Sgt. Spiffy Avatar Posted on 11/3/2011 by Sgt. Spiffy
Games
Reviews
A familiar, yet uncompromising console-style shooter armed with an impressive campaign and featured-packed online multiplayer. Stay frosty.

Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation isn't just the best first-person shooter that Gameloft has produced thus far, its also an extremely enjoyable and sophisticated game on its own merits, with an explosive campaign that easily rivals its competition in terms of cinematic thrills and thrilling set-pieces. The online multiplayer is just as impressive, and comes loaded with many features you'd expect from the considerably more expensive competition, including upgradable weapons and perks. There's not a shred of original thinking on display here and as sophisticated as the campaign is, it's all been said and done many times over. But you could honestly say the same about most shooters these days, and while it probably won't replace your favorite FPS anytime soon, at least playing doesn't feel like your settling for less.
Release: October 27, 2011
Rating: 17+
Publisher: Gameloft
Written by Evan Nathans (editor-at-large)

Just in time to take advantage of the season’s onslaught of highly-anticipated “number three” of first-person shooter sequels like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 comes Gameloft’s ticket to the party, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation. But with EA’s mobile Battlefield limited to a series of survival firefights and Activision’s latest mobile Call of Duty still chained to Nintendo’s ancient DS hardware, this is probably the closest thing you’ll get to having an authentic, console-style on your mobile platform. What's really shocking is that, for the first time, that doesn't feel like much of a compromise.

The game earns its “Fallen Nation” moniker thanks to a plot that borrows heavily from Modern Warfare 2 (and THQ’s Homefront), with the conglomerated villainy of KPR (Korea, Pakistan and Russia) attacking the United States on its home turf. The campaign benefits from the new venues, as you’ll shoot, reload, and shoot some more across familiar urban areas designed to stir emotions (and your trigger finger), as well as the usual stable of sandy vistas, forests, and claustrophobic vessels at sea, all of which cinematically unfolds in the palm of your hands using the most sophisticated real-time moments ever in a mobile game. True, the voices can sound like a gruffy cartoony GI Joe impression at times, but they still help tell a fairly compelling narrative about the possible destruction of the United States.

Like Gameloft’s best efforts, what the game lacks in original thinking is more than made up for in execution. Included are the requisite levels of the genre, including infrared top-down bombing missions, turret manning, high-speed chases/escapes, and even airborne artillery shooting levels, with missions balancing ranges from well-paced firefights to not-so-much ones. The hordes of enemies you’ll face not only swarm like cockroaches, but they’re just as stupid with their standard model of attack being the “shooting gallery’ style that lines them up for the slaughter with little resistance, apart from robotic rolls and peeking from behind covers. Yes, it's the same plastic artificial-unintelligence that's usually associated with lesser games, but it tends to work here, especially given the campaign's fast-paced and straightforward 13-levels of combat.

To be fair, these scripted machinations probably has less to do with the supposed inherent limitations of the platform (the campaign apes much of last year’s lackluster Medal of Honor reboot) but more so to Gameloft’s compressed development cycles and a desire to show off the game’s outstanding visuals, which are the best I’ve ever seen running on an iOS device.

Modern Combat 2 looked pretty good, but MC3 looks outstanding, with visuals that could easily pass for a high-definition Wii game. They’re not quite Xbox 360/PlayStation quality, but even the most curmudgeonly graphics zealot will have to impressed when they see these heavily detailed locales and cinematic moments all running in real-time, and on a mobile device no less. Realistic effects like smoke drifts, wind trailer, and even ambient background elements (butterflies!) really floored me. Character models are only detailed when they need to be, but even they’re a significant upgrade to the repetitious clones of past games, and you’ll forgive the game if it occasionally chugs a bit when there’s heavy action and lots of explosions.

Without question, this is the most cinematically sophisticated game that I’ve ever seen running on a mobile platform, and there were definitely moments when I thought to myself “how much better does it really need to get right now?” Also, keep in mind that I was playing on an ‘older’ iPod Touch 4, and the game supposedly runs even better on newer dual-core powered hardware and even supports AirPlay Mirroring for 720p high-definition play if you’ve got an AppleTV. Apple’s already taken over the mobile gaming market, and if this is a peek into the future, I can’t help but wonder if console gaming is next.

The controls are a slightly-refined version of what diehard Gameloft fans will recognize, with options for using traditional controls or customizing just about every virtual stick and button to your liking. If you’re a veteran of previous MC or N.O.V.A. games you’ll be right at home, with the standard fire, reload, and melee attacks all present, with the typical QTE swipes to help shake things up. I was happy to see a new sprint and slide-to-cover maneuver, also borrowed from Medal of Honor, though it’s almost impossible to use unless you tailor the virtual layout correctly. Let’s face it, touch controls for console-style shooters will probably never be as precise as we’d like, and even competent ones like this completely fall apart in those rare close-up situations, but they generally work really well and I was able to finish the game with little issue.

Multiplayer has been expanded considerably as well, which omits local Bluetooth support for the best online experience using WiFi or through the developer’s Gameloft Live, which bumps the player count from 10 to 12, and offers six new maps that are bigger and more detailed than ever. There's a whopping seven different modes to play through, including four returning from MC2 (Battle, Team Battle, Capture the Flag, and Defuse the Bomb), with new modes "Zone Control" (take/hold positions), "Destruction" (Capture the Flat in reverse), and "Manhunt" (hold your flag as long as you can) joining the chaos. The experience was, for the most part, smooth as silk and as robust as any I’ve seen on a mobile platform.

Gameloft has built on their successful MC2 online by adding even more incentive to keep you coming back for more, including in-game currency that rewards dedicated fans, with upgradable weapons that can be tailored exactly as you’d like with features like better scopes and bigger magazine clips for less reloading. For the truly hardcore, there's also customizable kill signatures to really show off your dedication (and best smack-talk), as well as vastly improved kill-streaks that can be chained together for devastating new 'kill-chains' that function like upgraded perks for aerial back-up, satellite cheats, and even the coveted end-it-all nuke. The game even tracks your progress via Gameloft Live, meaning you’ll get to transition from device-to-device without hassle, especially useful as this is a universal app.

Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation isn't just the best first-person shooter that Gameloft has produced thus far, its also an extremely enjoyable and sophisticated game on its own merits, with an explosive campaign that easily rivals its competition in terms of cinematic thrills and thrilling set-pieces. The online multiplayer is just as impressive, and comes loaded with many features you'd expect from the considerably more expensive competition, including upgradable weapons and perks. There's not a shred of original thinking on display here and as sophisticated as the campaign is, it's all been said and done many times over. But you could honestly say the same about most shooters these days, and while it probably won't replace your favorite FPS anytime soon, at least playing doesn't feel like your settling for less.







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