What is one to do when they can’t engage in a marathon session of Mass Effect 3? Electronic Arts has the solution in the new game Mass Effect Infiltrator, a third-person cover shooter for the iPad that offers some, though far from all, of what has made the series so appealing and successful.
Loyal followers of the franchise will ultimately enjoy having a mobile companion they can travel with during their ‘downtime,’ and new fans might find the game worthy of killing a few hours. However, the sheer difficulty of the controls really makes the game feel more frustrating than fun at times. Add that to what comes across as a watered-down sci-fi narrative, and something seems to be amiss in this new iOS version.
In other words, you’re bound to enjoy the adventure, but tame your expectations as you’re not getting something as cool and complex as the name Mass Effect implies.
A committed agent, and an all-around tough guy, Randall Enzo is a loyalist to all things Cerberus, a human-survivalist paramilitary group. However, once Cerberus decides to use Enzo’s friend Inali for a devious experiment, Enzo ends up turning against the organization he once fought for, threatening to take out whomever and whatever stands in his way. Randall becomes an agent scorned, with his mind set on vengeance and an appetite for destruction and carnage.
While such a hook has potential, the plot that arises from the conflict seems to fall short of the standard that the Mass Effects series is known for, both in terms of complex characters and a rich narrative. What we get in Infiltrator is a unique side story to a familiar world, but it only ever builds up to be a shooting game in its most pure, basic and bloated form. Plotlines never seem that lucid or layered, stakes remain low from beginning to end, and everyone Enzo either converses or interacts with ends up being disappointingly system-standard stuff. While it’s not necessarily an offensive or even boring take on the world, the absence of the narrative’s detail and nuance pales in comparison to its predecessors. Enemies seem like carbon copies, and true surprises are pretty much non-existent throughout.
Those that love third-person shooters should find Mass Effect Infiltrator does the trick. You constantly are firing, ducking and dodging in relatively high-octane, take-no-prisoners setting. But the constant ‘run into a room, then shoot people’ formula does start to lose its luster after a while for those who crave some kind of variable objective to it all. Beyond killing, and the occasional opening of doors, Enzo seems to have little ability or interaction with the world around him. For some, that should be totally fine — and obviously welcome since the point here is to shoot at things — but most of the sequences start to feel like facsimiles of one another, as newer scenarios welcome little beyond slightly heightened environments, more enemies in a single space, and the occasional advanced weaponry.
When it comes to the challenge, seeing that play-time clocks in at about 6 hours, I’d say you’re getting your money’s worth. The game isn’t easy by any means, and while Mass Effect fans may not take too long to reach the end, it’s far from a breeze. The game also introduces style points and a three-star rating system — noting how kills were made and to what effect on both health and time — which is easily converted into power ups and equipment purchases, and should encourage many users to replay scenarios in order to improve their run.
The kills aren’t nearly as exciting or varied as one would hope, and the Paragon and Renegade conflict (a concept that has been adopted from the series) seems like a throw-in. Beyond having a wide range of equipment to choose from (rifles, shotguns and the like), your biotics, which are essentially special powers, can shake things up a bit. Even then, one soon gets tired of using the yank (summoning characters to the air) and leash (grappling and swinging an enemy in the air) additions. In terms of both equipment and attacks, there’s simply not enough variance here for the game to sustain its momentum.
One of the nicer touches with Mass Effect Infiltrator is the way that it ties into gamers’ experiences with Mass Effect 3. There is a gameplay mechanic in the Mass Effect 3 known as Galaxy at War (which you can read more about in our full Mass Effect review here), which is essentially your collection of resources to prepare for one final, epic showdown with the main antagonists of the series, the Reapers. In Mass Effect Infiltrator, you can gather pieces of intel scattered around the environment that boost your Galaxy at War rating in Mass Effect 3, giving you a higher level of preparedness for your final battle. Though this is a feat that can also be accomplished by playing multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 — in fact, that’s what EA has dubbed the new mode — it’s still a smart way to ensure that Mass Effect Infiltrator can not only be enjoyed as a standalone gaming experience, but also as something that can be played in tandem with Mass Effect 3.