Hands-on with Frozen Synapse, Mode 7's cruel, cyberpunk-tinged strategy shooter
A cold snap coming
There's something elegantly computational about Frozen Synapse. From the stark neon lines of the battlefields your team of glowing soldiers stalk across to the granular precision of the orders you can give, everything shimmers with the air of a RAM and processor-powered simulation.
And that feeling is amplified by this iOS version. It's hard not to imagine yourself the anti-hero of some cyberpunk novel as you tap and manipulate your squad, anticipating the movements of your enemies and dodging potential blasts of hypothetically possible machine gun fire.
Quick acting, slow thinking
The game is a taut simultaneous turn-based strategy shooter that sees you inputting the movement of your squad of cyber soldiers at the same time as your AI or real-life opponent. Once you've made your moves, they play out in a few seconds.
But before you get to that there are tutorial videos to watch, as Mode 7 diligently explains the basic inputs and tactics you'll need to stay alive. There's a depth here that's often lacking in other iOS titles, and it shines through the second you pick up the game.
The UI in particular, even at this preview stage, is a thing of beauty. The refinements you can make to your moves, and the way you can alter the behaviour of your soldiers, means an action that lasts a split-second in real time can take minutes to perfect.
And you still might end up as a mess of smeared blood at the end of it. Even in a brief play session the cruelty of the game is obvious. You're punished for your mistakes swiftly, and you learn not to make them again.Cold hard truths
It's that cruelty that shows the game up for what it really is. Here we have warfare stripped to its cold, hard core. The dead men you leave behind are roles, not names. They're abstractions of duty perishing in a game that demands precision guesswork.
Time will tell if that mean streak is likely to put people off, but with only a couple of weeks left until Frozen Synapse makes its iOS debut it's hard to argue against it having the same sort of impact it did when it was released for PC.