Everyone's favorite Furyan, Richard B. Riddick, is back in an all new film with a new iOS game to boot! Riddick: The Merc Files is Gaming Corps' (a small group of developers from Sweden), debut title. Much like a major portion of the new movie, Riddick has to evade or kill the numerous mercenaries that are out to get him. Merc Files offers a combination of stealth and action-based gameplay.
Utilizing the pickup-and-go format of having dozens of short levels to playthrough, Riddick lets players decide if they want to take the quiet route or the loud and bloody one in regards to how they progress throughout Merc Files' multitudes of levels. Sticking to the shadows vs the straightforward approach is the choice Gaming Corps allows the player to make on each stage (unless they specifically choose the stealth-kill levels). Whether you choose to decide the Rambo or the Solid Snake method of approach, the important question is how does Riddick: The Merc Files play?
Riddick's gameplay is surprisingly good for a movie-based title from such a green developer. Riddick must stick to the shadows (Riddick has perfect sight in the dark), and hide while the mercenaries do their patrol routines. If you get shot once, you die, so you must take your time and plan accordingly. Corpses that you stealth kill must be dragged back to a shady spot so that the merc's corpse won't be seen by the other soldiers, resulting in them swarming the level until they find you, which usually results in you dying.
Riddick's controls are rather straightforward. You tap the screen where you want Riddick to sneak to, and double tap when you would him to run. Swiping rotates the camera and pinching opens up the level map. I particularly like that when you switch to the level map, the graphical layout of the level changes to the heightened visuals of Vin Diesel's eyesight. The enemies glow white amidst a purple, dark backdrop. The first time I ever saw the level map, I was legitimately surprised. The rest of Riddick's graphics aren't anything to write home about. The levels are varied and the environments are rather fresh, but I honestly would have never been able to tell if this was a Riddick-based title based on its gameplay alone (except for the level maps).
There is a type of dodge function that appears for a split second if an enemy targets you from far away, where you must swipe to roll out of the way into the nearest shadow or around the closest corner before you get shot. Alternatively, if you are close enough to your opponent when he spots you, the merc flashes a red color. Tapping the merc while he is flashing results in Riddick dodging the bullet and killing the merc.
Combat revolves around two methods: stealth or shooting. Unfortunately, you need a gun in order to shoot, which the mercenaries have. This means that you cannot shoot at any enemies until you take out your first merc. You can never really run towards the enemies, because the sounds your footsteps make alert them to your presence from a fairly long distance. This means that if you ever try to run at an enemy, even if his back is towards you, they simply hear it, turn around and shoot you. And there are no health meters in The Merc Files. One shot will kill Riddick, forcing you to restart the level.
The thing to remember is that the stealth route is genuinely much safer (and much more time consuming), than prioritizing the guns blazing route. Whenever there is a gunshot, the bad guys start swarming towards you, and you can't kill them all with a gun before they mow you down. This pretty much forces you into prioritizing the stealth mechanics over a firefight. The resulting effect is that it seems like you must always take the stealth route, which isn't bad considering Riddick has extremely solid stealth mechanics for an iOS title.
Ultimately, I would recommend Riddick: The Merc Files to fans of the Metal Gear Solid series or The Last of Us that want an addictive stealth game which forces you to remain patient. On the other hand, I would not recommend The Merc Files for Riddick fanatics hoping for a blockbuster action experience. It s stealth mechanics are solid, its open combat forces you to remain stealthy, which makes each level seem like a puzzle. The thought of prioritizing certain mercs over others reminds me that stealth titles should be methodical, which Riddick definitely is. If only its action gameplay didn't always result in being mowed down by one-hit kills, with the addition of some type of alert countdown a la Metal Gear, The Merc Files could have been amazing.