Deep War is definitely one of the best-looking HD games available on the App Store. The underwater scenery is so photorealistic that you'd swear your iOS device turned into a porthole on a submarine. Now, does the game have great gameplay to boot, or is it just another pretty face?
The game begins with a short animation that explains how humanity is doomed because of meteorites raining down from the heavens. Your character is a part of a corporation that built an underwater base and has developed an advanced submarine capable of braving the depths, as submarines do. A few of the corporation's scientists discover that the chunks of meteorites scattered around the seas hold immense energy and can be harnessed to rebuild civilization again somehow. Now it's up to your hero and his new toy to save the day!
It's a good thing that the rest of the game looks gorgeous, because that opening animation resembles a bad Flash cartoon and the story made little sense. After you try to figure out how meteorites managed to wipe out all of civilization, you're set loose underwater to scour the seas for precious fragments. The presentation, once again, is absolutely gorgeous. The lighting is great, whether you're near the surface of the water or deep down the abyss, relying on your ship's lights and the fishes' bio-luminescence to see. Even the schools of curiously large, suicidal fish and shivers of sharks who ram themselves incessantly into your sub look good. It's just a little weird when you shoot them for power-ups and they end up turning into clouds of blood, spreading around the water.
It's a necessary evil to blow up the different fishes of unusual size because you'll need the power-ups they hold (extra armor, homing torpedoes, reflective shields), in order to destroy enemy submarines. I'm not exactly sure why there are any enemy submarines at all, considering that there was no mention of any other antagonists except for those pesky apocalyptic meteorites, but I guess the game does need fodder for your weapons. To battle these enemies, you use the virtual thumbstick to maneuver through the water and you can tap on the torpedo button to launch little cylinders of doom at the hostiles.
The enemy subs don't really put up much of a fight, so there's no real sense of danger or urgency until the later stages when they turn into angry swarms of red blurs and projectiles. But in the early stages, their patterns are varied but ultimately predictable. You just have to keep firing at the tops of the subs so that you can easily dodge their torpedoes. Most of the time I just moved up and down, firing aimlessly at the right side of the screen. My movements were haphazard and I took a lot of damage, but I'd lay waste to a grew of enemies in no time at all. By the time I collected their dropped power-ups, I'd be back to full armor and stocked up on ammo anyway. In fact, I spent six out of the game's eight levels in a daze, playing with just one thumb on the virtual thumbstick.
And it wasn't as if the game was boring, per se. It was more like I was lulled into a zen-like trance during most of the action. The music didn't help much, either. I'm sitting there blowing up subs underwater and the background music sounds like something that would play in one of Mass Effect's nightclubs. This had the effect of putting me in a trance and making me rethink a lot of the decisions I made as a disaffected teenager all those years ago. So the sudden episode of retrospection took me out of the experience, thanks to the monotonous gameplay and weird music.
Maybe it was due to the brief, trance-like state I was in, but the game was over before I knew it. I was aware that it was only eight levels long, but I guess was expecting more. I shot down the final boss with all 99 of the torpedoes I had saved up and then the screen told me "Game Completed.". Oh. Well, OK then. Deep War takes advantage of the iPad's Retina screen and won't break your bank, but if you're looking for something with actual depth, you won't find it here.