Mass Effect Infiltrator iOS
The Mass Effect universe has very much embraced the concept of transmedia. Books and comics form a background for the main games, so it’s not surprising to discover there’s also iOS Mass Effect games. The first, Mass Effect Galaxy, was a weak attempt at a top down shooter with tilt controls released in the run up to Mass Effect 2. The second is the recently released Mass Effect Infiltrator, a third person shooter that ties in to the newly released ME3. But can it hold up to its console counterparts?
ME:I places you in the boots of Randall Ezno, an augmented and enhanced Infiltrator from the shadowy Cerberus corporation. After a brief introductory mission in which you are taught the ropes of navigation and combat, you head back to a Cerberus base, where Randall discovers that Cerberus isn’t quite the benevolent employer that he once thought. The remainder of the plot sees Randall fighting against his former employers in an attempt to save his handler, Inali. Whilst it’s a solid plotline, it’s not quite up to the standards of BioWare themselves. There’s some pretty competent voice work, and a few token “Paragon/Renegade” decisions every now and again, but they have no impact on the plot itself.
The gameplay is third person cover based shooter, and works really quite well on the iOS device. Moving around is handled by swiping on the left side of the screen, whilst looking around falls to the right side. Randall conveniently snaps into cover whenever he pushes up against it. You can leap over cover and dash forwards, or roll quickly to adjacent cover in order to navigate the levels. It’s a system which sounds like it might be needlessly complex, but actually works very smoothly in execution. There were a few occasions I noticed that Randall wasn’t quite snapping to cover correctly, but overall it’s a solid system.
Gunplay is cleverly implemented into the cover system. Whilst hiding, enemies within firing range will be highlighted in a blue square. Tapping the enemy causes Randall to pop out of cover and start automatically shooting. You then have the option to drag the targeting reticule onto the enemies’ weak-point, which hopefully kills them before they duck back into cover. At this point, the game drops into slow motion and you have an opportunity to quickly tap another target to chain your kills together.
Chaining kills together boosts your style rating, which forms part of the overall scoring system of Infiltrator. Each encounter with a new group of enemies is scored individually, with a rating out of three given individually for style, time taken and amount of health lost. Style can be gained by not only chaining kills together, but by using a variety of weapons to take down your opponents. It’s not only a fantastic way of adding an element of replay-ability to the game, but it also makes you really think about the smartest route through each level.
In fact, that’s a good summary of the gameplay in Infiltrator. It has a “tactical arcade shooter” feel that will keep you coming back for more. You plan out the fastest routes between rooms. You rack up impressive kill chains, clearing whole rooms in seconds. You use the Pull biotic to wrench your enemies out of cover and then blast them out the sky with a shotgun. The game seems geared towards you making fast strategic decisions and implementing them before the enemies flank you.
Getting a good ranking on a level rewards you with credits that can be spent upgrading Randall’s abilities and equipment. Helmets and armour provide a variety of stat boosts to both defence and offense, but only one can be equipped at a time, meaning it’s up to you which you choose. Do you want a robust tank-like character? Perhaps a high damage dealer? Or maybe a mix of the two? Initially, the game provides you with an assault rifle and a shotgun, but a sniper rifle and beam weapon are unlockable, provided you have the credits. These weapons can be upgraded, giving you more damage, faster cool-down, or higher accuracy. You can also unlock further biotic powers, eventually allowing you to fire off target seeking missiles. These light RPG elements give the game another layer of tactical depth, and allow a good variety of gameplay styles.
Finally, one of Infiltrator’s selling points is that it ties into the Galaxy at War element from Mass Effect 3. Throughout the game, certain enemies will drop “Cerberus Intel”. This can either be traded in game for more credits to upgrade your character, or sent to the alliance and boost your Galactic Readiness Rating. This in turn multiplies your War Assets, and hopefully results in a better ending in ME3. Whilst it’s a nice idea, and good to see more games embracing this idea, it feels a little disconnected. The story of Randall and Inali doesn’t have any relation to the events of Mass Effect 3. In fact, throughout the game, nothing to do with ME3 is mentioned. No Reapers in sight. It would have been nice to see some nods to the series proper, as opposed to the inexplicable reoccurring Star Wars reference.
Mass Effect Infiltrator aims for cover based shooting on iOS and actually hits it pretty close to the mark. A couple of cover issues here and there don’t spoil the enjoyment of a fast paced, tactical game with a lot of replay value. Whilst the story might be a tad bland for loyal fans of the series, Infiltrator is a sound game that all iOS users should try.