Don't fear the fun tax, and try Dead Trigger 2

I'll admit, I've never really been sold on Dead Trigger. It combined two things I’ve grown weary of—the undead and mobile first-person shooters—into a package that was amicable enough, but never quite set my world on fire. To its credit, it did serve as a sort of de facto performance benchmark for tablets and smartphones, and was one of those titles (alongside Infinity Blade II, or Shadowgun) that reminded folks these touchscreen devices could crank out some awfully pretty games.

But even the smoothest mobile FPS experiences still bear that onerous control-issues caveat. Swiping to move, swiping to aim, and all the while tapping to fire weapons and reload: it’s all a bit frustrating, something to get used to rather than fundamentally enjoy. So a sequel to Dead Trigger, dubbed Dead Trigger 2, didn’t really draw my eye when it was released a few days ago. But you know what? I was wrong.

No more fire button! If your crosshairs are clear, you aren't firing.

It starts with a really simple change: there is no fire button. You’re still swiping the left side of the screen and the right side to aim, but you’ll fire whatever weapon you’re wielding the moment you’re close enough to whatever your crosshair is pointing at.

Boom, game changer. The usual approach that grafts console-style control paradigms onto a touchscreen. This simple change turns what’s generally an onerous, frantic affair into a smooth arcade experience. You’ll glide through levels relying on precision to pull off headshots and take down swarms of shambling not-zombies, swapping weapons when appropriate. Reloading is also automatic—you’ll swap clips whenever a weapon runs out of ammo or you’ve been out of combat for a few seconds, pushing you to monitor your ammo supply without forcing you to take your hands off of the controls or stretch awkwardly to get things done.

Want new gear? Then pay the man.

Dead Trigger 2 is free-to-play, which means microtransactions. The game falls back on the ever popular time-limiting system: as you play, you’ll discover blueprints, and unlock crew members that can build you weapons and tools. Everything costs a little bit of the cash you’ll earn for completing missions and dispatching the recently deceased. But it’ll also cost time—from a few minutes, to a few hours for some items. Or, you could pony up some cash, buy Gold, and get everything right away.

You know what? I don’t care. I’ve waxed poetic about the free-to-play fun tax on plenty of occasions, from Dungeon Hunter 4’s constant reminders that a bit of cash would make the experience a little smoother, to Real Racing 3’s constant reminders that a bit of cash would let you play at all. But the limitations feel fair here. Sure, you won’t get to start using that cool combat shotgun the second you find one of the blueprints to build it. But lacking access to a weapon you’ve never used won’t impact your performance, or more importantly, the fun you’re having with the gear you do have. It even makes sense—an assault rifle (presumably) takes time to build, so grab a drink or do some other missions while it’s in the oven.

I never felt inclined to fork over any cash while playing, which is honestly kind of a shame. The series hasn’t exactly been a tour de force, and has always been a little eager to sell you things should you rather not earn them. But it remains an interesting way to kill a few hours, and I’ve always preferred to pay a few bucks than see game developers forced to adopt the pay-to-play model just to keep the bills paid. You can grab Dead Trigger 2 from the Apple App Store or Google’s Play store. Give it a go, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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