As gun owners/writers go, I’m pretty non-violent. I’ve never shot another human being. I’ve never bagged a deer. Never shot anything larger than a dove, in fact. Even though I conceal carry, I don’t really believe, in my heart of hearts, I’ll ever have to shoot someone in self-defense. So I’m trying to figure out why I’ve become all but addicted to a game from Glu called Contract Killer . . .
Contract Killer is a “freemium” game for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch (and should be availalble for the Android platform soonest). It’s a free download, and you can play, all the way up into the highest levels, and never spend a dime of real money. Or you can make a few in-store purchases, buy some better weapons, and kick some digital ass.
The backstory on Contract Killer puts you in the role of a burned agent/black ops assassin. With your goals of A) finding/getting the people who burned you, B) making a buck to survive, C) ridding the world of scum as a freelancer, and D) keeping those shooting skills sharp, you accept contracts from informants and carry out the hits.
Like most first-person shooters, this one’s in 3D. As 3D games go, it’s not going to make you think you’ve got an XBox 360 in your hands, but the graphics are fairly sophisticated for a tablet/phone game. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take a contract and kill the bad guys. Or trank ’em. Sometimes. Depends on the contract. You start with a basic rifle. You earn (digital) money and “XP” points and use a few “Energy points” for each contract.
When you run out of energy, you can buy more, or wait for a “refractory” period while you rest up and rejuvenate. You also have to contend with “Health points” which start each contract at 100, and decrease with every round fired at you. Get down to zero health, and you fail to complete the contract. You can purchase Med kits (think of them as instant triage) to keep you in the game. Your health is miraculously restored at the end of each contract. Earn enough XP, and you graduate to the next level, which means you get more informants, more places to snipe targets and more weapons unlocked.
As the game progresses, the contracts become more difficult to carry out successfully. In the upper levels (as I write this, I just graduated to level 15), missions follow some (relatively predictable) scenarios:
- Kill only your target, leave all the other bad guys and civilians alone.
- Kill your target first, then take out his henchmen (killing them first may result in the target escaping).
- Kill all the bad guys, including your target, in any order you choose.
- Tranquilize your target, leaving all others untouched.
- Tranquilize your target first, then kill the henchmen.
- Trank the target when you can, but you’ll have to kill the henchmen to get to him.
- Survive an ambush, killing everybody but the civilians.
- Survive an ambush, killing the henchmen but tranking the target.
As the levels progress, the henchmen become more resilient. The guys in SWAT regalia are particularly resistant to anything but a head shot. They are damned difficult to kill with a deer rifle, and hard to take down with a .50 cal. When you graduate to the serious firepower (known in the game as “High Stability Rifle,” “Anti-Materiel Rifle,” “Heavy Sniper Rifle” or “The Zerstorer”), one round will pretty much take down anything, anywhere you hit. (Headshots award you some extra XP for any kill).
There are any number of in-game badges or awards you can earn for various things like “Killing two targets with a single round” (or three targets!), using 50 Med packs, or getting 25 headshots in a row without a miss. (Not accomplished that one yet.)
If you want to fast-track things, you can make in-game purchases for what amounts to debit cards. Some items can be purchased with the loot you earn from contracts. Others (mainly the really good guns) can only be bought with credits. In the first iteration of the game, you could earn credits by clicking on ads and downloading other apps. That went away in the latest update.
Then again, the latest update fixed some annoying bugs, including sloooooow transitions between missions/the store (where you buy more ammo, med kits, and weapons)/the map (where you communicate with informants and get new assignments).
After a while, the bad guys all start to look the same. Because they are. You’ve got a SWAT/ninja bad guy, a bad guy in a hunting vest, a bad guy in a rust-colored jacket, and a handful of targets – bald guy, black guy, Hispanic guy, oily-looking mob boss, and a security guard-looking guy. That’s it. Oh, and occasionally, you’ll see a female civilian, and one or two male civilians (who look a lot like bad guys, so be careful: kill a civilian and you fail the mission immediately). You can also fail a mission by killing someone you were supposed to trank, allowing the target to slip away, or by getting yourself wounded (health points fall to zero).
It sounds far more complicated than it is, and that’s both a good and bad thing. It’s a simple game to play. But there are times I wish it was a wee bit more challenging. For instance, it would be nice if I could move around a bit. Some of the weapons they offer seem…well, useless.
Most of the missions have you at sniper range to your targets. Using a shotgun or a handgun (the game allows you to have a primary and secondary weapon) seems kinda ridiculous. In fact, I’ve really not found any “secondary gun” to be that useful, aside from the tranquilizer gun, and that, because there are missions where you need both a rifle and the trank gun to survive.
I appreciate the fact that killing a civilian equals an instant fail on a mission. I loathe games like Grand Theft Auto, where killing the innocent wins you points. And it’s relatively easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys – hover over a target and you’ll see a green chevron for a good guy, a red chevron for a bad guy, and a double red chevron for your main target.
So after about six weeks into the game, I’m at level 15. I know there are at least 17 levels. After that, I don’t know what will happen. I do know that other games I’ve played (notably High Noon), I lost interest near the highest levels, and quit playing. Because Contract Killer employs Apple’s Game Center, I can see my scores and compare them to everyone else playing.
I’m pleased to report I’m in the top 5%, and my rank is 760 out of 115,018 players as of today. I’ve earned 30 “achievements” and 335 achievement points, but the badges for “Calculated Killer” (kill 13 people in 40 seconds), “Mad Murderer” (kill 13 people in 25 seconds), and “Unrivaled” (kill 13 people in 15 seconds) have so far eluded me.
The most interesting thing in the 1.1.1 update? A “Nanotech Infinite” weapon, which looks a lot like the KRISS .45 ACP carbine. It shoots “unlimited ammo,” that it creates on the fly. (Would that somebody would invent such a thing in the analog world.) At 1,100 credits that’s about $60 in the real world. Sigh…
One last recommendation – if you’ve got an iPad, get the game. If you’re on an iPhone or iPod Touch, get it if you’ve got great reflexes, small fingers, and great eyesight. This kind of game screams for a high-rez, large screen.
So if you’re into games and enjoy the visceral thrill of taking down wave after wave of bad guys, give Contract Killer a try. Saving the world from scum was never so fun. Or safe.
- Freemium (free to download, extra weapons cost $)
- for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- version 1.1.1 – iOS 4.3.3 (8J2) Tested
- Language: English
- © 2011, Glu Mobile Inc.
- Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
RATINGS (out of 5 stars):
Interface * * * *
Graphics are pretty damn good for an iOS game. Think “first gen XBox” and you’re close. User interface is improved over first version, as far as the “Store” section goes. Could still use a little help in that area.
Controls * * *
Uses touch screen for aiming. Surprisingly, no option for gyro aim. The scope is a must for long-range targets. The “Steady” button is really not needed, except when using the tranquilizer gun.
Ergonomics * * * * * (iPad) * * * (everything else)
It plays well on an iPad. Kinda hard to aim on an iPhone.
Value * * * *
As freemium games go, they don’t really nickel-and-dime you to death. But if you want to play marathon sessions or get better weapons, be prepared to shell out some bucks. Which is only fair.
Addictiveness * * * * *
What can I say? I’m hooked. Maybe I can kick the habit after I reach level 17. But I suspect they’ll just add levels and have me hooked all over again.
Customize This *
Aside from weapons choices, you get none. No avatars, and a smattering of icons you can use. Needs work.
Overall * * * * *
Waaaay cool fun. But bring earbuds if you wanna play in public and avoid either a panic, or someone thinking you’re a sick, twisted, future-serial-killer freak. Highly recommended.