Whilst we at Pocket Gamer make it our mission (well one of them) to avoid the confusing jargon and geek-speak that's proffered on certain other sites we could mention, there are occasions when a bit of gaming jargon is so spot-on that it just can't be avoided. One such example being the 'first person shooter' (or FPS if you want to sound really, err sad). It's one of those Ronseal 'does-exactly what it says on the tin' terms, referring to games that you play from a first person perspective, i.e. the screen offers an eye view and you might well see your hands and what's more these hands will more often than not be brandishing a piece of high-calibre weaponry (hence the shooter bit!). And just as 'first-person-shooter' is a superb description of a genre, Ashen is an absolutely superb example of a first-person shooter. Put simply, it’s a gorgeously atmospheric game that will wow you with its graphics and tense, unrelenting action.
The 3D world of Seven River City, a Venice-like town full of narrow cobbled streets and interconnected waterways, is where the bulk of the story takes place. You play Jacob Ward, your regulation ex-army type, and you’re out to rescue your bookish older sister who’s inadvertently opened a trans-dimensional portal to another world (as you do). She, of course, has disappeared and rumours of unpleasant beasties running amok in Seven River City mean that it’ll be the next stamp in your passport…
So far, so familiar, you might think, but you really need to experience it to realise just how impressive Ashen is. The control system is simple and immediate, using the N-Gage's various buttons and a sensible lay-out to allow you to move, jump, aim, strafe (sideways movement to avoid beign hit when firing) and interact with ease. The levels you explore are intricate, open and spacious, allowing you to wander freely over bridges, down to the sewers and into sprawling medieval cathedrals.
The weaponry at your disposal, (naturally another crucial part of an FPS game), is varied with everything from sniper rifles (which allow you to pick off enemies accuraely from range) to heavy-duty gattling guns (for when you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherf***er in the room) on offer. On top of the regular 'earthly' items, you can also pick up discarded alien munitions and take advantage of specially designed 'ghost goggles'. Similar to army regulation night-vision glasses, these allow you to iluminate dark areas as well as offering a glimpose into the aliens dimension (which we're not not sure the army ones do).
Special mention should also be made of the sound, with eery music and spot effects creating atmosphere then suddenly giving way to pumping techno to enhance the jolt-effect when an enemy appears.
In fact the only area of the game that’s disappointing is the enemy, a monster-by-numbers identikit collection of creatures inspired directly from other leading FPSs such as Doom and Half Life. Although they all supposedly differ in attacks and ability, you’ll only be able to discern the difference between 3 or 4 due to their similar appearance. Fortunately, as with every FPS worth it's salt, battling monsters is really only half the fun. A range of multiplayer 'deathmatch' modes (you and up to 7 friends are hurled into one of 12 arenas with big guns, last man standing wins!) via Bluetooth more than make up for the lacklustre nasties in the single-player mode.
All this adds up to a superb game that'll satisfy the frequent FPS player and offer newcomers a worthy introduction to the genre.