The Shadowgun series is commonly praised for its quality, bringing high quality first-person shooting action to mobile devices. Shadowgun: Legends makes a great case for this, offering an enthralling sci-fi epic with the gameplay to boot. For the fourth entry in the series, Shadowgun: War Games, Madfinger Games decided to go back to the basics and deliver an allegedly pure competitive shooter that unfortunately misses the target.
While Shadowgun: Legends wanted to be the Destiny for the mobile crowd and somewhat succeeded in achieving that goal, War Games tries to do the same but for Overwatch. However, it should have stayed in development for much longer, as the result is a game that feels rushed, severely lacking content and a reason for you to keep coming back. As odd as it may sound, you get to see everything that the game has to offer in a couple of hours, with no room for surprises or excitement.
Shadowgun: War Games Review | Underwatch
Shadowgun War Games feels like a game of two distinct halves – for one, it looks great, with vivid colors and an overall presentation that easily beats most other mobile shooters. Furthermore, it ticks most of the right boxes concerning game mechanics and features controls optimized for mobile devices. On the other hand, it is so barebones and lacking the kind of relevant content that every game requires that it almost feels like an alpha release, or a work-in-progress PvP mode for a fully-fledged shooter. Let’s say Shadowgun Legends, as the first example that comes to mind.
With the recent release of Call of Duty Mobile turning the genre on its head and showing that shooters on the go can be hugely playable and fun, Shadowgun War Games feels like a shadow of the game that it was supposed to be. Being a completely PvP-focused affair, it needs a large and diverse cast of characters and a handful of game modes that encourage competition and skill-based gameplay. Originality goes out of the window in a genre like this; no one is asking for groundbreaking ideas in a competitive first-person shooter. However, every game needs a bare minimum to feel engaging and foster a community that isn’t going to dwindle after a day or two of playing… if anyone sticks around for that long.
You may have noticed that I have mixed feelings toward Shadowgun War Games. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with its core mechanics and it can be enjoyable to shoot a few rivals from time to time, although I can’t quite get over the fact that there is no jump button in a competitive FPS; however, it gets tiring as you are forced into the same two game modes and the same 5v5 team-based matches. That is correct, there are only two game modes to choose from: Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Talk about the bare minimum for a game release.
There isn’t much to muse over Team Deathmatch, a game mode that harkens back to the dawn of the shooter genre itself. You and your teammates pick a character and run amok as you try to eliminate the rival players. The winning team is the one to reach 30 points first or those who have the higher score when the timer runs out. Capture the Flag expands the arena a bit more, but it brings no surprises as well. Jet, the fastest character is a strong choice as the flag carrier, while tanks and snipers could provide the necessary support. And that’s all there is concerning game modes in Shadowgun War Games.
The paltry five characters at your disposal aren’t at fault for their balance or the way that they cover the fundamental roles in a shooter: you have your bullet sponge in Revenant, a hulking beast that requires some hefty firepower to take down, and he also packs some heat himself; Slade is the all-purpose warrior that doesn’t excel in any particular area but isn’t weak in any aspect either; Jet is the speedy assassin that is beyond annoying with his strafing when you’re trying to aim; Willow is the camper’s paradise, being the sniper of the group; finally, there’s Sara, the support android who is there to provide healing and protective abilities. Each character comes with two abilities that you need to master if you want to keep the match on a tight leash.
The major issue here is that Shadowgun War Games is a hero shooter in a severe lack of heroes. There isn’t much room for experimenting, no opportunity to surprise your rivals with delightful character combinations that provide some thrilling plays. Everything is predictable, by the book, and these hero numbers needed to be doubled at the very least in order to open the game to new tactics and teamplay. As it stands, the matches quickly turn into a dull and repetitive process of resorting to the same strategies and hoping for the best.
Somehow, Shadowgun War Games doesn’t deliver the tight and accurate shooting that we were hoping for. We have fond memories of Shadowgun Legends in this regard, but we may have been spoiled by Call of Duty Mobile and its impeccable gameplay. Aiming feels a tad imprecise and sluggish, adding some unnecessary difficulty to the matches. Still, it’s not bad, it’s just not as good as we hoped for.
Another irksome aspect is the map design, which screams bland and by-the-numbers in more ways that one. The design is overly angular and tired, feeling like a pastiche of every other hero shooter out there. There isn’t that spark that differentiates the genuinely clever maps from the rest of the bunch; on the upside, you’ll learn the ins-and-outs of the few maps in no time, so at least they won’t get in the way of you making progress and climbing ranks in the game.
The minimal UI is an obvious positive, but a game like this doesn’t really need a lot of information cluttering the screen.
Shadowgun War Games is a strong candidate to the most generic shooter of the year award. This is more by design than by accident, because the goal here obviously isn’t to deliver originality in spades. Everything about it breeds familiarity, there isn’t a feature or mechanic that we haven’t seen in dozens of other shooters. If you’re looking for a truly original arena shooter in the same vein, give Quantum League and its time traveling antics a go.
With no story campaign in sight, every hope of success falls upon the player versus player gameplay. The systems are in place and play as expected, although it’s impossible to overlook the severe lack of characters, game modes, and arenas, something that critically destroys any sort of ambition that the game may have. Furthermore, you must climb ranks to unlock additional heroes and the second game mode, Capture the Flag, a bizarre requirement considering that there is very little to begin with. Granted, it is only going to take you a couple of hours to unlock everything, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that the game barely offers the basics, to say the least.
Graphics / Sound: 8/10
Finally, something that we can truly praise about Shadowgun War Games. Despite the cliched and derivative nature of the characters and environment, this is a good-looking game, with detailed characters and backgrounds, the occasional splash of vivid colors, and visual effects aplenty.
Sound effects are serviceable, with the usual repetitive one-liners and a narrator detailing the main events of the match. The least that you could expect is a barrage of bullet sounds and cries, and in this area the game delivers.
Value for Money: 3/10
Shadowgun War Games is a free-to-play title and just as it happens with most of its ilk, it comes with a battle pass. Naturally, the bulk of the rewards are locked in the premium track, which you must purchase with real money. The trouble here is that the asking price is a hefty $10, an amount that is far from reasonable considering the content – or lack thereof – available in the game. Having some extra skins and other cosmetics is all fine and good, but it would be made the more interesting if there was a consistent and robust game to show for it.
After the exhilarating shooting that Shadowgun Legends delivered, the hype for this follow-up was sky high. Unfortunately, Shadowgun War Games feels like a significant step back for the series, and one that was evidently rushed to release. With five heroes and two game modes, there is just not enough meat in its bones to keep players invested for weeks, despite solid looks and decent shooter mechanics.
Uncomfortably sitting between game mode and beta version, it could be the subject of an entirely different reception in case it had double the heroes and game modes. As it stands at release, there just isn’t enough appeal to make you return to these war games, and it is decidedly a far cry from the Overwatch mobile game that many players decided to label it during development.
Good futuristic looks
Adequate controls and systems
Only five characters and two game modes