The iPhone has no shortage of first-person shooters. So far, we’ve considered N.O.V.A. and Eliminate Pro to be the cream of the crop. After spending a good deal of time fragging people across the country in Archetype, we are pleased to add this exceptional shooter to the list. Archetype matches the polish and refinement of those earlier games, and brings five-on-five online deathmatches to the table.
According to the gorgeous opening cinematic, there’s been an alien invasion, and that’s why you’re engaging in murderous deathmatches. That’s as far as the story goes, which is fine by us since we’d rather spend our time blasting through meat bags than following a narrative.
While you can create a friend list and play against them, the focus of the game is the Team Deathmatch mode, which pits two teams of up to five players against each other. It generally takes less than a minute from when you hit the button to enter a match to when the match begins, so waiting isn’t much of a problem. Five maps are available, and they’re well varied: some are smaller and more cramped, which makes for higher kill counts; some are full of labyrinthine corridors; and others are more vertically oriented. One issue is that most of the levels are pretty large in order to accommodate 10 players, so when you play with fewer people you might end up running around for a while without seeing anyone. The most enjoyable matches are the ones that are full.
A wolf in the hen house.
Instead of each player having a personal arsenal, weapons are scattered around the maps, and you can carry two at a time. There’s a good mix of weapon types here: your rather weak default rifle, a melee axe, a shotgun, an auto-fire pistol, a missile launcher, and a precision rifle (essentially a sniper rifle that doesn’t zoom). There are also grenades that pack a punch, but their blast radius is small. Some weapons are definitely more powerful than others, so you’ll have an advantage if you learn where they’re placed within the levels. The weapon you’ll want to use also depends on the level. If you usually encounter enemies from a distance, you’ll want to avoid the shotgun.
The controls in Archetype are set up the same way as most other first-person shooters on the platform, with movement mapped to the left side of the screen, aiming to the right, and tap to shoot. There’s no jumping in this game, so tapping the bottom middle of the screen delivers a melee attack with the butt of your gun. Frankly, these are probably the best FPS controls we’ve encountered on the platform– they feel very natural. We had no problem with the default setup, but you can customize the sensitivity, toggle auto-fire, and invert the aim axis if you so desire.
One of the most useful features in the game is the radar that shows you where everyone is in the level. It’s not a detailed by any means, so it just gives you a general idea of which direction and how far away the other players are. This is a great addition to the game, because it keeps the fragging coming fast and furiously.
Have you met my battle axe?
Fans of Eliminate Pro might be disappointed to discover that, while you can level up in Archetype, you can’t boost your character’s stats or purchase new equipment. This keeps things on an even keel, as everyone has an equal opportunity to snag the weapons they want, but it doesn’t instill the sense of character continuity present in Eliminate Pro.
At the end of each round an MVP is awarded, and everyone is granted experience points based on how many kills and deaths they racked up. As you earn points, you level up and ascend the ranks of a military command structure. You also receive achievements in the form of medals for meeting certain requirements in matches. But these accolades are superficial– you’ll see no in-game rewards for attaining them.
Archetype is about as refined as first-person shooters come on the iPhone. The deathmatches are exciting, the controls are brilliant, and the graphics are excellent (they’re even optimized for iPhone 4). While some players will wish it had RPG elements, others will appreciate not having to play against maxed-out powerhouses online. Any way you slice it, if you like deathmatch-style first-person shooters, you’ll love Archetype.