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Hands-on with FPS-tower defence hybrid Commando Jack
By Will Wilson 30 April 2012
Commando Jack | Developer:
Colossal Games | Publisher:
Chillingo | Format:
iPhone, iPad | Genre:
Action, Tower defence
Tower defence is a genre that's so saturated with titles - ranging from indie contenders right through to big-budget attempts - that it's often hard for a game to stand out.
Chillingo and Colossal Games's Commando Jack shouldn't have too much of a problem getting seen among the rabble, however, because - technically - it isn't a pure tower defence title in the first place.
Taking its cues from PC indie hit Sanctum, Commando Jack is part first-person shooter and part traditional tower defence game. It sees you funnelling enemies through corridors of death before smashing their brains with the titular character's mega-turret.
Whites of their eyes
The gameplay takes place in five major cities across the globe, with each stage littered with objects to characterise the location in question.
Confront the alien horde in London, for instance, and you'll be threading the baddies among overturned double-decker buses, while the battle for Paris takes place in what looks like a side-street bistro, complete with dining tables and chairs.
The number of obstacles present increases with the difficulty mode, with easier levels having fewer entry points for the aliens and fewer annoying obstacles to work around.
Because the game is fully 3D, there's also elevation to take into consideration. The Paris level I played had slopes and other natural barriers that can trip you up when you switch to first-person mode.
This method of firing isn't just to make the game look pretty: certain monsters can almost completely nullify your turrets' attacks. For instance, there are enemies that ride forward in a buggy wearing helmets that you have to shoot off with your commandos.
While you do get some pretty powerful weapons to use, such as a Call of Duty-esque UAV that hovers above the battlefield in first-person view (as well as the commando's own machine guns), you still need to place down a strong defence to stop the waves of 'normal' baddies overwhelming your defences.
The turrets, which range from your standard pea-shooter right through to lasers and troop-slowing 'gloop' guns, can be upgraded three times using the spoils of war, each upgrade colour-coded to make identification quicker when the battle gets hectic.
Hold the line
And it sure does get hectic. While the opening waves tend to spit out weakling units that you can let your defences take care of, later monsters require adept switching between your arsenal to take down.
This arsenal is unlocked through a meta-game wrapped around the main Campaign and Survival modes. There's the option of unlocking items more quickly with IAPs, but in the main you'll be using the cash accrued through battle to get access to the bigger weapons.
Commando Jack's hybrid approach appears to remove the frustrating helplessness that can set in on other tower defence titles, where monsters will magically bypass previously impenetrable defences and leave you without a way to fight back.
We'll see if Jack has enough weaponry to blow away the competition for real when the game arrives on iOS later this spring.