Hands on with ngmoco's FPS Weapons Free

Second shot

Hands on with ngmoco's FPS Weapons Free

[Screenshots forthcoming.]

When you take aim at a target and miss on the first shot, you don't give up - you take try again.

With the game under examination today, which was once unofficially known as 'Weapons Free' and now has the official moniker 'the next version of Eliminate', ngmoco is taking a second attempt at a multiplayer shooter after the illuminating trial that was Eliminate, and the company's aim appears truer in this follow up.

Lessons learned from the previous game have translated into tangible changes in this spiritual sequel, presenting an opportunity to address an array of complaints about controls and balancing. While questions remain regarding the game's pricing structure, the core gameplay looks on track to easily surpass ngmoco's previous effort.

Target practice

Everything about Weapons Free is bigger and better than Eliminate, from the number of players supported and modes offered to the graphics and weapons available. Up to six players can join for matches via 3G network or wi-fi in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Survival modes.

That's a huge improvement from the off. The visuals, too, which opt for a realistic style over the futuristic vibe of the previous game, have predictably been boosted. However, it's the controls that really surprise.

Gone is the awkward and often unwieldy control scheme of Eliminate in favour of a simpler setup. By default, weapons fire is automated. Any enemy appearing within the wide-area targeting reticle at the centre of the screen is fired upon. Accuracy is appropriately loose, which is why you're afforded the option of manually targeting foes.

Such a simple change has an enormous impact. Instead of having to constantly tap the screen while fiddling with movement and camera controls, you're free to focus entirely on movement and camera. If your fingers are flexible enough, you can opt for manual targeting. It's a great balance between accessibility and precision.

Well disciplined

The game is structured in much more creative, less heavy-handed way. Weapons Free ditches power cells and energy for intel and queued missions. Instead of expelling energy for every match, you queue up missions that come with a price in credits. You earn credits by completing missions, so you're never forced to spend money to compete in matches.

Upgrades are based on the credit system, although new weapons are tied to character classes instead of existing as standalone upgrades. Called 'soldiers', these classes are unlocked as you level up. There are 76 in the game, each with a specific weapons load out such as a infantryman carrying an assault rifle and set of grenades.

All missions come with a queue time. Some are immediate, whereas others may demand several hours. This is where intel comes in: spend intel and you hasten the queue so that you begin the mission immediately. Obviously, intel is granted sparingly and purchasing addition intel is encouraged by way of parting with some of your real money.

Honourable discharge

When pressed about what happens with you queue up a mission and miss the time at which it becomes available for play, ngmoco couldn't confirm whether the mission remains active until you're able to pop online or if it deactivates. Life happens and it's unfair to penalise you for missing an appointed match time.

If missions remain available and don't spoil like crops in We Rule, then Weapons Free could have a winning design. The incentive to purchase intel would remain since some missions will require lengthy wait times, but those unwilling to spend cash wouldn't be put at a disadvantage.

The only untested area of concern is matchmaking - something that has been a persistent issue in Eliminate. If ngmoco can tackle this issue in the same manner that it has address the controls and pricing structure, then it very well may eliminate the need for any other multiplayer shooter on iPhone.