What I Played this Week: ShadowGun

ShadowGun is a graphics-fest of apocolyptic scenery, monsters, and technological nightmares! The game has some genuinely fun and hair-raising tactical scenarios (some predictable enemy behavior as well). The control options work well, and the game is very responsive in all but a few situations. If you are looking for yet another uber-assault TPS game that is simply gorgeous on iPad, then I imagine you will not flinch at plunking down the 8 bucks. TPS is not necessarily my cup of tea, but ShadowGun is a blast, and it is well-done.
First, the backstory: Your character is John Slade, recently crash landed on-planet, looking like he just spent 20 years straight working out at the gym while eating steroids like candy. He is outfitted with some kind of obviously advanced battle suit and assault rifle (but an unprotected shaved head, which I can totally identify with). 
There is an evil doctor doing experiments on the planet, and your job is to destroy his lair, and ultimately him I suppose. Your chacrater is in contact with an AI presence called S.A.R.A (a female computerized persona, of course), which doesn't really do much to enhance the gameplay besides making inane comments between checkpoints.
The game is 219M in size, and I grabbed it for both my iPod touch 4 and iPad (both runnng latest iOS updates) OTA via WiFi. It plays well on both, and other than a rather long load time, it has only crashed in a couple of cases. One of which was after an app switch in mid-game. When I switched back, SG exited. My progress from the last checkpoint was saved though, so not that big of a deal. The game has progressive levels that you master, one after the other, including some boss battles. So far, I have managed to make it past the giant lobster machine on the first level (on Normal hardness) without dying more than say 5 times. 2 of those deaths can be blamed on learning the controls. You can set it to 3 different hardness settings upon start.
Control of your character is pretty smooth. You can elect to have a permanent tattoo of the movepad painted on the screen's left-side, or appear when you touch the screen. iPod screen makes the game a bit easier (less pan real-estate). You can also edit the location of the controls. Dragging your right "aiming" finger serves to pan the view. Either control method worked really well. Like many other TPS games, smart movement has been built-in to the character control. Creeping along walls, and crouching behind barriers will activate based on your proximity. This causes the occasional snafu when you need to get out of the position. You often need to move back or in a certain direction to undo the condition. You can fire from this position, and John will duck up, pump out rounds and then go back to hiding in an automated fashion.
Be nice to have more strategy aspects that include interactive features--say get some useful intel from S.A.R.A--to map progress on parts of the facility you are traversing. Have her use her electronic powers to scout out enemy presence (a quick sit-rep before entering a new zone), etc., ping you when hostile forces are close, or the AI/game might allow you to take alternate routes to reach a checkpoint? I guess there is only so much logic you can cram in, considering all the bloated eye-candy that has to be there to attract gamers in the first place. Maybe some of these features are simply cheats I haven't found yet.
Baddies are a pleasing mix of mutant gunmen, giant robot defence systems, killer drones, etc. The graphics are all superb, and cool enough to make you keep coming back for more. The nastiest of the nasty (IMHO), so far are the spider-like crawling bombs. Hard to hit, fast-moving, and come in packs. The sound includes the appropriate dungeon mood track one would expect on a mutant world. 
Many of the soldiers pull back, or scoot to the side when you fire at them (and often coordinate attacks), but can still be funneled and picked off with a little analysis/replay. You grab ammo from dead baddies, and both ammo and weapon upgrades at various points. Control points vary from simple selection icons to more sophisticated "hack" codes (basic pattern matching exercise). Some rooms require you to find a key to unlock and gain entry. You can also find little hidden skull icons that unlock main menu options.
I think I will be playing this one for awhile, and if you like TPS, have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch (3G or higher for iPhone/iPod), you will too. Over the top graphics, action, and scary enemies. The price could come down a bit, but then if you want some of the best mobile shooter graphics available, you probably won't be deterred on that basis (I might give it some cook-time though). You can grab ShadowGun at the link here on iTunes.
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Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.tumblr.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.