I have been brought up on a steady diet of Quake 3: Arena, Counter-strike and Unreal, so any shoot-em-all deathmatch arena is a second home to me. Zynga is known more for taking classic board and word games like Scrabble and Hangman and turning them into addictive mobile phone multiplayer fests. So I was curious how the company’s first attempt at a ‘big boys’ game would turn out. Man, The Respawnables might just be a new beginning for Zynga. Lock and load, son!
A Work Of Art
We might disagree about the gameplay; we might disagree about the in-app purchases; but there is one thing we can all agree on: The Respawnables is drop dead gorgeous. If you have seen Team Fortress 2, you will instantly know the art style of Respawnables and fall in love with it at first sight.
There’s something charming about the cartoonish characters — you almost don’t want to unload your weapon at them. Their movements are smooth and correspond to what they’re doing. The brawny guy with the huge machine gun lumbers towards you as he lets loose a flurry of bullets, while the shotgun-toting, ponytail-wearing guy in the sneakers and capris swiftly runs up and blasts a shell in your face.
The maps are beautiful and detailed, from the shadow of a barrel to the unique colour palette of each map. The sandy maps actually feel like you’re in a desert town and the cold grey machinery tricks you into thinking you stumbled into a factory.
And it’s got some great sound backing it up. The resounding blast of a shotgun, the dull whir of a machine gun and the thumping boom of a bomb going off — it adds a lot to the experience. You even have cool SFX on the screen, like “RA-TA-TA-TA” when you’re shooting a machine gun! I would’ve liked it if the makers also included other shooter staples like the sound of footsteps — if they did, I couldn’t hear them even when cranking up the volume in my headphones.
The Respawnables also has a great amount of humour thrown in to it. Get one of them with a well-aimed shot and they’ll spin around for an exaggerated death. In the loading screens, your player will indulge in a bit of slapstick comedy. Carrying a heavy machine gun? He’ll hoist it on his shoulder to show how macho he is and strain under the weight. Bored? He’ll start dancing a little gig — and he’s got some cool moves! It’s a small thing, but it’s so much fun. Attention to such details can keep you involved in a game even during the usual minutiae of menu screens.
But Does It Play Well?
At its core, The Respawnables is an action shooter and plays like it. It’s a free-for-all fragfest where your job is to just shooting anyone and everyone in sight. It reminded me a lot of Quake 3, in that it’s a really fast-paced game where the action just doesn’t let up. Run around and keep shooting; if you die, you respawn in three seconds and repeat till time runs out. Whoever got the most kills is the winner!
Each round lasts for two and a half minutes (or up to 4 minutes in multiplayer), which makes it perfect for a quick game when you’re waiting for someone. And the gameplay is addictive enough that you can spend hours without getting bored.
Since it’s played from a third person perspective, it’s much easier to control your character while shooting at others as you can more accurately judge the trajectory of the bullets your rivals are shooting — while that’s never an issue on a console game, I’ve always found that to be a problem on smartphones.
Every kill also leaves behind a medal, and you’d do well to collect these to gain XP. At the start of any mission, you are also told about three objectives to earn extra XP and get closer to that next level.
Leveling up also lets you add new skills to your player, such as more health or faster agility.
One thing I really liked was the customizability of the controls. There are three styles you can choose: Virtual Pad, Floating and Classic.
– Classic is the standard ‘two virtual sticks’ layout: a circle on the bottom-left of your screen, another on the right. The left one controls movement, the right one your shooting.
– Virtual Pad turns the whole left side into a pad for your movement, taking away the restriction of the little virtual stick. The right side with the virtual shooting stick remains intact. This was the mode I used most often and was glad it was offered. Being right-handed, I often don’t have the kind of control I’d want with my left thumb on a touchscreen as I would like — and this can mean game over.
– Floating splits the screen into two: the whole left side is to direct your player and the right side is to aim and fire. The downside of this is that you are always firing your weapon, taking away any chance of a surprise and unnecessarily inching closer to a reload.
The gadgets you choose — like bombs or medkits — show up as orbs on your screen. Hit customize in the control options to place them on any part of the screen.
Scoped guns add a magnifier button to the left of the screen — it’s a little difficult at first, but once you get used to it, you can’t live without it.
What’s In The Armoury?
Starting off in Respawnables, you are given an underwhelming weapon that’s quite aptly called “Rookie Machine Gun”. Of course, as you play, earn money and level-up your character, you will be able to buy a much wider arsenal, including shotguns, sniper rifles, scoped assault rifles, bazookas, a guitar machine gun and even the Ghostbusters’ proton gun!
You can also pick up gadgets like bombs, sticky dynamite, mines that are disguised as medals, stealth mode to become invisible, etc.
And of course, your player is completely customizable, so you can buy him kevlar for protection, hip hop pants for more agility, a green beret for more accuracy, and so on. The loading screens of levels will show you how to customize your player for a certain job role. For example, a kevlar suit with a medpack and certain add-ons will make you virtually invincible.
Bots or Friends?
There are two game modes in Respawnables: Mission and Multiplayer. Mission is a single-player game where you face off against bots in the same maps that will be used in games against friends in the future. It’s all a free-for-all here.
Multiplayer games come in two varieties: ‘Free for All’ and ‘Team VS’ . The free-for-all, as the name suggests, is you against the rest of the world — or as many players are in the map. The Team VS mode never really worked for me. Not only did none of my Facebook friends have the app, it also often just gave up trying to find a team. It seems like most people prefer the Free for All.
One thing that annoyed me about The Respawnables was the ability to make in-game app purchases. Sure, the game is free so I can hardly afford to complain about it, but it seems a bit unfair when you bust your ass and get to level 11 with the fancy scoped assault rifle, and then see a guy on level 2 playing with a Blunderbuss.
In-app purchases should be allowed in games, I’m all for that. But it shouldn’t be a shortcut to a later stage in the game — it’s unfair to the rest of the gamers then.
So Is it Worth It?
Considering the grand price of zero dollars, you would be a fool not to download The Respawnables and start playing. The graphics and art are great, the gameplay is really good and there’s plenty of variety in what you can do — whether it’s the bots you face or the real-life friends in multiplayer mode. Perfect for both the obsessed gamer and the casual player.