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Dead Trigger Review (iOS)

“Wow, this looks amazing”, is something that is being heard more and more often when we show each other new mobile games here at the CalmDownTom office. Whether on smaller iDevices, Android phones or tablets or on the gorgeous screen of the iPad 3, there have never been more graphically impressive mobile games than there are today. In the very best cases (as in something like the newest N.O.V.A. game) these titles look as good as something you would see on a modern home console. There are moments in Madfinger’s Dead Trigger however where it looks even better than that.

The whole game feels vaguely reminiscent of Doom 3. It might be the chunky zombie enemies, the weapons, the way enemies crawl out of gratings and cupboards or the glowing green eyes, but I had a great deal of nostalgia for the id classic wile playing Dead Trigger. It’s not a particularly scary game though, and you won’t be dealing with zombies jumping at you out of nowhere. These zombies are resolutely old school in their tactics; they shamble relentlessly forward and you mow them down until you hear the click-click of an empty gun.

The basic structure of the game involves choosing form a number of different missions from an overview map screen. While the map screen includes options to buy weapons or fiddle with your character (as well as pay for new items with real world money), the levels themselves are small arenas where you fight it out with the brain-starved hordes. These closed-off typically have very simple goals, like defend an area or reach a checkpoint or eliminate all enemies. Enemies can drop cash for new weapons or precious ammo, and from the start of the game to the end you will be fighting the same enemies and seeing many of the same areas.

The combat works better than it should for a touch screen FPS game. It uses a typical dual (virtual) stick control system and as such it never feels great, especially on the larger iPad. The frustration of the on-screen controls are offset somewhat by two clever design decisions though. The first is that the game has few touch screen “buttons”. While titles like Modern Combat litter the screen with jump and aim buttons, Dead Trigger only has movement, a fire button and reload to cram onto the screen. This means less pressing a button in frantic situation when you don’t want to and fewer incidences of pressing the wrong button.

The second clever feature is the relatively slow-paced nature of the game. The enemies are shambling and therefore you have time to line up your shots. Crowd management, ammo conservation and accuracy are your primary concerns, and its definitely not a game where you can run-and-gun. This is because moving affects your aim. While the extent that this occurs depends on the weapon, it is still always better to stop and let your reticule shrink before firing. This results in a strange rythym to combat that feels (appropriately) not too different from the Resident Evil games. You find a good spot (preferably where no zombies will approach from behind) and stay there, picking off when they get too close. You are invcentivised to do this by the games scoring system too, which provides bonuses for accuracy, headshots and the like.

There’s a good variety of weapons on offer, but more importantly they feel solid and satisfying. At the start of the game you have an impressive automatic weapon to give you a flavour of whats in store later, but you quickly lose this and go back to trusty handguns before working your way through the arsenal. Paying real money can obviously speed this progress substantially, but I found that grinding for better weapons wasn’t too much of a chore as all of the aresenal was satisfying to use.

While the gameplay might be solid, the storyline and voice acting is bobbins. As lazy as you would expect, there really is almost nothing to it. What writing there is would have been better left out completely. A terrible main character and an over-serious tone make the whole affair bearable only when it is laughably bad. Crass one liners (which aren’t funny) are an unwelcome and immersion breaking inclusion and make you beg for a silent, anonymous protagonist.

Still, none of that really detracts from the fairly solid gameplay and gorgeous visuals. I found myself despairing at the opening moments of the game. Another touch screen FPS was not at the top of my wish list. Deespite my scepticism, when the first gogeous level loaded and I moved under a dripping pipe to see some gorgeous water effects run over my iPad screen, I was intrigued. As I blew away zombies in a moderately exciting way and their limbs dropped off in crimson bursts, I experieinced viceral satisfaction beyond what I expected. Never more than a dumb shooting gallery, Dead Trigger remains very much one of the best games of its type through clever design, solid presentation and best-in-class visuals. Well worth a head-shot or two.

7 bullets to brains out of 10

Published inReviews