Online multiplayer shooters on Android are pretty uncommon. I personally liked N.O.V.A. 3, and there was Modern Combat 3 as well. Anyway, Madfinger Games, creators of games such as Shadowgun and Dead Trigger, have entered the mobile multiplayer shooting space as well with Shadowgun: Deadzone. The game is, in short, good – but just how good?
Deadzone is a no frills online shooter. No story mode, practice mode or even local multiplayer. You just go into the game, and choose between two match variants – one of which is Deathmatch, a staple for online shooters; and the other is Zone Control, something along the lines of capture the flag.
Both match variants can accommodate up to 12 players. There are six maps split equally between the two, and these maps have a good variation in the sense that some are smaller and others huge, with a mix of indoor and outdoor. The layout for the Zone Control maps in particular is great, with strategic positioning of barriers which you can take cover behind, and strategize from there.
The Deathmatch mode is really just free-for-all for the most part. People come from right, left and center. What I usually do is go towards where I hear gunfire, and just spray my bullets there. Chances are the other guys would have taken life out of each other that I can get two or more easy kills.
There are item packs that you can use, like health and ammo regenerators, grenades and turrets. All these add an extra layer of depth to the game. Having limited item slots means you need to take in what’s best for you. There are also character upgrades such as more health and faster movement speed. As you level up, you do get much stronger, so it’s a good thing Madfinger has restricted the level range of each game. Though at the moment if you’re highly ranked, you’ll have a tough time finding matches.
Ok, so now we talk about the weapons – undoubtedly the most important aspect of any shooting game. This game has loads of guns that are divided into families such as assault, plasma, rocket launcher and machine gun. Each of them have varying strengths and weaknesses – some fire at a higher rate, some deal greater damage, while others have bigger clip sizes. You probably need to try all out to see which fits your play style the best. However, I take issue with the balancing of the weapons, especially the rocket launchers, as many just go around shooting it aimlessly in Deathmatch mode.
In terms of controls, this has a fairly standard control scheme that mimics that of Madfinger’s other shooters. The button placement is fully customizable, and trust me, if you want to be any good, you need to shift their positioning and find a sweet spot. There are actually a lot of buttons – roll, sprint, fire and reload in addition to using your items like grenades and health regenerator.
I remember the Beta version having native controller support, but it seems to be scrapped now. Good thing because playing with a controller made a whole lot of difference and would have been a severe disadvantage to those without it, especially those on iOS. Speaking of iOS, Deadzone is cross-platform between both Android and iOS, which I think is a commendable feat.
This being a Madfinger game, there are no surprises really that the game scores top marks in the graphics department. The environments and structures are all rendered in detail. And Madfinger show us their amazing skills at compressing games once again, as Deadzone clocks in at a mere 150 MB.
Moreover, there are varying graphics setting levels to choose from. Setting it to ‘ultra high’ will lead to console-quality graphics effects such as water simulation, particle effects and advanced lighting among other things. The game has ragdoll animations for deaths too, and all in all, whichever graphics setting your device can best handle, the game is pure eye candy.
Sound wise, guns sound genuine. Also, if you put on headphones, you can listen to others’ footsteps and which direction it’s coming from, so it can help to keep you more aware of your surroundings especially in the Deatchmatch mode. One issue here is the voice chat that premium users have access to – it doesn’t seem to be working, though I do hear occasional static noise.
Arguably, what most people might be worried about is the fact the game’s free. Naturally, suspicion of unbalanced gameplay that leans heavily towards IAPs may arise, but I’m happy to say that the model used here is really pleasant. You can subscribe to a premium account to get 50% more cash and XP, as well as the currently non-existent voice-chat feature.
Just to give you an idea, $1.99 will get you a one month subscription, which is pretty fair I’d say. The IAPs to get the premium gold currency will also allow you to buy hats and extra skins. All these don’t affect the gameplay one bit and are merely cosmetic. I actually was bracing myself for a far worse IAP implementation here, and I tip my hat to Madfinger for such a noble and non-obnoxious IAP scheme.
Performance wise, the game is pretty stable, and lag is virtually non-existent should you stick to the server closest to you. Framerates however could be improved I believe, since running the game on my iPad 2 yielded a much smoother experience. Still, as long as you stick to your Android device, this won’t seem like much of a problem.
If playing competitive shooting matches against real players from around the world is your type of thing, then you have got to give DeadzZone a try. It is free, has a relatively small file size, is fun, features brilliant graphics (but they’ll look fairly normal if you’ve played Madfinger’s other games!) and most importantly has sound shooting mechanics.
The game is still not complete, as it could definitely use more game modes (I want to see a weapon-independent mode and a better team mode), and there needs to be a better balancing of weapons. Also, framerates could be improved. Still, as things stand, this really is a real quality title. Just be aware that many productive hours might go to waste!
Update Nov 26th, 2012 7:14am PST: This is a short but important update. There is actually controller support in Shadowgun: Deadzone, unlike what I said above. This is because, when I played the open beta and closed beta, the controller configuration option appeared irrespective of whether you plugged in a controller or not. Now, that only appears once you plug in the controller. I made a wrong assumption seeing that it wasn't there anymore (I didn't even bother plugging in my controller to double verify).