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Hands-on with Scattered Entertainment's innovative first-person iOS shooter The Drowning

Does it 'completely redefine the FPS for touch'?

Product: The Drowning | Developer: Scattered Entertainment | Publisher: DeNA | Genre: Shooter | Networking: wireless (network)
For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone
The Drowning iPad, thumbnail 1
Much has been said about the unique control system in Scattered Entertainment's upcoming iOS shooter The Drowning.

According to the game's developer, this fresh approach to finger-friendly controls will "completely redefine the first-person shooter for touch devices". Now, that's quite a claim.

The basic idea is that you use a handful of familiar iPad gestures - like tapping and pinching - to gain complete control of the game with just two fingers.

To shoot, then, you simply tap the screen with two fingers. Your bullet flies towards whatever point lies directly between those taps.

It largely works as advertised, and enables you to take accurate shots in quick succession.

The Drowning

To move, you just tap where you want to go. Your character can navigate there himself, and will wander around enemies and obstacles automatically. You've also got a button at the bottom of the screen which spins you around 180 degrees.

And, finally, you can zoom in with a scoped weapon, like a crossbow or a hunting rifle, just by pinching the screen. As if you're trying to magnify a paragraph in Safari. It can become a little disorientating when you move while zoomed in.

So, are these new controls "revolutionary"?

Well, they're certainly a step up from the hamfisted virtual thumbsticks you'd find in a mobile FPS like Modern Combat 4 or Dead Trigger. You can move about a level in The Drowning with ease, shoot while moving, and aim at any corner of the screen just by tapping.

And while this control setup still doesn't afford you the level of control and accuracy you have when gripping a joypad or keyboard and mouse, it's the closest anyone's come yet to delivering reliable FPS controls on a slab of touch-sensitive glass.

The Drowning

As we said earlier, much has been written about the game's controls.

The structure of the game hasn't been as well publicised, though, while the Mobage-powered (best known for servicing card battlers like Rage of Bahamut and Marvel: War of Heroes) free-to-play mechanics have been largely kept under wraps.

The general idea is that you go out and spend a couple of minutes shooting oil-slicked monsters in the face. Then, you have to salvage a random handful of useful scrap.

You use this scrap to fix up broken guns, upgrade your current arsenal of weapons, and - most importantly - repair ramshackle vehicles, like a busted car and a wrecked motorboat, so that you can gain access to more areas.

The Drowning

Each repair job requires specific items (a firing pin for an AK-47, say, or a fan belt for a car), so you'll need to grind away at each area until you come up with the necessary scrap.

The more baddies you beat, the more items you'll salvage. You can, however, pay for another handful of junk if you so desire.

When you finally have all the bits you need for your fancy new shotgun, you'll be hit with a wait timer that will last anywhere between five and 20 minutes. Of course, you can pay to expedite the process.

To upgrade guns, which makes them more powerful and lighter to carry, you can 'use' any old scrap. If you've got some random screws and springs that aren't needed to fix any specific item, you can utilise them to improve your current loadout.

Upgrades require oil, by the way. You have to pay for this. Naturally.

There's one other paywall to consider. Travelling between areas costs gas. And once it runs out, you'll either have to wait for it to regenerate or pay a small fee to get some back.

The Drowning

There are two mission types in The Drowning. Well, in the parts of The Drowning I've played so far.

The first of these mission types is Attack. Here, you try to kill as many monsters as possible in a couple of minutes.

The second mission type is Defend. Here, you try to kill loads of monsters before they break down your rickety wooden defences and eat your face.

Like Dead Trigger, it can become very repetitive. In fact, it doesn't take long for The Drowning to become a real slog. There are some new enemies, sure, and you eventually get to use new weapons. But it's the same thing over and over and over again.

So, that's The Drowning. Here is a genuinely clever and original control system, used in a frightfully boring game with bucketloads of wait timers, paywalls, and in-app purchases.

Maybe, someone will 'borrow' the controls and put them in a vastly more interesting game. We can only hope.

Note: this preview is based on a game in a 'soft launch' state, meaning mechanics and prices may change before it's released around the world.

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 12 April 2013
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