EA’s most ambitious mobile game yet
With their mobile port of Dead Space, EA’s IronMonkey Studio proved that it is, in fact, possible to bring a modern console game to your phone without having to settle for a watered down experience. This time, EA has given them an even greater challenge: developing an original spin-off of Bioware’s epic Mass Effect trilogy to stand alongside the third game. The task seems daunting, and this time some sacrifices need to be made, but the result is still worth a look.
The Mass Effect series expertly blends the action of a console third-person shooter with the sprawling story, deep characters, and exploration you’d expect from a Bioware game. To bring this to the phone, IronMonkey has stripped away the RPG side, to focus solely on the action. You won’t be exploring the Citadel, chatting with merchants, taking on side-quests, or charting a course for new worlds. You’ll still be able to earn money and buy weapons, upgrade abilities, and customize your character a bit, but that’s the extent of the game’s RPG heritage.
In combat, Infiltrator actually proves to be a reasonable facsimile, and like Dead Space, it takes a thoughtful approach to touch-screen controls rather than relying on clumsy on-screen buttons. Movement is handled by sliding your two thumbs on either side of the screen, but most of the buttons have been stripped away. You enter cover automatically by pushing up against a surface, and you can tap on any enemy within range to look down your gun’s scope and start shooting. Once you’re in scoped mode, you’ll have to fine-tune your aim a bit to get headshots, but it makes shooting nice and quick.
There are a few new additions to the gameplay that compliment this increased focus on action. When you kill an enemy, you’ll get a brief moment of slow-motion. If you manage to kill another enemy in this time, you’ll earn more “style points.” Chaining biotic moves into weapon kills will net you points as well. The controls work flawlessly for the most part, but the system makes it impossible to move and shoot at the same time – fine for firing from cover, but it feels strange in boss fights where you’ll need to dodge projectiles. For purists, there is an alternate mode that controls like a typical third-person shooter. It’s actually a bit harder, but it may “feel” better for those who like console-style controls.
Perhaps most impressively, IronMonkey has recreated the sights and sounds of BioWare’s series flawlessly. Their proprietary engine is easily up there with Unreal or Unity on similar hardware and the sterile, futuristic environments capture the space opera feel of the original. At a glance, you could almost mistake it for its console cousin. Mass Effect’s atmosphere has always been key to the experience, and Infiltrator nails this perfectly.
Unfortunately, Infiltrator falls desperately short when it comes to storytelling. There are none of Bioware’s hallmark dialog trees or cut scenes, and moral choices are reduced to repetitive, uninteresting kill/spare scenarios. The story is largely told through radio chatter with unseen characters of dubious alignment, and treads perilously close to the developer’s work on Dead Space.
None of the narrative appeal of the console version is present here, leaving the action to stand on its own merit. Of course, it’s debatable whether or not Mass Effect was ever as good of a shooter as it was an RPG, and it certainly was no Vanquish or Gears of War. That said, Infiltrator does an impressive job at recreating Mass Effect’s action on the go, and judged against its peers on the platform, it’s one of the best 3D action games you’ll find, with better controls and more style than even Shadowgun.