They came from nowhere without warning but the tables will soon turn… That's how the trailer of the new FPS game for the iPhone starts, calling for a massive response from gamers that have already rejoiced with Eliminate, N.O.V.A. Brothers in Arms and the likes. Archetype [iTunes Link] is the new online multiplayer sci-fi style first person shooter by Villain, a newcomer in the AppStore as well.
If you think this is just another bad attempt, wait to hear that the new iPhone4 owners will benefit from its Retina Display 3D graphics and what I liked most, the online co-op mode with up to 10 players on the same maps. There is no story mode here, no customization, no DLC credits and no gimmicks. Archetype is intense and every online deathmatch will leave you wanting more.
Let's go to the nitty-gritty: Controls are the usual suspects to avoid upsetting the crowd. Left thumb to move and right to aim. As many other previous FPS iPhone games, auto aim and auto shoot are included as an option or with some specific weapons, allowing the user to calibrate aim sensibility to your taste. Some of the five maps have boosters, a kind or magnetic propellers that will lift you very fast, but there is no jump or crouch option.
One of the novelties included in Archetype is melee against your enemies, hitting them with your weapon directly. The screen layout during the game will be very familiar, allowing you to move the joysticks as we have seen in other games or hide them completely in the game settings to simply drag over the iPhone screem. One of the things you'll notice is the inclusion of a radar that displays the position of the players. When I first saw this, I thought it would kill the fun, but it really makes a lot of sense when you have so many players simultaneously on the same scenario.
The game is based around the online deathmatch mode, although you can challenge your friends as well if you have their combattag (username) because it doesn't have any social network integration so far. Once you enter the lobby, you can choose the continent you're playing in, which will prevent future potential server problems and timezone discrepancies. The game automatically assign players to Blue or Orange team depending on their ranking and experience but also the option to skip maps, called vetoes. During my testing I found many times that Archetype would create battles of two players against one, which is completely unfair if you're alone, but can be really fun if you work together with your teammate to "hunt" together. I played against beta tester and other reviewers before the game was release and got absolutely pwned against the pros. Videos and a huge screenshot gallery after the jump!
For those concerned with performance, I have played with eight players on the same scenario on WiFi before the game was launched and it didn't lag at all. I haven't managed to play against so many players on 3G but the experience was similar.
Moving to the weapons department, you will find a nice mixture of shotguns, the classic missile launcher, precision rifle and even an old school melee axe available in some maps. The most controversial introduction for me are the grenades. These are launched tapping on the left corner and ideally raising your view to avoid hitting the ground. They come in two flavours but both are quite powerful. I found them decisive to the game, meaning that less experienced players and jackasses will spend the whole deathwatch throwing them into corridors and other strategic places. I didn't like the combination of grenades and radar, but let's see what happens when Archetype is released and more players join the party.
The juice of the game has to be the final scores after the deathmatch that will make you level up. The stats manna is where you actually see who your archenemy is, which you can add as a friend after the game. Your score will depend on a mix of personal and team performance, meaning that you should actually cooperate and avoid the bloody
grenades when you have your mates close to you. Achievements are unlocked during these battles and are represented with medals. I suspect developed Villain hasn't joined any major social gaming platform like OpenFeint waiting to see how Apple develops its own Game Center, but this Archetype really deserves a way to quickly add friends, otherwise challenges are pretty pointless.
The visual aspect really deserves a mention, using beautiful floating menu transitions. The game controls during the game change to orange or blue depending on the team you're playing for, which helps a lot and makes less monotonous. Being one of the first games developed straight into Retina Display resolution, I don't have to say how the 3D graphics look like… Just look at the icon! You can notice the polygon count, but its very nicely finished
overall. I read that Archetype was developed by San Francisco firm MunkyFun, which counts with the people that created The Force Unleashed at LucasArts. This is the level of depth and polish you have to expect. Archetype is simple like no other, some may think of it as an Unreal Tournament for the iPhone, that it lacks offline mode, but I truly think its very close to what they advertise: "The best FPS experience on iPhone and iPod Touch".