Extraction: Project Outbreak review
If you were part of an experienced team making your first iOS title quickly and on a tight budget, the result might well look a little like Extraction: Project Outbreak. ShortRound’s Cannon Fodder-inspired zombie shooter is confidently constructed around an original, and extremely promising, single-finger control scheme. When the game struggles, it tends to be with content rather than concept.
It’s ingeniously streamlined stuff. Regular taps of the finger direct your tiny commando through the game’s cluttered top-down levels, while a swipe targets enemies, allowing your character to automatically open fire if they’re within range. Chaining kills together will reward you with a points and XP boost, and as different foes are steadily dropped into the battlefield – the fast, weak one, the lumbering, well-armoured fatty, the one that returns fire – you have to be a little tactical in the order in which you link them, taking out the most immediate threats first.
With a range of standard weapons, specials like turrets or waddling little gun-droids, and neat systems for grenades and melee, Extraction makes a great early impression: a shooter with a racing line slung between targets. The problems start to show, however, as later levels send you back into the same handful of maps to grind through a small selection of ever-repeating mission types, most of which revolve around escorts.
The classic arcade titles that Extraction apes generally only had one mission type – kill everything that moves – so variety may not be the only reason that ShortRound’s game ultimately starts to feel slightly hollow. The greater problem actually lies with the XP and in-game currency system – dangerous devices to rely on where simple, fast-paced score-chasing is concerned. Although they pad out a game built with limited art assets, these unlocks and perks encourage the developer to hide essentials like a decent running speed and truly satisfying weaponry in the upper branches of the progression tree.
Throw the option to buy more credits via micro-transactions into the mix and it’s easy to see how Extraction became so committed to undermining its vital arcade immediacy with repetitive toil. The framework is here for a truly great game, then, but it’s the need to lengthen – and, for some players, monetise – the campaign that stops ShortRound’s debut from living up to its obvious potential.