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‘The Drowning’ Looks to Reinvent First-Person Shooter Controls on the Touchscreen

Ben Cousins, who left EA to join up with Ngmoco/DeNA in mid-2011, is currently heading up Scattered Entertainment, a Sweden-based studio that falls under the DeNA umbrella. Cousins himself has a background in the Battlefield series, and he’s assembled a team at Scattered that’s comprised of people with similar backgrounds in big name video game series, like Far Cry, Crysis and Halo. This team at Scattered Entertainment has one goal in mind: make a touchscreen first-person shooter with controls that don’t suck.

I guess you could say that’s the goal of anybody making a touchscreen video game, but first-person shooters in particular haven’t really had their breakthrough moment when it comes to controls. You’re either comfortable with virtual analog sticks and have no problem playing a game like Modern Combat 4 ($6.99), or you aren’t – and likely just skip the genre altogether.

Scattered’s idea is to rethink the whole control scheme from the ground up for a touchscreen, and after talking about it for the last few months they’ve just released a video which shows how the basics of their new control scheme will work in their upcoming game The Drowning. Give it a look.

There are some interesting ideas surrounding the controls in The Drowning, but I have to say I’m not really convinced yet. I have yet to play a game with a tap-to-move system that isn’t annoying, and especially in a fast-paced shooter I can’t imagine how that’s going to work. Also, using the space in between your two fingers as a sort of “gun sight" in order to shoot is really a neat idea, but it looks no different than a typical tap-to-shoot gallery shooter which takes all the fun out of actually needing to aim. Remember how well Metal Gear Solid Touch ($0.99) was received? Yeah me neither.

I would absolutely love to be proven wrong though, and I’m holding out hope that this whole control system is something that will totally click once you actually get your hands on it. Also they do state that there’s more to it that they aren’t showing quite yet, so we’ll see. At any rate, solving the touchscreen FPS control issue is a noble endeavor and I’ll definitely be interested to see how it shakes out.

Beyond the controls, The Drowning seems like a pretty cool horror-themed game, with a story and a world that I’d like to explore. It starts off with the real-life event that actually happened in late 2011 when thousands of blackbirds suddenly died and fell from the skies over Beebe, Arkansas. Similar events started happening around the world, without any rational explanation. The Drowning takes this and runs with it, and throws a strange oil spill into the mix that suddenly sets off a chain reaction of zombie-like infections and eventually a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Here’s the original announcement trailer for The Drowning that was released in December, in case you haven’t caught it before.

Oh, and here’s another thing: The Drowning is going to be free-to-play. Not surprising given that’s DeNA’s fortay and Cousins has worked on many free-to-play titles in the past. But seeing as that’s the controversy of the moment surrounding Real Racing 3 and its decision to go freemium, I can’t wait to see what sort of drama this will drum up. (I’m just kidding, I’m not looking forward to that at all actually.)

The Drowning is scheduled for release sometime in “early 2013" so we should get answers to many of these questions then. In the meantime stop by the discussion thread in our forums and let the world know your own opinion on this new fist-person shooter control scheme.