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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rik's Reaction to Extraction: Project Outbreak (iOS)

We all know that this time of year means multiple new releases across the gaming world, but the Apple app store is a different beast, seeing new games released nearly everyday and all for less than a can of coke.

On perusing the app store the other day I recently picked up the the strategy action game Extraction: Project Outbreak and have been giving it a go over the last few days..  and I must admit I am pleasantly surprised.

If you've played ANY game this year there is a good chance at some point you've killed, talked to, looked at, read about, overheard someone talking about or ran into some kind of Zombie. They have overrun our games in 2011 and Extraction has no quibbles about throwing yet more undead at you... WHY WON'T THEY JUST DIE!

 This time we are fighting the "infected by a disease" type Zombies..  and we have the righteous goal of wiping every last one of these sick people off the face of the planet for the good of mankind. It's like a NHS management simulator.

So how do we go about such noble acts? Rendered in pleasing 3D, the games perspective is from a birds eye view with clear sharp graphics and nice bold colours. You take command of your generic soldier as he is dropped into the thick of things, ordering him around the levels completing set mission goals.

Erm.. little help?
The best thing about Extraction is its awesome control system and it makes the game a breeze to play and Shortround games should be congratulated.

To move you touch where you want to go... simple enough and the path finding is flawless.

To shoot you actually swipe your finger over who you want to attack, which then targets them and your soldier will fire automatically letting you manoeuvre around independently. You can keep your distance from the bads should you need, or respond to new threats from new directions while keeping up the fire.  The real innovation here is that you can swipe over multiple enemies targeting them all in a chain, giving you damage bonuses for each extra zombie you link in your chain.

This encourages you to try and get as many enemies on the screen as you can and take them all out in one clean swipe of your finger, its a nice risk and reward feature which can keep the combat fresh.. and its a tool in your armoury when you find yourself surrounded and on the back foot.

If that wasn't enough, the speed at which you swipe over your target dictates whether you score a "Skill shot" which does tons more damage. A bar in the top right of the screen fills in red as you swipe and should you release your finger at the right time, stopping the red in the sweet spot of green, you'll score a skill shot and earn yourself a quick victory.

Enemies stay varied, with classic shambling zombies making way for the quick 28 days later style sprint at your face type Zombie all the way through to armed zombie soldiers and robot helicopters which..  I don't really understand why these are here. They are often all thrown in the hat together offering different challenges.

It's the ease of the control scheme which keeps you thinking about the strategy and rarely does the game get in the way of itself which is a real find for this type of game. How many times do developers shoehorn old controls onto the touch screen with virtual buttons and d-pads?, ... this feels natural and its great.

Throw in  grenades that you just drag and drop onto the screen and melee combat by "scrubbing" over enemies, you find it becomes a pretty deep combat experience with plenty of options.

I wouldn't be surprised to see other games taking this control template on in the future.

How heavy is this one soldier!?.

As a soldier drafted into the ranks of Project Outbreak the brass back at HQ have broke out the big book of generic missions for you to complete. I quote from chapter 3:

  • Classic extermination - Wipe out all the bad guys, heal them with your bullets.
  • Search and rescue -  Cowardly scientists need finding and escorting back to base. Bloody wimps.
  • Escort - Yes... there are escort missions, take some soldiers (who defend themselves) to a point on the map.
  • Repair - Escort an engineer to a damaged weapon emplacement, defend him while he gets the job done... and escort him back

They all work really well, the NPC's (Non player characters) don't get in the way, or run headlong into danger and any timed missions give just the right window to get them done without it being easy.. or stupidly hard, and if you find yourself stuck you can always just choose another mission open to you, you're never really rail roaded down one path.

With the completion of each mission you earn yourself money, which you can then spend on upgrading your weapons, unlocking new ones and equipping yourself with specials such as deployable sentry guns which can defend areas for you, or robot spider drones that help you out. Its a big tree of 14 weapons all with individual upgrades and their own strengths, weaknesses and ease to earn skill shots with.

You can pay real sterling cash for in game money.. but this is NEVER shoved down your throat and its perfectly acceptable to play without doing this. Its more of short cut for lazy gamers than anything else.

On top of all this you also gain experience allowing you to level up in true RPG style, however this really boils down to improving one of 4 characteristics. Armour, Speed, Melee and Gun Skill. It's super light and nothing to get excited about.

Steve the Sentry Gun in action. GO STEVE.

The games plot is throw away best, told in a PowerPoint style cut scenes between levels. It's pointless and shouldn't be something you need to worry about and by far the weakest part of the game.

The games sound effects are good, however the in level music is repetitive and I ended up turning off the music altogether.

Extraction has a nice user interface, with clear easy to use menus and a nice big in game map should you need to know where your objectives are and the frame rates are smooth as butter on my 4th generation iPod touch running the latest iOS software.

At 69p it's a bargain and well worth a look. It's one of the best iOS games of recent times and comes recommended by me.


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