The stars lined up just right this week (read: gift-giving season is here!) to have a number of awesome game sequels and new releases launch all at once. Frankly, there are so many new games that there is no better time than the present to check out what the App Store has to offer.
Rick Broida already wrote about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City earlier today, but there are plenty more that would make nice additions to your iOS gaming collection.
This week's collection of apps is a group of excellent games released over the course of this week. The first is a funny and fun dual-stick shooter with tons of weapons to collect. The second is the latest installment in probably the best FPS franchise at the App Store. The third is a port of an old game to the iPad (and only the iPad), but it might be the most famous classic RPG ever.
Minigore 2: Zombies ($1.99) is the sequel to the fun and funny dual-stick shooter Minigore. The graphics in this zombie-themed sequel still have that funny block-head look, but you're no longer fighting the furry baddies; now you're blowing away the undead.
Much like the first game in the series, Minigore 2 is all about mindless shooting in all directions as hordes of zombies and other creeps try to kill you. You'll also find several melee weapons like swords and giant hammers for close quarters combat. But just when you thought there couldn't be any more zombies swarming around you, a boss will appear that will take a lot of hits to bring down. Fortunately they often also drop a ton of coins so you can upgrade your weapons.
To acquire new weapons, you'll first need to buy them in the store. You get a machine gun for free, but you'll need to purchase new weapons to have them randomly show up in the game for a varied attack. Then, as you collect more coins, you can upgrade your weapons to make them more powerful, unlock new levels, and unlock new characters to play with. Each of the characters can be upgraded as well, helping you last longer against the endless shambling horde. Coins come pretty quickly as you play, so you'll soon be using weapons like shotguns, grenade launchers, and other powerful hardware.
Minigore 2: Zombies is all about mindless fun as you try to complete 300 in-game challenges, blow away 60 different types of enemies, and battle seven giant bosses. If you liked the first Minigore game, or just like the mindless action of dual-stick shooters, this sequel is one of the best.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour ($6.99) is the latest installment from Gameloft's incredibly popular Modern Combat franchise. While there's not much new gameplay-wise, you have more terrorists to kill with a whole new story, and it's still probably the best FPS for the touch screen.
In this latest sequel, the game challenges you to fight in countries around the world, from Barcelona to Africa, and you will find and use several different kinds of weapons as you complete mission objectives. In this installment, you will also have the option to play as the villain, giving you a whole different perspective on the game. The game is a universal download, so you can play on any of your iOS devices, but I think it is at its best on the iPad.
You get three different types of control schemes to pick from, with variations of onscreen joysticks and touch-screen actions. I found the default control method to work best for me, using a movement joystick on the left and the touch screen to aim and fire with my right thumb. Some added controls appear in certain situations where you need to pick up an item or jump down from a wall, for example. You can reload your weapon with a single tap on the gun in the upper right or you can double tap to switch weapons as you discover them in the game. One issue here is that the reload button is a little inconvenient (top right of screen) while playing on an iPad, but I was able to get used it after awhile. It still seems like it should be closer to your right thumb.
Though the touch screen will never be as easy to use as a keyboard and mouse or console controller, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour manages to make the controls fairly easy to use. Auto aim (found in the options) helps a lot to offset the less-than-optimal controls in the beginning, but after spending some time with the game you'll be able turn it off for a more realistic experience.
Along with the fun gameplay, Modern Combat: Zero Hour has amazing graphics, great audio with satisfyingly explosive-sounding guns, and fairly good voice acting in-game and during cut scenes.
When you think you've honed your skills enough, you can take your game online and play in battles of up to 12 players, across eight maps, and in several game modes (FPS staples like Conquest and Capture the Flag are my current favorites). You also have four new specializations for your soldier (chosen before a match) to make him stronger at different strategies like Stealth or Support. Your starting soldier comes with fairly powerful weapons, but you'll need to play several games to earn coins in order to buy new ones. Judging by how populated the servers are so soon after launch, you'll be able to find plenty of games to play do increase your cash.
If you liked any of the earlier installments of Modern Combat, Zero Hour is an excellent choice with more-exciting gameplay, challenging missions, and probably the best graphics yet. If you like first-person shooters, this game is a must-have on your iOS device.
Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition ($9.99 - iPad Only) is a touch-screen recreation of the mega-hit classic RPG adventure game. While a game based on Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition rules is not for everyone, if you have the patience, tutorial levels teach you the basics so you can start your adventure.
As the port of a game that was originally released in 1998, the graphics are not on par with today's games. Your isometric 3D view from above doesn't show off crystal-clear graphics or smooth 3D modeling like you might be used to. But Baldur's Gate was a huge fan favorite in its time for its epic storyline and complex gameplay, and the iOS version is a fantastic recreation. So while you won't be dazzled by the graphics, the gameplay definitely holds up, especially if you're a fan of Dungeons and Dragons type role-playing games.
You start by creating your character. Baldur's Gate has three preset options if you want to jump in right away, with a prerolled fighter, thief, or mage. But you also can choose to pick from 11 available classes (druids, barbarians, clerics, and more) and set up all the stats yourself, choose your skills or spells, and customize your look. The freedom to set up your own stats means you can customize your character exactly how you want, in effect making the 11 available classes starting points for your perfect character type. It's this type of customization that makes Baldur's Gate great, but it takes some time to learn the ins and outs of all the many skills, so don't expect to just jump in and start hacking away at bad guys.
Once you're in the game, you'll quickly realize Baldur's Gate is incredibly complex, requiring you to manage six adventurers all of different classes (rangers, druids, fighters, wizards, and several others), each with their own abilities that you control. You'll even often need to hit the pause button in the middle of combat in order to plan each character's moves and actions if you want to stand a chance against the game's many monsters.
To add to the confusion for new players, several skills and spells are not well labeled, making it difficult to pick out the exact action you're trying to achieve. Though I was able to figure most of it out with some practice, you should definitely expect a learning period here. Fortunately, you can experiment all you want in the tutorial levels, and I suggest you try to get familiar with the spell and skill icons before you get too far into the game.
Overall, Baldur's Gate is a faithful recreation of the popular 1998 original with 80 hours of epic RPG adventure and a large world to explore. If you like deep RPG games or played the original Baldur's Gate, this game is a worthwhile purchase.