Remember Mass Effect: Galaxy? It's ok; no one does. It was an iOS game released shortly before Mass Effect 2 hit the 360 in 2009, and it remains one of the worst "big name" iOS games ever cooked up (don't bother searching the App Store for it; they took it down long, long ago). It featured maybe one of the worst combinations of gameplay styles I've seen in... ever; a top-down shooter with no fire button and tilt controls. No kidding. But guess what? Mass Effect fans, myself included, played it for the most fleeting of side stories featuring Jacob Taylor, a character from ME2. Are we suckers? Probably.
Now with the trilogy-capping Mass Effect 3 upon us, we get Mass Effect: Infiltrator, an iOS cover-based touch screen shooter following a Cerberus defector's side story. Like with Galaxy, that's probably all I need to say for Mass Effect fans to hit the download button. Unfortunately, aside from the beautiful graphics and big name pedigree, Infiltrator is just plain blah.
Let's face it: You are only interested in Infiltrator's story and how it relates to the main game and larger universe. Players follow Randall Ezno, a Cerberus agent who vows to bring down the corrupt organization after a very personal betrayal. If you played Dead Space on the iOS platform, this story (along with most of the presentation and gameplay, for that matter) will feel acutely familiar, though never boring or disconnected. The ties to the main ME games spice the tale up enough to keep the player going, but don't expect any great revelations here.
How the game looks and plays is all over the place. First off, Infiltrator is beautiful down to the last detail, and I can only imagine how great it will look on the new Retina display iPad. It controls pretty well, though the swipe-to-attach-to-cover mechanic will get you killed on a regular basis. Other than that inconsistency, things play well, much like Epoch or M.U.S.E. Things would have fared better with a different cover mechanic, but it can be worked with and learned.
My main complaint with Infiltrator is the style point system. The game awards points based on how stylish your kills are, and if that were how it really worked, it would be awesome. Instead, style points seem to rely on switching between weapons enemy to enemy. It's counterintuitive to juggle the weapons that often, and you will find yourself sacrificing common sense in order to keep the combo going (shotgunning distant enemies, etc.). I would have given up entirely on style, except each gun battle awards points, which can then be used for upgrades or, more importantly, boosting the galactic readiness of your particular ME3 save file (for more on this, check out our upcoming Mass Effect 3 review).
Things have certainly improved since the disastrous Mass Effect: Galaxy, but Infiltrator is no masterpiece. Annoying systems and controls mar the overall game, but for fans, the story will be worth dealing with these issues. The galactic readiness feature is also quite tempting if you're playing Mass Effect 3 (and if not, why not?). But when viewed as a single package, Mass Effect: Infiltrator misses the mark.
Final Rating: 60%