Developer: Madfinger Games
Price: Free
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Madfinger Games returns to its visually-impressive shooter Shadowgun with the new free-to-play Deadzone version. This takes the cover-based shooting established in the 2011 title and pits up to 12 players against each other in one of two modes: free-for-all Deathmatch, and team-based Ground Control, where players fight for control of spawn points, with the goal being to either outlast the other team as they run out of lives or to conquer all 5 spots.

The combat is largely identical to the original Shadowgun: there’s the ability to get behind cover and sprint, though the player’s avatar can be customized (there’s hats to buy too!), along with the loadout of three weapons, a special ability, and three items like grenades. Grenades are death-dealers in this game; she (or he) who uses grenades well kills many. While this isn’t quite an inventive game, there’s still fun to be had in taking out opponents or interrupting a firefight with a grenade and getting a double kill.

Now, Shadowgun: Deadzone is incredibly unstable, especially on iOS. While cross-platform multiplayer and user accounts work fine, the matchmaking server tends to go down or be otherwise unavailable on a regular basis. The iOS version 1.0 crashes frequently too – a fix is supposedly in the works but this seems like something that should have been sorted out sooner.

The controls are, like many other first-person shooters on touch screens, much better on bigger devices. Play this on a tablet, if possible. I frequently ran into control issues with the small iPod touch 5 screen and its tiny virtual buttons. I still could do well, but I frequently found myself tapping on the screen to look and started firing, or tried to tap on the roll button and hit something else. Thanks to the virtual controls, the combat just feels inelegant overall: there’s a lot of running around and pray-and-spray tactics.

While it’s possible to earn money to spend on in-game items like weapons, upgrades, and items like health packs, there’s actually no way to buy cash. The premium subscriptions unlock a 50% boost in earnings and experience along with voice chat (prepare to hear a lot of loud static), but probably the biggest advantage that one gets is in the improved server connection that comes with it. I noticed better latency after shelling out $1.99 for 2400 gold, 1100 of which went to a one-week of Premium features. I also noticed that I started getting a lot better. It’s a subtle improvement, but one that definitely gives paid players a leg-up, not to mention that it makes unlocking powerful weapons and upgrades that much easier.

The game is a relatively fun deathmatch title, though its technical issues and general lack of maps as well are a killer at the moment. Approach with caution.

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