Review: Warm Gun (iOS)

WarmGun

Gamers today have it good.  With the ability to play a multitude of titles wherever they are, be it on the bus, on the couch, or at work, gamers have access to portable games, web-based games, and console and PC games on whatever platform they prefer.  As gaming devices become more powerful and developers learn how to optimize code, a convergence of gaming is beginning to emerge in today’s market.  The PS Vita allows for cross platform play, loading game saves between the PS3 and Vita (titles that actually offer this are still forthcoming).  Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 allows gamers to earn Achievements on small titles with the same Gamertag they use on the Xbox 360.  Another method of convergence is how software development kits for game engines allow developers to easily create a title across multiple platforms.

Unreal Engine leverages customization, scale and whatever a team of developers envision, to create wildly varying, gorgeous games.  Enslaved, Gears of War, Batman: Arkham City, Asura’s Wrath and Dungeon Defenders are just a few examples of titles that highlight creative, vibrant, completely different worlds and play styles but all utilize the Unreal Engine.  Infinity Blade was the first Unreal Engine title to be released on the iOS platform and brought with it the same level of visual beauty gamers expected to find from a console/PC/dedicated portable gaming experience.  

Developers, big and small, have published games designed with the Unreal Developer Kit (UDK) across multiple platforms. Emotional Robots is one such development studio.  Currently working on a full PC version of Warm Gun slated for release at a date yet to be determined, the development team has released a mini version of the game for iOS devices.  On the iOS platform, Warm Gun consists of a series of 6 deathmatch maps in a traditional multiplayer-only first-person shooter package.  The world is a well designed space reminiscent the futuristic western Firefly crossed with and a post-apocalyptic virtual universe like Fallout.  Class selection ranges from a Blacksmith, a Shaman, a Miner (Forty-niner), and a Preacher.  Each class type carries a different main weapon, support weapon and a grenade of some type.

Each level has been created with a lot of thought applied to the flow of combat, high and low battle zones, respawn locations and a nice layer of details across all of the buildings.  Some maps are night maps and the lighting adds a bit of strategy, affording players the ability to run through shadows and attack enemies without being seen until it is too late.

Warm Gun has all of the great qualities of a traditional deathmatch FPS.  Fast paced, competitive FPS can be tricky to get right even on consoles and PCs, but add to the mix a device that has no methods of input other than a touch screen and the game can quickly devolve into a barely passable experience.  I’m not saying that virtual joystick controls can’t work on a touchscreen.  I’m saying that other games have proven that touch screen gaming doesn’t have to rely on the standard tropes of virtual analog sticks and face buttons to allow for a fun experience.

Warm Gun‘s controls work, almost all of the time.  Except, of course, in the heat of a battle. Without the tactile feedback of an analog stick, simply moving around became what I was battling instead of the virtual enemies.  To compensate for this, Emotional Robots has limited the enemy count to the three other class types during matches, so even though I may have lost control during one heated encounter, I never felt like I was so completely overwhelmed and overmatched that combat felt unfair. One of the biggest problem I found was that to look around as if I was using a right analog stick typical to consoling gaming, my finger would often times slip into the area on screen designated as my trigger, forcing my gun to fire off randomly into the air.  This inadvertent misfiring would often times lead my clip to be halfway empty by the time I could correct my sights on an actual enemy gunning for me.  With a clip halfway empty already, I would have to reload in the middle of a head on shootout and lose since the AI wouldn’t have the same control troubles as me.

Warm Gun offers both offline battles as well as online encounters.  Online matches are synchronized through GameSpy services and once account credentials are successfully entered a list of servers and player count appears.  I had difficulty initially logging in with a GameSpy account but I am not sure if the problem was with the service or the game as every time I went to create an account the app would crash.  Once I finally got the account issue straightened out, I found that the online play was interesting, but laggy.  The minimal animations I saw on enemies during offline play were not apparent during online matches.  Additionally, shots that should have counted as a hit were clearly not as enemies would stutter-step from one spot to the next in jarring fashion, all the while my enemy’s shot were hitting me dead on.

I don’t fault Emotional Robots for releasing a mini version of their bigger game on a platform that has the potential for millions and millions of players.  The game looks fantastic, sounds good and it is obvious that a lot of time and care has been spent developing the world.  Unfortunately, competitive first-person shooters on a device with only one input are going to have limited appeal, especially to gamers who are traditionally used to playing shooters with a controller with analog sticks and multiple buttons or a mouse and keyboard. A free single-player app called Carnival of Bullets is available for trial purposes, introducing the touch screen controls and game world in the form of an amusement park shooting gallery. But frankly, it only highlights even more so the problems that I have with the touch screen control scheme–objects are static but small, and the aiming sensitivity is a bit too fast to easily pick off targets.

I would love to see Warm Gun on the PS Vita as that could be a perfect fit for on the go first-person shooting on a device meant to handle such a game.  However, until Warm Gun shows up on the PC (or perhaps other unannounced consoles) I would avoid buying this for an iOS device.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Great use of the Unreal Engine
+ Well designed 4-person deathmatch maps

Cons:
– Aiming and shooting on touch screen are a bit too sensitive
– Laggy online play

Game Info:
Platform: iOS (Reviewed on iPhone); also coming to PC
Publisher: Emotional Robots
Developer: Emotional Robots
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Genre: Multiplayer FPS
Age Rating: 9+
Players: 1-4 (online and offline with AI bots)
Source: Promo code provided by developer

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.