It's no secret that in gaming terms a film tie-in generally represents a shoddily assembled affair, rushed out to coincide with a film's cinematic debut. Developers are often given very little time to flesh out serious gameplay mechanics and what's left just doesn't always feel complete. So what happens when there is a significant time lapse between a film and game release? Does it improve the quality of the game? In the case of Shooter the answer is no.
Shooter for the iPhone follows the storyline of the film (released summer 2007), placing the player in the role of Swagger, a hotshot sniper on the run from the government after he is framed for the assassination of the president. The game pitches itself as a first-person shooter, but before you conjure up images of Doom or Halo on your iPhone, rein yourself in; Shooter is more of a shooting gallery game with the player remaining stationary while tilting to control an on-screen reticule.
In an attempt to contextualise the action the player is first asked to scan the landscape with a pair of binoculars, identifying targets before zeroing in with the sniper rifle. This does provide an interesting gameplay mechanic, but the concept falls far short as a loading screen unnaturally punctuates the action every time the player chooses to zoom in. The loading times aren’t particularly long but in a game that puts an emphasis on timed kills they frequently break up the flow of the action.
The game does offer some nice variables in each stage in the form of wind direction, moving targets and even the rocking motion of a boat to perturb your aim. Unfortunately there is no discernible difference in where you strike your targets; they go down the same way whether you hit them in the foot or the head. In a game that relies so heavily on detail it's a shame there's not more of a reward for racking up head shots.
There are some enjoyable mini games on offer in between stages that stop the game from becoming monotonous. These range from disarming mines (think Trauma Centre style gameplay) to assembling equipment out of household items. The cut scenes do their best to make these mini games feel cohesive but they are often just short text bursts that explain what Swagger is doing. The cut scene interludes are so incredibly bland that they never really inspire any emotional involvement with the protagonist and aren't worth watching/reading at all.
There are some interesting mechanics in Shooter and the potential is clear. However, unfortunate load times and bland presentation drag Shooter back into the realms of bad film tie-ins.