On Call Review

2014-10-10-194106

 

Title: On Call
Developer: Ecto
Game Type: PlayStation Mobile
Download:  156 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download

Thanks to Unity, PlayStation Mobile has been getting more 3D games coming out.  Some of these games are turning into solid experiences and others are not.  There are some very pretty Unity games, like the Soulbrain games, though they don’t run very well.  That has been a huge let-down with PlayStation Mobile, lately.  Some games have very unique experiences, but don’t run very well.  This can easily turn people away from those games.

However, not all of those games run poorly.  If you checked our last PlayStation Mobile review, Jaggy Race, you will see that the platform is very capable of making games that run well.  That game ran at an impressive 60 frames per second, something that even some native Vita titles struggle to reach.  As we think about that, there are other PS Mobile games out there that run well and offer unique and some familiar experiences for quick on-the-go gaming.

Today’s review is for a game that brings back a genre that isn’t highlighted much on the Vita: First-Person Shooting.  While this game is more exploration than anything, PlayStation Mobile has a few games that can bring large areas and first-person shooting action to owners of the Vita.  Mixing science fiction aerial combat with first-person exploration, here is our official review of the Unity game, On Call!

Story

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The plot of On Call has you in the role of an officer that is sent out on missions via spacecraft.  While your organization isn’t spoken of, your main task is to knock out rebel forces in your system to be reinstated as an official officer.  As you go on your first mission, you have an AI speaking to you the entire time, known as Scanner.  Your goal is to knock out a few rebel ships that have appeared in the area.

Once reinstating the license, though, curiosity takes its toll, and the Main Character heads to an abandoned ship, against the advice of Scanner and breaks his contract as an Officer.  As events unfold in the abandoned ship, you will discover not only a story behind why the ship is abandoned, but an inner threat to the entire sector.

The story of On Call is not very deep or thrilling, but it will be something that will entertain you.  While the game is short, the commentary between the Main Character and Scanner can get a few laughs out of you.  Both of them have more of a wit the further into the game you go.  It’s not a great story, by far, but is entertaining.

Gameplay

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On Call is a collection of two genres throughout gameplay.  It’s partially a First-Person Shooter and partially a Third-Person Aerial Fighter.  When you play the game’s main campaign, you will have two ways of exploration through the game.  One will be in your spaceship and the other is through running around and exploring your base and a large ship you find along your journey.

Most of the game will be spent on-foot.  While there is a little bit of aerial combat you can do, it will only be used briefly in the campaign.  Your first mission will be to knock out some rebel fighters in space, but the rest of the game will be spent walking around on foot through a huge abandoned space ship.  Aerial Combat is always third-person and you can fly in many directions, along with firing a rechargeable laser weapon that can fire until it overheats and recharges.  You can also fly around items or areas to land and enter them.

On-Foot gameplay is very much like a First-Person Shooter.  From the looks and the exploration, it feels very much like a game such as Doom or Quake.  You can run around a 3D environment, jump around obstacles, interact with doors and objects, and shoot down enemies with your rechargeable handgun.  This is mostly compared to Doom and Quake because outside of Aiming Mode, you cannot manually aim your gun other than moving your entire body with the camera controls.

Navigating and progressing in this part of gameplay has you moving through checkpoints.  In every room you’re in, you will see a sort of beacon, in the form of a Star or an Exclamation Mark.  This shows where your destination is, which will normally give you a little more story information about where you are as well as where you need to go next.  In every area you’re in, if you get lost, just look for the beacon and it can get you back on track.

As you navigate the dark areas, you will need your flash light and you will also run into spider-like aliens that will try to attack you.  These enemies can be taken out with your handgun, as well as proper aiming.  An important aspect of the game is timing your movements and aiming.  The aliens are not very fast, but if they catch up to you, they’re lethal and can easily take you out.  Your handgun also has to recharge after so many shots.  In areas with many enemies, it’s a good idea to have a strategy before entering.

All in all, that’s all there is to the campaign.  Follow the beacons, fight enemies, and activate systems, and you will be able to get through the game’s one main area in about an hour.  It’s not a long game, though the game does have various upgrades you can unlock as well as an Arcade Mode, which lets you fly around and fight enemies for the fun of it, as opposed to story progression.  But, all in all, the game will only last you 1-2 hours.

Controls

The controls for On Call use both the touch screen and the buttons, but don’t maintain an incredibly difficult scheme to get used to.  First of all, touch controls are not used in gameplay.  When you first boot up the game, you will be using the touch screen to cycle through the menu to either start or continue a game in campaign

Controls are the same whether you’re controlling your ship or you are on foot.  Moving will be done with the Left Analog Stick and firing your weapon is done with the R button.  You can also enter new areas, ships, and other places with the Triangle button.  Those are the three controls that are the same no matter how you’re playing.  When you’re on foot, though, you have some more you can do.  Using the L button enters Manual Aim Mode and the Circle button can toggle your flashlight on and off.

The controls are pretty simple to get used to.  While they aren’t explained to you at all, they’re pretty easy to figure out as you go.

Presentation

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As far as presentation is concerned, On Call is good and not-so-good at the same time.  The in-game visuals cleverly use cell-shaded visuals.  This is most obvious when you’re flying around with your ship.  When you pass asteroids and look at planets, it’s pretty easy to tell that’s the style you use.  It’s not as easy to tell when you’re on-foot, though, other than when enemies are in the area.

The thing about the design is that the game tries to give a more horror-like environment.  When you’re in the abandoned ship, everything is very dark and has very dark, tense music throughout.  The atmosphere gives a very creepy atmosphere as you play through the game, almost giving it a horror-like environment.  The game definitely sets a tone, once you get into it.

How the game plays also has its ups and downs.  On the positive side of that, the game is very smooth when you’re playing through the game.  Whether you’re on foot or in the ship, everything runs really smooth and it never stutters.  It has a really solid frame-rate as you play through the game as well.  The only downside are the Load Times.  When you load each section of the game, expect to have at least a 10 second wait.  The screens also lag when going into a new area.

Summary

On Call is a sign that PlayStation Mobile is jumping into the First-Person Shooter category and can make solid experiences.  On the downside, the game has long load times and is a very short experience that will give many console gamers the feel that it’s only as long as a demo.  However, with its smooth gameplay, mildly interesting story, and meld between aerial combat and first-person exploration, it’s at least worth a look to fans of the Science Fiction genre. 

7/10

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