Reflex Unit AR

Reflex Unit AR Game Review (ARKit)

In this post, we’ll take a close look at a game called Reflex Unit AR, an iOS ARKit Mech action shooter and the AR version of the non-AR title Reflex Unit (without the AR at the end). I was really excited about this game when I first saw its screenshots on the app store. The reason why I was so hooked is that this game immediately reminded me one of my favorite games of all time called Commands & Conquer, a real-time strategy game from 1995.

Reflex Unit AR is not an RTS game like that game. You don’t command units no have the option to place structures and upgrade them. In this game, you control one of three different mech unit classes and move it around the map taking enemy units out and follow objectives, which is shooting containers spread across the map and killing a boss at the end of each round.

Game Modes

Reflex Unit AR has three different game modes: A 7-level campaign with each map is different than the other, an Endless mode and an up to 4-player Multiplayer mode.

I just want to say it straight from the beginning that I spend a lot of time trying to find a multiplayer match but without success. I tried many regions and still wasn’t able to find a match. This is probably the most annoying MP menu I’ve seen to date. When you choose the MP section, you need to choose between 10 regions. You can use auto select or select your region, but build it like that. If you segment the MP for regions like that, the chances are really small for people to find a match, If it was a game with thousands of concurrent players I wouldn’t mind, but it’s not.

Mech with a shield boost, Reflex Unit AR screenshot
My mech got a shield boost which protects me from incoming projectiles for a short time.

The idea of regions was designed so that you can play with other players with low ping and be able to chat with them with your own language (the game supports voice chat). However, I don’t know if this game is cross-play between the non-AR and the AR, but a new game without a large player base, it’s better to have auto matchmaking the only option and do all the optimizations behind the scenes. This is how the biggest companies do that, and they have millions of players.

I also should have liked to see how many players are on the roster so I know if I should spend my time waiting or not.  The multiplayer mode has two options: Create Game and Join Game. Join game joins you to a game within the selected server of the chosen regions and create game opens a lobby with the select one out of 4 areas (maps). Now you need to wait until someone joins the room. If this is just you, there will be 3 open slots. The thing is that there is no lobby room viewer and to be honest, there shouldn’t be. At least I would have liked to have the option to added friends and be able to invite them to play with me, but there isn’t such an option either.

Anyways, I have enough of waiting, so I just moved on. I will try it several times during different hours of the day and in the upcoming days, but I won’t let this hold my review because this thing may not take off at all.

I think the main reason for this is because it’s a paid game. If I was to release a multiplayer game, I would have made it free so I can have a large player base. The question whether this game is single-player focused or multiplayer focused?

A straight answer is both. do you ask?  First of all, it has a well designed but very short campaign that you finish like in an hour and a half more or less. After that, it’s all about either trying to top the global leaderboard in the Endless mode or play against other players in the multiplayer mode.

I do want to add that each level of the Story mode has a three-star rating for Time Bonus, 1Life Bonus and Perfect. Even then, you probably going to do it if not on the first run, maybe on the second run. I actually didn’t feel like doing the same thing all over again. There is a global leaderboard for the Story, which might motivate some players to perfect their gameplay and try to get a higher positioning in the global leaderboard.

Now, without a “playable” multiplayer game mode (it was at least like that for me), I only left with the Endless mode that will keep me challenged and coming back for more. Is it enough? For me, absolutely not.

By the way, Reflex Unit was released for many platforms, including Android, Oculus Rift, and Gear VR. I have no idea if this game has cross-platform support. Nothing that I’ve seen suggest that it has.

OK let’s move on.

 AR Experience & Gameplay

After you start the game, it will ask you to position the stage on a flat surface. Detection is quick like in most ARKit games. You can change the size of the game area. According to the developer (I found out about it only after writing this review),  you change the size of the AR play area in the calibration screen. Move close to the surface for a small area and further away for a large area (thanks for ROBOSARU Games for clarifying this via my Twitter).

The good news is that you can calibrate the positioning any time you want by clicking the “Calibration” button. I think that any AR should have this feature without needing to reset the level or the game, or worse, restart the app.

Reflex Unit AR plays in AR like Guns Royale AR mode, in a way that there is a big map but you only see a portion of it and as you move you get to see the other parts of it, but it still has the same sized gameplay area. I actually prefer Reflex Unit AR’s design because it had flat edges, whether in Guns Royale AR mode you get like 3D edges which are kind of annoying.

Reflex Unit AR game screenshot
Look how beautifully the edges of the game intersect with the real world, much better than Guns Royale AR.

You can play the game almost anywhere you like, in the living room, on your bad, on a table, etc. I played it both in the living room and on the bed with no issues. Sometimes that map spawns too large and although I like it because I didn’t need to crouch, it wasn’t comfortable to play like that. I recommend playing it on a table while seeing on a couch.

The game doesn’t require you to move around the environment like Meddling Martians AR. Most of the time you’ll be just looking at the map and moving your character. It is definitely an Augmented Reality game that you can play while sitting still without moving at all

There is one exception for this though. I found out that in order for a rocket to find a target, it has to be visible on the visible play area of your iPhone or iPad’s screen. So this means that you sometimes need to move your iPhone or iPad (I played it on iPad 9.7 2017) so you can see the target and then you can shoot rockets at it.

I found that the game is more comfortable to play in a top-down view, but of course you can change the angle anytime you want in AR, and play it in close third-person perspective as well.

Mech classes: Scout, Assault and Heavy
Mech classes: Scout, Assault, and Heavy. You start with the Scout Mech and unlock the others as you progress through the campaign.

Now let’s talk about the gameplay. As I mentioned before, you get to choose one of three mech classes: Scout, Assualt, and Heavy. When you start the game you’ll start with the Scout, and you unlock the others as you progress through the campaign. Furthermore, the Endless mode won’t be available to you until you finish the entire campaign, the whole 7 maps. Each mech has its own attributes (not mentioned though) like damage, speed, etc. However, all have the same abilities, they both can shoot bullets and rockets.

Ammo for your machine guns is limited, but it’s easy to find ammo drops when you eliminate enemy units. The rockets drops are rarer. The game has auto-aim, so it will use the machine guns to shoot at any enemy unit on sight. You can rotate it using the left controller and it will change direction, but most of the time you just need to tap and shoot and the game will do the rest.

The left controller controls the movement and the right side has three controls: the first one is for just shooting using the machine guns, and in the upper-right corner you have the rocket fire button and the reload button for the machine guns. Your machines gun will auto reload, so even if you don’t push the reload button, it will still reload it automatically once you finish the last bullet in the magazine. I do feel that at least for the iPad, it would be better if the reload button was positioned lower on the screen. It wasn’t comfortable always stretching my finger to tap it and I didn’t want to let my hand go because I used it to hold the right side of the iPad.

Overall, the controls felt really nice and fluid. Moving and shooting feel really nice. It reminds me of the game powARdup, although not a shooter, but the mechanics just felt really good in AR. I really like the ability to quickly rotate on the same spot and be able to quickly hide behind cover when I need to.

The map level design is really nice, very detailed and energetic. There is plenty of places where you can take cover and you can use it strategically to use your rockets. I recommend using rockets only on high-value targets and when behind cover. If the enemy units see you and start moving, the rockets might miss it. Those rockets are locked at the initial positioning of where the unit was in the first place. If it moves, the rocket won’t hit it.

Very detailed map, Reflex Unit AR
The maps are very detailed as you can see from this screenshot taken while playing Reflex Unit AR with my iPad.

The mech 3D models also look nice and detailed. Around the mech, you can see how many rockets and bullets you have and your health. This is a great idea because you don’t need to move your eyes to another part of the screen to see those stats. This works beautifully in AR. I actually think that the fewer UI elements the more immersive the visual experience would become.

There is also a shield power-up which you can pick up that can protect you from damage for a limited time and one that makes you disappear for a few seconds.

I also want to praise the music, sound effects and graphics effects, all work really well to enhance the entire gameplay experience.

The gameplay is really fun and I really enjoyed playing it. That being said, you can tell that this game isn’t an AR-oriented game. It was a port from a regular non-AR game. Even if was the opposite, the game didn’t impress me as a AR game, as its regular gameplay mechanics. Most of the time I was playing while looking down the map, so there was no visual reciprocity with the surrounding environment.  Sometimes I did change to a lower angle just to enjoy seeing the air units fly above the surface and see how they look with the real world background, but most people won’t play the game in that angle because it is just not comfortable to play this game like that.

So bottom line, the game isn’t impressive as an Augmented Reality game per se, still, it is a fun game nonetheless. If you want to see what type of AR games with limited play area but with better AR presentation did impress me, take a look at Twilight Pioneers, The Machines, and HoloGrid: Monster Battle AR and you can see what I mean. Those three games were designed from the ground up for Augmented Reality, and this is why the visual experience is much more impressive in AR.

Conclusion

Although I still haven’t had a chance to try out the multiplayer, I can summarize my experience with Reflec Unit AR is a good one. The gameplay is fluid, energetic and fun. The endless mode is challenging and I liked that each mode has its own global leaderboard.

The main downsides of the game is that the campaign is very short and not challenging , even the boss fight at the end of each map is very easy to kill (a difficulty level option would have been nice), the MP game mode UI is just a mass, the game isn’t immersive to play in AR and the player base seems to be small so there is a very small chance to find players to play again in the multiplayer mode.

Overall, at its core, it is a fun game, but it does have quite a lot of issues. After you finish the campaign (which is very fast) it didn’t have a lot to offer. I do hope that I will get to try out the multiplayer in the upcoming week and share my experience with you.

I can’t lie, I finish my experience with quite a big disappointment. I really love the maps and the gameplay mechanics and I just wanted this game to be more challenging, have more levels and that multiplayer mode to work. It’s not impressive as a AR game and if I wanted to find a non-AR action game to play, there are plenty of them with much more content than this one, and they are free-to-play.

Click here to visit the game’s page on iTunes.

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