The National Rifle Association (NRA) of the United States have released their very own video game as an iOS app. After trying to link video games to various mass shootings in the US this is... a bit of a strange move.
To be fair and in spite of some pundits declaring hypocrisy, NRA: Practice Range is not a violent video game. The only shooting you can do is at painted targets, as at most practice ranges in the real world including those used to train our police and militaries. It's no more violent than a game of darts.
But leaving aside the political situation behind this release, is the game itself any fun?
In short... no. It isn't.
Controlling your weapon is achieved one of two ways, either flailing your phone wildly in front of you with the gyroscopic controls or using a small onscreen joystick and an onscreen trigger button. And no, you can't invert the y-axis on the joystick, if you're used to flight sims.
While both methods of control track your movements with a fair degree of accuracy, moving the crosshair on the screen does require quite a bit of real world movement when using the gyroscopic controls. Use on public transport is not advised.
Unfortunately the accuracy of the controls is offset by the half second delay between tapping the screen to fire and your gun firing.
Perhaps that half second is there to give you time to reflect on your actions?
Three practice ranges are on offer. An indoor range with vaguely humanoid targets that appear and disappear in place, or slide back and forth across the screen at higher difficulty levels. The outdoor range is a field with various holes for targets to pop up through and a skeet shooting range where the discus style clay pigeon flies out from behind your shoulder.
Each range has different weapons available. The indoor range is for handguns, the outdoor for rifles and skeet shooting for shotguns. The game comes with one of each gun category unlocked and additional guns can be purchased for 99c each.
It's unclear how they expect to sell additional guns when the standard weapons sound dull and are animated poorly, on top of there not being anything particularly fun to do with them.
If this app cost any money up front it would be a travesty. As a free app, it is merely a wasted opportunity. Even the gun safety tips, laws and hunting season information is just links to websites. A dorky little gun trivia quiz could have made that section a bit of fun, at least.
Also, it crashes a lot. So even if you somehow enjoy the gameplay you'll keep getting interrupted by it breaking.
An all round awful waste of time.
Homefront is Kaos Studios' second entry into the crowded FPS genre, their first being 2008's Frontlines: Fuel of War. Both games are set in a possible near-future war, with Frontlines' conflict based around the inevitable exhaustion of the world's oil supplies and Homefront exploring the possibility of an aggressively expanding North Korea.
Homefront's singleplayer campaign takes place as the western half of America has been occupied for a few years by an army from North Korea. The living conditions for the average American are pretty grim. Either they eke out a living on their own among the shattered remnants of their cities, or more likely they are conscripted into forced labour crews, toiling endlessly for the occupying forces.
As the game gets underway this seems to be the fate that has found you. You've been rounded up by the Korean People's Army - the KPA or "norks" - along with some other poor unfortunates and shepherded onto a converted school bus. It emerges that this group consists of people with some level of flight experience, with the assumption you're to be put to work. After some "re-education", of course.
As the bus winds through the streets of a shattered American town you look out to see KPA troops harassing civilians, arresting them in some instances, beating them with boots and rifle butts in others. As one runs away from the troops he is, quite casually, shot in the back of the head, leaving a wet splatter of blood on the window ahead of you.
If that's a little too grim for you, this is the point you should stop playing. Because the game goes to much darker places than this before the end.