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Mass Effect: Infiltrator brings Retina-enhanced sci-fi action to the new iPad

This original chapter in the mega-popular saga looks positively dazzling on the new iPad. But does the gameplay hold up?

Mass Effect: Infiltrator looks stunning on the new iPad.
Mass Effect: Infiltrator looks stunning on the new iPad.
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Can't get enough Mass Effect? That's understandable--the newly released Mass Effect 3 for PCs and consoles is drawing rave reviews (though not everyone is wild about the ending).

If you own an iOS device, most notably a new iPad, here's good news: Mass Effect: Infiltrator ($6.99) delivers a new chapter in the saga, giving you the chance to fight as a new agent on a new world.

In other words, it's not just a rehash or port of one of the original Mass Effect games; it's an original chapter in the story, one that more or less runs parallel to the events in Mass Effect 3.

If that sounds a little familiar, you may be thinking of Dead Space for iOS, which arrived last year on the heels of newly released-for-consoles Dead Space 2 and brought its own parallel storyline.

Here, you play the role of Cerberus agent Randall Enzo, who turns on the company when experimentation on aliens goes too far. Your goal is to fight your way off the Cerberus base and deliver damning evidence to the Alliance.

Anyone familiar with Mass Effect, Dead Space, or any number of titles like it will recognize the basic gameplay here: run, take cover, engage the enemy, run again. But Mass Effect adds some RPG elements to the mix, with myriad weapons you can buy and customize and various "biotic" powers you can master. It's kind of like running-and-gunning meets running-and-spellcasting.

Duck and cover. Shoot to kill. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Duck and cover. Shoot to kill. Wash, rinse, repeat. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

And here's a particularly cool touch: If you own Mass Effect 3, you can upload points accumulated in Mass Effect: Infiltrator to improve your Galactic Readiness Rating.

The question is whether you'll be willing to fight your way past Infiltrator's awkward swipe-tap-aim combat-control system. I won't say it's a fail, just that it takes some getting used to. And if you're playing on an iPad, you have to reach way up to the opposite corner to engage biotic powers--not a fluid maneuver.

Speaking of iPad, if you're lucky enough to have the new one, you'll enjoy gloriously smooth and vibrant graphics that come darn close to Xbox 360 quality. Mass Effect: Infiltrator is among a handful of games optimized for the new iPad's Retina Display, and the results really are spectacular. If you're looking to score some bragging rights with your iPad 1- or iPad 2-owning friends, this is the game to show off.

(For another take on Infiltrator, check out Scott Stein's review--but keep in mind he didn't get a chance to play it on the new iPad. Although eye candy alone does not a great game make, it definitely adds to the experience.)

To further satisfy your Mass Effect fix, check out Mass Effect 3 Datapad, a free companion app for the eponymous game; and the iPad-only The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3 ($2.99), a behind-the-scenes guide to the creation of the trilogy.

Although Dead Space is a scarier game with better plotting, there's plenty of fun to be had in Mass Effect: Infiltrator--especially for fans of cover shooters.