When I first saw footage of Afterpulse (Free) in soft launch, I almost couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Developers are always claiming to have “console quality" graphics in their iOS games, but seeing this game in action was one of the first times I started believing the hype. In fact, some people in our forums thought it must be streaming from a server somewhere, because there’s no way a mobile game could look that good (and have such a relatively tiny install size to boot, at less than 400MB). Well, I’m one of the few people around here to not have dummy accounts in other countries, so I anxiously waited until it would launch worldwide and I’d finally get to see how it played in person. And folks, that day has come and gone, and I’ve been have a gay ol’ time shooting fools in the face since last week. There’s no question the graphics are in a league of their own (for the time being), but does the rest of the game match up?
In Afterpulse by Gamevil you play as a generic military dude who has a fever, and the only prescription is more murdering. You’ll run around in a variety of small-ish environments shooting other generic military dudes with names like “Cortez" and “Hicks", which will net you points, experience, and currency and all that good stuff. Yes, this is a pretty typical third-person shooter. In fact, it’s a bit too typical, but we’ll get to that.
At first all you’re allowed to do is a training mode with bots, which is fine by me since I love playing against bots. (In fact, my favorite shooter ever is the original Perfect Dark, due in part to the absurdly extensive amount of customization you had over the bot matches. But I digress.) Unfortunately, you don’t really have any control over the parameters of the training matches in Afterpulse, but that’s okay. It’s a great way to cut your teeth before jumping into multiplayer.
And jump in you will, because multiplayer is the real draw here. Once you level up enough you’ll get the option of playing a Team Deathmatch mode online, and after leveling up some more you’ll soon unlock regular Deathmatch. Both modes are pretty much identical, other than one has you shooting some people and the other has you shooting all the people. Again, pretty typical stuff. And unfortunately, that’s all you get. No Capture the Flag or Defend the Whatever or Defuse the Things or anything like that. Just two slightly different versions of the same basic thing.
While it’s disappointing, it’s also kind of refreshing. Not only does it keep things focused, but it also means pretty much every match I’ve played has been full (or close to it). That simplicity also extends to the gameplay itself, as there aren’t any crouching or cover mechanics. Pretty much all you’ll be doing is running and gunning, with very little nuance or strategy (at least compared to most modern shooters). In that way, it’s much closer to something like Trigger Fist (Free) than, say, the latest Modern Combat (Free) game. The controls also reflect this simplicity, with two virtual sticks and very few buttons. It works really well, and I greatly prefer it to the convoluted mess other iOS shooters have on there screens.
The game is free-to-play, but it’s actually super fair as far as these sorts of games go. There are two currencies–cash and gold–but they’re both pretty easy to come by. You earn them rather liberally as rewards for playing the training and multiplayer modes, logging into the game for consecutive days, and completing Skill, Training, and Daily Missions. Once you have enough (and it won’t take long to rack up quite a bit) you can spend your hard earned coin on new weapons and gear, along with repairing the weapons you bring with you into battle.
Wait, repairing weapons? Yep, it’s an energy timer. It’s not too bad, though, as you can always switch to a different weapon while your favorites repair (which doesn’t take that long). Plus, your weapons only need repairs when you play multiplayer. Training mode has its own energy system, but that one’s not too bad, either. Even if it runs out, you can just hop into multiplayer (where you’ll get way more XP anyway).
Afterpulse is yet another example of a mobile game that strips away all the fluffy extras and instead focuses on delivering a tight, fun experience that’s perfect for on-the-go gaming. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels a bit too focused, as it really could do with one or two other gameplay types beyond simple deathmatches. It also feels incredibly generic, with it’s most distinguishing feature being how “photorealistic" the visuals are. Not that that’s a bad thing, really, but imagine how jaw-dropping the game would look if all that fancy tech was actually in support of something genuinely unique that had some character. At the end of the day, though, that’s not why we play dumb shooters like this, is it? We just want to kill stuff, and in that respect, Afterpulse can be a pretty great time.