The 3-D shooter has been one of the less-represented genres in mobile gaming thus far, due to their technical demands and the challenge of adapting their gameplay to touchscreen controls. Luckily, however, that is starting to change, and the past few years have seen a slew of third-person and first-person shooters for Android devices. As we enter 2013, here are some of the more successful forays into the genre thus far.
OK, admittedly, the name is slightly derivative of a certain other franchise about warfare in the modern world, and sort of reminds me of the generic store brand “Crispy Rice” cereal my mom used to buy when I was a kid. Despite the less than inspiring moniker, however the Modern Combat series is actually quite well-done in its own right, delivering a solid modern military first-person shooter experience that has won widespread acclaim, with Trevor Dobrygoski of Android Rundown, calling Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation “about as good as it gets for war action games on Android devices.”
There’s also an online multiplayer mode in each game. In its most recent iteration in Zero Hour, it allows for up to 12 simultaneous players. There are 8 multiplayer maps – which have piqued my interest in the game’s single-player campaign, if only to find out how the plot manages to encompass battles in the streets of Hollywood, California, a Hawaiian resort, the inside of an aircraft carrier, and Antarctica – and 8 types of matches including squad-based battles, capture the flag, and the venerable every-man-for-himself deathmatch.
Modern Combat by Gameloft
Buy it on Gameloft and the Play Store:
Though the prospect of becoming an unwilling participant in the never-ending argument over where the boundary between survival horror and shooter should be drawn is more horrifying than any malevolent hive mind of corpse-reanimating alien parasites could ever hope to be, journalistic duty impels us to include this game anyway. The popular science fiction action/horror franchise Dead Space makes its successful leap to mobile gaming, with what Joshua Munoz, of Android Central, calls “one of the strongest entries we’ve had into serious Android gaming yet.”
Despite what the name suggests, this isn’t simply a port of the original. Instead, it’s a full-fledged new entry in the Dead Space universe, with a story set between the events of the original game and Dead Space 2. It’s been widely praised for its impressive graphics, for a control scheme much more intuitive and functional than most attempts to translate console-style controls onto a touchscreen, and for its overall success at translating the dark atmosphere and gory action of Dead Space to mobile devices.
In Shadowgun you take on the role of mercenary John Slade as he battle hordes of enemy soldiers, monstrous creatures, and some impressively large bosses in third-person shooter action in the vein of games like Gears of War. It has intense action and some remarkable graphics and production values for a game made specifically for mobile. Yes, it’s another entry in the “angry bald man killing everything in his path ”subgenre, but by all accounts it’s a very good one, with Chris Burns of SlashGear calling it “massive, so awesome, so significant that it cannot be ignored.”
Mass Effect: Infiltrator is a spinoff of the popular action/RPG series Mass Effect. It focuses on the “action” side, with nine linear stages for the player to blast through, though it retains some RPG aspects by awarding you credits based on your performance that you can use to unlock stat improvements or new abilities.
The game tells a new story set in the Mass Effect universe, following the exploits of a rogue former agent of the shadowy militant organization known as Cerberus. It has some very nice graphics, controls well, and provides a new look at the setting of the popular series. Events in the mobile game can also affect in-game events in Mass Effect 3, with certain accomplishments in Infiltrator that can improve your Galactic Readiness score in the main game.
It’s much more action-focused than the main Mass Effect series, with much less attention given to characterization, choice, or other RPG elements. If you’re a Mass Effect fan primarily for the latter and go into this expecting a similar experience to the console/PC game you’re probably going to be disappointed, so consider whether you’re likely to enjoy Infiltrator for what it is before spending money on it.
Nevertheless, it received four out of five stars here at Hardcore Droid, where it was praised by Travis Fahs as “one of the best 3D action games you’ll find” for Android.
N.O.V.A.: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance is a series of sci-fi first-person shooter in the vein of games like Halo, and one of the most successful series of console-style games on Android. The first game in the franchise was praised by Levi Buchanan of IGN on its release as “the best first-person shooter on the Android right now.” The series, which consists of three games so far, is noteworthy for its impressive visuals, effective use of touchscreen controls, exciting battles created by the cunning enemy AI, and solid and varied single-player campaigns.
All three games have included some form of online multiplayer gameplay through Gameloft Live. Tthe most recent, N.O.V.A. 3, allows up to 12 players to do battle in six different game modes and includes a number of customization options that can be unlocked.
N.O.V.A.: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance by Gameloft
Buy it on Gameloft
2012 was a busy year for the Max Payne franchise. After an absence of over eight years, Max finally made his debut on current-generation home consoles in Max Payne 3, proving that he is still the toughest ex-cop in gaming and the most depressing man in human history.
It also saw his first appearance in mobile format with this new release of the original Max Payne, ported from the PC version. The original became a classic on the strength of its intense shoot-outs, slow-motion “bullet time” mode – something so common in modern shooters that it’s easy to forget how novel it was at the time- and gritty noir-inspired story, all recreated here. It’s even got some modest graphical improvements over the original on higher-powered devices.
Keep in mind that this was originally a game meant to be played on a television or full-size monitor with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard, so the gameplay is unlikely to translate well to a phone-sized touchscreen. Even on a larger screen, it’s the sort of game that benefits greatly from a game pad, though there’s an optional feature to assist your aiming on a touchscreen.For those suitably equipped, though, it’s quite a bargain, with David Ruddock of Android Police raving, “There’s really no reason not to buy this game if you own a compatible tablet.
Doom is a name that needs no introduction. It catapulted the nascent first-person shooter genre to massive popularity. It brought the word “deathmatch” into gaming’s vocabularly. It caused the now nearly universal misconception that a “chain gun” is a type of Gatling gun that is second only to people calling magazines “clips” on my list of game terminology pet peeves. Id Software, the legendary developers of Doom and other classic first-person shooters like Wolfenstein 3-D and Quake, have been steadily making ports of these seminal entries in the genre available for mobile devices… Apple mobile devices, that is. Android users have been left in the cold.
Happily, there is an alternative for Android gamers that doesn’t require fiddling with emulators or legally dubious downloads of questionable provenance that may or may not contain a cunningly disguised trojan that will turn your phone into the hapless plaything of the Russian mafia. Id Software released Doom’s source code to the public under a GNU General Public License in the late 90s, leading to a huge number of ported, modded, or enhanced versions of the original Doom engine on countless platforms.
DoomGLES is an enhanced port of the original from Kokak Games.It uses OpenGL ES to take advantage of the power of modern mobile devices to add enhanced graphics including particle effects, 3D enemies, higher resolutions, and dynamic lighting. It can be played via a touchscreen, a gamepad, or – for the truly old-school – a keyboard.
There is a catch. While the code for Doom’s engine is under Public License, the files for the game’s levels are not. What you buy when you buy DoomGLES is Kokak Games’ enhanced port of the game’s engine and the Doom levels that were included in the game’s free shareware release. If you want to play the whole game with DoomGLES, you’ll need to grab a copy of the PC version of the game (which isn’t hard, considering how many times it’s been rereleased over the years) and extract the necessary files. Kokak has instructions for this on their website. On the plus side, this method works not only for the original Doom’s levels, but for Doom II, Ultimate Doom, and fan-made levels.
Dead Trigger is another Most Hardcore shooter from Shadowgun developer Madfinger Games, this time in first rather than third-person. Like a lot of mobile shooters, the premise isn’t exactly original – you’re fighting to stay alive while gunning down hordes of zombies. It’s gameplay that matters in the end, though, and on that front Dead Trigger succeeds, with Travis Fahs, here at Hardcore Droid calling it “a quintessentially hardcore shooter, with blistering, almost Serious Sam-like action.”
Hardcore Droid’s Best Shooter of 2012 was designed with the way most mobile games are played in mind, with varied missions that can typically be completed witin a few minutes. It’s quite impressive visually, though some of the high-end effects are only available on integrity read devices.