iOS is yet to have its cornerstone first-person shooter franchise. While it has a couple of really good ones from Gameloft and a few good ports from older games, we have yet to see a truly deep and original mobile-first FPS franchise. Especially one that takes advantage of the touch screen and doesn't just try to adapt button controls to a screen. In short, iOS needs it's Halo. Industrial Toys might be the people to do it.
Let me clear this up. There is no shortage of first-person shooters on iOS. Gameloft has released some really good ones like NOVA 3 and Modern Combat. We've even seen classics like Doom and Call of Duty ported. But the fault these all have is they were conceived on or derived from controller-based shooters. This invariably leads to problems when playing, no matter how good the controls. Thumbs will always cover important parts of the screen, they will slip from the correct virtual control. And for FPS vets, the most important factor: touch controls are slower as it takes time to look at the virtual buttons.
Ben Cousin's Scattered Entertainment released The Drowning last year, which hoped to be exactly this. Tremendous amounts of thought went into the game and it's original control scheme, yes, and it was developed exclusively for touch screens. But it just didn't take. It was not well received by the press or users. There is still some hope for The Drowning as a franchise, but it seems unlikely at this point.
I'm also not saying that I want Halo on iOS. What I want is an original franchise, conceived for and developed for touch screens and connected devices. One with a deep original storyline, endless multiplayer capabilities, perfect controls for a touch device, and a future. No matter how how close others have come, we just don't have that. Yet.
This is where the team from Industrial Toys comes in. This LA-based company certainly has the chops to make a killer FPS franchise for iOS. The company was founded by Bungie co-founder/co-creator of Halo Alex Seropian and Tim Harris (Denuo, Alley Cat Comics). Their team for this project includes superstars of music, art, and story; including comic artist Mike Choi (Marvel/DC) and author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Redshirts). Seems like they have the talent they need and our first look at their upcoming Midnight Star game shows great promise.
The first experience most will have with the game will be through the interactive comic, Midnight Rises. This comic ties in with two-way communication to Midnight Star. The story, set 120 years from now, starts when first contact is made from outer space. The interactive comic will lead the reader through the build up to the launch of the USSM Joplin, the craft fitted to communicate and intercept the source of the signal. Along the way the story will introduce the characters in the game and provide backstory.
The comic app will also provide potential players the ability to pick up items that can be used in the game. And this is just the tip of what make this dual app approach so interesting. The choices made in the story app influence the characters in the game. And progress in the game unlocks new parts of the story in the comic app. It will be interesting to see how such an integrated dual app approach works out.
Midnight Star starts off after something has gone wrong and the crew of the Joplin is fighting an alien force, as the story of what happened unfolds. The game features a new take on touch controls for a first-person shooter that looks quite good, even in the pre-release build I saw. It also features nearly endless multiplayer capabilities both in the form of friend challenges and leaderboard type challenges.
In one of the most original forms of asynchronous multiplayer, a player can create a challenge for other players - either friends or open to all. That challenge can be a speed run, high score, accuracy, or other challenge on a particular level in the game that lasts for a set amount of time. Each player that accepts the challenge enters an amount of in-game currency set by the originator into the pot with the top players in the challenge splitting the winnings.
Melee type combat has been a sticking point for touch games. How to accurately and quickly they make the player react has generally been less than perfect. With Midnight Star, melee will take for form of quick reactionary tapping of on screen symbols. Each symbol will need to be touched a designated number of times in a certain amount of time to ward off the attack.
Progressing will provide new weapons and parts to upgrade current weapons. The game is clearly set up to be a free to play game, but at least in my limited experience with it this doesn't seem to get in the way of the gameplay.
Looking at the screenshots included with this post doesn't really do it justice. Industrial Toys are not ready to release in-game video just yet, but this Unreal built game looks amazing with very smooth gameplay. Here's the previously released teaser trailer.
Is Midnight Star the Halo-like franchise I think iOS so desperately needs? It would be presumptuous to say yes at this point, but I have hope. It will certainly be a huge step in the right direction. The guys at Industrial Toys are very experienced in the area and committed to the idea of bringing a Halo-like experience to touch screens.
Look for Midnight Rises (the interactive story) in the spring, and the game Midnight Star soon after. We'll have more news on Midnight Star as it develops.