iPhone App Video Review: BackStab

by Andrew Koziara

BackStab is the latest offering from the mobile gaming mogul that is Gameloft. It combines high end graphics, fun yet repetitive combat, and a huge open world into a great mobile gaming experience. I might even say this is arguably Gameloft’s best outing yet.

The game combines the parkour style of Assassins Creed, some of the crime aspects of a Grand Theft Auto, and sets it all in what might as well be the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. This is Grand Theft Assassins of the Caribbean. You play as Henry Blake, a captain of the royal navy. The game’s tutorial section and prologue take place during a Spanish siege of… wherever you’re supposed to be. And may I add that the tutorial was surprisingly exciting and well done in this game. It definitely starts things off with a bang. The title is definitely a reference to both the game play and the story, and is very fitting. After being betrayed by an old friend of yours, you are thrown in prison. Years later on the day of your execution you are inadvertently rescued by some freedom fighters and you escape. After trading in your rags and donning the apparel of a bad-ass mercenary, you return to the city and work towards your revenge.

The story is nothing spectacular, but it is pretty well done, and it’s a good vehicle to drive the game forward. It looks and feels like a game from the PlayStation 2 in both graphics and general quality. The entire story is voice acted, but it’s a mixed bag of performances. After reaching the city you are thrown into an open world, with the option to complete tons of side quests, buy houses, and fraternize with harlots. No really, you can’t walk five feet without running into a prostitute in this game, and you can follow them into back alleys for some fade-to-black fun. Though, about a third of the time they are actually setting you up to get robbed, so watch out. The combat in this game is very well done, though not very strategic in any way.

You mash the attack button, and when prompted, the counter attack button for some instant kills. You can also shoot people from afar. The best part of the game is easily the assassinations. Whether they are alerted to your presence or not, you can assassinate anyone from behind, my favorite being the back of the knee kick followed by a decapitation. You can even drop off the rooftops on these fools, and it’s quite awesome. As you kill people you get money, ammo, and other items to be used or sold at the various shops. Pro tip: make sure to read all the hints in the help section, as they cover a lot of info that is absent in the tutorial. Also, the game lets you mass murder chickens and bunny rabbits like a loon. I made it my mission to kill every single one that I saw. I decided that my character would be kind of nuts after all those years in prison.

All is not peaches and cream though. The game is absolutely riddled with bugs and glitches, from people floating, to getting stuck on geometry, or even INSIDE the geometry. Though, there aren’t very many that break the game, and you can always reload the last checkpoint if you need to. The camera is one of your greatest enemies in this game. Often times it will totally freak out, or making climbing difficult, or cause you to fall of a ledge, and it can be a real pain. Also, the animation and collision detection in the game is hilarious. Often when you go to finish enemies off, you’ll thrust your entire arm into their chest, all T-1000 style. This actually makes some sense when you think about it though. I guess since you are given gold IMMEDIATELY upon finishing someone off. That must mean the gold is literally inside them, and you thrust your arm into their chests to rip it out. Makes sense to me. Either way, the game looks great overall, especially the environment. They must have shelled out some real money for that pre-rendered intro too, because it looks fantastic. Regardless of the many glitches, I still had a great time playing this game, and they were mostly minor annoyances. It’s a fun adventure with frantic combat and some great style. Say what you will about them, Gameloft is definitely the master of making console and PC experiences work on mobile devices. The app is iOS universal, and it will cost you $7. Check it out.

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