Shadowgun comes perilously close to being a game you might actually want to play. It grinds surprisingly detailed visuals and animation from the Unity engine (albeit at the cost of some obvious limitations in terms of particle effects and enemy numbers) and it does a fairly decent job of convincing you that thirdperson cover shooters can work well controlled through the touchscreen of an iOS device. Sadly, Madfinger’s evident technical flair is almost entirely lacking when it comes to level design, weapon design, and – well, pretty much any kind of design, really.
The controls are the star here, with one half of the screen handling movement while the second tackles aiming, firing, and weapon switching. The speed of your character when turning and walking around suggests a nice heaviness, and entering and leaving cover is simple – although it could be more forgiving when you’re approaching a low wall from an oblique angle. Due to the position of the trigger button, aiming your gun can occasionally lead to you accidentally shooting it as well, but for the most part, Shadowgun is pleasantly unfiddly and allows you to make your way through its firefights with a minimum of input mishap.
Those fights themselves are rather unimaginative, however, with your comically stereotyped gun for hire facing off against endless waves of two- or three-foot soldiers and a selection of exotics, such as scuttling bombs, teleporters, or huge turrets.
There’s an obvious debt to Gears Of War in the enemy design, but Epic’s skill at constantly changing the pace and subtly varying the rules of engagement is all but absent. The weapons, meanwhile, feel distinctly feeble, and the AI is so taken up with navigating cover that there’s very little room for it to surprise you.
Bosses at least add an element of spectacle to proceedings, but Shadowgun settles into a rut within minutes and fails to emerge from it for the length of its generous campaign. This is a smart template for future fun, but the details need work. When it comes to getting this kind of game onto iOS then, Madfinger has, in more ways than one, done all the boring bits.