In a vaguely RAGE-like post-apocalyptic future where some sort of weird manmade oil has the power to turn dudes into zombies, a gigantic uh-oh sort of oil spill ends up turning a lot of dudes into zombies. So much for warning labels, right? These zombies ain't your usual type of brain-diggers, either; their desire seems to revolve around beating folks up and then dragging them into the magical sludge, which now covers a tiny island chain you'll be exploring in DeNA's upcoming free-to-play first-person shooter The Drowning.

Not that there was much to it, but The Drowning doesn't use its premise for much more than just an excuse to put you in the shoes of a scavenger who roams this little island in search of parts to various vehicles and guns in an effort to survive, keep moving, and maybe escape. For the most part, this is a hollow game; you're tasked with little more than just moving from arena to arena, killing dudes and collecting random parts after the battle. The story is too lean to be a driver and the arenas too scripted and bland. You play an area enough, for instance, and you'll learn exactly when and where dudes spawn.

Junk is integral to the experience. Progression is gated by junk. To get to new, harder arenas that drop sweeter junk, you'll need to find junk parts to vehicles that can take you to the new place. Also, some monsters can't be hurt by some weapons, so you'll need to keep finding new junk to create better weapons, like hunting rifles, shotguns, and so on. With story taking a huge back seat to the arenas, it's kinda easy to get burned out on the junk grind, though, the UI makes it really simple to identify the places you need to be to find specific pieces of junk.

You can get a taste of this in our look, which explore about 20 minutes of a New Zealand build of the game:

If you're feeling froggy, you can buy more chances to collect that piece you need after a fight. You can also buy new weapons, as well as the gas you'll need to get places. If you build a new weapon, there's timers you can skip, too. In just about every nook and cranny, there's a "hey buy this" element to the experience.

Because of how insanely integrated all the free-to-play systems are, it's easy to overlook just how great the game feels as a shooter. Straight-up, this thing has the best and most brilliant control scheme I've ever used on iOS. With one hand, you tap on the environment to steer your dude around, while swiping to look. Solid prediction and some mean, mean pathfinding make this a breeze. You can also backpedal while moving if you hit the reverse icon. Shooting requires a two finger tap in which you kinda treat your digits like a crosshair. Whatever's in the middle of them is where the bullet goes -- reliably, no less.

This system sounds convoluted and it certainly looks whacky when you watch someone put it in motion, but it's super easy to learn and get comfortable with. It took me around three or four minutes, actually, which is nuts since I've never played a shooter that has done anything similar. I don't play shooters on iOS because of whacky virtual button schemes, but I keep flipping on this one to enjoy the shooting. It's wild, man.

You might find yourself in a similar spot when this game launches -- not digging the free-to-play shenanigans yet somehow glued to the game because the shooting mechanics are so good. That's not a bad since the value proposition is as low as it is, so consider checking it out when you can. This thing is a trip and, hey, maybe it'll actually hook you, too.

  • dariusjr98

    Jesus, are they gonna charge you a dollar per bullet shot while they're at it? This game would be perfect if they just gave it a price of $2.99.

  • JBRUU

    Sorry. I'm very, very comfortable with Gameloft's FPS controls and this system just doesn't give you the same amount of control. For casual players I'm sure this is nice, but any kind of fast paced, precise shooter simply won't work well with these controls. No ADS for the pistol? No crouching/prone? No sprinting? Can you even move while shooting? Can you butterfly?

    Plus it's more freemium bullshit pricing. Just from that I can safely say I'll never touch this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paddy-Grant-Sullivan/733511665 Paddy Grant Sullivan

      Pretty much agree exactly with this. They "fixed" the shooter controls by basically making it a rail shooter instead of an FPS. Not to mention the completely horribly freemium scheme.

      • sagek

        You clearly don't know what a rail shooter is... but the controls are indeed a question of taste. I personally think FPS games are meant for a mouse and keyboard, but I like the fact that companies are thinking about alternative control schemes that work better on touch devices.

    • MonkeyChunks

      I disagree. I am not a casual player and I see more value in this control scheme than in standard virtual control stick scheme. I agree with what creator if Tetris said in an interview about Kinect or PS Move, he said what matters is not how controls function but that they are consistently precise. I think this on-rails hybrid method is much more precise than moving the virtual flat joystick.

    • I11SeeUinHe11

      You can move while shooting, and the controls are precise, you just need to get used to it.

  • Kedens

    I for one stick to pc for shooters... Like Anyone will say you either love or hate virtual stick FPS games... Very disappointing they took something like this that finally tries something different and jacked it up as a F2P game... If only it was free with a single unlock .. I'm all for that free model... Not timer based bull... Pity..
    Though it was expected coming under the Ngmoco/DeNA umbrella.

    • Zeldaniac

      Really? I don't love or hate them on iOS. I can control games like NOVA 3 pretty well, but they're nothing in comparison to any PC shooter. All FPS games should be played with a mouse, anything else (including any console) is way inferior.

    • LeoGe

      good id

  • cartmanthegreat135

    Any release day set for this one yet?

  • nicodemus82

    Looks boring and repetitive in my opinion. Think I'll pass on this one.

  • Gurney Halleck

    Wow, yet another missed opportunity.. Really wish that they had decided to actually create a game with an atmosphere and story to highlight the interesting new game mechanics and control scheme...As it is, this looks to just be another shallow gameplay cash grab with a couple unique twists and catches. Such a pity as it looked very impressive in early videos.

    I'll be honest. I have tried several Freemium and Pay-to-Play titles (RR3, i, Gladiator, DH3, Temple Run, He-Man (after update to freemium ruined the experience, etc...) and I pretty much feel the same way about all of them. No matter how much I try to get into the fun of what the game may do well, I cant help but notice the glaring disruption to the depth and immersion of these games due to the IAP components. While I understand that these models may be generating more money for game developers, it is really getting that money from addictive response rather than a more genuine motivation for gameplay. For example, I love a good SHMUP or action title and competing for high score etc, but the type of addiction these games are trying to exploit is pretty terrible. This direction in Gaming in iOS market is actually pushing me out as a serious iOS gamer. I left the PSP and DS mobile platforms for iOS because of the diversity of titles becoming available and the increasing quality of graphics, presentation, and even depth. Since the advent of IAP laden APPS the graphics and eye candy have certainly continued to improve, but the actual gameplay depth, story, and immersion seem to suffer the most. I have been going back to Steam for most of my action gaming fun and haven't looked back. With Windows 8 tablets now supporting full PC titles in mobile format and other devices coming out which allow streaming of your own PC Titles etc I can see myself leaving iOS as a gaming platform in the near future.

    iOS last saving grace seems to lie in the multitude of great adventure titles making their way to the platform. I will keep playing these and the few excellent NON-IAP driven apps which are released, but I am pretty much never going to waste time and space on a Freemium title again. Can you imagine if an Elder Scrolls Game made you pay real cash for any of the elite weapons, armor, or spells? Some of the best gaming moments were seeking out and finding these buried treasures through exploration. The IAP model would have us trade that for a grind in the gameworld just to get moneys to buy it outright. There is no creativity in the way the player comes by better gear or skills anymore since IAP infestation imho.

  • Rothgarr

    I love the idea of you guys including a "gross scale" with review of freemium games...

  • AlexsIpad

    They have said on the forum that when the world wide release comes it will have optional virtual sticks...

    • MidianGTX

      It's a sad day when you find yourself having to cater to people who have become accustomed to garbage.

      • themostunclean

        I've tried this game and the new control scheme IS garbage. Gyroscopic interface with dual stick still give you much more flexibility and control. The whole process with The Drowning feels automated and stiff. Plus as I mentioned in another comment, this would never work in a screen smaller than 10".

        Truth is, if there were a better control scheme for FPS on touch-based platforms, somebody would have thought of it already.

      • pontifexa

        It works the same on an iPhone as the iPad. (Played it).

        Now, whether you like that or not is a different matter.

        Personally, I think the traditional vstick approach of covering most of the screen with two thumbs is just silly for a small screen.

      • Zeldaniac

        It's already a sad day if you like good music.

    • pontifexa

      Link or it never happened.

  • Gurney Halleck

    Btw, I have purchased more that 200 game apps at full price and virtually every top rated title presented in Touch Arcade and have contributed many hundreds of dollars to the iOS gaming community in doing so.

    That said, I have only made 1 IAP purchase for a game (other that to unlock additional chapters like in Walking Dead which is an IAP model I actually don't have a real problem with, except that it double-charged me just to try to load an already purchased chapter because my network connection was wonky). It pretty much felt like pouring money down a hole and I totally lost interest in the game after the modest purchase pretty much broke the game...

    I haven't really weighed in too heavily on the IAP issues in the past, but at this point it's pretty much over for me. I DON'T LIKE and I WILL NOT SUPPORT any developer who chooses to riddle their game with game crippling IAP interruptions. Just MAKE A GOOD GAME and CHARGE A FAIR PRICE. Nuff said ~_~

    • Lazy_Ekans

      The problem is most people keep claiming "fair price" means AT MOST $2.99. I think IAPs suck across the board, but I think they can be done better.

    • JPhilipp

      As a developer who had something in the #1 free charts, and seen it tumble to nonexistence as soon as I give it a $0.99 price tag, I can sort of see where the IAPs are coming from. (The game is Siege Towers for Two, by the way.)

      If done right, I don't mind IAPs. Fieldrunners 2 is a terrific example that comes to mind, and Infinity Blade 1. In Fieldrunners I feel like I can finish the whole game through good work, and that buying extra towers is just for even more hilarious long term fun. So I'm happy for those purchases. And I think it gives developers a chance for sustainable revenues, instead of hoping to be infinitely in good charts positions or make a living of a one time boost. (Not saying even IAPs is easy to make a living off. I don't know, but at least it allows people to give your game a try without risk.)

      The game above seems to be underdeveloped in shaping out character variance, and honestly if IAPs are pushed too much I'll pass. Great to see them innovate on controls, though. I love playing shooters on the PC but hate them on iOS so far... maybe innovation can change that.

  • Jan Jørgensen

    What's with this shitty player you've started using for the TA Play videos?
    There's no way to watch them full screen on the iPad!
    It really, really sucks, especially for a site devoted to iOS gaming devices.

    • dylanmannen

      Wtf are you talking about? It looks great on my ipad.

    • Happybyte

      Second that. The player is awful and no way to stop download as in youtube.

    • jeffmd

      Sounds like the player just needs some tweaks for iOS. Works perfect in windows, unlike youtube which does not work at all these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-White/1633850433 Matthew White

    I would not have a problem with freemium games if they had a second option where you can pay to just unlock everything and play it like a normal game that doesn't try to nickel and dime you constantly. I will not play any game that uses this freemium model period.

    • JPhilipp

      In a way Apple should be responsible for streamlining all of it. E.g. give users a restricted trial period for games, and not have such strong charts separation between free and paid (which currently means you'll be kicked out of good free charts positions when you switch to paid).

  • themostunclean

    Downloaded with my NZ account and its really not that great. Not mentioned is that this game is iPad only because this "fantastic new control method" would be total shit on anything smaller than a 10" screen unless your only fighting one enemy at a time.

    Sorry but to be a revolutionary FPS on touchscreen devices your controls should probably actually work on the majority of them.

    • ptdshiznit818

      -______-
      Seriously people do your research before posting crap like this, Ben Cousins himself stated on the drownings ipad forum that they were releasing the game on iPad first then on iPhone later in order to get it running on the 4s as smoothly as possible. ON TOP OF THIS, he also said that virtual sticks were coming to the final release!! Go take a look for yourself.

      • themostunclean

        Not going to bother researching for an impulse impression post on a video game forum, I do have a life. It's kinda crazy that you'd even expect that!

        Doesn't change the fact that these controls will be absolute shite on a phone screen which renders their main marketing point useless.

      • ptdshiznit818

        Are you kidding me, if you have the time to trash something you should at least know what you're talking about. All of us here have lives, why would doing a little research suggest the opposite, come on man. Quit complaining about the controls, if you don't like them use the virtual sticks that are being added to the final release or just don't bother with it at all. And quit saying that this isn't coming to iPhone lol it is.

      • themostunclean

        Like I said, impulse IMPRESSION. Not worth looking anything up. I really doubt people feel the need to do any research simply to express their opinion. I realize now its going to be on iphone (though the sticks will be all anyone uses on it for accuracy) and I apologize for offending you so much with my error.

        Sorry that you feel the need to defend this game so arduously. I don't know if you've actually tried it or not but after playing it for a while I personally have come away with no positives. The freemium element and involvement of Mobage make it feel cheap, arena based combat is not my cup of tea, and the controls are stiff and actually make playing quite boring.

      • ptdshiznit818

        It's just that I've been hearing those two complaints everywhere even though they aren't true but some people seem to have started taking them as the truth. Thing is, I actually like this game and yea I've been playing it for a while since it released and I'm (one of the few?) actually enjoying it lol but when you bring up the freemium aspect we're on the same boat.

        This game is held back by it's free to play model and it's pretty clear how lol (2 minute rounds and an energy meter don't go well hand in hand) but, that's a discussion for another time haha. I still think we could all benefit from a little research, no matter the topic.

      • themostunclean

        True but the Internet unfortunately isn't known for rock solid fact-checking ; ) I also usually post from my phone when I only have a few free seconds.

        I'm just so tired of having my hopes dashed by freemium. I may have let that get under my skin a bit. iOS could, and should, be so much more. To see people with talent and experience come to iOS just to release what are essentially quarter-sucking arcade games is really disappointing.

      • ptdshiznit818

        That's very true haha, cross checking information has become a necessity thanks to the Internet lol,

        But yea I completely agree with you on that and it sucks because mobile devices have so much potential but as long as freemium exists that potential will always be extremely limited. :/

  • Nycteris

    The name DeNa makes my hackles rise a bit. The last DeNa game I tried was very very pay-to-win. .. Though fun.

  • SmackDatButt

    Slender Rising had the same control scheme, which came out back in November. Not the first

  • psk

    "For the most part this is a hollow game." It's a quote. Read it again, and maybe cross reference with pocket gamers scathing review. I feel for the devs, as clearly there is both skill and love in there. I don't hate f2p, I really don't, but the focus on the controls seems a little over done if the game can't deliver?

  • Boo!

    Please drop this $%&*§*$-Player and go back to Youtube or anything else that WORKS!
    Thank you

    • jeffmd

      Actually these days youtube has been very unreliable and streams super low. I was able to hit the max bitrate on this player/service with no problem.

  • nao

    Yay another freemium! Looking forward to them sweet sweet timers.

    • Sebastian Gomez

      LNAO (Laugh Nao's Ass Off)

  • Earthdweller

    Well I've gone back to my 3ds. There are some great games now on the eshop. Just waiting for Fire Emblem (uk) next week retail £39 NO iap wypiwyp what you pay is what you play. Also the buttons are far preferable to me. I've been wooed by the graphics on ios up to now and they are good but as of 2013 I've had it. Maybe puzzle games like puzzle quest etc but otherwise I'm out.

  • sweetdiss

    "I hate the new video player."
    "I hate games with IAP."
    "These controls look stupid."
    "This game is stupid."

    People, they gonna bitch.

    • psk

      The lens flare looks pretty.

  • grits

    4.99 no IAP more story ;)

  • themostunclean

    Unity Engine
    +1
    Working with Mobage(AKA crossroads demon)
    -1,000,000,000,000

  • dekon

    The game looks pretty boring to me.

  • caomhan15

    Uuuugh, im really not interested in this at all! Controls seem too wonky for casual gamers and pros would probably go for a deeper control method (eg: modern combat 2-4) plus avoiding any kind of story to keep you into this repeditive game with terrible ai and little differenciation between enemies! Bad enough right? But they go the extra mile and go f2p to further shit on the app stores increasingly rotting reputation.

  • MonkeyChunks

    Did anyone notice how the first level they play is almost exactly like the docks in Half Life 2? The part where you arrive in your buggy and encounter many Ant Lions in the sand on the beach. I wonder if it is a coincidence it the developer is doing a sort of homage.

  • jeffmd

    Am I the only one who noticed the crash caused the player to lose 3 gas points? Can we say..RIP OFF?? Fremium games like this can eat it.

  • I11SeeUinHe11

    Why is this game still in the upcoming section? It been out for a few months now

  • http://www.facebook.com/jalon.lopez Jalon Lopez

    The game is free I own it the
    controls no prob good graphics and game play is fun if you think about hacking this u could try I couldn't

  • jl802

    It's time to release to U.S.

  • mcivan

    Release this game already!!!