These days, mobile studios are becoming increasingly good at imitating their full-fat counterparts; attempting to emulate a home console experience on an iPhone or tablet.
But ShortRound Games are taking the opposite tack: creating a gameplay and graphical benchmark that simply wouldn't work on any other platform. Extraction: Project Outbreak is the brainchild of four ex-AAA developers that will deliver a tactical partnership between Cannon Fodder, Syndicate and twitch shooters. On randomly generated maps. With persistent experience and upgrades.
Pay attention, because this is going to be huge.
Players control a powerful operative who's out to uncover the mysteries behind a dangerous virus outbreak in South America. The real-time action takes place from an isometric perspective, with the Unity Engine bringing the game world to life with exceptional clarity. The visuals are certainly the first thing you'll notice, but Extraction's real strengths are to be found in its real-time strategic gameplay.
Moving your operative is as simple as tapping where you want him to go, and he'll do his best to make his way to the objective as quickly as possible. However, the battlefields are liberally infested by infected enemy zombies, robots and troops - and culling the herd will require you to swipe across them in the order you want them to die. Taking down chains of opponents in quick succession will reward you with point multipliers (more on those later) - and you can designate targets in your field of view before moving into engagement range. It's the perfect blend of hectic shooting and tactical forward planning.
Special weapons can be dragged directly onto the battlefield from your HUD, allowing you to precisely choose where you want to deploy them. These powerful game-changers include standard armaments like explosive grenades and hallucinogenic gas canisters that turn enemies against each other, as well as exotic weapon platforms like spider drones, air strikes and robotic sentries. Again, ShortRound has done their best to make controlling the weapons as tactile as possible, such as tracing a path for the Spider to follow or manually rotating the gun turret's field of view.
It's these satisfying little touches (literally) that make Extraction feel as exciting and immediate as any shooter - even though it's a strategy game through and through. You'll poke, drag and swipe your way to victory, and clever placement of special weapons will be equally important as deft fingertips. The battlefield becomes your playground rather than a sterile and distant place.
Not enough depth for you? Fine... which is where the upgrade system comes into play. Each firearm and gadget has sprawling upgrade tiers that affect their performance and power. A few IAPs will be on hand to hustle the progress along with accelerators and multipliers, but you won't really need them.
Playing through the campaign and levelling up your arsenal will take approximately six hours... but here's where the real value comes in. Randomly-generated maps will provide near-infinite replayability, especially when coupled with persistent experience levels that an grant your agent improved armour, health and speed. Multiplayer functionality could well follow in future updates, sweetening the package yet further.
Put simply, Extraction: Project Outbreak won't just demonstrate that iPhones and iPads can emulate the console experience. It's going to demonstrate that iOS can deliver next-gen games of its very own... and that even dedicated gaming handhelds are living on borrowed time. We cant wait to see whether the finished version lives up to its potential.