It may be heralded as an extraordinary piece of kit within handheld gaming, but developers have been incapable of squeezing the most from existing genres onto Apple’s iPhone. It may be better suited to games built in conjunction with its architecture, but there should be no underestimation about what a significant release it could be if an existing and hugely popular genre- say the FPS, for example- could be squeezed onto the device in good nick.
So far, incapable of naming a single FPS that sticks out in my mind on the iPhone, I approached Archetype drowned in scepticism. Fortunately, I had little reason to, as this online first-person shooter that pits up to 5 versus 5 against each other (via Wi-Fi, 3G or Edge) is one example of the developer taking its time in sticking to distinct parameters and delivering a game that somehow works on the platform, against all odds.
Flawless in delivering a smooth online experience, Archetype also features exceptional matchmaking that could find a suitable game within moments of the request. Also featuring the ability to ‘veto’ map choice, obtainable ranks, and trackable experience points amounted within game (through either completing games or earning medals- such as kill one enemy with each attack type), the title never shys away from comparisons to the very best of online shooters. In fact, the whole presentation can be admired, with slick and stylish menus that float into view, to the well animated opening sequence. Optimised for the iPhone 4 with a crisp resolution, make no qualms about it, Archetype looks fantastic for an app.
It’s something that the developer, Villain, fail to capitalise on however for most of the game, with each of the five maps that have been presented on launch mostly bland and lifeless, projecting dull textures and confined play areas. Doing little to separate map from map, stylistically the game is underwhelming, where the game’s sci-fi architecture could have been fulfilled. Also populated by boost pads and teleportation stations, the maps are perhaps the least memorable aspect of the game, where the cold, industrial feel of metal panelling is often all to prevalent. ‘Pride’ is a step in the right direction, with a much more open plan construction for more smooth movement, verticality, and well layed out intersections that force opposing players at each other.
The sceptics amongst you, as I myself did, will question the viability of the product however in favour of its console counterparts. How can such a genre work on the touch screen? Of course, virtual thumb sticks are, as ever, a necessary feature, but in making sure the sensitivity of each is turned right up (a necessary step through the menus), the controls are more than adequate yet deceptively tricky still to master. You won’t be pulling off head shots any time soon, since what you reap in rewards of traversal for upping the sensitivity will hinder gun play. An automatic fire mode certainly relieves such frustrations, but there are obvious sacrifices made for the platform- a necessary evil. Otherwise, firing any of the 6 weapon types available (from the powerful mid to close range shotgun, to the devastating one-hit kill axe- with added blood effects) will come from pressing any of the right-side of the screen. Melee is available to use through pressing around the centre of the screen, and the somewhat over-powered grenades can be tossed by tapping a button in top-left (frustratingly out of reach in the middle of frantic firing).
Also containing a single-player ‘Training’ mode (akin to Modern Warfare’s timed tests, with cardboard cut-outs and all), and ‘Challenge Mode’- in which other players can be rivalled one-on-one, Archetype is bursting at the seams in terms of features for its tiny 64Mb size. Short cuts are obviously needed for the hugely ambitious game to work well on the system, therefore certain considerations have to be appointed. However, I have yet to find a game from its genre and similar in output on the App Store, you are unlikely to find a better shooter for the iPhone for some time.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: iPhone Release Date: 06/07/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Archetype for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three days on an iPhone 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.