The console scene is currently embroiled in one of the biggest FPS rivalries in videogame history, but iOS is also home to a copycat series that has been steadily increasing in popularity and performance. Gameloft's Modern Combat franchise has continually delivered a masterclass in mobile shooting action, and the latest iteration is undoubtedly the best yet.
If you're looking to enjoy the Modern Warfare experience on a mobile device, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is Oscar Mike.
After a Korean, Pakistani and Russian alliance brings the USA to its knees, its brave and beleaguered remaining troops have to launch a desperate counterattack to repel the invaders from their own soil. What follows is a gritty and intense shooter that spans multiple missions and gameplay styles: from hectic shooting galleries against myriad cover-using opponents to tense stealthy assassinations. Modern Combat 3 displays astounding production values and solid art direction, which conspire to deliver the App Store equivalent of a breathtaking and lengthy action movie.
Frequent slow motion kill camerawork, a fantastic selection of scoped weapons and some fantastic set pieces (a Gameloft staple) make the campaign a truly thrilling experience that puts its predecessors - and even N.O.V.A. - to shame.
Since the Modern Combat franchise is shamelessly, lovingly based on Modern Warfare and other military shooters, it seems churlish to point out that it conforms to every genre cliche in the book. I actually lost count of the number of times when the protagonist is knocked unconscious, blacks out and is eventually pulled to his feet by a fellow marine (I lost track at FOUR) - and the ever popular AC-130 section makes an unwelcome return that lasts far too long to provide a decent change of pace. Plenty of po-faced posturing, QTEs and gun turret sections also turn up to the surprise of no-one whatsoever.
But I don't really care, and neither should you to any great extent. The fact that shooters are stagnating isn't Gameloft's fault, and they've delivered an experience that's incredibly visceral, dynamic and consistently exciting. Bar the AC-130 section, which is so 2007, darling.
Modern Combat 3 handles about as well as you could expect from a mobile FPS. The virtual controls can be rearranged to suit your particular play style (seriously, spending a few minutes tweaking each icon to your personal tastes will pay dividends) - and the aim assist removes most of the potential frustration. I'm still convinced that the future of the platform lies in delivering different kinds of game rather than copying consoles, but I can't deny that the FPS genre is getting fairly natural to control these days.
Hurry up and release a small Bluetooth controller with two thumbsticks, Apple.
Online multiplayer is a straight-up homage to Modern Warfare's multiplayer suite, which let's face it, can't be a bad thing. The netcode seems to be working well for such a recent release (though a few reports of connectivity issues and stat resets have been brought to my attention), and chaining kills now rewards you with powerful streaks such as supply drops and airstrikes. You can also earn currency to power up your arsenal, but the fact that you can purchase it via IAPs could possibly serve to unbalance the experience in the long term.
The visuals are surprisingly impressive, both in terms of texture work, animations and particle effects. Gameloft are squeezing every last drop of horsepower out of their engine (it looks great both on iPhone and iPad) but it's a shame that Modern Combat 3 lacks the graphical grunt of the cancelled March Of Nations - which used Unreal Engine 3 to devastating effect.
Here's hoping that future Modern Combat games will take their Epic collaboration to heart, since the Unity-powered crowd (notably Shadowgun and Extraction: Project Outbreak) are undeniably starting to overtake Gameloft in terms of wow factor.
- Intense FPS action with great set pieces
- Visceral and exciting in singleplayer and online
- Looks the business, as far as it goes
- Unbelievably cliched
- Engine is getting a little old in the tooth
- Some multiplayer issues and IAP imbalance
Summary: Modern Combat 3 is a big budget, next-gen miltary FPS that delivers huge set pieces and electrifying action. A few niggles aside, Gameloft have delivered a true holiday blockbuster.
Compatibility: Universal: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later.
Price: £4.99 - App Store