There used to be a time when the quality of the graphics on a handheld device could amaze, but with so many high quality games available now on Apple’s device its getting harder and harder for developers to create something that is truly visually impressive. With Modern Combat 3 though, Gameloft have once again raised the bar and created something that is visually stunning. You will struggle to believe that your little mobile device can produce graphics of this quality.
You will also struggle to believe that something that looks so beautiful and accessible is, at least initially, so hard to play. On the chunkier iPad its less of an issue, but I played on 4th Gen iPod Touch and the experience was initially painful. There’s an argument often made the fully featured dual stick style FPS games cannot work on the likes of smart phones, and for the first 30 mins of play I was sure this was the correct opinion. For me, none of these games have quite worked and whether it was Gameloft’s own NOVA or the recently released Rainbow 6 game, I have never managed to gain any proficiency in the controls in these games and as a result have quickly given up. Whether it was my big fat fingers hiding the screen, the over sensitive tilt controls or the fact that I kept firing unintentionally, I struggled to even move through the game world, far less be an effective combatant.
Pushed on by the fact that I HAD to review Modern Combat 3 though (and by how slick the presentation was) I persevered, and in truth I am glad I did. As a cinematic experience Modern Combat 3 is not cowed by its big brother counterparts on consoles. In fact some of its set pieces are more bombastic than its bigger-budgeted rivals and there can be no doubt that there’s genuinely talented people working at Gameloft. The generous check-pointing, relaxed difficulty and careful level design combined with some tweaking of the controls in the options resulted in a playable experience. Don’t get me wrong, every time I started another play session the pain of the controls felt fresh, but after a few moments adjustment the pacing and excitement of the campaign took over.
I played Modern Combat 3 both before and after I finished BF3’s campaign, and it was strange how this experience affected my opinion of the mobile game. Before I played BF3 I thought Modern Combat 3 was a derivative knock-off of the Modern Warfare series, devoid of new ideas and creatively bankrupt. After playing EA’s heavily marketed blockbuster, I quickly realised the little Gameloft challenger was more original than I had thought. Sure, it features almost every trope of a Modern Warfare wannabe, but at the same time its willing to throw in the odd new idea or setting to mix things up. Make no mistake, this is a very derivative game, but in the shadows of a creative black-hole like BF3 it seems much more impressive in comparison, especially as it has the excuse of being a Modern Military shooter you can fit in your pocket.
When it deviates from its core gameplay it often works even better. The ubiquitous air mission where you man the guns on an AC-130 both looks great and plays well as it involves no player-controlled movement, only aiming and firing. You may have done this mission in other games, but to see it played out on a mobile device – and for it to be so well scripted and paced – makes it surprisingly welcome.
Multiplayer is less successful, but still impressive for its inclusion. This mode is fully featured with leaderboards, unlocks and most of the other features you would expect in a Modern Warfare clone. In this mode though the aim assist is typically turned off and the frustration quickly elevates to unmanageable levels as you battle with the controls. These issues were well managed with careful level design and generous difficulty, but in a multiplayer arena it will take real dedication to get past the pain of seeing an enemy and struggling to get them in your cross-hairs. The fact that many of the unlocks can be purchased via micro-transactions heightens the ignominy of defeat, making you feel that many of your opponents advantages were bought with real world cash rather than earned through experience.
Gameloft have some fantastically talented people making their games. Sure, their voice actors are hilariously bad, but their artists, programmers and designers are at the top of their game and that shows throughout a game like Modern Combat 3. You can’t help but think what they might be able to achieve if they were allowed to make something original, but for the moment even something as derivative as Modern Combat 3 can’t fail to impress with such high levels of competence and polish. This is tremendous value, a tremendous achievement, and tremendous fun.
8 Duties called, Fields Battled and Warfares Modernised out of 10