After what can be called a hiatus of sorts (Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour was released in September 2012), Gameloft, one of the more popular mobile game developers, has finally launched the latest iteration of its flagship first person shooter (FPS) game - Modern Combat 5: Blackout.
While the fifth edition of the game doesn't feature any in-app purchases, Gameloft has gone ahead and made it mandatory for players to be always online even if they want to play through only the single-player missions. This in our opinion is far more irritating than wading through IAPs mostly because the mobile internet connection while on the move is unreliable and we ended up with this message (pictured in the screenshot below) way too many times than we would have ideally liked.
We played through the entire single-player campaign and also a bit of multiplayer, to talk about the game in detail.
As with the earlier iterations in the series, Modern Combat 5: Blackout has a pretty daft story to tell. We couldn't stifle the multiple yawns that the cutscenes induced.
This time most of the action takes place in Venice in Italy and multiple locations in Japan, including Tokyo. The story is divided into six chapters and each chapter has story missions, spec-ops missions and multiplayer missions. In order to move to the next chapter you have to finish all the story missions and a few spec ops or multiplayer tasks in the current chapter first. To keep the download light, Gameloft only bundles the first three chapters with the initial download. You can download the rest at any point.
As we said - the story is extremely dumb. For those who insist on knowing what happens; the hackneyed tale offers kidnapping (of a kid who is never shown), deceit (which lacks clarity), plot twists (which can be predicted by a three-year old), and lots and lots of deaths.
What makes this worse are the terrible dialogues and delivery of the same by the characters in the game. In any case, the main character is called Phoenix and is voiced by someone who wasn't paid enough.
Spoiler alert (We really do not see a reason for anybody to even care): the proceedings in the story finally culminate in the predictable plot twist - the evil characters in the game want to start a Third World War.
Luckily, the gameplay, like the writing, hasn't changed much from Modern Combat 4, and that is still fun. The controls have not changed much from before, and series fans will feel right at home. We played the game on both an iPad Air and iPhone 5c and feel that its controls are better suited for the smaller screen. The game supports third-party game controllers but we didn't try using one.
The argument that FPS games are not suited for touchscreen device still stands true but this game shows how it can be done - even if not perfectly. Console and PC gamers can continue to scoff at mobile gamers but this community is now really huge and cannot be ignored.
Shooting is fun thanks mainly to auto-aim. It is fairly simple to land headshots in the game. Knifing an enemy ends up looking (and feeling) awkward because the button pops up only when the player gets really close to the enemy. Gameloft pulls a Max Payne during missions that exclusively involve sniping. It introduces something similar to Bullet Time where the player can control the motion of the bullet as time slows down. It looks cool every single time.
All the FPS game tropes like shooting while on top of boats and jeeps, and from inside a helicopter are also present here. The presentation and controls work really well in these different situations.
Talking about the artificial intelligence in the game, the enemies are dumb and prefer the cover-and-shoot approach most of time. We expect seasoned players to find tactics to kill them easily.
There are four classes: Recon, Assault, Heavy and Sniper. Players can also choose Loadouts (their starting equipment) and parts of guns gets upgraded as they play through the game. It is nicely streamlined and mostly unobtrusive.
Of course, there are quick time events (QTEs) where you have to swipe based on prompts on screen and this happens at places where a QTE is completely unnecessary, though they are few in number.
Graphics and Sound
There is lens flare everywhere - you might think that you're watching a J J Abrams movie. Every time we opened a door, we were greeted with gorgeous vistas. Water looked phenomenal for a mobile game and the textures are of high quality. This is by far one of the best looking games for a mobile phone out there.
Gameloft has also outdone itself in the background music department. Many operatic pieces of music are layered nicely with bombastic sounds of crashing helicopters and falling buildings, which aid in creating the right amount of tension.
One can play individually or join a squad for team-based multiplayer modes. There are five modes in total: Free-for-all, VIP, Squad Battle, Capture the Flag and Team Battle. All the modes are nothing we haven't seen before.
In the VIP mode, one player from the team is designated as the VIP, which is based on random selection, and VIPs score bonus points for kills. This is one of the more fun modes. Overall, we think that Shadowgun: Deadzone's multiplayer gameplay is tighter and more fun.
Gameloft has released the game simultaneously on all three popular mobile platforms - iOS, Android and Windows Phone at Rs. 420, Rs. 390 and Rs. 360 respectively. The game's single player mode is at least a three hour long affair and the multiplayer can keep players hooked on for more. We'd suggest picking it up in a heartbeat, unless you are someone who loves to talk about how games today are tackling the multi-verse theory well. This is disaster porn at its best; something EA, Activision and Michael Bay are experts in.