A year or two ago I was of the opinion that games for Android would never be more than a bad PSP emulation attempt. I didn’t believe touchscreen phones and tablets could ever allow a gaming experience beyond fun and quirky titles such as Angry Birds or Temple Run – only something to kill time on the bus. I was, rather obviously, wrong.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, which is developed by Gameloft, is one of the recent titles that helped me overcome my prejudice about Android gaming. The first person shooter’s (FPS) story takes place in the US during a fictional invasion by a combination of Asian armies. With enemy troops already patrolling major cities such as Chicago and LA, it’s up to our small crew of tactical fighters to turn the tide.
Modern Combat 3 kicks off with a shaky helicopter landing on top of an NSA building. Instantly, I was brought back to 1997 when Time Crisis was released for the Playstation — stationary shooting, cheesy catch phrases and swooping camera maneuvers. Thankfully, that didn’t last long and we quickly got down to some FPS action.
The touch screen controls follow the same pattern as most other similar titles. The left thumb is used to control an analog stick which appears when contact is made with the screen. The right thumb multitasks between aiming, firing, switching weapons and throwing grenades.
I was disappointed to see that Gameloft didn’t try to overcome my pet-peeve with touchscreen FPS — aiming and firing. Hitting moving targets requires the gamer to be able to fire while moving the weapon but unfortunately, the right thumb can only be one place at a time. This could be overcome by supporting the device fully with your left hand and using both thumb and index finger to aim and fire. However, the cramps start after a few minutes. This flaw is one of the factors that are holding back FPS games on Android.
Carpal Tunnel aside, I found myself increasingly enjoying Modern Combat 3. The gameplay is a whole load of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The maps are easily navigational, leaving the main challenge of killing the bad guys at the forefront. Other objectives such as securing locations and collecting data normally involve, you guessed it, killing bad guys. This is the exact kind of shoot’em up fun I paid for.
You can hold down the trigger for some fully automatic fun or hit the zoom icon to peer through the scope/metal sights of your weapon. When zoomed in, the game will automatically snap to the target’s center mass allowing for a quick double tap of hollow points. This leads to quick action firefights and a notion of ‘skill’ — something absent in other more clumsy FPS titles for Android.
The attention to detail by the developers can’t go unmentioned. Little things which we expect in console games, but would gladly do without on mobile titles, are included nonetheless. For example, when rappelling from helicopters the whole cable setup with pulleys is visible. When reloading a weapon or throwing a grenade the animation is smooth and realistic. Explosions, smoke and the blood from enemies also make shining appearances which really impressed me.
The graphics themselves are really good with both the scenery and characters rendering quite well. The people, namely the guys you fight alongside, have an awesome amount of detail from their clothes to facial animations. The maps are much the same with a high level of detail, plenty of diverse objects and textures. At several points throughout the game, you navigate through bombed out buildings, natural fauna and cold, dark corridors. Each looks as good as the next.
A Few Issues
Aside from the aiming and shooting problem I had with the controls, I took issue with two other facets of Modern Combat 3.
First, Gameloft didn’t use real names for the very obvious real-world guns in the games. The M16, FAMAS and SCAR all have odd arcade names such as Maiden and Bravel-1.
Second, I experienced some slight lag on aiming. Often, it simply wouldn’t respond or would jerk the camera too far. This got super annoying in fast-paced gun battles, especially online.
This game supports both local WiFi and Online multiplayer . The online community is thriving and I never once found myself waiting to find a server.
The online game-play is fast, intense and insanely difficult. Even those of us well versed at the campaign will find the speed and unpredictability of the online battles a challenge at first. After a couple of days however, I found myself climbing up the ranks with an ever-improving kill ratio.
The only problem I could find with the online mode was that, at points, the game seemed awfully quiet — somewhat spoiling the atmosphere. Most games subtly have background music playing during online mode to fill the silent gaps. Without this, Modern Combat 3 can seem lifeless for a few moments when playing online.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is arguably the best FPS for Android devices. For the bulk of this review, I played it on my tablet to benefit from the better screen resolution. However, it’s since been granted a new home on my phone to always be at arm’s length, in my pocket.
While the plotline isn’t anything to write home about, the graphics and cut-scenes are great, and the gameplay, weapon selection and online community outstrip the competition by miles. Overall, this is a great game for any FPS lover, and a title that does wonders to boost Android’s gaming image.
It’s also worth mentioning that Gameloft are committed to the Android platform , with a sequel already published in Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour.