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'Shadowgun' brings console gaming to the iPad, iPhone

Meet John Slade, your new iPhone hero.
Meet John Slade, your new iPhone hero.Madfinger Games

Based on the hero's oversized biceps, the intense soundtrack, the crisp graphics and the fast-paced, third-person shooting action, you just might think you were playing a game of "Gears of War."

But if you're playing that game on an iPad or iPhone, then that's "Shadowgun" you've got in your hands — a new app that aims to bring "Gears of War"-inspired, console-quality gameplay to your iDevice.

Does it succeed? In many ways, yes.

While no smartphone or tablet app can yet match the visual quality and depth you'll find in your top-tier Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 titles, "Shadowgun" — from Madfinger Games — does a superb job paving the way in that direction. That is, it plucks many of the best elements from a great third-person console shooter and puts them in a smart, streamlined and truly enjoyable portable-sized package.

Madfinger games makes no bones about its biggest inspiration — the Xbox-exclusive "Gears of War" sci-fi franchise — and it's easy to see where that series has left its mark.

If you want to take out a madman, you're going to have to take out his Cyberlobster first.
If you want to take out a madman, you're going to have to take out his Cyberlobster first.Madfinger Games

It's the year 2350 and you play a bounty hunter (aka a Shadowgun) named John Slade who comes complete with "Gears"-sized arms as well as a chesty lady robot sidekick named S.A.R.A. You've been hired to hunt down the mad scientist Dr. Simon. But of course, hunting madmen is no easy task. Mutants, robots and various nasties must be gunned down along the way, and you'll have to use your smarts to bypass locked doors and other off-limits places as you delve deep into the doctor's lair.

Madfinger promised that "Shadowgun" would usher in "a new visual standard for handheld gaming" and certainly the first thing you'll notice about the game is the sweet graphics. Bright, crisp, detailed — the cut scenes look great and, more importantly, so do the in-play graphics.

As for the controls, they are as good as controls get when it comes to an iDevice shooter. Which is to say, it's not like holding an Xbox controller in your hand ... but it works and works well. Madfinger has given you free-floating left and right control buttons that work wherever you touch the screen. They've also dropped fire and reload buttons on the screen which can, in the menu, be moved to wherever you want to position them (a very nice touch).

While there's no jumping or ducking in this game, the "Gears"-inspired cover system works very well. An onslaught of enemies coming your way? Push toward any of the many conveniently located walls and barriers scattered throughout the environments and you'll snap behind them. You can easily shoot from here, pull away or leap over the barriers when you're ready to move on.

Also...mutants!Madfinger Games

And just to add another positive note to this happy song, the gun-shot-laden sound design and voice acting is (mostly) top notch, with the wry soldier Slade sounding like a cross between Bruce Willis and Marcus Fenix.

But no, "Shadowgun" is not perfect. This game is very linear and can start to feel a bit repetitive in spots. Meanwhile, I experienced a couple of crashes — one during a delicate standoff with a giant Cyberlobster for crying out loud. And though "Shadowgun" is an awesome move forward for iOS shooters, there's nothing here you haven't seen in a console shooter before.

Those quibbles aside, third-person gunning doesn't get better than this on phones and tablets. And if you want something beefier and bloodier than the standard bird-themed app store fare, then you'll want "Shadowgun" on your device right there beside excellent hardcore gaming apps like "Dead Space," "Rage" and "Infinity Blade."

Of course, all of this will cost you more than the usual $1.99 or $2.99 you'll pay for a casual game. That is, "Shadowgun" — a universal app for both the iPhone and iPad — will run you $7.99. But it's worth every bounty hunting penny.

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+ .   And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.