For all the glitzy graphics, convoluted back stories, and unusual gameplay mechanics, there's one fundamental thing that motivates us to play shooters: the fact you get to shoot stuff.
Going so far as to name itself the generic standard-bearer on iPhone and iPod touch, Archetype delivers unadulterated first-person action where little time is wasted on story and superfluous game mechanics are nowhere to be found. Instead, it's twirl your thumbs to shoot and rake in the experience to rank up.
The action is fast and the graphics stunning, yet technical stumbles and missing features keep Archetype from becoming the epitome of iPhone shooters.Orange-red vs Blue
Two teams of five compete for kills in Team Deathmatch - sorry, neither standard Deathmatch nor any other mode are offered. Points are awarded for kills with the winning team crowned after the clock runs out or the maximum point total is reached.
On the basis of your individual performance you earn experience points that increase your rank. There aren't any rewards for ranking up - every weapon, map, and mode is available from the start and character customisation is absent - but you're encouraged to tout your rank as a badge of honour when sitting in pre-game lobbies.
Five luxuriously large maps provide ample room within which to frag foes. These range from the dark tiered corridors of Vainglory and basic layout of Pride to the questionable Invidia with its walled-off stairways and dead ends. Not all of the maps are winners, which makes the option to veto maps from within the pre-game lobby a welcome one.Handling ordinance
The weapons arsenal is far more consistent, with straightforward yet entertaining arms including a standard-issue Battle Rifle, Shotgun, Missile Launcher, and rapid-fire AutoMag. A one-hit kill Melee Axe and powerful Precision Rifle are the stars of the show, though. Both are a total blast to wield and thanks to proper balancing these high-powered weapons don't dominate a matches.
It helps that the controls are sound, even if they aren't ideal. The twin virtual analogue sticks situated in the lower left and right corners work marvellously in conjunction with an auto-firing system. You're always free to tap the right analogue stick to fire manually, though the game automatically unloads on any enemy within your sights.
Problems with the position of the grenade (upper-left) and melee attack (radar display at bottom-centre) buttons unfortunately can't be addressed due to the lack of customisable controls. For example, too often melee attacks were triggered accidentally because of the function's proximity to the analogue sticks.
An option to reconfigure the interface is needed so as to account for individual control preferences. At the very least, alternative control schemes should be offered.Technically speaking
Of concern are a host of technical issues ranging from minor server-side glitches to 3G connection issues. On several occasions, I watched players glitch across maps or stand frozen in place. During other matches, attacks didn't register against enemies even as I fired bullets and swung the Battle Axe at point blank range.
Despite touting support for both wi-fi and 3G online play, the game wasn't playable over 3G on an iPhone 3GS during testing - only on iPhone 4 was 3G play possible. Wi-fi works fine across iPhone 3GS, iPod touch, and iPhone 4. It's conceivable that these issues will be cleared up, though right now they lower the game's overall quality.
Server issues, the number of control options, the number of incentives to engage in the ranking system, and the number of modes all need to be addressed for Archetype to be the definitive iPhone shooter.
At least it gets the thing that matters the most right: it makes shooting fun, and for that it's worth playing.