Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour Review
The iOS answer to Call of Duty is back
There are plenty of first-person shooters out there that want to be regarded as the number one on the mobile platform, and arguably the Modern Combat franchise has the strongest case to hold that crown. Now on the fourth instalment of the series, the Call of Duty-esque cinematics and chaotic combat are once again well translated to the smaller, mobile screen alongside some tweaks designed to take the game closer to the console experience.
The most telling of these ‘upgrades’ is the game engine itself, with impressive object animation and some new ragdoll effects – be sure to also watch out for the odd flying body part when you take out an enemy with a high-powered weapon. There are also been notable improvements in the sound, with the battlefield sounding more realistic than ever, with explosions, rapid gunfire and the sound of empty bullet cases raining down around you all part of the ‘experience’. Money has also been spent on the voice acting to help the game that little bit more epic. Unfortunately some of the dialogue is over-the-top and downright distracting and annoying. The improvements were a necessary step, but this sounds like the developers have overdone it slightly. The early mission where you play as terrorist Edward Page is a prime example. While it’s a cool change of perspective to suddenly be playing as the bad guys, too much of the level’s soundtrack is dedicated to Page’s mad ramblings and over-exaggerated metaphors about how much he enjoys being a villain. This isn’t the only issue either – with the previously mentioned ragdoll effects also guilty of being overzealous, particularly in certain kill situations. Take out an enemy crouched behind cover and sometimes they fly upwards as if hit by an electric current. It’s great to see more realistic reactions to heavy-duty weapons, but this looks and feels like a glitch. These are flaws that it is possible to get past, but the one that may take some time and perseverance is the control system. This has long been the sticking point with first person shooters on mobile devices; accuracy tends to go out of the window until you’ve racked up a fair amount of playing time. The issue comes when you’re trying to aim, move and fire in a fluid motion, and the truth is it isn’t really possible. There is an auto-aim feature that helps lock onto enemies when you get close with your crosshairs, but there is still a clumsiness about the whole set-up. Perhaps best emphasised by the location of the grenade button so close to the shooting one – you’ll soon get used to accidentally flinging a grenade into an empty room or against the cover you’re hiding behind. There is an option to change the controls in the Settings menu, notably to a dual joystick set-up mimicking a console layout, but this still isn’t smooth enough to feel comfortable. It’s also less responsive than the touch control.
Putting these issues aside though it shouldn’t be forgotten how good a game this is. The Modern Combat series has always set itself high standards, and it once again the case here, and in many ways it does meet those standards. In terms of experience you will go a long way to see better on a smartphone or tablet, and the Campaign mode has a great range of settings, weapons and suitable levels of carnage to keep adrenaline seeking gamers happy.
The multiplayer system is also a joy, having been overhauled to now offer a fantastic array of statistics and customisation options that pretty much usurp the single player mode. Users can change their weapon arrangement, using the points gathered in combat to upgrade their arsenal and lay it out as they wish. There are also a very impressive number of game types, and locations to try out. There are leaderboards for the general community, the game your playing and for among your friendship group to give you various different ways to get competitive, and the whole thing is held together by a nice stats home page that shows you your current ‘form’.
While it may have its imperfections, Zero Hour is definitely another step forward in the series, with the gameplay and physics creeping closer to consoles with every release. Gameloft will no doubt continue to add new layers to the game engine, and hopefully rein in some of the dialogue to keep players coming back to this world, because there are plenty of reasons to do so.
Trips itself up in places, but still a very epic way to liven up your journey casual gaming night.
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