If It Quacks Like a Duck…
First-person shooters come and go on the mobile scene, but few have the staying power Shadowgun War Games alludes to. Even fresh out of beta it has the potential to be a dominating force in the realm of mobile FPS titles if MADFINGER Games plays its cards right. Aesthetically speaking, Shadowgun War Games is clearly riding the coattails of Blizzard’s Overwatch. That’s not at all a bad thing and, as far as graphics are concerned, it’s polished like a AAA title. The game injects innovation to differentiate itself from its inspiration.
Take the number of classes, for example, which have been expanded. In Overwatch, there are three classes: tank, support, and damage. Shadowgun War Games increases that number to five: assault, support, tank, runner, and sniper. A hero’s class is more indicative of their playstyle instead of a broad title. Four of the classes are self-explanatory, but runners are unique to Shadowgun War Games. They rely on speed, which makes them excellent for Capture the Flag.
Another unique touch is loadouts. Every hero has two distinct abilities, both on very short cooldowns, and also two weapons. A hero’s main weapon uses limited ammo, but deals more damage. The secondary weapon has unlimited ammo but at the cost of reduced damage. It creates an interesting dynamic where you can pick off some health from a distance with your secondary weapon, and then finish opponents off with your main weapon or vice versa.
Character design is also an excellent mark that Shadowgun War Games capitalizes on, including the heroes’ backstories. It even feels like MADFINGER went out of its way to create wholly unique models instead of being copycats, which would have been easy to do considering the clear influence of Overwatch. You can certainly draw parallels between Shadowgun War Games’ current roster of heroes and those of Overwatch, but more as a source of inspiration rather than a one-for-one reproduction. Take Jet, for example, who’s similar to Overwatch’s Tracer. His abilities include teleporting to his targeted location and time. However, his time manipulation is tied to alternate timelines rather than the one he’s in (think Rick and Morty rather than Back to the Future). Or Slade, who’s similar to Soldier 76 but is a mercenary, a soldier of fortune, rather than a military soldier.
The Main Course Without the Main Course
Shadowgun War Games is severely lacking in content, so much so that I’m not yet comfortable handing money over for cosmetics, which is a shame because the hero skins, badges, and charms you place on your guns can match AAA quality. I dig Slade’s futuristic mercenary alternate skins and big, burly Revenant’s punk-rock phase. Microtransactions are tasteful and none are pay-to-win, which is surprising considering the mobile FPS scene is full of it. But where’s the meat? It feels like I’m munching on bread while I wait for the main course. The bread tastes great and all, but I really want my steak.
The problem starts with the number of heroes. You have five to choose from. Quite frankly, that is unacceptable. The side effect of so few heroes ends up being one team oftentimes stacking a single hero. It doesn’t happen too often but, when it does, players can capitalize on a hero’s innate ability and unbalance the match. Five Revenants, a tank hero who can deal out massive damage, can slow nearby opponents to a crawl. Or five Jets, a hero who manipulates time, can zip around the map and be untouchable.
Then there’s the lack of game modes. You only have two to choose from: Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch, played across two maps. The maps themselves are highly stylized with futuristic skylines, colorful textures, and plenty of walls to duck back and forth to. The smaller arenas really lend themselves to a reduction in “camping.” But there isn’t enough maps. Whoever was in charge of the oven needs to step back. They took the cookies out too soon and it really shows. Had MADFINGER Games launched with 10 heroes, it would have eased the burden of so few maps and modes.
Please Stop Running Into Walls
The biggest problem I faced in the game were the controls. Everything was either too fast, too slow, or lagging behind—slight lag, but noticeable. If you aren’t careful, you’ll constantly miss your target or find yourself running into the nearest wall. That’s not a good attribute for an FPS, nor is a missing melee attack. You only need to look to Call of Duty: Mobile to see touchscreen controls that are done right.
On the bright side, Shadowgun War Games doesn’t clutter your screen with unnecessary detail; the UI is nice and clean and the buttons aren’t too big. You can move around the various abilities and toggle through the settings, as well as tweak your aim sensitivity. It’s going to be absolutely necessary to work through the touchscreen controls.
I will say this though: you can completely ignore the touchscreen controls. I used a DualShock 4 controller (my precious, silver-colored God of War controller), which is supported, and it made duking it out with other players far smoother. In fact, if you want any chance at winning, connect a controller. That still doesn’t excuse the messy touchscreen controls though.
A Good Start, But Nothing More
MADFINGER Games has a good start here, as far as gameplay is concerned. You can’t be gunned down as easily as you can in other shooters like Overwatch or Call of Duty: Mobile, leaving more room for strategy rather than a run-and-gun style of play. If you want to take down an opponent, either outsmart them or work as a team.
Shadowgun War Games gets two thumbs-up for avoiding the pitfall of pay-to-win tactics and presentation. MADFINGER Games has something here, but in order to get the jump on Overwatch missing from the mobile scene, there needs to be one big content dump, and it needs to happen fast.
Is it Hardcore?
Few first-person shooters have the potential Shadowgun War Games has. It heavily emphasizes skill and team fighting rather than pay-to-win tactics, sticking strictly to cosmetic items. With more polished controls and a big content update, Shadowgun War Games could dominate the mobile FPS genre.