The iPhone is not the place you'd expect to find a hardcore online first-person-shooter, but damn if a number of developers haven't tried their best. N.O.V.A and Eliminate Pro have done their best to provide FPS fans something to play on their touch screens, and now a new challenger has appeared -- Archetype.
At a straight $2.99, Archetype is considerably cheaper than N.O.V.A and doesn't lure players in with the sneaky "freemium" tactics of Eliminate. The question, of course, is whether or not Archetype is worth even the $2.99. That's what the review's for, so read on for the full shake!
The entire "story" of Archetype is told in a several second cut-scene, the only information being that there was an invasion of some kind and humanity is fighting against it. Why there's even a hint of a story, I do not know, as it's not actually made apparent in the game itself. The game consists of two teams of blue and yellow soldiers shooting each other. No evidence of an invasion. No hint of a plot.
To say Archetype's options are limited is to put it mildly. If you don't enjoy Team Deathmatch, then you're out of luck because that's essentially all you have to play. Two teams of five do battle in a range of particularly small maps, using six types of particularly generic weapons including your standard assault rifle, shotgun, missile launcher and sniper. There are also grenades, which get spammed with regularity, and a somewhat useless melee attack.
On the surface, Archetype reminds one of Quake, from the look, to the gameplay, to the giant axe you can pick up for melee kills. As far as FPS titles on the iPhone go, a good job's been done of streamlining the controls. Firing, for example, is a simple case of aiming the reticule of an enemy and letting the game do the rest. Of course, keeping the reticule on enemies as they run and gun is pretty difficult on a touchscreen, so it's a small blessing. It also has to be said that the game in no way feels as smooth and solid as N.O.V.A, still by far the most well-produced sci-fi FPS on the system.
If the game's issues were limited solely to those concerning the choice of platform, then a lot could be forgiven, but the game has problems that are entirely its own fault and have nothing to do with the interface. For instance, respawns are terrible, often placing you right in front of a cluster of enemies. This is often thanks to the small, unimaginative maps. The game can also get a bit glitchy, with characters freezing or jerking around. It doesn't even look as good as its competitors, with graphics that feel distinctly early nineties. The lack of decent music and repetitive, low grade sound effects don't help either.
Archetype isn't exactly dreadful. It does a somewhat decent job of providing a dedicated online shooter, with fast matchmaking and gameplay that can sometimes be quite fun when it works. There are welcome, if unoriginal, Achievements to unlock and a promotion system to provide some sort of reason for playing. It's also really cool to have a quick and dirty online multiplayer game in your pocket for moments of boredom.
Despite these positives, Archetype is let down by its bland design and no-frills approach to gameplay, not to mention the aforementioned design guffs. What could have been (and looked to be) an action-packed, AAA iPhone shooter is, unfortunately, a gloomy and dreary affair, as mediocre as the most vanilla console FPS and about ten times less convenient to play.
There are far better shooters on iTunes than this, at the end of the day. They may be more expensive, and they may have dodgy business models, but they're simply better.
Score: 5.0 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)