Shadowgun Review

Shadowgun (v1.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Madfinger
Google Play Price: $5.25
Apple Store Price: $2.99
[Apple] Release Date: September 28, 2011
[Android] Release Date: October 26, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: Shadowgun stars a sarcastic and occasionally potty-mouthed galactic bounty hunter. You shoot to kill genetically-engineered enemies in this third-person shooter, but the violence isn’t as pronounced as Gears of War or Call of Duty. Shadowgun is relatively mild compared to most of today’s popular shooters.

Plays Like: Gears of War, and any other third-person shooter that features cover.

Review Basis: Finished the game on Normal difficulty.

It’s a good thing Shadowgun is playable now, because none of us will be around in its year 2350 era of evil governments ruling the denizens of space and terrestrial bodies. John Slade, a galactic mercenary and protagonist of epic baldness, is contracted by the shady Toltech Corporation to capture one Dr. Edgar Simon. The former employee of the trans-galactic entity and renowned geneticist is wanted. Why? Well you’re not told of course, but Slade doesn’t care about anything but payday. Kindly bring the mad scientist out of hiding, and nevermind that the gentleman hiring you looks like a cross between Shredder and Baraka.

The Great:

This looks….great! If Modern Combat 3 is the visual benchmark for FPS titles, and Infinity Blade for RPGs on mobile devices, then Shadowgun is the same for third-person shooters. Powered by the Unity engine on iOS and Android platforms, Madfinger put together an amazing-looking product. John Slade looks like a perfect fit for the COGs, if you ignore his lack of tank armor, and the environments overflow with detail. The opening cinematic is especially striking, reminding me of the quality of Dead Space. If you like games that show off your phone or tablet’s horsepower, Shadowgun will do that.

The Good:

+ Set-piece bosses. You face off against a number of giant mechanical bosses. They’re appropriately challenging (meaning they hurt), and fun to eliminate.

+ Boomstick. Forget realism; whacking foes from yards away with your auto-shotty is a plus in my book.

+ S.A.R.A. Finish the analogy: Master Chief is to Cortana, as John Slade is to _____. If you answered S.A.R.A., have yourself a cookie. Anyway, I can’t believe Slade’s robotic mission support never annoyed me. She doesn’t speak too much or too little, and actually has a cool personality, occasionally even mimicking Slade’s wit. Madfinger designed a great companion for this ride.

+ Interaction. Piggy-backing the previous item, though Slade and S.A.R.A.’s relationship doesn’t avoid missteps, I thoroughly enjoyed their back-and-forth banter.

+ Hacking. Various weapon crates and locked door panels require you to watch the game highlight any of nine symbols in a random order and length on the input pad. You repeat it, and move on. It’s nothing extravagant, but a healthy distraction from all the fighting.

+ Cover. It works mostly well. When Slade approaches a barrier designated for cover, he auto-snaps to it. You can then pop out for some shots, or slide along left or right. Some cover degrades from enemy fire as well, forcing you to make another move.

+ Hidden cards. Shadowgun tucks away over 20 symbols that resemble the game’s app icon. Each unlocks relevant information about the campaign, which is interesting to glance at.

The So-So:

+- Music. Madfinger employs a handful of guitar-laden tracks to attempt to keep the action entertaining. It’s successful initially, but I was sick of hearing the same material the further I progressed.

+- No melee? Gears of War fans I’m sure would agree that the chainsaw bayonet spoils gamers. Such fun… With Shadowgun being so similar, it’s somewhat disappointing that you can’t even whack a guy with your gun.

+- Controls. They generally work well, but sometimes you’ll fumble looking around or something when your finger slips or is on the wrong part of the screen. Thankfully your gun always shoots, and shooting is fun.

+- Enemy tactics. At the beginning it appears that Slade’s opposition works to flank and out-muscle you, but it’s clear over time that Simon’s minions rely on generic path-finding that at times provokes odd decision-making. Why would a guy I’m shooting from a distance suddenly run right up to the other side of the barrier I’m using? They’re not completely stupid, but not smart either.

The Bad:

– Stuttering. I’ve learned it’s not necessarily your device’s fault when a game doesn’t run smoothly on it. I’ll probably never know for sure, but sadly Shadowgun was never silky on my Thunderbolt when blasting away Dr. Simon’s legion. Hiccups even occurred moving around. This tends to be discouraging, but I still enjoyed the game in spite.

– We meet again… Maybe I’m picky, but I think Shadowgun could’ve spared more enemy types, or at least balanced the encounter frequency. It wasn’t long before I started to wonder if our mad scientist’s army enlisted mostly Psycho Mantis wannabes, and I think it did. Yes you also battle tickers, grenade-launching space suits, and others, but they’re uncommon in comparison.

– Return to sender, please! Shadowgun didn’t seem interested in weapon variety. You start with a standard-issue SMG, and eventually acquire a shotgun, grenade launcher and rocket launcher. These instruments reside in distinct treasure chest-looking crates too, and the number of duplicates made me sad. Why bother leaving these all over the place when ammo is already aplenty? Think of it like opening one of your most anticipated games as a present on your birthday, only to do it again at Christmas. Um…

– Take a bullet, will ya?! It’s stupid that Shadowgun requires your targeting reticule to be red before an enemy receives damage. In other words, if you point at a creep and the reticule isn’t red, cover or no cover, damage won’t be done. Stupid, no? And worse, often half or more of your SMG clip is needed to down a single enemy.

The Ugly:

Final boss. If you learn the quick way to kill him like I did, after several tries that is, it’s not so frustrating. Otherwise, the battle is frustrating. The ending is also a purposeful cliffhanger that encourages you to play The Leftover expansion included, and plain uninteresting altogether. After about four or five hours, I was ready to put the game away.

The Lowdown:

Shadowgun’s problems damage the experience for me; I won’t lie. Of course you may not encounter everything I did either, which I would be happy for. Yet regardless of what issues affect who, Madfinger still produced a very good third-person shooter for phones and tablets that probably knows no equal right now. The action maintains your attention well enough, and Unity really makes the game beautiful on whatever your screen may be. The price is acceptable on both platforms, so by all means invest on the one you have.

Average Score Scale: 7.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7.5/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Shadowgun doesn’t lag on your device.

6 thoughts on “Shadowgun Review”

  1. Excellent review Justin. I’m currently planning on writing an interesting article asking readers whether or not hardcore games are truly wanted on mobile devices. Games like this, Infinity Blade, etc. look phenomenal, however now that Republique has failed to generate the funds required to develop the game through Kickstarter, the developer has been forced to include a PC and Mac version of the game in hopes of achieving their goal of $500,000 within the next few weeks. To me that speaks volumes. It basically says there aren’t enough hardcore games out there willing to invest in a hardcore mobile offering of this calibur. So I really wonder what it will take to bridge the gap between these hardcore mobile offerings and the typical console gamers we know and love. If these devices had more support for controllers I think tablets could really make an impact on the portable and even console scene, but until that happens I doubt the tens of millions of hardcore gamers will be willing to give up their controllers anytime soon.

  2. A keen observation there Jarrod! I’ve thought about what you describe there as well, and I tend to agree. I would prefer in a heartbeat to play these games with a physical controller over the virtual controls. It’s impossible to reproduce sticks and buttons on a touch screen. Sure these sophisticated apps manage to be fun in spite, but I think Modern Combat 3, Infinity Blade and games like Shadowgun would find many more customers if a controller was able to be used. Even though I would’ve quit eventually anyway, I probably would’ve played MC3 online a bit more than I did if I could play with a physical controller. It’s not a good sign in my eyes when we’re sold attachments like the Fling/Fling-mini that claim to fill the desire for a more console-like experience. Well, you can stick whatever you want to a phone or tablet screen, but then you’ll as might as well have a 3DS or Vita. The difference? Pricing. People want to pay as little as possible for their games, and the mobile market allows that, but at the expense of the user experience. It’s just annoying to have to use the same finger to aim your weapon, and subsequently use it. That’s disconnecting. Auto-aim may be nice, but gamers want the satisfaction of performing these actions themselves. I definitely don’t understand why these device manufacturers don’t see the gold mine of opportunity in allowing controller peripherals to be paired or plugged in. It does hurt games like these.

    I look forward to your article.

  3. Indeed Justin. There are some devices I’ve looked into like the iCade, but that’s such a niche product it’s insane. It also wouldn’t help with the top tier games you mentioned, it’s specifically designed for the arcade games.

    As for the article, it should be up tomorrow if all goes according to plan. I’m getting kind of into Xenoblade now though O_O I plan to get back on the editorial/feature bandwagon, and pump out some more video reviews. Our subscribers are taking a hit because I haven’t done one in a while.

    1. I’ve seen independent and third party products out there that serve as controller attachments for smartphones at least, but none of them support the actual apps as far as I know. It’s all the emulators that people use. The same thing with Bluetooth controllers. Some people are able to use a PS3 controller, or another device, but they support the same thing. Or, if any apps are supported, the list is very small.

      I supposed this is ultimately what we get when 1/3 of the market is full of dedicated devices running one OS (iPhone/iOS), versus the other 2/3 that has hardware of all sorts, and varying interpretations of the OS (Android).

    1. Thanks a lot for taking a moment to drop by and share your reaction here, it’s greatly appreciated :) I did enjoy your work as S.A.R.A., and am pleased that you like my opinion on it.

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