The Nintendo DS had a large variety of shooting games on it. From console ports like Call of Duty: Black Ops, to story-driven horror games like Dementium, to even Nintendo’s own Metroid Prime: Hunters, the DS was no stranger to blasting guns and having fun with online play. For some odd reason, this trend didn’t carry over to the 3DS. Enter VD-dev games with IronFall Invasion. A brief tech demo of the game hit YouTube in November of 2013, and 3DS owners drooled with anticipation at this sci-fi shooter for their 3DS. Now, the game has finally released in North America. So has IronFall Invasion been worth the wait?
IronFall Invasion is broken up into two segments: Single Player Campaign and Multiplayer, both are which are try before you buy. That’s right, when you download the game in the eShop, you are given a free campaign snippet, and even free online multiplayer with one character and map. You can even choose just if you want to buy both the campaign and multiplayer for $20, or just buy one or the other at a reduced price.
The campaign mode is a standard sci-fi affair: playing as the heavily armored Jim, you have to save the world from an alien invasion. After a brief tutorial, you are thrown into the game world blasting aliens in various locations across the map. While the aliens more resemble a traditional \”robot\” look, a decent variety of enemies are scattered throughout the game, including some interesting boss characters. There are 11 levels to blast your through in the campaign, and the game does a decent job of keeping things from getting too monotonous by having slight deviations, such as a character change which impacts the way you play the game. The story isn\’t riveting, and the voice over works is rather laughable (think original Resident Evil on PS1), but it gets the job done. Add in un-lockable challenges, and you have a competent, but rather uninspired, Single Player campaign.
The controls in the game do take some getting used to. I used a New 3DS XL, and it made my experience much easier than someone using a standard 3DS. Using the New 3DS, the C-Stick acts as your aiming and analog pad is used for movement. To me, the default sensitivity was too high for the C-Stick, so some adjustment may be needed. The R trigger is used to shoot your gun, and ZR reloads your weapon. A half circle appears on the screen while reloading, and hitting it in the right spot will give you an extra long clip for less reloading. The L trigger will aim to look at a specific area, and ZL allows a sprint (which can also be done by tapping the analog stick “up” twice). Two pushes of the analog stick down will have your character do a quick 180.
As mentioned, the game supports the New 3DS controls for aiming, but what if you have a standard 3DS? Bring on the touch screen aiming! While veteran DS shooting fans will feel familiar with this layout, it can be off putting to newcomers. Where games like Metroid Prime: Hunters could have crazy high sensitivity for aiming, IronFall Invasion’s default sensitivity is way too low. On top of that, even at maximum setting, it still feels very slow compared to other games that were available on the DS. The game does offer the ability to make a long stylus swipe across the screen to move your aiming in a much faster sense, but clearly the developer had the New 3DS C-Stick in mind as the preferred method of control.
Gameplay wise, the term “Gears of War-Lite” has been thrown around for IronFall Invasion, and it’s somewhat appropriate. The game is a 3rd person “over-the-shoulder” shooter, with an emphasis on using cover. Cover is a key factor in the game, both as far as avoiding bullets and health. Instead of using a traditional health system with health packs, the game uses a heart rate monitor which is seen on the bottom screen. Things like taking enemy fire and running increase your heart rate, which if it gets to high, you die. To reduce your heart rate, you take cover. It’s a simple mechanic, but it works well. A variety of weapons rounds out the gameplay, and popping in and out of cover feels very solid.
IronFall Invasion was clearly built on two things though: Graphics and Multiplayer. Graphically, the game is very impressive. Textures are bright and colorful, with a good attention to detail. All of the locations have a distinct look to them, from being outside in sunny Mexico to being deep inside of a laboratory. Enemy movement is fast and fluid, and the game runs at a rock solid 60FPS….with the 3D turned off. With the 3D on, the game does dip to 30FPS, but still looks gorgeous, because of the added depth. Sure, there are a few areas that outshine others, and a couple ugly textures here and there, but for a small indie studio to make a game that looks almost as good as many retail releases such as Resident Evil: Revelations, it’s a very impressive feat and technical marvel.
The second feature the game was clearly intended for was Multiplayer. The 3DS finally has an online capable competitive shooting game, and it’s pretty damn fun. Up to 6 people play at once, and in a variety of modes. Free-for-all is your standard death match, and team games are offered as well, featuring 2 teams of 3 or 3 teams of 2. You can customize your character’s appearance and weapon layout, featuring a light weapon and a heavy weapon. Your light weapon will dish out most of the damage, and your heavy weapon features limited ammunition guns such as a rocket launcher, or my personal favorite, the sniper rifle. The game also offers a betting system, which is how you gain (or lose) XP to level up your character. If you don’t feel like rolling the dice of luck, you can also gain XP by winning a non \”Bet\” match. After playing the multiplayer for an extensive amount of time, I encountered very little lag which was a huge plus, and firing sniper shots across the map felt really fun.
That’s probably the biggest thing I took away from IronFall Invasion. It’s not a “genre-defining” game, and if it was on something like the Xbox 360, a system filled with shooters, it wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. With the lack of shooters on the 3DS though, IronFall Invasion manages to stand tall and offer a fun time. With superb graphics and fast and fun online multiplayer, IronFall Invasion is a solid choice for anyone looking for some shooting action on the go with their Nintendo 3DS. Keep your expectations in line, realize this is a handheld game, and you will probably have a fun time with IronFall Invasion, much like I did.