Eliminate has changed a lot since last June when we first played it‘” and we’re talking about more than just the name. What began as a class-based shooter where you could pick up weapons scattered on the battlefield has evolved into a shooter where points determine everything. Your attributes, armor, and weapons are now bought and upgraded like in some of the best RPGs.
We played in a tournament with a few other games journalists at Ngmoco’s San Francisco headquarters the other day. Everyone started out with a level 1 character, whose default weapon is a dinky machine pistol. We jumped right into global multiplayer, which is one of the three gameplay modes alongside friend mode and offline bots.
We were quickly racking up kills in our four-person (maximum) matchups, laughing at the way they exploded credits, and cursing when it was our turn to die. A few controller mishaps did interrupt the fun, though. For example, we had to turn off the zoom feature when we kept accidentally activating it with taps on the center of the screen. Also, the default character starts out a bit slow, so we can see speed boosts being essential early on.
After we gained our first level, we immediately bought a slick blue-plasma shotgun, which was lousy at a distance but positively lethal up close. Aiming the shotgun was often tricky, and the drag-to-look controls will really make you wish you were playing with a mouse or physical joystick.
Completely separate from the core gameplay, Eliminate’s balance between energy, which is necessary to earn experience points, and credits, which are used to buy armor and weapons, will likely be perplexing to newcomers. With energy, you can play for a certain amount per day, earning experience and credits. At a certain point, you run out of energy and must either wait to recharge or pay ngmoco extra for an instant recharge. Otherwise, you can keep playing, but won’t earn experience.
Since you can trade energy for credits as well, you can choose to spend real money to buy the best guns, but at least you’ll first have to earn the experience points (XP) in battles to unlock and use them.
The pay-to-play microtransactions in Eliminate seem a bit hard to swallow, but if they’re truly optional, most players may not have to take advantage of them. Still, this is a competitive game, and players with the most credits and XP will dominate any match, even within ngmoco’s matchmaking system. The urge to pay a little extra to get ahead may be too strong to resist for some.
We’re not sure if Eliminate can get the balance just right between energy, experience, and credits, but we hope it does. We also like the idea of leveling up in an online first-person shooter, even if microtransactions are normally anathema to most gamers. And while the controls didn’t seem too spot-on in this last play session, we understand that the iPhone is still struggling to recreate full PC and console experiences. We’re hopeful that Eliminate can at least come close when it launches later this month.