Game Reviews

The Drowning

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| The Drowning
The Drowning
| The Drowning

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the links to jump straight to day three or day seven.

The Drowning is trying to be for touchscreen devices what GoldenEye 007 was for home consoles.

It's attempting to revolutionise the first-person shooter for mobiles and tablets, setting out to provide a completely different control scheme built for touch-based gaming.

After a long development, and a protracted "soft launch" period, the game is finally available to all. Is this a big step forward for the FPS genre on mobiles, or a misfire?

Join me as I find out over the next week.

First impressions

The game starts with an ominous and dark line, delivered in a gritty voice, about the world ending. But no sooner is it delivered than you're flailing about in a speed boat and driving like a madman. The vessel is attacked by humanoid creatures, and you wake up on what appears to be a deserted shoreline.

Of course, it turns out that it's not completely abandoned, and pretty quickly you're firing bullets from a handgun into the heads and torsos of a few skeletal beasties.

To fire the gun, you tap with two fingers on the screen - the bullet lands at the point between the two contacts you made with your fingers.

You'll also want to look around your environment, and you do this with a single-finger swipe left or right, up or down. A little button at the bottom of the screen lets you swing your view around 180 degrees too, for those moments you want to run away, spin around, and fill your enemies full of lead.

Movement is handled via a single tap on the screen. This takes you to the location you point at, and the game will automatically guide you around any scenery that blocks your path.

The controls work well at this early stage, but if you don't like it after the first level you can simply swap to virtual thumbsticks if you prefer. It's nice to have this option, but it indicates that using this innovative and much-heralded new control method may not be as integral to the experience as you hoped.

From what I've seen so far, that experience is very basic. Bad guys walk or run up to you, you put bullets into them, they die. They don't respond to your shots realistically, but just keep moving forward until they're dead.

Often they'll try and surround you in an attempt to instil panic, but you can easily get around this by running up to a wall and hitting that 180 degree button.

This allows you to minimise your chances of being caught out by a surprise attack, as you can see everything coming from a distance. It also reinforces the sense that this is little more than a slightly sophisticated shooting gallery.

I'm not massively impressed so far, but it's still early days.

Day 3: Quake

At the half-way point of my time with The Drowning, the thing I'm most disappointed about is the lack of complexity.

The unusual controls are fine once you get used to them, and I generally found that the path-finding was intelligent and got me around quickly. By applying a point-and-click mechanic to a first-person shooter Scattered Entertainment has made movement a breeze.

But first-person shooters today are far more complex than The Drowning ever attempts to be. We've come to expect cover mechanics, weapons with special effects, stealth, melee attacs, and so on.

Playing The Drowning is like travelling back in time to the Quake era - walk about a level and shoot everything until you win.

The comparison with GoldenEye earlier in the week falls apart here, because at least in that now 20-year-old game there were objectives that went beyond surviving waves of enemies.

I'm already finding the grind of unlocking items to make progress off-putting, which stems from the repetitive and simplistic gameplay.

Here's hoping the next few days will open up the game a bit more. Some fresh new weapons and enemies might provide the richer experience I'm craving.

Day 7: Doom

After a week, it's clear to see that The Drowning is a failed experiment.

The game ultimately fails at reinventing first-person shooter controls. After I while I got fed up with them, switched to the virtual stick setup, and found that I was immediately doing as well as - if not better than - I had been doing with the default setup.

The game fails at opening up the first-person shooter to the freemium model too. The grave, post-apocalyptic tone just doesn't jive with the arcade-like highscore chasing. The idea of scraping through a shattered land is also at odds with the freemium economy-based weapon upgrading system, and when you do plonk down cash what you receive varies wildly in quality.

The game fails at being a decent first-person shooter regardless of the payment model and controls. It suffers from a paucity of enemy types, locations that barely change the way you play, minimal peripheral awareness (ensuring you're attacked from behind a lot), and some of the most rote shooting available on a touchscreen device.

I'm confident that first-person shooters have a place on mobiles, but this game is not the revolution we were all hoping for.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

The Drowning

Without a strong grasp of the basics to make up for the improvements it tries and fails to implement, The Drowning is simply a boring shooter, with invasive IAPs, and so-so controls