- Developer: ngmoco
- Price: Free
Look past the fact that Eliminate Pro is free: someone spent a lot of money on this, and they're hoping that you will too. An early App Store experiment in the micro-transactions payment model, ngmoco's latest fairly reeks of build quality, with beautifully designed menus, lovely 3D maps, and an expensive-looking CG video that plays once you first load the game up, introducing you to the quirky details of the Eliminate world.
And at the centre of that world is Arsenal Megacorp, a weapons manufacturer that urgently needs recruits to test out its range of futuristic weaponry. What that translates into is an entirely multiplayer-focused four-player deathmatch game, with an emphasis on levelling, weapons upgrades, and character customisation.
Let's start with the good news. Not only does Eliminate look the part, its online implementation is suitably slick. Loading into ngmoco's Plus+ Network where your stats are stored is a fairly painless business, and online matches work surprisingly well over both 3G and Wi-Fi, although the matchmaking appears to be a bit of a lottery. With bots available for practice games and a nice range of brightly-coloured levels - snug enough for the low player cap but still filled with plenty of intricacies to learn - it's clear that Eliminate's designers have been staggeringly ambitious.
Sadly, they've also been staggeringly ambitious, and, after your first few hours of play you may feel they were trying too much. With movement, aiming, jumping, pausing, weapon-swapping, firing, and reloading - oh, and taunting - all struggling to find a home on a single, fairly small touch-screen, Eliminate begins as an exercise in total bafflement.
There are plenty of options for tweaking things – you can change look sensitivity, flip the controls, and select an auto-fire mode which calms things down a little bit, but in trying to provide a comprehensive modern FPS experience in such cramped conditions, a game like this was always going to struggle.
Even once you get into the groove, every now and then you still find yourself jumping into the air when you meant to let rip with a deadly volley of futuristic buckshot, or struggling to turn quickly enough when you're wedged into a corner under heavy fire. And that's before you take into account teething problems, like the fact the game often respawns you right in the middle of a pitched gun battle. Okay, it gives you temporary invulnerability, but it's still a bit of a drag to be born anew in a firestorm of bullets.
It is, to put it lightly, a game with a steep learning curve. And while that's no crime in itself, it's precisely at this point that the game runs up against its own financial model.
While it's an utter delight to get something as glitzy and complex as Eliminate for free, struggling through the first few hours is made palatable because you're earning credits as you play, and can cash these in at the in-game shop, levelling up and buying better kit (although the fact that this is what keeps you playing is perhaps something of a veiled criticism).
The problem is that there's a second economy at work, too: to earn credits, your suit has to be powered up with energy. This energy trickles away while you play, and takes hours to recharge. While you can still join games and shoot people when you've run out of energy for the day, you won't be getting any rewards for it any more – unless you top it up artificially by buying in-game power cells with real-world money.
Persevere, and the game will start to click, but it's not impossible that your early experience leads you to decide Eliminate is an elaborate lure for Plus+ Network sign-ups, or, worse, a lovely shop with a shooter attached to it. Meanwhile, the complex controls and fast pace suggest that, in trying to be a great game, Eliminate has passed up the chance to be a solid and likable one.
Perhaps then, ultimately, it's best to look at Eliminate through the lens of its own fiction. It's a work-in-progress – a patch promising "refinements" is inbound – but it's also an experiment in which the player is fulfilling two roles: tester, but also the long-term funding body.