Updated: iSniper 3D Review

Hallelujah, Triniti Interactive has resurrected iSniper 3D like Lazarus from his tomb. The problem is that when something’s brought back from gaming death to life, sometimes it still stinks a little bit.

The game-killing problem in the original release of iSniper 3D was the minuscule amount of time you were given to complete a mission. It was simply too little time to complete the missions. But the magic of the iPhone as a gaming device is that a developer can read user comments (or critical reviews) and issue an update that fixes all the major problems and complaints.

Now there are three different difficulty levels, each offering more time and health to the player, with the “Hard” setting still stubbornly possessing the same ridiculously small amount of time that made the first version of the game unplayable. The new difficulty levels make progress through the game possible, but even on “Easy” this game isn’t easy. Enemies still spawn out of thin air and strafe back and forth annoyingly and unrealistically.

It’s like they said, “Screw taking cover, lets run back in forth in a line and hope they don’t have automatic weapons.” The lateral movements the majority of the soldiers use do make them harder to hit, but it also makes the sniping feel more like an amusement park shooting gallery than a military operation.

The unintentionally hilarious broken English in the story sections has been fixed and the result yields quite an interesting story, featuring themes of betrayal, revenge and a legitimate-feeling friendship between the stoic sniper Glous and his chatty, bro-ish sidekick. There’s also a very fun revenge mission where you’re only given one bullet to take down a VIP target, and it’s pretty enjoyable, even though it’s basically an iPhone version Call of Duty 4’s famous sniping section.

The aiming mechanic of tapping the screen to zoom and tilting the device to line up a shot is still smooth and feels very right, although we did notice a couple momentary freezes in the action that we don’t remember from the first version. And the graphics, cutscenes, and music are all direct hits, ushering you into a feeling of sniper badassery.

The weapons and upgrades are now cheaper, but still feel a bit out of reach even after a bunch of missions. This is probably to motivate you to buy a sniper pack for an extra buck, but we couldn’t help but feel scammed by the lack of options. Give us some guns, and if we like them we’ll buy the extra fun weapons. This added with the frustration of trying to snipe enemies on parade make iSniper 3D a playable, yet annoying experience. We think it’s mostly a miss, but if you dig the thought of turning your iPhone into a sniper rifle and following Glous down his path of revenge, give it a shot.

What do you do with a game you can’t play? In all our years of gaming, iSniper 3D is one of the most spirit-deadeningly difficult games we’ve ever suffered through. It’s not a Ninja Gaiden-like satisfying high difficulty level that makes you keep practicing and coming back for more. It’s a cheap, game-breaking difficulty more like your mom unplugging your console as you’re about to beat a boss. Thank you, iSniper 3D, for turning us into the very exclusive group of gamers who throw their gaming devices out of anger.

The saddest thing is that iSniper 3D had great potential. In your mission to snipe guards from afar, tapping the screen lets you zoom down the barrel of your sniper rifle, and tilting your device moves your crosshairs into position. You’ve also got a nifty concentration button that lessons the tilting sensitivity so you can line a shot up. When you’re flowing in the game, you really feel like a sniper.

Just a little to the left.

The anger-inducing difficulty comes with having to race against the clock, which is much more dangerous than the enemies irrelevantly draining your health bar. Since you only start with a minute to complete a mission, you’ll be constantly relying on headshots to put time back on the clock. Meaning, you’ll have to nab 30 headshots with mere seconds between them. One of the hardest things to accept about iSniper is that, as we played and our sniping skills improved dramatically, we got really good at this game, but none of it was enough to progress. There’s just not enough time.

Remember, this isn’t the pin point precision controls of a mouse and keyboard or even two analog sticks. This is tilting and balancing your iPhone. It’s finicky, and since the game practically requires headshots, it leaves no margin for error. When the guards are closer to you it feels like shooting an orange from a football field away, and when they’re far, a pea. We can’t even imagine trying to play this game on a bus or the subway.

Tools of the trade.

And for all the game’s developers expect from you as a player, they seem to feel ok about enemies spawning out of thin air and guards making their patrol routes through crates and walls. It’s so teeth-grittingly tough, you feel like you’re missing some crucial element for success, akin to playing Super Mario Bros without the jump button. We won’t even get into the broken English during the cut scenes or how unintentionally hilarious it is that when you’re asked if you want to cancel an upgrade, the two options are “OK” and “cancel.”

The problem may be as deep as the design philosophy. With only one difficulty level, it almost seems that the tortuous game has been designed for you to fail your way into success. You gain a meager amount of “honor points” for each mission failure and we could possibly foresee scrounging enough to buy upgrades. But did the developers really intend for you to fail 30 or so times before you succeed on the first mission? More likely, it’s just be a a case of a rushed game that wasn’t play tested enough.

Tellingly enough, the developers are going to release an iSniper 3D version 2.0 soon because of the complaints they’ve received. The main changes? More time and level select. Essentially, they’ll lower the difficulty so people can play a game that’s, you know, playable. But we played the current version, and it’s as broken and frustrating as lining up a head shot from a mile away and having your rifle jam. If you need a sniping game now, go for Sniper Vs Sniper: Online.

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