iPad Game Review: Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation (Universal)
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Modern Combat 3 is the latest installment in the franchise from Gameloft, and it's the best yet. With a massive single-player campaign as well as a robust multiplayer component, Modern Combat 3 is a must-have release for FPS (first-person shooter) fans, and is likely to make some converts out of non-FPS players as well.
In MC3, America is under attack by Russia, Korea, and Pakistan; and you will fight through 13 missions to drive them from our shores. Combat will take place on a variety of battlefields, and even includes the use of vehicles, which breaks up the FPS gameplay nicely. There are three different control schemes (classic, screen tap, and d-pads), all of which allow you to adjust sensitivity, invert the y-axis, and enable the gyroscope. I found classic style to be the best of the three, but your mileage may vary so give them all a try before you invest too much time into the wrong scheme.
There is a wide variety of weapons available, as well as specialty items such as explosive charges, mines, and radar jammers, all of which will be unlocked as you progress through the game. In a departure from previous versions, Gameloft has included an in-game currency that allows you to equip your weapon with handy little items such as scopes and sights. This currency is also used to purchase ammunition so don't put too much bling on your weapon or you may find yourself low on bullets. If you so choose, this currency is also available via IAP, although I found the game to be refreshingly well-balanced without the need for additional credits.
Although the inclusion of a single-player campaign is obligatory with a game like this, multiplayer is where the long-term gamers spend their time. Thankfully, MC3 does not disappoint. There are seven different multiplayer modes (Battle, Team Battle, Capture The Flag, Defuse the Bomb, Manhunt, Zone Control, and Destruction). Each game also offers a set of challenges that, if met, award the team with valuable experience points. These are necessary for promotion which, in turn, is necessary to unlock new weapons and equipment. There is also an in-game currency specifically associated with multiplayer that unlocks the same sort of gear as in the single-player game. Of course, the motivation to overindulge is much harder to resist in a competitive environment, and I don't look favorably on Gameloft's decision to make players with disposable income more competitive than those without. As with the single-player game, all equipment will eventually be available to patient and/or compulsive players so perhaps this will only be a short-term annoyance. Finally, skilled players will be rewarded with immediate in-game advantages for "kill-chains." These rewards include, but are not limited to, satellite scans, air strikes, and even tactical nukes, depending on the length of the chain. MC3 supports cloud-saves, enabling you to save your progress across devices, or through hardware failures. Very welcome, indeed.
The Graphics in Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation are excellent; especially on an iPad 2 or iPhone 4/4S. With full retina display support, it's truly a beauty to behold. I wasn't able to test it on third generation devices, however the game specs list them as supported. The animation is silky smooth, and the game art, top notch. Further, there are enough different in-game locations that you're likely to be moving on to a new one right about the time you are getting tired of the current scenery. I also found the cut-scenes to have a very high production-value so if you happen to enjoy them (personally, I don't), you're in for a treat.
MC3's sound effects are top-notch. From the voice acting to the sampled sounds, Gameloft is obviously going for full immersion here. For the full effect, I recommend headphones. One nice little touch is the ability to automatically play a signature sound whenever you kill an opponent in multiplayer. Most of the options are, of course, quite juvenile, but do I really need to remind you of the demographic that plays FPS shooters? Anyway, the music is also good, and serves to set the in-game tone if you choose to leave it on.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is the strongest member of the franchise yet. Gameloft has poured tons of spit/polish into it, and it really shows. The strong single-player campaign should definitely be your first stop after booting the game for the first time. However, the longevity of the game is clearly tied to its feature-rich online multiplayer component. Although, I tend to turn my nose up at consumable in-app purchases, in this case, I'll withhold my scorn because the developers seem to have thankfully succeeded at balancing the single-player campaign in such a way that they are truly optional. I am less forgiving, however, of the multiplayer currency, which gives a tangible advantage to those who can afford it.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Beautiful, silky smooth graphics; at least on an iPad 2 (my test device). High quality and varied scenery keeps your eyes popping nicely throughout the game.
Sound: - 5 - Music is good, but doesn't stand out. The sound effects and voice-acting, however, are top notch, and add another layer of immersion. Headphones are recommended.
Controls: - 5 - Three different control schemes and full gyroscope support means there is something for everybody here.
Gameplay: - 4 - A rock-solid single-player campaign, and a very robust multiplayer component will combine to steal great swaths of your free time. The presence of in-app purchases for in-game currency is an annoyance, but can be safely ignored if you have the will-power or lack the means to indulge in them.
Playing Hints and Tips:
If you're new to first-person shooters, go through the single-player campaign (at least partially) before diving into multiplayer. Online gamers can be very aggressive, and will likely descend on you like carrion birds the first few times you log in to play; Expect to die easily and often until you get more comfortable. Resist the urge to indulge in in-app purchases until you have a chance to see how quickly you are progressing without them.
Release Date: October 26, 2011
Buy App: Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation
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