Review: 9mm (iOS)

Gameloft Takes a Shot in the Right Direction…But Doesn’t Quite Hit the Target

Ah, Gameloft, the masters of imitation.  This is the studio that took Halo and turned it into N.O.V.A., but without any of the great story or anywhere near the same level of immersion. With 9mm, Gameloft sought to rectify this by placing more emphasis on a compelling narrative:  From a gameplay perspective, 9mm is basically Max Payne: iPad Edition and this isn’t a criticism – it plays well for an iOS game.

However, when it comes to this new emphasis on story and overall presentation, it feels as if Gameloft tried a little too hard.  While the premise for 9mm is somewhat more original than their previous iOS titles, everything about it is just so clichéd that it’s difficult to take it seriously.  It’s comparable to using a rocket launcher to take out that mouse that’s been terrorising your kitchen – the dialogue and set pieces, at times, border on the ridiculous.  It’s easy to stand back and say, “Hey, it’s only a £4.99 mobile game”, but this side of 9mm could well be the key factor in whether or not you purchase it.  If you’re after some hectic shootouts and can withstand the endless tirade of unnecessary expletives, as well as see past the stereotypical characters, 9mm is actually a pretty fun game that really proves that iOS devices can be capable gaming platforms.

F*** the F***ing F***ers

Kannon has a large arsenal of weapons at his disposal.

9mm’s story centres around John “Loose” Kannon, named so because he most certainly doesn’t go by the book when it comes to law enforcement.  He’s the stereotypical badass cop with a “I-do-what-the-f***-I-want-and-get-away-with-it” badge.  It’s this pretty poor excuse that allows Kannon to mow his way through hundreds of Mexican gangsters.  In fact, Kannon’s heavy-handed nature is what kicks off the predictable ride that is 9mm.  He’s the shoot-first-ask-questions-later cop, the never-there-for-you father, and the law-breaking upholder of the law.  At one point, his actions even cause injury to innocent civilians by causing a car crash and, as you already guessed, there are no bad consequences for him as a result of this.  While 9mm isn’t meant to be believable, the utter lack of logic at times is too overwhelming for you to see past it.

On top of this, the game features some pretty terrible dialogue.  The voice actors should be commended for doing such a great job of delivering some of the worst lines ever found in a videogame.  Kannon persistently swears in his coarse, Z-grade celebrity action hero tone and not only is it mostly unnecessary, but also half the time it doesn’t even make any sense as to why he’s even saying it.  Why would a police officer yell “It’s raining bacon, motherf***ers?”.  How often do you come across a police officer that happily refers to him or herself as a pig?  Then again, it’s not as if Kannon is a character that abides by standard conventions.  However, everyone else does, and by standard conventions I mean stereotypical ones.  All the criminals are lower class Mexican gangsters, Kannon’s squad are more one-dimensional than a straight line and the game’s villain is as clichéd as his name (which, unsurprisingly, is “El Diablo”).

And this is where 9mm truly falters.  It’s a would-be parody were it not for the fact that the game does appear to take itself seriously. Such is its ridiculousness that I found myself laughing at the game,  and never with it.

It's not all shootin' baddies - 9mm is surprisingly varied at times.

She May Not Look Like Much, But She’s Got It Where It Counts, Kid

Thankfully, 9mm is pretty solid in most other areas.  Whereas the story is a schizophrenic mess, the gameplay is what compels you to keep pushing on.  As was the case with Max Payne, it’s you versus numerous opponents in the mother of all gun fights.  Controlling Kannon from the third-person perspective takes a bit of getting used to, but the virtual stick setup is incredibly accurate.  You can turn on gyroscope controls but this requires you to hold your breath when taking that important headshot as it’s very sensitive.

9mm can manage a heck of a lot of on-screen action.  You will, more often than not, find yourself shooting your way through roomfuls of enemies.  The AI is a tad weak, as many opponents have a tendency to storm through No Man’s Land 1914-style in a straight line towards you.  At the same time, this can cause situations where you’ll find yourself flanked and will have to rely on more than just your amazing shooting skills.  Kannon can enter bullet time, giving you a slowed-down experience in which to better aim your shots and dodge incoming fire.  It’s a blatant rip-off, but it works, and it’s ideal for when you really are taking too much fire.

Environments are varied, and there is a lot of cover to fire from; sadly, Kannon cannot actually use it.  The lack of a cover system is slightly disappointing, but being able to swivel the camera around so that you can see around corners and doorways is very helpful.  The missions do vary from time to time, although the quick-time sections are a little too frequent.  In some instances, the time that you’re given in which to perform a quick-time swipe across the screen or a circle motion isn’t enough (given that you must switch the position of your hands in order to do this) and I found that this caused me to die/fail unfairly a few times.

9mm also features a multiplayer mode, but it really isn’t anything to call home about.  The two game modes, free-for-all and team deathmatch, are the usual derivative affairs.  The spawn point locations aren’t particularly well thought out, and I found myself all too frequently appearing in front of a ready-aimed gun, only to see the limbo screen appears seconds later.  The XP system and unlocks are a nice addition, but they’re most certainly not worthwhile enough to keep you interested in playing.

The level of detail makes 9mm one of the best looking iOS games available.

Graphically speaking, 9mm is a pretty game.  The character models are detailed, as are the surroundings, and you only notice some performance issues when a lot is happening on-screen.  It is comparable to many PC games from the early 2000s in terms of quality, and it really is one of those rare games on iOS devices that makes you rub your eyes and check again.

The Final Verdict

9mm is a good game.  It’s just not a very good story-driven game.  It’s like the nerdy kid in the playground trying too hard to be cool – it just doesn’t really work and all you want to do is laugh at it.  Despite this, I still enjoyed playing through it, and had it actually been designed as a parody, I would probably be demanding that you download it right away.

If you’re like me and you place far more importance on gameplay than story, you’ll probably have a blast with 9mm’s singleplayer campaign, because the action is fun and there is a reasonable amount of variety.  Those looking for a proper core experience for iOS should opt for something like Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard or Dead Space – they are far more immersive titles.  Nevertheless, if you can look past the faults, and not take this game too seriously, 9mm could be a worthwhile download, especially if you can get it at a sale price.

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