Shooting people in the living room is a modern institution. Shooting people on the bus, at the train station, or wedged into the bath, however, is rather less prevalent.
Handhelds have had trouble with FPS games for some time. In the days of the Game Boy Advance, it was probably mainly to do with technology: Nintendo's chunky little delight may have had 32-bit graphics, but it still struggled to bring even id's earliest titles flickering out of the past.
These days, however, it's more to do with the interface: whether you've got a stylus in your hand or a single runty little analogue nub under your thumb, portable consoles just don't seem to be equipped for headshots and strafing.
Enter the iPhone, which initially seems the least promising of any of the current handhelds for conjuring up a convincing deathmatch. That hasn't stopped people trying, however, so it's hopefully worth taking a quick look at two of the more interesting recent examples - the return of a genre standard, and a brand new IP from one of the more thoughtful publishers on the platform.
Both have their own ideas as to how to make FPSs work on Apple's oddball device. Could either of them be onto something?
- Developer: id Software
- Price: Ł3.99
At the time of its first release, Doom was the perfect synthesis of emerging technology and the violent fantasies of teenage boys. Computers were obviously brilliant, and while there wasn't a 12-year-old alive who didn't go weak at the knees at the prospect of conjuring a pivot table, Doom was at least twice as exciting as Productivity software.
Obviously, first-person shooters have changed a bit since then – now they often have morality systems, and stuff to collect for Achievements – but Doom has held up surprisingly well: a timeless Martian hellhole drawn in clear, easy-to-read environments, filled with a nice range of weapons, and moving at a snappy pace. id has already had a mini-hit on the App Store with the re-released Wolfenstein, so the reappearance of the company's most iconic franchise was pretty much inevitable.
Okay, that's forgetting that we've already had Doom Resurrection, a divisive if technically dazzling update that reinvents the series as an on-rails shooter while finding room to throw in the world's lamest robot sidekick – sorry Clank, second place again. But Doom Classic feels a little more convincing than that. It's more substantial, too: along with the original game's three classic episodes, you get Thy Flesh Consumed, the episode originally added for Ultimate Doom.
In fact, it's lovely nostalgic splatter all the way. The iPhone's screen presents the pixellated military installations and famous corridors in bold colours, while there are three different control schemes available, letting you handle movement and turning either with one virtual pad or two. You can even mess around with a weird – and not very likable – steering wheel set-up, which I hope nobody put too much effort into, because it's a bit rubbish.
There's four-person multiplayer as well. Granted, it's available over local Wi-Fi only, which means if you want to see whether Dennis "Thresh" Fong still has the moves, he's going to have to be your next-door neighbour, but it remains a fairly generous inclusion, allowing both co-op and competitive play.
While some players may find Doom a little too twitchy an experience for the iPhone, Classic succeeds because the basic formula is so beautifully uncomplicated: a series of rudimentary pleasures ranging from spotting something nasty, through to blowing it to pieces, and then stepping over the corpse. As such, early FPS titles like this and Wolfenstein show that shooters can work on a system with no buttons if they keep things simple. When it comes to the iPhone, it's probably wise to party like it's 1993.