Seattle-based iOS developer Z2Live has a hit on their hands in the form of MetalStorm: Online for both the iPhone and iPad devices. Currently toping the free applications charts (currently #1 for iPad and #2 for iPhone), this free-to-play game has even breached the top ten grossing applications for iPhone, coming in today at #9. For the iPad, it ranked at #14. Moreover, this new flight combat simulator isn’t even that old, having only been released last Thursday. In fact, in its first 48 hours, it saw more than 1 million downloads, Z2Live’s Lou Fasulo told us.
Reminiscent of older flight combat sims, MetalStorm is a quality translation of the elder genre for mobile devices. With its fluid controls and a competitive atmosphere, the game really hooks players. With “Online” in the game’s name, it isn’t terribly surprising to learn that there isn’t much of a single player mode. Also, while the multiplayer is fun, the lack of game modes variety can leave the user wanting more.
There isn’t much of a premise behind MetalStorm other than: Here is your plane. Shoot stuff. It might sound simple, but that is literally what the app comes down to. After a short tutorial, players purchase from a set of starting fighter jets, arm them with missile and machine gun load outs, and take to the skies.
Like many other flight-themed iOS titles, the control scheme is set up so that all movement is controlled via tilting and turning the device. It works well, but it takes some practice.
Players can tap icons to accelerate or slow down as well as fire missiles or their machine gun (which can overheat if fired for too long). The game also takes a page form the old Nintendo title, Starfox 64, in that maneuvers are pre-packaged into barrel rolls, dives, and flips and activated with a directional swipe.
Users compete against others with similar skill ratings in timed one-on-one dogfights. The winner gets experience and Credits to buy new planes, purchase or restock with better weapons.
This upgrade system is one of the more interesting aspects of MetalStorm too. Players spend small amounts of their earnings to upgrade things like damage, speed, maneuverability and so on. Because planes and weaponry have different specs — such as damage, lock on accuracy, and range — players can very easily customize their aircraft.
What this creates is a good amount of variety in the game’s primary multiplayer mode as well as its other one: Survival. In this mode, players use the game’s single player option, which is to fight every increasing numbers of opponents until they die, earning more coins the longer they last. Additionally, it is worth noting that for both game modes, users can play competitively or cooperatively with friends.
On the monetization front, MetalStorm uses in-game advertisements and sells packs of virtual currency, called Coins, in quantities costing $0.99 to $49.99. Coins can then not only be used to unlock premium content, but converted to the above noted in-game earnable currency of Credits.
As one might expect, this does create a slight imbalance in game play, which can be more noticeable when a game is competitive. Players that spend real money have advantages. That’s all there is to it. Nevertheless, in the several matches we played, it wasn’t terribly noticeable. This is likely because newer users aren’t yet hooked enough to pay for virtual currency. That said, such may become a bit more of an issue at the higher skill brackets.
Aside from this, the only other complaint is that there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the game. The levels are typically just differently textured mountainous regions. Moreover, while Survival mode with a friend is fun, the fluidity of the controls and overall fun factor of the game leave us wishing there were more than just one-on-one dogfights. Team matches, free-for-alls, or even objective based games would be incredibly fun to include in a game with such a strong core. That said, expectations and hopes are high for coming updates.
There are some light social features: players can invite friends from their email contacts, Facebook, Twitter, and Game Center. They can also publish achievements to the two social networks and participate in Game Center leaderboards.
In the end, while MetalStorm: Online is currently lacking in its game mode and level variety, the overall play is fun. The final word is that if one has an iPhone or iPad and enjoys flight sims in anyway, this free game is one worth a try.