If a 10 year-old were to watch (and completely misunderstand) Training Day, listen to a few hundred hours of 90’s gangsta rap, and then be given the task of writing and directing a videogame, the ensuing product would likely resemble 9mm — the newest chapter in Gameloft’s epic quest to emulate big console experiences on smartphones.
However, where most of Gameloft’s previous attempts at this were rip-offs of major franchises — so blatant, discussions between lawyers were bound to have occurred — 9mm actually refrains from photocopying a specific title. Well, at least in the aesthetics department. Make no mistake, in gameplay terms, 9mm is Max Payne, only dumped into the world of GTA: San Andreas and coated in gallons upon gallons of the most artificial and fattening cheese. But at least the hero is not called “Jax Rayne”.
No, you are John Kannon, a name that earns its golden spot in the Subtlety-Free Hero-Names-Hall of Fame right, alongside Speed Racer. John “Loose” Kannon, as he is known, is a COP ON THE EDGE. He patrols the suburban ghettos of Los Angeles, where stereotypical racial-minority gangbangers breakdance on the pavements, guns in hand. John refers to this area as his “turf”. He dons a leather jacket over a hoodie, and wears his police badge like a Bun B wears a gold chain. Every fifth word out of his mouth also happens to be that lovely four-letter synonym for “fornicate”, so you know he’s a tough one.
Kannon, during what appears to be his usual schedule of kicking down doors, diving in slow motion, and shooting up crackhouses, comes across big stashes of dirty money and a new drug that has been “on the streets” lately. Being the above-the-law badass the game wants us to consider him, Kannon and his team of undeveloped, equally badass archetypes decide to more or less keep the dough for themselves. And thus the delightful plot of 9mm kicks off. A story of police officers who refer to unoffending civilian women as “that hoe”, told with clichés so hamfisted “ham-armed” would be a more appropriate term.
I’m not the type to enjoy bad stories “ironically”, but in its opening cinematic alone, 9mm pushed me past the point of groaning, to giggling hysterically at every vocal exchange in the game. Kannon, for one, sounds like he is voiced by a middle-aged suburban dad, and hearing him deliver golden lines like “it’s raining bacon, motherf***ers!” is a cringe-inducing joy. As 9mm coughs up one crime-film stereotype after another, it’s hard not to be pleased.
But the majority of the time spent in 9mm will not be in cutscenes, but rather in the process of Max Payning gangstas to death — something the game does competently. The touch-controls, while inevitably never feeling truly comfortable, are cleverly designed, offering balanced amounts of control and simplicity.
And “simple” neatly describes the gameplay, too. Not being bothered with offering a multitude of mechanics and gameplay elements, 9mm gives you three short hours of slow-mo-diving run’n’gun-action only interspersed by obligatory quicktime events.
Something rather refreshing about 9mm’s gameplay is how it never cops out (no pun intended). There is little filler to speak of here. Backtracking, key-hunting and trawling through lots of identikit corridors are luckily all absent from the game, leaving the best 9mm has to offer on display at all times.
The problem is, that “best” is hardly great, and manages to get woefully repetitive by the game’s hurried end. Though the game feels polished enough and the shooters decently powerful, there is little depth to the combat. Most confrontations are a matter of running and shooting, then slow-mo-diving into cover as you wait for your health to refill. This procedure nicely solved most of the games challenges.
As (hopefully not) unintentionally hilarious John Kannon’s tale was, when 9mm’s end credits rolled, accompanied by licensed hip-hop music, I was left feeling decidedly unexcited by the game. Besides the short campaign, there is a twelve-player multiplayer mode with weapon unlocks and level-ups, because as we all know Call of Duty 4 made it law that all shooters must feature this. However, the mode is not worth much discussion, standard deathmatch and team-deathmatch, the latter called “cops ‘n’ ganstas”, are all that feature, and the gunplay mechanics are not engaging or deep enough to provide motivation to play more than a couple of matches or unlock the range of firearms.
In the end, I can only recommend 9mm to bad movie-fans who attribute little value to their time and money. If you are a gamer looking for a hardcore experience on your iDevice, there are far better options out there.
2 out of 5