Last week I was given the chance to visit ngmoco’s studio in San Francisco to preview their upcoming game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This ambitious new title is an FPS entitled Eliminate, and after getting some serious hands on time with the game I can say that as soon as the game releases I will finally have something other than tower defense games on my iPod Touch. A lot of things can be done with a touch screen, but one genre I could never imagine being well implemented on that type of interface was the first person shooter. Until now.
Eliminate’s controls are surprisingly intuitive and simple to master as learning how to move and shoot without the aid of a joystick (or two) is effortless. In a matter of minutes I went from a fumbling troll to an agile assassin. I still managed to die plenty of times, but it didn’t take too long for me to begin developing techniques. Your right thumb controls aiming, and a quick swipe spins your character around should you find yourself being attacked from behind. Your left thumb controls movement, and an unobtrusive joystick outline makes sure your thumb doesn’t leave the area. If you tap once you fire a quick burst, and twice to enable auto fire, which keeps firing on the enemy so all you have to do is aim. Once you master those controls, and it doesn’t take long, you’ll be more than ready to kick some ass online.
This game looks fantastic for a mobile game, and for those who own a second-generation iPod Touch/iPhone, the game will look even better. The environments are small, perfectly sized for quick skirmishes with four people. Matches take about three minutes, giving players a bite-sized chunk of action that’s perfect for people on the go and enough to leave us wanting more. Playing in small maps also makes sure you don’t get lost or confused, and the addition of environmental traps makes these mini-battles even more intense. The feeling you get when you slay your first foe is a feeling of immense satisfaction, and if you’re feeling extra cocky you can give your iPod a little shake to perform a quick animation inspired by a certain popular action in games like Halo.
Slain opponents drop health and credits, and you also get a certain amount of credits at the end of each match depending on how well you did in the game. You can then invest said credits into purchasing new armor, weapons, and skins to personalize your character. There’s a plethora of different suits to choose from that augment your aquatic agility, defense, damage, speed, etc. and a ton of skins to help tailor your warrior to your particular tastes. If you want to show your patriotism there’s a red white and blue skin to suit that, or if you’re feeling like a solid color there might just be a skin for that as well. However, the skins are merely cosmetic, so they don’t enhance your character’s skills. When you finally find the right weapon and armor you can either spend your hard-earned credits to upgrade them or your character.
The weapons are one of Eliminate’s strongest features, because they look and feel great to use. There’s a large variety in the weapon selection as well, varying between laser guns, assault rifles, and rocket launchers to the more imaginative plasma cannons and gravity hooks. After spending time with each weapon my only real complaint is that some of the weapons are too weak while others are incredibly powerful, so some balancing is still needed for some of the arsenal. Because of this I would’ve liked to be able to sell back purchased upgrades/armor/weapons for half price so I can explore other items when I don’t like the item I bought.
Like any good shooter, there are powerups that grant invincibility, cloaking, speed/strength boosts, and jetpacks. The jetpack powerup is fun as you can surprise your enemies with death from above, and the invincibility is even cooler than it sounds because it acts as an instant kill when you run into other enemies. If you’re not in the social mood, or you just want some practice there’s also the option to play offline with bots so you can work on some strategies before jumping into the online play.
Going from match to match is painless; once you finish a game you can choose to use the credits you acquired to purchase new items or upgrade your character, or you can simply dive in to the next game. I didn’t get to see it but Eliminate will have the Plus Network incorporated into it so you can use your friends list to invite others to play games with you and get achievements. There’s also a chance that social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace may be included down the road so you can let everyone know what you’re doing.
After spending awhile with Eliminate I can say with confidence that Apple may very well have its ‘Halo’. The character customization, visuals, and multiplayer will keep Eliminate fun long after it’s released, and the possibility of DLC in the future will keep the fan base strong. I got second place the first two four player matches I played. The music is fantastic and reminds me of the main menu music in Crackdown. The menus are stylish and vibrant, and the HUD looks great without getting in the way. The fact that I kept trying to put down the iPod to take notes on my experience before having to pick it back up to take more notes speaks volumes to the game's fun factor. If you’re a shooter fan, Eliminate is the just the thing to get your shooter fix when you’re on the go.
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