There was a time when game developers could taste the potential 3D graphics had for their industry, but couldn’t quite get their teeth into it. A lot of games were made just to showcase the technology, and often didn’t leave much room for good old-fashioned gameplay.
Right now, the iPhone is going through a similar phase. The platform offers a great deal of potential, with connected, online multiplayer gaming being at the top of the list. iFPS Online is one of many new games that are actively testing the waters - attempting to determine what’s possible and who can be the first to prove it.
Unfortunately, just as we experienced with the 3D revolution, good old-fashioned gameplay is suffering in the race to expand horizons and iFPS Online is the poster child.
The game is built around a rather enticing dark sci-fi concept: a dilapidated orbital research facility has been transformed into an outer space penal colony. Instead of a center for rehabilitation, it’s become a blood sport arena in which convicts (one of whom you play) fight it out for the entertainment of the galaxy.
Within the game's uncomplicated, industrial-looking mazes, you run, gun, die and spawn - that's about it. This sport, however, is pretty basic. Competing against a few armed prisoners, the goal is to be the last man standing. There are a couple of obstacles and different weapons dotted about the place, but ducking behind cover and switching between guns isn’t included in the game design.
The controls consist of a pair of analogue sticks used for movement and controls of the camera. The camera is rather sloppy, leaving your head essentially lolling around on your shoulders and helping you to run face-first into the walls. Much of the problem is resolved by a self-centering mechanism, though this complicates movement when the action gets going.
In single player mode, there are very few enemies with which to battle and those that do appear are utterly braindead. They bounce off the walls more than you do, often shooting themselves while you struggle to aim at them amid their digital seizures.
Online things are much better, notwithstanding the rather quiet servers. You can join a game or host your own, with enough options to suit any seasoned online fragger. You can limit access, filter available games to your own requirements or set up a very specific arena to suit your tastes or cater for the quality of your current wi-fi or 3G connection.
Once in a multiplayer game, there was a noticeable lag cropping up depending on the connections of players in the match (unavoidable, really), and server stability was random enough to bring a lot of games to a sudden and unscheduled close.
There really isn’t all that much to iFPS Online, yet you can't deny that it delivers on what it promises. It’s perhaps better approached as a tech demo to prove that an online shooter is possible on iPhone. It needs a large dose of quality gameplay, though, before the results of this experiment find practical use.