The Respawnables Review: Pwn N00bs On T3h Go
First person shooters are notoriously difficult to pull off on a mobile gaming system. If you owned a psp like I did, you probably waited the entire life-cycle of the system for a decent FPS, only to get mediocre-to-terrible titles like Coded Arms and Medal of Honor: Heroes. Those portable FPS games were all plagued with the same frustrating problems: terrible controls, brain-dead AI, and a claustrophobic screen. The situation is even bleaker on faux-gaming systems with no buttons like the iPhone and iPad.
With all this in mind, you can imagine my skepticism when I downloaded Digital Legends Entertainment’s The Respawnables for iOS.
The Respawnables is a third person shooter that looks like a cross between Team Fortress 2 and the movie Small Soldiers. By bringing the camera behind the player’s back, the developers found an effective way to deal with one major issue for mobile shooters, the claustrophobic screen size.
Since I’m “a guy who used to play games,” I download a lot of games to my iPhone and iPad. Fast gameplay is not something that works well on those devices (See the iOS Street Fighter ports for a good example of how touch controls kill action games.). The Respawnables is the first action title I’ve played for iOS with controls so good that I momentarily forgot I wasn’t holding a physical controller. The auto-targeting is key, providing a loose lock on enemies in and around your reticle. Even sniping is fast and intuitive, which is so impressive it makes me want to cry as I quick scope cartoony-looking NPCs in the face.
While the controls are probably as good as they can be on a system without a controller, shooting gets a little clunky while turning and strafing isn’t possible. This has a negative effect on the weapon balance. The weapons that do the most damage in the least amount of shots—things like grenades, shotguns, and rocket launchers—work better than they would on a console shooter. Also, since you can’t jump or roll, rocket launchers are godly.
The Respawnables is a free-to-play title like Plants Vs. Zombies 2. Most of the weapons can be attained through grinding in the single player mode. However a few of them, like the cool Ghostbuster proton gun and the noisy cricket from Men in Black, can only be unlocked by paying real-world money. Grenades and weapons don’t spawn on the map, you have to buy most of them with in-game money. My educated guess is that people who blow the most real-world money on weapons clean everyone else’s clocks in multiplayer. I wouldn’t count on any sort of balance there. Stick to the single player mode if you want that.
A few core things present in most shooters are absent from The Respawnables. There’s no way to jump, which makes for some frustrating maneuvering around low obstacles. It also makes a nightmare out of avoiding rockets. But the biggest problem for me is the lack of a crouch button. What good is a shooter if I can’t teabag my opponents after I rock them in the face with the shotgun? Digital Legends Entertainment has robbed us of one of the greatest digital joys possible, dropping your avatars’s nuts on the chest and face of your victim. Oh well. Maybe next time.
I realize that the majority of this review has been about problems with mobile shooters and how the developers overcame them rather than how innovative the title is. That’s because 1) It’s really, very impressive that they were able to pull this game off at all, and 2) The game isn’t very innovative, other than in the ways it gets around it’s own limitations.
The Respawnables somehow manages to capture most of the fun of the run-around-and-shoot-things-in-the-face style gameplay of a Halo title. It’s not the most advanced shooter, but the game is no doubt the end result of a lot of careful consideration and smart decision-making. The gameplay is fast, fun, and fairly smooth. It’s amazing that a game like this even exists. Do yourself a favor and download it right now.