Publisher EA is no stranger to the idea of tying in mobile games to their big brother console games. For instance, Dead Space on iOS rewarded players with extra costumes and upgrades in Dead Space 2 on the consoles.
Their latest effort in continuing this trend is Mass Effect Infiltrator, an entirely new third person shooter on iOS that has the added bonus of helping to improve your progress in Mass Effect 3 on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. As you play through the game you collect intel which can be uploaded to your EA Origin account and shared with your Mass Effect 3 game, improving your Galactic Readiness in the war with the Reapers.
Frankly, this is probably incentive enough for most Mass Effect fans to at least try the game (the low asking price doesn’t hurt things either) and will likely serve as a way of letting you get past most of its shortcomings.
First things first, Mass Effect Infiltrator is a cover-based shooter, putting you in the role of a Cerberus operative that is tasked with hunting down the enemies of humanity. As anyone that has ever played a Mass Effect game will know Cerberus is basically a space-racist organisation that views any alien life forms as enemies of humanity. Our protagonist soon realizes this and starts to think that they may not be the saints he once thought they were.
A lot of thought has gone in to the design of the on-screen button layout. The developers have opted to use as few buttons as possible (one for biotic powers, one for weapons, and one to enable cloak) resulting in a very clean uncluttered screen. Movement is handled by moving your thumb across the left hand side of the screen, while aiming is taken care of by the right hand side of the screen.
Push forward and on the left hand side of the screen and your character will run ahead, and can take cover automatically by running in to low walls, boxes, or corners. Getting out of cover is usually quite simple, just press on the lower left side of the screen. From this position you can pop out of cover to line up shot after shot, with very little chance of getting injured.
When an enemy is within your weapon’s rage a blue box appears around them; tapping on the box brings up your iron sights and you can start shooting away at your enemy. When aiming at the enemy a small orange box will appear on their vulnerable spot, usually the head. If you concentrate fire on this spot it will inflict major damage. Once an enemy is defeated you are given a small window of opportunity to start attacking another exposed enemy – should you switch weapons between enemies, or use biotic powers, you will be awarded bonus style points.
There are four weapons to choose from, each with their own upgrades to buy. You start the game with two weapons, the Assault Riffle and Shotgun, with a further two, the sniper riffle and the particle beam, that can be bought from the in-game store. Each weapon has its own firing style and range, meaning that you’ll need to switch weapons on the fly in order to tackle most situations. For example, the assault riffle sprays bullets as soon as you start aiming, while you have to manually fire bullets with the shotgun.
Enemies attack you in waves, and once the wave is complete your performance is graded, and in-game currency is awarded. Should you find that your skills are lacking there is also the option to spend real world money on in-game credits, which is a nice enough way of helping those with more money than sense blitz their way through the game.
I have to say that my initial impressions were very positive; graphically it is phenomenal, with large environments and backgrounds that seem to go on forever. The general art design is completely in tone with the Mass Effect universe, and the controls work well in your average combat situation. However, as you progress further through the game you come to find that, in actual fact, the controls are just too unresponsive. It may only take a second or two for your commands to register, but that single second can often make the difference between surviving a battle and being pounded into a fine paste.
One boss fight in particular against a genetically modified Krogan is especially frustrating, as he has a powerful charge attack that can kill you almost instantly. Similarly when facing enemy snipers the latency between making a movement and your character doing what you are asking can often lead to your untimely demise. On occasion when trying to get into cover, or out of it, your character will inexplicably get stuck, leaving you exposed, which has caused me to hammer on my screen in frustration on more than one occasion.
The actual gameplay itself is very repetitive. You will find that, for the most part, you’ll spend your time cowering behind some cover waiting for the enemies to expose themselves. There’s very little to do in terms of exploration, beyond finding the odd terminal to interact with and earn extra credits.
Every now and then you will come across a room with a cowering Cerberus operative and you are given the choice of being a paragon or a renegade. However, this invariably means you’ll either let them live or kill them where they stand. There is very little variety in these decisions, which is particularly disappointing considering the depth of Mass Effect’s choice system.
It’s not all doom and gloom as, for the most part, the game is enjoyable, and the added bonus of being able to collect intel that improves your Galactic Readiness in Mass Effect 3 is incentive enough to keep playing. However, extended play sessions will only serve to highlight the flaws in the control system and undoubtedly lead you to feel more frustrated than empowered.
Graphics:4/5 – Some of the best graphics we’ve seen to date on iOS.
Sound: 3/5 – The soundtrack is lifted straight from the main Mass Effect games, which is as good as it has ever been. Voice acting meanwhile has a hollow quality to it that can be (unintentionally) quite amusing at times.
Gameplay:2/5 – As far as third person shooters go this is fairly standard. Duck behind cover and choose your moment to fire. However it is very repetitive, and during high pressure moments the failings of the touch control system are all too apparent.
Longevity: 2/5 – Lasting perhaps two or three hours, there is some incentive to replay the game in order to earn all upgrades and collect more intel to improve your Mass Effect 3 Galactic Readiness.
Overall 2.5 out of 5
There is some fun to be had with Mass Effect Infiltrator, but the delay between performing an action and seeing your character act on your orders can lead to a very frustrating experience. Having said that, it’s relatively inexpensive and playing the game helps increase your chances of survival in Mass Effect 3. On those grounds alone it is probably worth a shot.
- Luke Mears