John Woo’s reputation as a director and filmmaker was built on graceful action set-pieces and high-stakes melodrama. Unfortunately, his first foray into mobile gaming — Chillingo’s thuddingly titled Bloodstroke — has neither. You play as a private security contractor, codenamed Lotus, whose task is to escort a brilliant, nervous doctor through a series of levels stretching from Hong Kong to Beijing — all while dispatching the roving bands of gangsters, hitmen, and thugs trying to kill him.
Song Blaster is an arcade-style shooter that loosely incorporates your personal music library into gameplay. The concept has been done before by games like Beat Hazard and Audiosurf, but rarely has it been this playful. You won’t find in-depth strategy or demanding tests of reflex with the free-to-play Song Blaster, but what you do get is a fun, stimulating way to virtually interact with your favorite tracks.
The first thing you'll notice when starting up Lawless is the insane level of detail applied to the arcade-style shooter’s characters and environments. It’s seriously one of the best-looking mobile games this side of Infinity Blade III. But much like how an intriguing-looking book might be devoid of anything interesting to say, a game’s contents may not match its memorable sheen — and that's definitely the case here. The intense firefights and crew-based combat of Lawless quickly lose their shine, and it ultimately proves to be just another tepid free-to-play grind.
Strike Force Heroes: Extraction is a noble – if uneven – attempt to replicate the classic side-scrolling console shooter. Likely due to the complexity of its control scheme, the genre hasn’t often been particularly well served on iOS devices, but Strike Force Heroes (HD iPad version reviewed; also available separately on iPhone) has found a few clever shortcuts. The result is fun to play in short bursts, even if the smoothness of some controls makes some of the weaker spots more glaring.
Depending on your perspective, free-to-play games might either be the best or worst thing to happen to the mobile platform – but whatever your take, it's hard to deny that the approach comes with notable compromises. Dead Trigger 2 is a fairly engrossing first-person shooter with a lot to offer in regards to comfortable controls and enjoyable blood-spattered gameplay, but you'll quickly find yourself sitting around doing nothing in order to avoid throwing money into the works.
With a laser pistol in one hand and a glowing sword in the other, charging through long corridors filled with killer robots, oozing slime creatures, and alien freaks sounds like a good time. It is — at least to an extent — in Echo Prime. This sci-fi brawler from Robot Entertainment (Hero Academy) is a high-energy tap-fest that balances smart controls and formidable challenge. The satisfaction that comes from cleaving through droves of foes in a successful run dampens during longer play sessions, however, due to intense repetition that'll leave your wrists aching.
Hunting never felt so base and inhumane as in Deer Hunter 2014, the latest in a long line of titles that has evolved progressively far from its moniker and expanded now to include endangered animals. The core shooting and weapon upgrading experience is actually very well executed, albeit easy – assuming you can look past the ethical blunder is blasting near-extinct creatures – while its rapid-fire mission structure across three exotic locales makes for some compulsive gaming. However, there’s little by way of deer or realistic hunting on offer.
Tell us if you've heard this one before. In Dead Effect, you assume the role of an elite soldier aboard a spaceship, where an infection has turned everyone into zombies. Odds are, this setup is not unlike one you've seen numerous times before, and unfortunately it's not just the story that proves so familiar. The weapons, setting, music, and enemies are all equally uninspired, and the gunplay is too weak to compensate. As a result, Dead Effect is a thoroughly run-of-the-mill first-person shooter.
The appearance of a traditional Call of Duty on iOS is long overdue – with the gap ably filled by Gameloft's lookalike Modern Combat series – as earlier entries focused on the Zombies survival side mode from the console games. But much as Call of Duty: Strike Team resembles its big-budget brethren on the surface, it's not quite as typical as it seems thanks to the ability to switch to an overhead tactical view and control multiple squad members with simple taps. And that's a very good thing, as the mobile-friendly perspective is actually the better half of this glossy military shooter experience.
Frantic action games occupy a weird space on iOS, offering right-to-the-point entertainment that's ideal for portable games while often lacking the precise controls such games demand, due to the missing physical buttons. Soul Grinder stands out by doing something uncommon: It offers an experience that not only fits its platform in terms of length and straightforward design, but also by featuring a control scheme that provides just the proper amount of control for an App Store action affair.