Mass Effect: Infiltrator
Whenever a console/PC publisher transports one of its key franchises over to mobile, it’s always cause for skepticism. Many times, these titles are handed off to hack teams with very small budgets, and the lack of quality shows. IronMonkey Studios’ Dead Space on iOS managed to defy the shabby mobile stereotype and was generally well-regarded. IronMonkey returned to work on the Mass Effect franchise with Infiltrator, and while it’s a solid experience, it doesn’t stack up against a real Mass Effect game.
Anyone who got burned by 2009’s Mass Effect Galaxy on iOS (which is no longer available) can rest easy: Infiltrator is much better. Players control Randall Ezno, a Cerberus operative with biotic powers. He happily does the shady organization’s business until something changes his mind, and he spends the rest of the game fighting against his former employer. Instead of trading verbal barbs with the Illusive Man, however, you’ll be dealing with a low-rent villain known only as The Director. I’m not super far in Mass Effect 3 yet, but this doesn’t seem like it ties into the main arc much. The plot is straightforward and weak overall, with just a string of excuses to get old Randall to run from place to place inside the Cerberus base where 90 percent of the game takes place. Even the Renegade and Paragon options disappoint, with most of them consisting of releasing someone trapped in the closet or killing them.
Standard movement is handled by virtual touch screen analog sticks and it lands on the high end of responsiveness for this form of control. Once combat begins, you can still run around if you choose, but it’s smarter (and easier) to get behind cover and swipe to move quickly to other safe zones. If enemies are in range of your current weapon, they’ll be highlighted in a blue box. You then tap them to bring up your reticle. Next, you drag the crosshairs over the foe’s highlighted weak point (almost always the head) and watch their shields and health drain away. Your arsenal consists of shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, and laser beam. This weapon selection offers short-, medium-, and long-range attack options.
Biotic powers shake things up, mostly serving to pull goons out from behind cover. Pull lifts guys in the air, leash flings them across the map, storm creates a health-draining bubble, and salvo blasts a cluster of energy at a target. Mixing and matching guns and biotic powers makes combat more interesting and earns you more rewards.
Melee punches and biotic pushes are also handy tools, but not all close-range attacks are as useful. The running charge and slide are too unreliable to count on and you can easily get by without them. I was also frustrated by the lack of offensive options when someone’s on the other side of tall cover.
Levels are broken up into discrete combat instances in which you’re graded on style, time, and health lost. With credits you can purchase new abilities and tons of upgrades ranging from weapons and powers to armor. Since this is a mobile game, you can buy credits with real money in packs ranging from $1.99 to $49.99. Without credit packs, the upgrade grind feels very slow and tedious, but you don’t need to pay any additional money outside of the initial purchase price ($6.99) to make it through the game.
The game starts very slow and doesn’t really hit its stride until you’ve got more powers and weapons at your disposal. You’ll fight varied enemy types in both small corridors and large open areas. There are also a decent amount of boss battles, which offer challenge without feeling cheap. The final battle is suitably the most difficult and epic, but there’s not much of an ending afterward.
New game plus allows you to keep playing with all your upgrades, but you can already revisit any chapter you want to earn more credits and better ratings. Sadly, the only thing the game tells you to do after beating it is to try to get gold on every stage. At this point, there isn’t Game Center support so you can’t even shoot for achievements. Dead Space iOS eventually got Game Center, so maybe there’s still hope.
Infiltrator connects to your Galaxy at War stats in Mass Effect 3 through your EA Origin account. You can boost your galactic readiness percentage by trading in pieces of intel collected along the way or turn them into credits, though the exchange rate isn’t that favorable with either. Beating the game also adds to your ME 3 war assets if you’re in need of some.
Overall, Mass Effect fans could take or leave Infiltrator. It’s not some important lost lore chapter. It’s the best mobile Mass Effect experience yet, but it’s got a long way to go to catch up with its console big brother.