The original Dead Trigger managed to succeed where so many other mobile first-person shooters have failed by embracing the merits and weaknesses of its platform. Rather than trying to ape the conventions of console shooters, it created an addictive game that emphasized crowd control and close-range combat rather than precision aiming, and short, bite-sized missions rather than long, cinematic campaigns. It put the basic conventions of the genre in a context that made sense on a phone without abandoning the core of what makes first-person shooters work.
Dead Trigger 2 arrives just in time for Halloween and looks to tackle the first game’s biggest shortcoming: repetition. For all of its strengths, the original game could get a bit wearying, forcing players to take on the same events and maps over and over. There were a handful of unique story missions sprinkled in, but for the most part, you’d be grinding away on the same maps in a handful of different modes.
Dead Trigger 2 still offers the kind of semi-randomized missions as the first game, but they’re separate from the story campaign. Now, you’ll have a series of unique missions, each with some kind of story context and unique objectives, alongside a never-ending selection of randomized events. The random events are wholly optional, and exist as a way to earn money and experience.
The game’s story is relatively short, consisting of 16 missions split up into two separate campaigns set in the USA and Africa. It’s strongly implied that Madfinger intends to roll out more content, but for now these levels will keep players busy for a couple of hours. The game is fairly challenging, and you’ll probably want to grind a bit to earn better gear, although players can choose their own difficulty (which, in turn, scales a level’s rewards).
As you’d expect, the already stunning graphics from the first title have gotten a nice overhaul. Dead Trigger 2 uses the Unity engine and features two graphics settings, and a third, invisible setting available only to Tegra 4 owners. The textures and models are absolutely stunning for a mobile game, full of grimy detail, and on the higher settings, there’s an impressive amount of shader effects that borders on gratuitous. Some of these effects seem like they’re just there to show off and don’t even fit. Almost everything, including wood and drywall, has a metallic, reflective sheen to it, and on Tegra 4 devices, there are reflective pools everywhere, including dry desert environments.
The fundamentals of the gameplay haven’t changed all that much, but there have been a few tweaks that help to make life easier. The most striking is the inclusion of an auto-fire mode that removes the need to manually press a button to shoot. This makes the game a bit easier, but it’s a much more elegant control scheme. The use of on-screen buttons has always been at odds with schemes that require the player to move and aim with both thumbs, and the new controls feel better suited to the game. There’s still the option for a manual fire mode like the first game, as well as robust, customizable controller support for purists. A new mission arrow helps to guide you in the right direction, and enemy indicators show when a zombie is nearby.
Maybe most significant is the inclusion of an upgradeable base. You’ll have a small team of survivors with you, each with unique skills that can craft various gear and consumables. These upgrades cost money, but they also take time. This is where Dead Trigger 2 tries to leverage its pay currency with real-time countdowns that can only be skipped by doling out cash or completing offers. Luckily Dead Trigger 2 doesn’t actually stop you from playing while you wait for these, so it doesn’t seriously disrupt the pacing of the game. You won’t need to dish out for a lot of upgrades in order to get through the game’s story mode, but there’s plenty to buy for those that are so inclined.
With such a short campaign, it’s questionable how much time players are really going to want to spend grinding and upgrading. If there’s any shortcoming to Madfinger’s latest, it’s that there’s not that much there – yet. There’s little doubt that we’ll see expansions and refinements in the future, and many of the areas we’ve seen in previews aren’t even present, so there’s a real sense that Madfinger is holding back content for updates. What has been released so far is more than a solid foundation; it bests the first game in almost every way, and reclaims the mobile FPS crown for the second game in a row.
Dead Trigger 2 does the impossible again; it creates a real, full-fledged FPS that looks and plays great on a mobile phone, even without an external controller.