzone. I enjoyed blasting my way through and with my fellow online gamers, and the slick presentation was a nice bonus. That being said, I understand Deadzone isn’t for everyone. And if you can’t look past the scarce modes, the occasional crashing and consistent lag, and the terrible In-App-Purchases, I can’t blame you.